The Wow! Signal And The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence

On a balmy August evening in 1977, an enormous radio telescope in a field in the middle of Ohio sat silently listening to the radio universe. Shortly after 10:00 PM, the Earth’s rotation slewed the telescope through a powerful radio signal whose passage was noted only by the slight change in tone in the song sung every twelve seconds by the line printer recording that evening’s data.

When the data was analyzed later, an astronomer’s marginal exclamation of the extraordinarily powerful but vanishingly brief blip would give the signal its forever name: the Wow! Signal. How we came to hear this signal, what it could possibly mean, and where it might have come from are all interesting details of an event that left a mystery in its wake, one that citizen scientists are now looking into with a fresh perspective. If it was sent from a region of space with habitable planets, it’s at least worth a listen.

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A Raspberry Pi 400 UPS Add-On, It’s Not All Plain Sailing

Since the recent launch of the all-in-one Raspberry Pi 400, the global hardware community have taken to the new platform and are investigating its potential for hardware enhancements. On the back it has the same 40-pin expansion connector as its single-board siblings, but it’s horizontal rather than vertical, which means that all of the conventional HATs sit in a rather ungainly upright position.

One of the first Pi 400 HATs we’ve seen comes from [Patrick Van Oosterwijck], who has made a very neat 18650-based UPS add-on that is intended to eventually fit in the back of the machine in a similar way to the home computer cartridge peripherals of old. Unfortunately not all has gone according to plan, and in finding out why that is the case we learn something about the design of the 400, and maybe even take a chance to reflect on the Pi Foundation itself.

On the face of it the 400’s interface is the same as that of its single board computer stablemates, but something this project reveals is that its 5 V pins have a current limit of 1 A. This turns out to preclude the type of plug-in Pi UPS that sits on a HAT that we’re used to, in that 1 A through the 5 V pin is no longer enough to run the computer.

This effectively puts a stop to [Patrick]’s project, though he can repurpose it for a Pi 4 and its siblings once he’s dealt with a converter chip overheating problem. He does however make a complaint about the Pi Foundation’s slowness in releasing such data about their products, and given that long-time Pi-watchers will remember a few other blips in the supply of Pi hardware data he has a point. A quick check of the Raspberry Pi GitHub repository reveals nothing related to the Pi 400 at the time of writing, and though it shares much with its Pi 4 sibling it’s obvious that there are enough differences to warrant some extra information.

Hardware hackers may not be part of the core education focus of the Pi range, but a healthy, interested, and active hardware community that feels nurtured by its manufacturer remains key to the supply of interesting Pi-related products feeding into that market. We’d like to urge the Pi Foundation to never forget the hardware side of their ecosystem, and make hardware specification an integral part of every product launch on day one.

If the Pi 400 catches your interest, you can read our review here.

SMD Challenge Extreme Edition Gets Our Flux Flowing

Skills challenges have become a fun way to facilitate friendly competition amongst anyone who appreciates a fine solder joint. If you’ve seen any Supercon / Remoticon coverage there’s surely been a mention of the infamous soldering skills challenge, where competitors test their mettle against surface mount components sized to be challenging but fair. What if there was a less friendly SMD challenge designed to make you hold your breath lest you blow the components away? Well now there is, the SMD Challenge Extreme Edition by friend-of-the-Hackaday and winner of the 2019 Supercon soldering challenge [Freddie].

When assembled the SMD Extreme Edition uses a 555 timer and a 74HC4017 decade counter to light a ring of 10 LEDs lights around its perimeter, powered by a coin cell. However theĀ  Extreme Edition deviates from the typical SMD Challenge format. Instead of ramping up in difficulty with ever-shrinking components, the Extreme Edition only has one size: torturous. See those gray blobs in the title image? Those are grains of rice.

The Extreme Edition’s 0201-sized LEDs aren’t the absolute smallest components around, but to minimize enjoyment all passives are 01005. (Check out the SMD Challange Misery Edition for even 01005 LED action.)

The Extreme Edition has other tricks up its sleeve, too. That 555 may be venerable in age, but this version is in an iron-frustrating 1.41 x 1.43 mm BGA package, which pairs nicely with that decade counter in 2.5 mm x 3.5 mm QFN.

Despite the wordwide pandemic locking down travel and conferences, a few brave challengers have already taken up their iron and succeeded at Extreme SMD. Want to see it in action? Check out the original Tweets after the break.

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