Hackaday Links: May 9, 2021

Well, that de-escalated quickly. It seems like no sooner than a paper was announced that purported to find photographic evidence of fungi growing on Mars, that the planetary science and exobiology community came down on it like a ton of bricks. As well they should — extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and while the photos that were taken by Curiosity and Opportunity sure seem to show something that looks a lot like a terrestrial puffball fungus, there are a lot of other, more mundane ways to explain these formations. Add to the fact that the lead author of the Martian mushroom paper is a known crackpot who once sued NASA for running over fungi instead of investigating them; the putative shrooms later turned out to be rocks, of course. Luckily, we have a geobiology lab wandering around on Mars right now, so if there is or was life on Mars, we’ll probably find out about it. You know, with evidence.

If you’re a fan of dystopic visions of a future where bloodthirsty robots relentlessly hunt down the last few surviving humans, the news that the New York Police Department decided to stop using their “DigiDog” robot will be a bit of a downer. The move stems from outrage generated by politicians and citizens alike, who dreamt up all sorts of reasons why the NYPD shouldn’t be using this tool. And use it they apparently did —  the original Boston Dynamics yellow showing through the many scuffs and dings in the NYPD blue paint job means this little critter has seen some stuff since it hit the streets in late 2020. And to think — that robot dog was only a few weeks away from filing its retirement papers.

Attention, Commodore fans based in Europe: the Commodore Users Europe event is coming soon. June 12, to be precise. As has become traditional, the event is virtual, but it’s free and they’re looking for presenters.

In a bid to continue the grand Big Tech tradition of knowing what’s best for everyone, Microsoft just announced that Calibri would no longer be the default font in Office products. And here’s the fun part: we all get to decide what the new default font will be, at least ostensibly. The font wonks at Microsoft have created five new fonts, and you can vote for your favorite on social media. The font designers all wax eloquent on their candidates, and there are somewhat stylized examples of each new font, but what’s lacking is a simple way to judge what each font would actually look like on a page of English text. Whatever happened to “The quick brown fox” or even a little bit of “Lorem ipsum”?

And finally, why are German ambulances — and apparently, German medics — covered in QR codes? Apparently, it’s a way to fight back against digital rubberneckers. The video below is in German, but the gist is clear: people love to stop and take pictures of accident scenes, and smartphones have made this worse, to the point that emergency personnel have trouble getting through to give aid. And that’s not to mention the invasion of privacy; very few accident victims are really at their best at that moment, and taking pictures of them is beyond rude. Oh, and it’s illegal, punishable by up to two years in jail. The idea with the QR codes is to pop up a website with a warning to the rubbernecker. Our German is a bit rusty, but we’re pretty sure that translates to, “Hey idiot, get back in your frigging car!” Feel free to correct us on that.

[Editor’s note: “Stop. Rubbernecking kills”.]

17 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: May 9, 2021

    1. I’ve seen mention that there’s fungus growing on the ouside of the international space station. If true, then mars would be a better host for life. I don’t see the need for such a vocal attack on the author. it’s an excellent paper imo although i’m merely a layman

      1. I agree. I also don’t understand the vicious reactions to this paper. What’s even more troubling is the takedowns haven’t bothered to address the actual points raised and instead simply attack the credibility of the author(s). It strongly reminds me of the media’s reactions in early 2020 to any research or scientific evidence casting doubt on the purported animal origins of COVID. No scientific evidence was offered to dispute the claims made and they simply resorted to attacking those affiliated and labelling everything “a debunked conspiracy theory” .

        On a side note, this isn’t the first time like on Mars has been suspected. The 1976 Viking missions both detected biological/organic carbon dioxide respiratory in soil samples. The same testing was verified thousands of times on Earth and recorded ZERO false positives OR false negatives. The man behind the program at NASA still contends that life was detected and questions why NASA has not since sent any similar life detecting equipment to Mars.

        https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/im-convinced-we-found-evidence-of-life-on-mars-in-the-1970s/

  1. The website says:
    “Stop!
    Rubbernecking kills!
    You are impeding emergency rescue services and are liable to prosecution.”

    But my English might be a bit rusty and I like your translation much better.

    – W.

  2. I’m a fan of robots, but not police. At least in the US, they’re extremely over equipped for the job of “peace keeping”… the fewer robots and guns, the better.

    1. I also prefer robots to police, preferably substituting the former for the latter and making the rules both open and public-editable would lead to better interactions in the long run.

      1. But here is the root of the police-militarization problem. Sworn law enforcement are not the military, Sworn LE does not have the self-discipline of the military, Sworn LE is poorly trained in both tactics and strategy, sworn LE do not have the rigid limits per the UCMJ, LE academies have much less indoctrination than the military (boot camp and MOS schools), leadership development in LE organization less rigorous and less formalized and has less requirements than all military branches, and LE organizations seldom have the brain-power required to use modern technology.

        In short, most sworn LE officers do not have the training, skills, or self-discipline of a typical 19 or 20 year old 11B or 0311 (army and Marine designations for infantry rifleman). The military internally embrace change and learning new stuff, while cops and their unions bring in external experts to implement technology and oft quick to reject change.

    1. Now if the cops could have a QR pattern that is not easily detected by the human eye but easily detected by all those phone cameras (InfraRed?) that get whipped out when they try to make an arrest.

  3. > community came down on it like a ton of bricks.

    That link is 7 years old, it’s about previous claims. Newest paper even has one pixelated photo with something that Does look like a fungus with a stem (figure 30 on page 29, rest of photos are either that old martian blueberries or some small white spheres which look like CO2 hailstones) and even he put photo of something that looks like actual active geyser and said that it’s not a geyser, but a big fungus patch.

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