As winter well and truly grips the northern hemisphere, it’s time once again to dunk on Tesla for leaving some owners out in the cold — literally. It seems that some Model 3 and Model Y owners are finding their ride’s heat pump isn’t exactly up to the task of, you know, pumping heat. That this seems to be happening mostly in the northeastern US and southern Canada, where a polar vortex is once again dominating the weather and driving temperatures down into the -30 °C (-22 °F) range, perhaps speaks more to the laws of thermodynamics than it does to the engineering of the Tesla climate control system. After all, if there’s not much heat outside the car, it’s hard to pump it inside. But then again, these are expensive machines, some of which have had extensive repairs to address this exact same issue when it cropped up last year. It seems to us that owners have a legitimate gripe with Tesla about this, and they may be getting some help from the Feds, who are taking an interest in the situation from a safety standpoint. After all, no heat likely means fogged up windows, and that’s hardly conducive to a safe trip. But hey, that’s what self-driving is for, right?
Much has been made of the dearth of engineering cameras on the James Webb Space Telescope, and the fact that we’ve been relying on animations to illustrate the dozens of deployments needed to unfurl the observatory and make it ready for its mission. Putting aside the fact that adding extra cameras to the spacecraft makes little sense since the interesting stuff was all happening on the side where the sun doesn’t shine, we did get treated to what was billed as “humanity’s last look at Webb” thanks to an engineering camera on the Ariane 5 rocket. But not so fast — an astrophotographer named Ethan Gone managed to spot the JWST as it transited to L2 the day after launch. Granted, the blip of light isn’t as spectacular as the Ariane shots, and it took a heck of a lot of astrophotography gear to do it, but it’s still thrilling to watch Webb moving gracefully through Orion.
When it comes to protecting components and assemblies from damage by electrostatic discharge (ESD), there seem to be two schools of thought: either you take it seriously and take precautions, or you think it’s a lot of fuss about nothing. It seems like Dan Kollen (AI6XG) falls into the former camp, and shared with us his thoughts on the risks of ESD damage and the approaches he takes to mitigate them. The article is brief but full of interesting information, like the effect of relative humidity on ESD generation and the relative sensitivity of various components to getting zapped. He also shares his strategies for ESD protection — spoiler alert: you don’t always need to wear a wrist strap. The ESD nomenclature list is a handy reference too.
If Henry Ford were alive today, and somehow managed to get a job at BMW at the ripe old age of 159, he might be tempted to say that “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black or white, or maybe red someday.” That’s thanks to the German company’s announcement at CES of a color-changing car with an electronic ink paint job. If the promotional video is to be believed, it actually looks pretty cool, especially the faint hexagonal grid of electrodes visible on the surface. While we can see the utility of the idea — a white car for summer, a black car for winter — we can’t help but wonder about the legality of changing the physical appearance of the car on the fly like that.
And finally, apparently there’s no hiding from the all-seeing eyes of Google. At least that’s probably what Gioacchino Gammino thinks now that Google Street View was used to help find and capture the alleged mafioso (English translation from original Spanish) after two decades on the lam. The clue came from a Street View image of a grocery store in Galapagar, Spain, where Gammino had fled and started a new life under an assumed name. Apparently, the police already knew he was in the town; the pixelated shot resembled the suspect enough to give them a lead to his specific whereabouts. A quick check of the establishment’s Facebook page showed a clear photo of Gammino, complete with an identifying facial scar. We suppose the lesson here is that crime doesn’t pay, and it really doesn’t mix well with social media.