Hackaday Links: September 18, 2022

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We always love when people take the trouble to show information in new, creative ways — after all, there’s a reason that r/dataisbeautiful exists. But we were particularly taken by this version of the periodic table of the elements, distorted to represent the relative abundance on Earth of the 90 elements that make up almost everything. The table is also color-coded to indicate basically how fast we’re using each element relative to its abundance. The chart also indicates which elements are “conflict resources,” basically stuff people fight over, and which elements go into making smartphones. That last bit we thought was incomplete; we’d have sworn at least some boron would be somewhere in a phone. Still, it’s an interesting way to look at the elements, and reminds us of another way to enumerate the elements.

It’s wildfire season in the western part of North America again, and while this year hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as last year — so far — there’s still a lot of activity in our neck of the woods. And wouldn’t you know it, some people seem to feel like a wildfire is a perfect time to put up a drone. It hardly seems necessary to say that this is A Really Bad Idea™, but for some reason, people still keep doing it. Don’t misunderstand — we absolutely get how cool it is to see firefighting aircraft do their thing. The skill these pilots show as they maneuver their planes, which are sometimes as large as passenger jets, within a hundred meters of the treetops is breathtaking. But operating a drone in the same airspace is just stupid. Not only is it likely to get you in trouble with the law, but there’s a fair chance that the people whose property and lives are being saved by these heroic pilots won’t look kindly on your antics.

Worried about an impending robot/AI apocalypse? Given all the news coverage of sentient AIs and, you know, the fact that we live in a world with Google, it seems like a reasonable concern. But silly humans — you’ve got it all wrong. It turns out that we’re all safe as kittens from robot attacks. You can take that to the bank since it came right from the mouth of the world’s most advanced humanoid robot. Its name is Ameca, which is a truly awful name, who assures us via a conversation with a Judas goat an engineer that robots are only here to “help and serve humans.” Now, where have we heard that before?

If you live in the Toronto area — and if you’re Canadian, there’s a pretty good chance you do — it’s time to get your stupid hat on. That’s right, the “Stupid Shit No One Needs and Terrible Ideas Hackathon” is coming to Toronto, and it sounds like a ton of fun. The promo video below is a gas — we were especially triggered by “massively multiplayer online Pong” and the idea to focus on meat-based plants rather than plant-based meats. The categories are a hoot too — “Collaborating with dictators” and “Things that seem immoral but actually are” seem very promising, while “Roomba waifu” has the potential to be pretty creepy. So if you’ve got a really bad idea and don’t take yourself too seriously, check it out on October 14 and 15. And look at that — it doesn’t even conflict with Supercon!

And speaking of stupid shi poop, someone pointed out this old but interesting article on research that concluded that dogs tend to align themselves on the north-south axis when pooping. The paper says the researchers enlisted 37 dog owners to record the orientation of their pooping pooches over a number of years, totaling over 1,800 eliminations. The numbers made it clear that dogs really don’t like pooping along the east-west axis for some reason. What with all the stories of lost dogs finding their way home over hundreds of miles, it’s perhaps not surprising that dogs have a sense of magnetic direction. We just can’t think of a reason for this pooping preference; the authors speculate that it might have something to do with keeping the sun out of their eyes while indisposed, thereby reducing the possibility of becoming some other animal’s lunch.

21 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: September 18, 2022

  1. I’m not worried about the robots, I’m worried about who’s controlling them. I don’t believe the machines will ever have a true will of their own, just programming or control from some huma(s).

    1. Good point!
      I am going to start observing the direction my dog faces when doing his “job”!
      I read somewhere online that dogs 🐕 do feel vulnerable when squatting, and mine seems to be looking around to see if he’s safe.

    2. When I used to have my dog, he preferred to do his business facing south. The wind almost always come from the west which meant my next door neighbor to the east would smell it within seconds of him having BM.

    3. Looks like the study only controls for time of day, not for the wind direction. But they do analyze correlation with magnetic field fluctuations. The observation is that when magnetic field is disturbed by solar effects, dogs lose their alignment.

    1. If the data was not altered, that is significant enough. You can even see that it’s probably linked to the sun position, because this phenomenon is the most visible at the time periods near sunset and sunrise

      1. It’s 37 dogs, most likely a few of them have their preferences. and the preferred alignments are NOT N/S, but on a slightly more N/S tending diagonal. And there’s LOTS of samples in all positions, you’re just looking at a couple dogs that have their preferred poop positions.

      2. “because this phenomenon is the most visible at the time periods near sunset and sunrise”

        Because most people walk their dogs before leaving for work/school, or after they have returned?

  2. What is this nonsense about Toronto? Do you really not have any respect for anyone else in Canada (especially First Nations peoples) that you’d go so far as to suggest they don’t exist? If it’s a joke, it’s a poor one, and not funny. If not, I’d call it racist.

    1. At a glance, it looks like Toronto has about 2.7 million people, compared to Canada’s roughly 37M. I’d say intentionally disregarding 92 percent of the population (for no reason) is at least odd, if not suspiciously biased. Being a science-based site, you’d think that if there was a reason to state things that way, there’d be a satisfactory explanation. Even if you’re just being flippant, the First Nations’ people have been ignored, murdered, kidnapped, genocided, forced into internment/labor camps, and been ripped away from their families and culture, so a passing comment ignoring not only their suffering, but their very existence is abhorrent.

    2. Er — “there’s a pretty good chance that you do” wouldn’t seem like it’s intended to claim that non-Torontonians don’t exist? I guess it would depend on your perception of probability, but according to the 2021 figures, the metro area of Toronto — the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area — has, at 7.3 million people, 19.7% of the total Canadian population. Nearly 1 in 5 is a pretty good chance, I’d think — as a bet, it’d be 1 to 4 odds.

      Maybe I’m reading a revision of the post and the original was more inflammatory?

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