Remember the chip shortage? We sure do, mainly because as far as we can tell, it’s still going on, at least judging by the fact that you can’t get a Raspberry Pi for love or money. But that must just be noise, because according to a report in the Straits Times, the chip shortage is not only over, it’s reversed course enough that there’s now a glut of semiconductors out there. The article claims that the root cause of this is slowing demand for products like smartphones, an industry that’s seeing wave after wave of orders to semiconductor manufacturers like TSMC canceled. Chips for PCs are apparently in abundance now too, as the spasm of panic buying machine for remote working during the pandemic winds down. Automakers are still feeling the pinch, though, so much so that Toyota is now shipping only one smart key with new cars, instead of the usual two. So there seems to be some way to go before balance is restored to the market, but whatever — just call us when Amazon no longer has to offer financing on an 8 GB Pi.
The long, sad farewell to the Mars InSight lander continued this week as NASA released the spacecraft’s final selfie. Once you look at the picture, the eventual cause of death for the mission is pretty clear — or rather, really dusty. The whole vehicle is absolutely caked in dust, and with its twin 2-meter diameter solar panels obscured, it’s only a matter of time before the batteries can’t be charged anymore. InSight’s team is preparing for the end by making sure every last bit of data is gathered and downlinked, even while they massage the power management systems to keep the lander’s seismometer running as long as possible. The team is even knocking down the mockup lander ForeSight, which was kept on a model Martian surface and used to plan moves of the robotic arm before sending instructions up to InSight.
We’ve been following Lufthansa’s off-again, on-again relationship with Apple AirTags with some amusement, mainly because it seems way more likely that the airline is trying to manage perceptions of its luggage handling prowess rather than mitigate the risk of a CR2032 coin cell bringing down a flight. And while Lufthansa finally relented, it seems that other airlines are now interested in alienating their customers too. Air New Zealand just banned AirTags in checked baggage, although curiously their version of the TSA hasn’t been told to remove any of the devices it finds. And just to give you an idea of why airlines might actually be doing this, check out this story about some AirTag-equipped camera equipment that was allegedly stolen from checked baggage and tracked to a private residence in Alaska.
And finally, we featured a really cool engine simulator a while back that really seems to have caught people’s imagination. That’s understandable, because as cursed as the internal combustion engine may be, there’s no denying that they can sound really, really awesome, and the simulator was geared to reproducing the sound of various engines based solely on their fluid dynamics. We have to admit to not really grokking the whole thing when it first came out, mainly because it was just too much fun to play with the simulation; we spent way too much time trying to get it to reproduce the chirp of the four-cylinder, air-cooled, horizontally-opposed Volkswagen engines that were our introduction to automotive mechanics back in the day. But now, the simulator’s author, Ange Yaghi, has dropped a follow-up video going into quite some detail on how the simulation works. It’s worth watching, even if just to see his homebrew physics engine going through its paces.