Hackaday Links: December 4, 2022

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Well, this is embarrassing! Imagine sending a multibillion-dollar rover to an ancient lakebed on Mars only to discover after a year of poking around at the rocks that it might not actually have been a lake after all. That seems to be the impression of Jezero Crater that planetary scientists are forming after looking at the data coming back from Perseverance since it nailed the landing in what sure as heck looked like a dried-up lake, complete with a river delta system. A closer look at the sediments Perseverance has been sampling reveals a lot of the mineral olivine, which on Earth is rare near the surface because it readily reacts with water. Finding lots of olivine close below the surface of Jezero suggests that it either wasn’t all that watery once upon a time, or that what water was there was basically ice cold. The results are limited to where the rover has visited, of course, and the nice thing about having wheels is that you can go somewhere else. But if you were hoping for clear signs that Jezero was once a lake teeming with life, you might have to keep waiting.

In other space news, we have to admit to taking NASA to task a bit in the podcast a couple of weeks back for not being quite up to SpaceX’s zazzle standards with regard to instrumenting the SLS launch. Yeah, a night launch is spectacular, but not having all those internal cameras like the Falcon has just sort of left us flat. But we should have been more patient, because the images coming back from Artemis 1 are simply spectacular. We had no idea that NASA attached cameras to the solar panels of the Orion spacecraft, which act a little like selfie sticks and allow the spacecraft to be in the foreground with Earth and the Moon in the background. Seeing Earth from lunar distance again for the first time in 50 years has been a real treat, and getting our satellite in the frame at the same time is a huge bonus.

We all know how the algorithmic tides of news stories ebb and flow on the Internet these days, but even when you’re expecting it, it can be jarring to see related stories suddenly popping up in your feed. To wit, we found a couple of stories this week about electric vehicles suffering serious damage at charging stations. The first was a report by a Ford F-150 Lightning driver that a charger bricked his truck. The user reports that while topping off at an Electrify America station in Oregon, he heard a loud boom before the charger and his ungodly expensive vehicle went dead, requiring a flatbed tow to the Ford dealership for repairs. Separately, a BC Hydro charger in Vancouver reportedly borked at least two EVs, one of which racked up $6,300 in repair charges. No word about the nature of the damage, of course, and BC Hydro claims the charger was taken out of service. We can’t help but wonder what the concurrence of these two stories has to tell us about the state of charging stations in general, though.

Also from the, “Isn’t that weird?” files, reports are popping up around the world of LED streetlights suddenly going all purple. Normally an intense bluish-white, LED streetlights in places like Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, California, and elsewhere are now glowing an eerie but beautiful shade of deep purple. When we first saw this story, we figured it would just be a problem with the phosphors on the COB LEDs, perhaps wearing away and letting the underlying UV light shine through. And indeed, that’s the conclusion this story eventually reaches, at least for Vancouver lights which seem to be suffering from delamination of the phosphor layer thanks to heat damage. The article goes a bit further and blames the ever-present “supply chain issues” for the problem, which honestly isn’t that hard to swallow.

And finally, can you turn a car into a pillar of salt? No, you can’t, but if you follow the lead of artist James Birdle you may just be able to trap a self-driving car with a couple of kilos of salt. James found that encircling his car with a double dashed line of salt made the car think it could both drive across the barrier and not violate it. So the car just failed safe and stayed put inside the salty circles. We’d love to dive a little further into this– it’s not clear what the car is, but one comment on the Vimeo video claims it’s a 2006 SEAT Ibiza, whatever that is. It’s not likely a 16-year-old vehicle is self-driving, so perhaps it has lane-departure sensors.

25 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: December 4, 2022

  1. LEDs can last a long time, saving money in electricity and replacement costs, if they are not overdriven. Sadly, the manufacturers don’t want to drive themselves out of business by being environmentally conscious.

    I think they let the public build up a trust in LED efficiency before making them fail prone.

    1. i tend to believe it’s a race to the bottom in terms of thermal reliability. proper heatsink design takes space and money, the 2 most detrimental issues with what everyone wants from newer lights.

      led fixture designers are entering an era equal to the 1970’s of american automobile quality. one brand is going to break away by slightly over-designing their products and end up writing history.

    2. Yeah I think it was here commenters pointed out light bulb technology is going backwards. From simple and recyclable metal and glass to poorly designed (people saying inclusion of one cap would massively increase lifetime and mfgr won’t because $$) LED using chips, comparatively exotic materials and relying on rare earth elements. My own experience is the new LED bulbs don’t quite last as long as the incandescent variety and also do weird things like flicker or poorly tolerate plugging in the coffee pot to the same circuit. They are worse in every single way.

      1. Then you have been buying trash LEDs. I have roughly 80 can lights in the ceiling of my house (it’s a large house) and went through three cases (72 bulbs) of incandescent lights in the first three years. I switched to LEDs and have had maybe four failures in the last 14 years. There are indeed poor quality LED lights out there, and lots of people had problems with LED lights being run off dimmers before the industry got that squared away, but decent brands and the right technologies work fine. By the way, the LED lights that use a phosphor coating as described in the article are completely different than the types normally used just for home light. Look up “Edison” or “filament” LEDs.

        1. We’re saying the same thing. I’ll guess the first gen bulbs you bought 14yrs ago were way better than what is available out there now. Or at least not yet a product of cost cutting. I got mine, Phillips I think, at Home Depot about 4yrs ago when I got a house and they are crapping out regularly. That’s supposed to be a reputable brand (meaningless today but okay). They are crap. I have some older cans in the ceiling that previous owner installed, LED bulbs, and they are seemingly fine. No idea how old they are but at least 4 years. One guy’s experience.

    3. At some point I learned that if some kind of bulbs are not available from the big brands for a reasonable price, it means the whatever is available on the market is a result of a race to the bottom. Once I could buy a 100W equivalent with E27 mount from Osram or a 50W equivalent with GU10 mount from Philips light for about $2.00, things suddenly became normal. I even stopped collecting receipts because replacing LED lights within a 2-year warranty period became an exception instead of a rule.

    1. Yeah, I heard about this Big Rock Candy Mountain once so I went to look for it, turns out it wasn’t real but I learned something, and isn’t that the point of exploration?

      1. I was just about to comment about the Big Rock Candy Mountains being a real place, but decided to double check my info (even though I’ve been there). Turns out the mountain area near Marysvale, Utah, was named that intentionally because of a song by the same name (where the phrase originated, apparently).
        So this is now a friendly reminder and example to always check sources, even when you have first-hand experience!


    2. You guys nailed it. That was exactly my thought. If you go there and find what you expected to find, have you learned anything? What was the point? So bravo for data and learning things.

      That aside, finding other than what you expect is when things get interesting.

      1. “If you go there and find what you expected to find, have you learned anything?”

        Yes. Yes you have. Just like we’re learning Einstein was right about a lot of things with evidence after evidence.

        1. Indeed. There is value in confirmation, absolutely. I have just been running a bunch of tests that I hope won’t surprise me (and doing OK so far). Getting surprised testing software is not so exciting as getting surprised exploring Mars. In fact it is quite the opposite.

  2. In my area (one of those mentioned in the article), the streetlights turning purple is neither recent nor sudden – the regional electrical utility is responsible for most city streetlights in most area cities, and after they started upgrading them to LEDs, they went light blue then blue then neon purple within months of installation. It’s now been years and they’ve alternately passed the blame onto the manufacturer, claimed “well moonlight is blue so this is just natural lighting!” (LOL), or said that it’s their top priority to correct the problem (it isn’t and they haven’t). And everyone likes to claim that it’s only “a small percentage of streetlights have failed”… no, you can look down a long thoroughfare and not see a single white light for half a mile.

    Other lights maintained by the city (or state or county as the case may be) haven’t had the same problems since switching to LED. It’s only the bottom-of-the-barrel cheap lights the utility put up that fail this way.

  3. “It’s not clear what the car is, but one comment on the Vimeo video claims it’s a 2006 SEAT Ibiza, whatever that is”
    So it IS clear what the car is… because 2006 SEAT Ibiza is the make, model, and year of the car in the video. “Whatever that is” indeed, one of the most popular cars in Europe that you happen not to have in America.

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