By now everyone has probably seen the devastation wrought by the structural failure of what was once the world’s largest free-standing cylindrical aquarium. The scale of the tank, which until about 5:50 AM Berlin time on Friday graced the lobby of the Raddison Blu hotel, was amazing — 16 meters tall, 12 meters in diameter, holding a million liters of saltwater and some 1,500 tropical fish. The tank sat atop a bar in the hotel lobby and was so big that it even had an elevator passing up through the middle of it.
But for some reason, the tank failed catastrophically, emptying its contents into the hotel lobby and spilling the hapless fish out into the freezing streets of Berlin. No humans were killed by the flood, which is miraculous when you consider the forces that were unleashed here. Given the level of destruction, the displaced hotel guests, and the fact that a €13 million structure just up and failed, we’re pretty sure there will be a thorough analysis of the incident. We’re pretty interested in why structures fail, so we’ll be looking forward to finding out the story here.
We’ve spent a lot of virtual ink here decrying the increase in “abandonware” products, where startups with a seemingly killer idea suddenly go belly-up and end up bricking their fancy connected devices. Users who bought into the ecosystem inevitably are the losers in these situations, having invested often considerable time and effort into the product or service, perhaps integrating it into their daily life and building a workflow around the offering, only to have the rug pulled out from them.
We’ve seen this a ton of times over the years — looking at you, Google — but we tend to see it as just an inconvenience for the abandoned users, and little more. But in a longish article, Cory Doctorow argues that it’s often more than an inconvenience, especially when you start talking about orphaned medical devices. The article cites several real-world examples, like implantable retinal implants that got bricked when the manufacturer went bust, but it clearly has eyes on as-yet experimental neurological implants like Neuralink. There’s also a lot of discussion on the failure modes of startups in general, and what it means for users when the most valuable asset of a defunct operation, which is usually the data it collected, hits the secondary market. It’s thought-provoking stuff, and honestly a little terrifying.
Say what you will about the US military — or pretty much any military in the world, for that matter — but they’re really good at teaching complex subjects to complete newbies as quickly and efficiently as possible. Boot camp transforms a civilian into a soldier in six to eight weeks, for example, and that’s no mean feat. But the military is also good at teaching more than marching around, including electronics, a fact that someone on r/amateurradio noticed and helpfully posted a link to the US Navy Electricity and Electronics Trains Series. NEETS trained a lot of utterly clueless young sailors to be electronics technicians who could support some of the world’s most advanced weapons systems. We’re not sure we fully agree with the OP’s out-of-hand dismissal of the quality of education received by EE students, but we do think that a self-paced NEETS run-through probably has a lot of value to anyone looking to level up their skills.
We got a great tip this week about Manhattan-style SMD breakout adapters. We love “Ugly” prototyping, but the methods generally favor through-hole components and DIP ICs. The adapters in this project turn that around, allowing SOIC and MSOP packages to be quickly added to projects and connected with a few flying leads. It’s a great way to avoid the parasitic capacitance of solderless breadboards while putting all those SMD components to work.
And finally, Editor-in-Chief Elliot Williams sent along a fascinating visualization of the human immune system in action. The short clip shows a neutrophil, one of the white blood cells which make up the bulk of the innate immune system, chasing down and gobbling up a hapless Staphylococcus aureus bacterium. This is a great example of chemotaxis, the process by which cells follow a chemical gradient; you can practically see the trail left by the tiny bacterium as the neutrophil surges along. Watching the hunter ignore the red blood cells and seek out the invader is like watching a nature film with a lion and a gazelle; you kind of root for the gazelle, but you pretty much know how it’s going to turn out in the end. The amazing thing here is that this isn’t an animation, but a real 16-mm film made through a microscope back in the 1950s — hats off to the late Dr. David Rogers for the effort on this one.