Hackaday Links: April 30, 2023

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Cloudy with a chance of concrete? The “success” of last week’s brief but eventful Starship launch has apparently raised some regulatory eyebrows, with the Federal Aviation Administration launching an investigation into the destruction wrought by the mighty rocket. And it’s not just the hapless Dodge Caravan that they’re concerned with — although we found some fantastic POV footage that shows the kill shot as well as close-ups of the results — but also the damage rained down upon residents around the Boca Chica launch complex. Tons of concrete and rebar were excavated by the 33 Raptor engines during the launch and sent in all directions, reportedly landing up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the pad. What’s worse, a lot of debris ended up on beaches that are home to endangered species, which has the Sierra Club also taking an interest. The FAA has apparently nixed any launches from the Texas facility until they complete their investigation.

If you’re worried about — or praying for — an alien invasion, you can relax: the US government says UFOs aren’t aliens. But that doesn’t mean anyone knows what they actually are, at least according to Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, who as the Pentagon’s Director of the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office has the coolest job title in government. His testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week made it pretty clear that the vast majority of UFOs, or UAP as they prefer to call them — the “A” is for “Anomolous” rather than “Aerial,” which covers the non-flying phenomena — can be boiled down to the usual “swamp gas and Venus” explanations. But not all of them; he included an example in his testimony of a spherical UAP captured by “electro-optical sensors” that defies analysis. A full report is due later in the summer, so we’ll be keen to see what they’ve got to say.

Have you ever wondered who invented binary? We’d always assumed it was someone with the misfortune to lose 80% of their fingers, but apparently not, according to this short paper. The author claims it was a fellow named Thomas Harriot, who left manuscripts in the early 1600s fiddling with binary notation with experiments on the specific gravity of various types of wine. As an alchemist, he used the troy system of measurements, which breaks an ounce down into 480 grains and has customary divisions of 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16. He must have gotten interested in the whole powers-of-two thing, because he wrote out the first 16 binary numbers, and tried his hand at a couple of binary multiplication problems. It’s kind of neat to think that the old-school “rods per hogshead” measuring system would do something that a decimal-based system couldn’t, but there it is.

Apparently it’s festival season, specifically vintage computer festivals, which seem to be cropping up all over. Our own Tom Nardi had quite a time at VCF East a couple of weekends back, and now we hear of VCF Southwest, to be held June 23 to 25 in Dallas. Looks like it’ll be a pretty cool show, so stop by if you’re in the area. And across the pond we have RetroTechUK coming up, on May 21 in Coventry. That also looks like a pretty big deal, so get your tickets early. And please report back if you go — we love hearing boots-on-the-ground reports from events like these.

Psst. Hey, kid — wanna try some Wagos? If you’ve never tried these “Euro-style” lever lock connectors, Silver Cymbal over on YouTube says that now’s your chance, because you can get a free sample right from the company. You just have to send fill out a form and fork over the usual information, and they’ll send you a small sample — probably one — of whichever type of the 221 Series connectors you want. Just remember, though — the first one’s free, and then they jack up the price. That’s how they get you hooked.

17 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: April 30, 2023

  1. “**Due to the overwhelming response from our friends at Silver Cymbal and the ever-increasing popularity of our 221 products, we need to catch our breath for a moment and pause our free sample program temporarily.

    We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you so much for the enthusiasm you have shared with us and for your patience now! We are humbled by your response.

    Rest assured we’ll be back soon and you can see why everyone is so excited…”

    no free sample for now. :(

  2. The free sample program is not new, I got some from them at least a year ago, and it was a nice sampler with several sizes. Their sales & marketing materials seem to be targeting the wire nut market but these are like 100 times the price, each. And you need different sizes for 2 wires, 3, 4… For 16ga, 14, 12… OK, so they’re a little fast and easier than a wire nut, but still, it’s not like wire nuts are hard to put on.

  3. Maybe the FAA, EPA, Army Corp of Engineers and additional TLA’s will explain the permitting delays that SpaceX faces. They would have a diverter if they were allowed. The only investigation needed is one into the foot dragging by the government that Musk embarrasses with success.

    1. I hear some orgs have now sued the FAA for rushing things in spaceX’s favour and causing danger to property and environment because of that.
      And because of that; the whole project might be delayed.. for years.
      We’ll see how Musk’s lawyer will do, because this could be very annoying for SpaceX/Musk.

      As for the pad, I think is was S.M. who explained that the idea is to be able to take off from Mars where there is no pad, so it should work without a pad preferably. and since it doesn’t work, and Mars has less that half the gravity of Earth (38%), I suppose the launch spot and structures on Mars would have to be very very far apart.

  4. You Musk bros are so predictable.

    This guy showers all his extended neighbourhood with concrete, get slapped for that and you go “baaad gubmint wanna freedom”.


    1. I recently met a man who bought a Caravan (decades ago?) when Chrysler Corp. was trying to build consumer confidence by offering a Lifetime Warranty on Caravans. It has over 300,000 miles on it and even though Chrysler Corp. has changed owners a number of times since then, the Warranty is still honored.

  5. Dividing things by powers of 2 is quite old. Music notation dealt with this a century or 2 earlier. The SAE english system shows that legacy. Easy to count up to 16 with one hand fingers only.

  6. Concrete and rebar are actually good for the wetlands around Boca Chica. Concrete is slightly basic and neutralizes the acidity created by CO2. Moreover, its coarseness makes it a good anchor point for all kinds of sea life which in turn will provide places where small critters can hide from predation.

    The iron in rebar is an excellent fertilizer while also being 100% natural.

    Contrast this with the tons of plastic Coke bottles and nicotine soaked cigarette butts washed into our oceans every day.

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