The second of three major solar eclipses in a mere six-year period swept across the United States last week. We managed to catch the first one back in 2017, and still have plans for the next one in April of 2024. But we gave this one a miss, mainly because it was “just” an annular eclipse, promising a less spectacular presentation than a total eclipse.
Looks like we were wrong about that, at least judging by photographs of last week’s “Ring of Fire” eclipse. NASA managed to catch a shot of the Moon’s shadow over the middle of the US from the Deep Space Climate Observer at Lagrange Point 1. The image, which shows both the compact central umbra of the shadow and the much larger penumbra, which covers almost the entire continent, is equal parts fascinating and terrifying. Ground-based photographers were very much in the action too, turning in some lovely shots of the eclipse. We particularly like this “one-in-a-million” shot of a jet airliner photobombing the developing eclipse. Shots like these make us feel like it was a mistake to skip the 10-hour drive to the path of annularity.
“To err is human, but to really foul things up takes a computer,” or so the somewhat Luddite saying goes. Perhaps the saying would be more accurate if “programmer” were appended to it after a Georgia man found himself slapped with a $1.4 million speeding ticket. Granted, he was doing 90 mph in a 55 mph zone, which could have earned him a reckless driving charge, but even then, the maximum fine for that charge under Georgia law is limited to $1,000.
A phone call to the court confirmed that he had to pay the seven-figure charge or show up in court, which of course he did. That’s where he learned that the strangely specific $1,480,038.52 charge was just a “placeholder” in the court’s e-citation software, reserved for those doing more than 35 miles per hour over the posted limit and apparently meant to scare the hell out of them. From a coder’s perspective, this seems like a weird number to choose for a placeholder. We’d expect to see a power of two; 220 is close to the value they used, but not quite. Either way, perhaps the speeder’s best strategy here would have been to change his name to “DROP TABLE Violators;” or something like that.
Ever wonder what happens to spacecraft when they return to Earth? If you’re lucky, they end up in the drink at the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility; if you’re not so lucky, something from space might end up on a beach somewhere. But along the way, a good part of the mass ends up as air pollution, or more specifically, as metal alloy aerosols spread throughout the stratosphere. Perdue Univerisity researchers used NASA’s WB-57 High-Altitude Science platform to fly through the stratosphere above Alaska and sample the rarified air, finding more than 20 elements up there, including aluminum, copper, lithium, and lead. The mass of the metals found exceeds what would normally be found in cosmic dust, and the ratios of metals look very much like those you’d expect to find on spacecraft.
Care for a blast from the past? Then be sure to check out the Version Museum, an online collection of the way things used to look back when the Internet was young. Remember when Amazon sold nothing but books? Or when YouTube used to let you “Broadcast Yourself”? They’ve got operating systems and applications, too — Windows all the way back to Version 1.01, the “Happy Mac” screen, and Excel when it was text-based and called Multiplan. Sorry, though — they don’t have any history on Hackaday; perhaps they’ll take submissions.
And finally, if you’ve ever said to yourself, “Self, you just don’t know enough about foams,” you’re in luck — New Mind just released a video called The Science of Foam. And if you think there’s no way that a 23-minute video about foam could be interesting, think again. It covers all kinds of “dispersed media materials,” everything from the head on a mug of beer to synthetic polymeric foams used for insulation and packaging. If you’re at all into industrial chemistry and processes, it’s a fascinating video.