Hackaday Links: February 4, 2024

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Things may not have gone as planned last week for the flying cellphone on Mars, but just because Ingenuity‘s flying career is over doesn’t mean there’s no more work to do. NASA announced this week that it’s going to try a series of “wiggle” maneuvers on Ingenuity‘s rotors, in an attempt to get a better look at the damage to the blade tips and possibly get some clues as to what went wrong. The conjecture at the moment seems to be that a large area of relatively featureless terrain confused the navigation system, which uses down-facing cameras to track terrain features. If the navigation program couldn’t get a bead on exactly how far above the ground it was, it’s possible the copter came in too hard and caused the rotor tips to dig into the regolith. There seems to be some photographic suggestion of that, with what looks like divots in the ground about where you’d expect the rotor tips to dig in, and even scraps of material that look out of place and seem to be about the same color as the rotor blades. All this remains to be seen, of course, and we’re sure that NASA and JPL are poring over all available data to piece together what happened. As much as we hate to say goodbye to Ingenuity, we eagerly await the post-mortem.

Speaking of the space artifact afterlife, the space shuttle Endeavour has finally made it to its new forever home. The orbiter has been on display at the California Science Center since 2012, where it was shown in a horizontal configuration. Now,  Endeavour has been mated to an external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters in a full launch configuration, the first time that feat has ever been accomplished away from a NASA facility. The process appears to have gone smoothly, with two crames lifting the decommissioned and shrink-wrapped spacecraft using what appears to be the same lifting cradle NASA used to do their stack-ups in the Vehicle Assembly Building. Apart from the wonder of a heavy lift, and the potential for a catastrophic end to a priceless artifact, the engineering that’s going into the building that will eventually go up around the stack is pretty intense. It’s only partially complete, of course; the shuttle had to be lifted over a stem wall that looks like it will support a 20-story geodesic dome. But before that goes up, the shuttle will get a protective exoskeleton of scaffolding; you wouldn’t want to be the guy who drops a wrench on it, after all.

Engineering is hard, it’s true, but sometimes it takes just a little common sense to make it all work. Case in point: the Tesla Cybertruck’s wheel covers, which have to be redesigned because they’re causing damage to the EV truck’s very expensive tires. Tesla is finding that the “aerocovers,” which are designed to look cool reduce aerodynamic turbulence caused by the wheels, are rubbing against the sidewalls of the tires. The aerocover designers apparently didn’t take into account the fact that rubber tires deform when loaded, and made the clearance between the chisel-like greebling on the covers and the sidewalls too tight, despite the fact that the custom-made Cybertruck tires have recesses in the sidewalls to accommodate the aerocover points. Granted, this is more of an industrial design failure than an engineering one, but it sure seems like someone on the engineering team should have caught this one.

Are you having trouble getting ChatGPT to do your bidding? Facing down that big, empty prompt screen with no idea where to start can be intimidating, so we were intrigued by this ChatGPT prompt builder, which eases you into writing effective prompts. We gave it a whirl today, asking it for help coming up with questions for the upcoming Hackaday Podcast Episode 256 “Ask Me Anything” segment, as threatened Friday on Episode 255. TL;DL — to celebrate the (base 2) milestone, we’re soliciting AMA questions from the listeners, with the threat that if they didn’t produce, we’d just make ChatGPT do it. Here’s hoping you drop into the comment line or hit tips@hackaday.com, because we really don’t want to answer such bland questions as these.

And finally, if there’s too much excitement in your life, we’ve got a solution for that. Jason over at Fireball Tool has a line of extremely overengineered tools, including a hardtail vise that will set you back a cool $1,650. You’d expect such a thing to be able to take a beating, but Jason was curious about just how much abuse it could take. So he rigged up sort of a reverse trebuchet to repeatedly release a 100-pound (50-ish kilo) hammer from a height of 6 feet (2-or-so meters) into a steel coupon clamped into the jaws of the vise. And then he live-streamed it! The video below is part two; part one, which used a mere 77-pound (you do the math) hammer, saw the vise win handily. Bigger hammers usually solve all problems, but will it in this case? Watch the stream to find out — it’s strangely compelling.

20 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: February 4, 2024

  1. OK … so here’s an AMA “question” I’ll submit. I THOROUGHLY enjoyed the 45 minute video from this story:


    So my question is this: what are the Hackaday editors’ favorite detailed videos, stories, or sites like the one above that can truly teach some of us novices how the “wizards” go about hacking into and fixing devices and the tools they use to do so? Followup question: could you create a special section of the Hackaday website that featured some of the best of the best such videos/stories in a sort of learning section of the site so that we could easily reference the material?

    Thank you!

        1. I have no insight here, but the implementation might be quite troublesome. One would have to associate each post with a login (considering the feature of being able to post without account), and one would have to think about the case of altering the content after someone replied, which might throw the answer out of context, or worse, into a totally different context. No editing seems to be a safe way out, leaving the most possible room for hackaday staff to generate content instead of fighting the bugs and tradeoffs in the comment system/code. I personally prefer content over an edit button.

          1. Simple. Replies lock out the “edit” feature. In real life most people aren’t siting there, bated breath waiting for one’s post, so there’s usually a window to edit safely.

        1. Kids today just don’t know the cool units. My dad would occasionally ask for speeds in furlongs per fortnight. And of course, a metric buttload is in fact a real unit of measure (if you squint right).

          1. I had only heard furlongs per fortnight in a college class. Assuming that your dad wasn’t my professor, I guess at least two people used it.

            (At one point, I would have thought it exceedingly unlikely to encounter the child, previously unknown to me, of one of my college professors randomly on an internet site having nothing to do with the institution or even field of study 30-some years after graduation. Actually, I never thought about it until it did happen. That happening twice would be…a thing.)

          2. Furlongs per fortnight per firkin I believe was coined somewhere on USENET during the 1990s when denizens were looking for an obscure way of defining length by time by mass.
            And since I hear some of you asking “What’s a firkin?”
            IIRC, it is 60 pounds of butter.

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