Reflecting On Margaret Hamilton: 50 Years After Apollo 11

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing, Google created a 1.4-square-mile portrait of NASA software developer Margaret Hamilton using more than 107,000 mirrors from the Ivanpah Solar Facility in the Mojave Desert, a solar thermal power plant with a gross capacity of 392 megawatts.

The fields of heliostat mirrors (173,500 in total) ordinarily focus sunlight on receivers located on the solar power towers, which subsequently generate steam to drive steam turbines. The facility was first connected to the electrical grid in September 2013 before formally opening in February 2014, during which it was the world’s largest solar thermal power station. Ivanpah was developed by BrightSource Energy and Bechtel, with Google contributing $168 million towards its $2.2 billion in costs. Google no longer invests in the facility, however, due to the decline of the price of photovoltaic systems.

The facility has historically taken steps to avoid disrupting the natural wildlife, which includes desert tortoises. The effect of mirror glare on airplane pilots, water concerns, and collisions with birds has also been addressed by the operators of the installation.

According to Google, the image was larger than Central Park and could be seen a mile above sea level. The mirrors are all attached to a rotating mount that maneuvers the mirrors in order to create lighter and darker shades to make up the image.

The Apollo 11 mission, manned by Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins, was the first to bring humans to the moon in 1969. Hamilton‘s role in the team included programming the in-flight software for all of NASA’s Apollo missions. She had also worked on satellite tracking software for the Air Force through Lincoln Lab (started by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and later joined the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. It was, however, her work on creating computer systems to predict and track weather systems for use in anti-aircraft air defenses that made her a candidate for a lead developer role at NASA.

Continue reading “Reflecting On Margaret Hamilton: 50 Years After Apollo 11”

Punch The World With A Raspberry Pi

Robots have certainly made the world a better place. Virtually everything from automobile assembly to food production uses a robot at some point in the process, not to mention those robots that can clean your house or make your morning coffee. But not every robot needs such a productive purpose. This one allows you to punch the world, which while not producing as much physical value as a welding robot in an assembly line might, certainly seems to have some therapeutic effects at least.

The IoT Planet Puncher comes to us from [8BitsAndAByte] who build lots of different things of equally dubious function. This one allows us to release our frustration on the world by punching it (or rather, a small model of it). A small painted sphere sits in front of a 3D-printed boxing glove mounted on a linear actuator. The linear actuator is driven by a Raspberry Pi. The Pi’s job doesn’t end there, though, as the project also uses a Pi camera to take video of the globe and serve it on a webpage through which anyone can control the punching glove.

While not immediately useful, we certainly had fun punching it a few times, and once a mysterious hand entered the shot to make adjustments to the system as well. Projects like this are good fun, and sometimes you just need to build something, even if it’s goofy, because the urge strikes you. Continue reading “Punch The World With A Raspberry Pi”

Art Meets Science In The Cold Wastelands Of Iceland

Although Iceland is now a popular destination for the day-tripping selfie-seeking Instagrammer who rents a 4×4, drives it off road onto delicate ecosystems and then videos the ensuing rescue when the cops arrive, there are still some genuine photographers prepared to put a huge amount of time and effort into their art. [Dheera Venkatraman] is one of the latter and produces composite photos using a relatively low resolution thermal camera and DIY pan and tilt rig.

Whilst we don’t have the exact details, we think that, since the Seek Reveal Pro camera used has a resolution of 320 x 240, [Dheera] would have had to take at least 20 photos for each panoramic shot. In post processing, the shots were meticulously recombined into stunning landscape photos which are a real inspiration to anybody interested in photography.

If you do go to Iceland you might find the traditional food a little challenging to those not raised upon it, nor would you go there for a stag night as beer is eyewateringly expensive. But if you enjoy uninhabitable, desolate, dramatic landscapes there is a huge range of possibilities for the photographer from rugged, frozen lava flows to extra terrestrial ‘Martian’ crater-scapes, if you know where to find them.

[Dheera’s] blog contains some more information about his Iceland photography and there’s a Github repsoitory too. And if you cant afford a $699 Seek Reveal Pro, maybe try building one yourself.

A Baby’s First Year In Data, As A Blanket

New parents will tell you that a baby takes a few months to acquire something close to a day/night sleep pattern, and during that time Mom and Dad also find their sleep becomes a a rarely-snatched luxury. [Seung Lee] has turned this experience into a unique data visualisation, by taking the sleep pattern data of his son’s first year of life and knitting it into a blanket.

The data was recorded using the Baby Connect app, from which it was exported and converted to JSON. This was in turn fed to some HTML/Javascript which generated a knitting pattern in a handy format that could be displayed on any mobile or portable device for knitting on the go. The blanket was then knitted by hand as a series of panels that were later joined into one, providing relief as the rows lined up.

The finished product shows very well the progression as the youngster adapts to a regular sleep pattern, and even shows a shift to the right at the very bottom as a result of a trip across time zones to see relatives. It’s both a good visualisation and a unique keepsake that the baby will treasure one day as an adult. (Snarky Ed Note: Or bring along to the therapist as evidence.)

This blanket was hand-knitted, but it’s not the first knitted project we’ve seen. How about a map of the Universe created on a hacked knitting machine?

A Wedding Gift Fit For A Hardware Hacker

If you read Hackaday on a regular basis, there are some names you will have seen more than once. People who continually produce fascinating and inventive projects that amaze and delight us, and who always keep us coming back for more. One such hacker is [Jeroen Domburg], perhaps better known in these pages by the handle [Sprite_TM], who has never failed to delight us in this respect.

Today is a special day for [Jeroen] for it is his wedding day, and his friend [Maarten Tromp] has decided to surprise him and his wife [Mingming] with a special gift. At first sight it is simply a pair of blinky badges in the shape of a bride and groom, but closer examination reveals much more. The PCBs are studded with WS2812 addressable LEDs controlled by an ESP32 module and powered by a small LiPo battery, and the clever part lies in the software. The two badges communicate via Bluetooth, allowing them to both synchronise their flashing and flash ever faster as the couple come closer to each other.

The write-up is an interesting tale of the tribulations of designing a badge, from which we take away that buying cheap LEDs may be a false economy. A surprise was that the black-cased and white-cased versions of the LEDs had different timings, and they proved prone to failure.

We wish the happy couple all the best, thank [Sprite_TM] for all he has given us over the years, and look forward to seeing his future projects.

Paint The Rainbow With This Skittle-Dropping Pixel Art Robot

We hackers just can’t get enough of sorters for confections like Skittles and M&Ms, the latter clearly being the superior candy in terms of both sorting and snackability. Sorting isn’t just about taking a hopper of every color and making neat monochromatic piles, though. [JohnO3] noticed that all those colorful candies would make dandy pixel art, so he built a bot to build up images a Skittle at a time.

Dubbed the “Pixel8R” after the eight colors in a regulation bag of Skittles, the machine is a largish affair with hoppers for each color up top and a “canvas” below with Skittle-sized channels and a clear acrylic cover. The hoppers each have a rotating disc with a hole to meter a single Skittle at a time into a funnel which is connected to a tube that moves along the top of the canvas one column at a time. [JohnO3] has developed a software toolchain to go from image files to Skittles using GIMP and a Python script, and the image builds up a row at a time until 2,760 Skittle-pixels have been placed.

The downside: sorting the Skittles into the hoppers. [JohnO3] does this manually now, but we’d love to see a sorter like this one sitting up above the hoppers. Or, he could switch to M&Ms and order single color bags. But where’s the fun in that?

[via r/arduino]

Preserving Precious Laptop Stickers

Stickers belong on laptops. That’s not just because all developers are issued a 2015 MacBook Pro at birth to zealously hold and cherish for the rest of their careers, and the vast uniformity of laptop models in the workplace makes each individual’s laptop indistinguishable from anyone else’s. No, stickers belong on laptops because that ‘RUN GCC’ sticker is justĀ so good. But how do you keep a laptop stickered up while not hurting the resale value or worrying about sticky residue left behind? That’s the question [Graham] answered, and the answer may surprise you.

The problem is such: there mus be a way to apply stickers to a MacBook that is invisible, removable, and leaves no trace after being removed, even after years of enjoying a bestickerd’ laptop. The first thought turned to old-style screen protectors for a phone, but this had problems: they’re glossy, and sourcing a large sheet of screen protectors proved difficult.

After some research, it turned out there was a market with similar requirements: car wraps. Yes, you can wrap your car in vinyl that’s any color you want, including whatever Apple is calling their plain aluminum finish these days. As far as a protector for an aluminum MacBook, it looks good: it doesn’t leave any residue behind, it’s strong enough to survive on a car, so it’s probably good enough for a laptop on a desk, and it’s easy to apply.

With some stickers applied to this larger sticker, everything looked good and lived up to a few months of abuse. Then came the real test: could this MacBook wrap be removed with all the other stickers intact? Yes, and you can frame the result. While this is only a test of the aluminum-colored MacBook, vehicle wraps come in nearly every color imaginable. There is apparently a vinyl that looks like Space Gray, and if you want Thinkpad Black, you can get that wrap, too.