In the surreal world of a pandemic lockdown, we are surrounded by news stories that defy satire. The idea that 5G cellular networks are to blame for the COVID-19 outbreak and a myriad other ills has the more paranoid corners of social media abuzz with concerned citizens leaping upon random pieces of street furniture as potential 5G infrastructure.
The unanimous advice of the world’s scientists, doctors, and engineers that it is inconceivable for a phone technology to cause a viral outbreak. Amusingly, 5G has not yet been rolled out to some of the places where this is happening. But with conspiracy theory, fact denial only serves to reinforce the idea, however misguided. Here at Hackaday we have already ventured into the technical and scientific side of the story, but there is another side to it that leaves the pandemic behind and reaches back over the decades. Fear of new technology and in particular radio is nothing new, it stretches back almost as long as the public has had access to it.
If you haven’t heard from other websites yet, earlier this year a leak of various Nintendo intellectual properties surfaced on the Internet. This included prototype software dating back to the Game Boy, as well as Verilog files for systems up to the Nintendo 64, GameCube and Wii. This leak seems to have originated from a breach in the BroadOn servers, a small hardware company Nintendo had contracted to make, among other things, the China-only iQue Player.
So, that’s the gist of it out of the way, but what does it all mean? What is the iQue Player? Surely now that a company’s goodies are out in the open, enthusiasts can make use of it and improve their projects, right? Well, no. A lot of things prevent that, and there’s more than enough precedent for it that, to the emulation scene, this was just another Tuesday.
Because of the architecture used for the Apollo missions, extended stays on the surface of the Moon weren’t possible. The spartan Lunar Module simply wasn’t large enough to support excursions of more than a few days in length, and even that would be pushing the edge of the envelope. But then the Apollo program was never intended to be anything more than a proof of concept, to demonstrate that humans could make a controlled landing on the Moon and return to Earth safely. It was always assumed that more detailed explorations would happen on later missions with more advanced equipment and spacecraft.
Now NASA hopes that’s finally going to happen in the 2020s as part of its Artemis program. These missions won’t just be sightseeing trips, the agency says they’re returning with the goal of building a sustainable infrastructure on and around our nearest celestial neighbor. With a space station in lunar orbit and a permanent outpost on the surface, personnel could be regularly shuttled between the Earth and Moon similar to how crew rotations are currently handled on the International Space Station.
Naturally, there are quite a few technical challenges that need to be addressed before that can happen. A major one is finding ways to safely and accurately deliver multiple payloads to the lunar surface. Building a Moon outpost will be a lot harder if all of its principle modules land several kilometers away from each other, so NASA is partnering with commercial companies to develop crew and cargo vehicles that are capable of high precision landings.
But bringing them down accurately is only half the problem. The Apollo Lunar Module is by far the largest and heaviest object that humanity has ever landed on another celestial body, but it’s absolutely dwarfed by some of the vehicles and components that NASA is considering for the Artemis program. There’s a very real concern that the powerful rocket engines required to gracefully lower these massive craft to the lunar surface might kick up a dangerous cloud of high-velocity dust and debris. In extreme cases, the lander could even find itself touching down at the bottom of a freshly dug crater.
Of course, the logical solution is to build hardened landing pads around the Artemis Base Camp that can support these heavyweight vehicles. But that leads to something of a “Chicken and Egg” problem: how do you build a suitable landing pad if you can’t transport large amounts of material to the surface in the first place? There are a few different approaches being considered to solve this problem, but certainly one of the most interesting among them is the idea proposed by Masten Space Systems. Their experimental technique would allow a rocket engine to literally build its own landing pad by spraying molten aluminum as it approaches the lunar surface.
While the car world is obsessed with everything boosted these days, many still yearn for the smooth power delivery and sonorous tone of a naturally aspirated engine. Of course, everyone still wants to go fast, so here’s how you go about getting more power out of your car without bolting on a big turbo or whining supercharger.
Intakes: This Can Get Pretty Invovled
The intake is one of the first modifications made by many budding car enthusiasts. Throwing on a chromed intake pipe with a big pod filter was the mod to have back in the Fast and Furious era. Power gains can be had, though typically these are minor – on the order of 5-10 horsepower at most. It all depends on the car in question. A BMW M5 V10 was designed for high performance, with a highly advanced intake with individual throttle bodies from the factory. It’s unlikely any eBay parts are going to unlock horsepower that BMW’s engineers didn’t already find. Conversely, early Mazda Miatas are known to have a restrictive intake, largely due to the flap-type air flow meter. Replacing this with a freer-flowing setup has merit.
Air-to-air combat or “dogfighting” was once a very personal affair. Pilots of the First and Second World War had to get so close to land a hit with their guns that it wasn’t uncommon for altercations to end in a mid-air collision. But by the 1960s, guided missile technology had advanced to the point that a fighter could lock onto an enemy aircraft and fire before the target even came into visual range. The skill and experience of a pilot was no longer enough to guarantee the outcome of an engagement, and a new arms race was born.
Naturally, the move to guided weapons triggered the development of defensive countermeasures that could confuse them. If the missile is guided by radar, the target aircraft can eject a cloud of metallic strips known as chaff to overwhelm its targeting system. Heat-seeking missiles can be thrown off with a flare that burns hotter than the aircraft’s engine exhaust. Both techniques are simple, reliable, and have remained effective after more than a half-century of guided missile development.
But they aren’t perfect. The biggest problem is that both chaff and flares are a finite resource: once the aircraft has expended its stock, it’s left defenseless. They also only work for a limited amount of time, which makes timing their deployment absolutely critical. Automated dispensers can help ensure that the countermeasures are used as efficiently as possible, but sustained enemy fire could still deplete the aircraft’s defensive systems if given enough time.
In an effort to develop the ultimate in defensive countermeasures, the United States Navy has been working on a system that can project decoy aircraft in mid-air. Referred to as “Ghosts” in the recently published patent, several of these phantom aircraft could be generated for as long as the system has electrical power. History tells us that the proliferation of this technology will inevitably lead to the development of an even more sensitive guided missile, but in the meantime, it could give American aircraft a considerable advantage in any potential air-to-air engagements.
Modern physics experiments are often complex, ambitious, and costly. The times where scientific progress could be made by conducting a small tabletop experiment in your lab are mostly over. Especially, in fields like astrophysics or particle physics, you need huge telescopes, expensive satellite missions, or giant colliders run by international collaborations with hundreds or thousands of participants. To drive this point home: the largest machine ever built by humankind is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). You won’t be surprised to hear that even just managing the data it produces is a super-sized task.
Since its start in 2008, the LHC at CERN has received several upgrades to stay at the cutting edge of technology. Currently, the machine is in its second long shutdown and being prepared to restart in May 2021. One of the improvements of Run 3 will be to deliver particle collisions at a higher rate, quantified by the so-called luminosity. This enables experiments to gather more statistics and to better study rare processes. At the end of 2024, the LHC will be upgraded to the High-Luminosity LHC which will deliver an increased luminosity by up to a factor of 10 beyond the LHC’s original design value.
Currently, the major experiments ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb are preparing themselves to cope with the expected data rates in the range of Terabytes per second. It is a perfect time to look into more detail at the data acquisition, storage, and analysis of modern high-energy physics experiments. Continue reading “Crunching Giant Data From The Large Hadron Collider”→
As electric utilization, adoption of electric cars, and the use of renewable power continues to rise, engineers all over are searching for the perfect utility scale battery. We have all heard about Tesla’s 100MW lithium battery pack in South Australia. The system is a massive success and has already paid itself back. However, engineers all over were quick to point out that, until we have a breakthrough, Lithium cells are just not the right choice for a utility system in the long run. There has to be a better solution. Continue reading “A Redox Flow Battery Made From Iron Industry Waste”→