In My Neighborhood, We Played Asteroids…with Real Asteroids

There was a comedian in the 1980s who always said he grew up in a tough neighborhood. He claimed they played cops and robbers with real cops. They played gin rummy with real gin. Well, maybe if he knew about [Neal Agarwal]’s asteroid launcher simulation website, he would have said they played asteroids with real asteroids.

If you ever wondered what would happen if a 1,500-foot stone or iron asteroid hit your hometown going at 38,000 mph, now you can find out.  Apparently, I live far enough in the suburbs that even a 1 mile-wide iron asteroid hitting the center of Houston wouldn’t put a crater under my house. The 17-mile-wide and 2,608-foot-deep crater would release the equivalent of 399 Gigatons of TNT, but it wouldn’t reach me.

The 29-mile-wide fireball would be a different story. Oh, and the 244 dB shockwave would almost certainly reach me. So if the clothes catching on fire resulting in second- and third-degree burns didn’t get me, perhaps the shockwave would. The simulation says that zone will have 99% fatalities, and even further out, people will get severe lung damage. Eardrums burst even further away. Homes would collapse almost to the Mexican border.

The 1,000-mile-per-hour wind might present problems, too. While we are well-situated for hurricanes in this area, that’s about five times more wind than even a big hurricane generates. And we are not well prepared for earthquakes, much less the magnitude 70 quake that would occur.

Pretty bleak. On the plus side, a strike like that happens about once every 2.6 million years. If you try it yourself, be sure to scroll down the right panel to see the graphical representation of the different effects.

Maybe NASA is on to something when they tell us they want to learn to deflect asteroids. Even private foundations are getting into the business of finding them.

Assistive Technology Pioneer Patrick Joyce Has Passed Away

We are once again saddened to report the loss of another great hacker. Patrick Joyce has passed away after a decade-long struggle with ALS/MND. Patrick was the team captain of Eyedriveomatic, the Grand Prize winning hardware from the 2015 Hackaday Prize. The loss of Patrick comes quickly after receiving word on Monday about the death of Patrick’s teammate, Steve Evans.

Despite the challenges Patrick faced in the final years of his life he was a prolific hardware hacker. He and his team won the Hackaday Prize in 2015 for designing a system which allowed electric wheelchairs to be controlled with eye gaze software without altering the chairs themselves (which are often not owned by the user). But he was also a finalist in the Assistive Technologies challenge of the 2016 Hackaday Prize. The Raimi’s Arm project set its goal at creating bionic arms for kids — a noble and worthy challenge for everyone to undertake. Check out Patrick’s profile page and you’ll see he has also built an open source head mouse (an alternative to eye gaze controls) and a headphone robot which allowed him to put on and take off his own headphones.

I find it amazing what he achieved in his work considering the physical limitations placed before him. Patrick had limited use of one hand which he used with a joystick for mouse control. His typing was done using eye gaze. Yet he managed to design and document a number of incredible creations. This is inspiring.

Reflect on this loss to our community, but take comfort in the fact that his work lives on. Cody Barnes, the software developer for the Eyedrivomatic, plans to continue work on the project. If you are interested in helping to make that open source assistive tech available to more people who need it, now is a great time to send a private message to Cody to learn more about getting involved.