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Hackaday Links: May 12, 2024

Don’t pack your bags for the trip to exoplanet K2-18b quite yet — it turns out that the James Webb Space Telescope may not have detected signs of life there after all. Last year, astronomers reported the possible presence of dimethyl sulfide there, a gas that (at least on Earth) is generally associated with phytoplankton in the ocean. Webb used its infrared spectrometer instruments to look at the light from the planet’s star, a red dwarf about 111 light-years away, as it passed through the hydrogen-rich atmosphere. The finding was sort of incidental to the discovery of much stronger signals for methane and carbon dioxide, but it turns out that the DMS signal might have just been overlap from the methane signal. It’s too bad, because K2-18b seems to be somewhat Earth-like, if you can get over the lack of oxygen and the average temperature just below freezing. So, maybe not a great place to visit, but it would be nice to see if life, uh, found a way anywhere else in the universe.

Attention Fortran fans: your favorite language isn’t quite dead yet. In fact, it cracked the top ten on one recent survey, perhaps on the strength of its numerical and scientific applications. The “Programming Community Index” is perhaps a bit subjective, since it’s based on things like Google searches for references to particular languages. It’s no surprise then that Python tops such a list, but it’s still interesting that there’s enough interest in a 67-year-old programming language to make it onto the list. We’d probably not advise building a career around Fortran, but you never know.

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Hackaday Links: April 14, 2024

The Great American Eclipse v2.0 has come and gone, sadly without our traveling to the path of totality as planned; family stuff. We did get a report from friends in Texas that it was just as spectacular there as expected, with the bonus of seeing a solar flare off the southwest limb of the disk at totality. Many people reported seeing the same thing, which makes us a bit jealous — OK, a lot jealous. Of course, this presented an opportunity to the “Well, ackchyually” crowd to point out that there were no solar flares or coronal mass ejections at the time, so what people saw wasn’t an exquisitely timed and well-positioned solar flare but rather a well-timed and exquisitely positioned solar prominence. Glad we cleared that up. Either way, people in the path of totality saw the Sun belching out gigatons of plasma while we had to settle for 27% totality.

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Hackaday Links: May 7, 2023

More fallout for SpaceX this week after their Starship launch attempt, but of the legal kind rather than concrete and rebar. A handful of environmental groups filed the suit, alleging that the launch generated “intense heat, noise, and light that adversely affects surrounding habitat areas and communities, which included designated critical habitat for federally protected species as well as National Wildlife Refuge and State Park lands,” in addition to “scatter[ing] debris and ash over a large area.”

Specifics of this energetic launch aside, we always wondered about the choice of Boca Chica for a launch facility. Yes, it has all the obvious advantages, like a large body of water directly to the east and being at a relatively low latitude. But the whole area is a wildlife sanctuary, and from what we understand there are still people living pretty close to the launch facility. Then again, you could pretty much say the same thing about the Cape Canaveral and Cape Kennedy complex, which probably couldn’t be built today. Amazing how a Space Race will grease the wheels of progress.

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