Stand by the shore and watch the waves roll in, and you’ll notice that most come in at roughly the same size. There’s a little variation, but the overwhelming majority don’t stand out from the crowd. On all but the stormiest of days, they have an almost soothing regularity about them.
Every so often though, out on the high seas, a rogue wave comes along. These abnormally large waves can strike with surprise, and are dangerous to even the largest of ships. Research is ongoing as to what creates these waves, and how they might be identified and tracked ahead of time.
Surfing is a fun and exciting sport but a lot of beginners can get discouraged with how little time is spent actually riding waves while learning. Not only are balance and wave selection critical skills that take time to learn, but a majority of time in the water is spent battling crashing waves to get out past the breakers. Many people have attempted to solve this problem through other means than willpower alone, and one of the latest attempts is [Andrew W] with a completely DIY surfboard with custom impeller jet drives.
The surfboard is hand-made by [Andrew W] himself using a few blocks of styrofoam glued together and then cut into a generic surfboard shape. After the rough shaping is done, he cuts out a huge hole in the back of the board for the jet drive. This drive is almost completely built by [Andrew] as well including the impeller pumps themselves which he designed and 3D printed. The pair of impellers are driven by some beefy motors and a robust speed controller that connects wirelessly to a handheld waterproof throttle to hold while surfing. Once everything was secured in the motor box the surfboard was given a final shaping and then glassed. The final touch was an emergency disconnect attached to a leash so that if he falls off the board it doesn’t speed away without him.
The build is impressive not only for [Andrew]’s shaping skills but for his dedication to a custom jet drive for the surfboard. He spent over a year refining the build and actually encourages people not to do this as he thinks it took too much time and effort, but we’re going to have to disagree with him there. Even if you want to try to build something a lot simpler, builds like these look like a lot of fun once they’re finished. The build seems flawless and while he only tested it in a lake we’re excited to see if it holds up surfing real waves in an ocean.
YouTube does a pretty good job of making itself a target for criticism, but one thing you can say about their algorithms: when they work, they really work. Case in point, the other day I found a suggestion in my feed for a very recent video about salvaging a shipwreck. I can’t begin to guess what combination of view history and metadata Google mined to come to the conclusion that I’d be interested in this video, but they hit the nail on the head.
But more importantly, their algorithmic assessment of my interests must have been a goldmine to them — or it could have been if I didn’t have a minefield of ad blockers protecting me — because I fell down a rabbit hole that led me to a bunch of interesting videos. As it turns out, the shipwreck in that first video was of a cargo ship that was carrying thousands of brand-new automobiles, which were all destroyed in the fire and subsequent capsizing of a “roll-on/roll-off” (RORO) vessel off the coast of Georgia (the state, not the country) in 2019.
Thus began my journey into RORO vessels, on which automobiles and other bulky cargo are transported around the world. And while my personal assessment of the interests of Hackaday readers probably is not as finely tuned as Google’s algos, I figured there’s a better than decent chance that people might enjoy tagging along too.
If you want to send some instruments out on the lake or the ocean, you’ll want something that floats. Sure, if you need to be underwater, or if you can fly over the water there are other options, but sometimes you want to be on the surface. For stability, it is hard to beat a catamaran — a boat with two hulls that each support one side of a deck. If that sounds like the ocean sensor platform of your dreams, try printing the one from [electrosync].
The boat looks super stable and has a brushless motor propulsion system. The design purpose is to carry environmental and water quality monitoring gear. It can hold over 5 kg of payload in the hull and there’s an optional deck system, although the plans for that are not yet included in the STL files.
You don’t have to look very hard to find another rousing success by SpaceX. It’s a company defined by big and bold moves, and when something goes right, they make sure you know about it. From launching a Tesla into deep space to the captivating test flights of their next-generation Starship spacecraft, the private company has turned high-stakes aerospace research and development into a public event. A cult of personality has developed around SpaceX’s outlandish CEO Elon Musk, and so long as he’s at the helm, we can expect bigger and brighter spectacles as he directs the company towards its ultimate goal of putting humans on Mars.
Of course, things don’t always go right for SpaceX. While setbacks are inevitable in aerospace, the company has had a few particularly embarrassing failures that could be directly attributed to their rapid development pace or even operational inexperience. A perfect example is the loss of the Israeli AMOS-6 satellite during a static fire of the Falcon 9’s engines on the launch pad in 2016, as industry experts questioned why the spacecraft had even been mounted to the rocket before it had passed its pre-flight checks. Since that costly mistake, the company has waited until all engine tests have been completed before attaching the customer’s payload.
But sometimes the failure isn’t so much a technical problem as an inability for the company to achieve their own lofty goals. Occasionally one of Musk’s grand ideas ends up being too complex, dangerous, or expensive to put into practice. For instance, despite spending several years and untold amounts of money perfecting the technology involved, propulsive landings for the Crew Dragon were nixed before the idea could ever fully be tested. NASA was reportedly uncomfortable with what they saw as an unnecessary risk compared to the more traditional ocean splashdown under parachutes; it would have been an impressive sight to be sure, but it didn’t offer a substantive benefit over the simpler approach.
A similar fate recently befell SpaceX’s twin fairing recovery ships Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief, which were quietly retired in April. These vessels were designed to catch the Falcon’s school bus sized payload fairings as they drifted down back to Earth using massive nets suspended over their decks, but in the end, the process turned out to be more difficult than expected. More importantly, it apparently wasn’t even necessary in the first place.
There’s a laundry list of ways that humans are polluting the earth, and even though it might not look like it from the surface, the oceans seem to bear the brunt of our waste. Some research suggests that plastic doesn’t fully degrade as it ages, but instead breaks down into smaller and smaller bits that will be somewhere the in environment for such a long time it could be characterized in layman’s terms as forever.
Not only does waste of all kinds make its way to the oceans by rivers or simply by outright dumping, but commercial fishing gear is estimated to comprise around 10% of the waste in the great blue seas, and one of the four nonprofits help guide this year’s Hackaday Prize is looking to eliminate some of that waste and ensure it doesn’t cause other problems for marine life. This was the challenge for the Conservation X Labs dream team, three people who were each awarded a $6,000 micro-grant to work full time for two months on the problem.
It isn’t about simply collecting waste in the ocean, but rather about limiting the time that potentially harmful but necessary fishing equipment is in the water in the first place. For this two-month challenge, this team focused on long lines used by professional fishing operations to attach buoys to gear like lobster pots or crab traps. These ropes are a danger to large ocean animals such as whales when they get tangled in them and, if the lines detach from the traps, the traps themselves continue to trap and kill marine life for as long as they are lost underwater. This “ghost gear” is harmful in many different ways, and reducing its time in the water or “soak time” was the goal for the project.
Let’s take a closer look at their work after the break, and we can also see the video report they filed as the project wrapped up.
Since the widespread manufacture of plastics began in earnest in the early 1950s, plastic pollution in the environment has become a major global problem. Nowhere is this more evident than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A large ocean gyre that has become a swirling vortex full of slowly decaying plastic trash, it has become a primary target for ocean cleanup campaigns in recent years.
However, plastic just doesn’t magically appear in the middle of the ocean by magic. The vast majority of plastic in the ocean first passes through river systems around the globe. Thanks to new research, efforts are now beginning to turn to tackling the issue of plastic pollution before it gets out to the broader ocean, where it can be even harder to clean up. Continue reading “Targeting Rivers To Keep Plastic Pollution Out Of The Ocean”→