Hmm, this is embarrassing! Imagine sending a multi-billion dollar rover to an ancient lake bed on Mars only to discover after a year of digging through the rocks that it might not be a lake after all. This seems to be Jezero Crater’s impression that planetary scientists are forming after reviewing data from Perseverance since he nailed the landing in what really looked like a dry lake, complete with a river delta system. Zoom on the sediments Perseverance has been sampled reveals much of the mineral olivine, which on Earth is rare near the surface because it readily reacts with water. Finding lots of olivine near the surface of Jezero suggests that it wasn’t once so watery, or that whatever water there was was basically icy. The results are limited to where the rover has been, of course, and the advantage of having wheels is that you can go elsewhere. But if you were hoping for clear signs that Jezero was once a lake teeming with life, you may have to wait.
In other space news, we have to admit that NASA took a bit of a beating in the podcast a few weeks ago for not quite living up to SpaceX’s zazzle standards when it comes to the instrumentation of the SLS launch. Yes, a night launch is spectacular, but not having all those internal cameras like the Falcon kind of left us flat. But we should have been more patient, because the images that come back from Artemis 1 are simply spectacular. Little did we know that NASA attached cameras to the Orion spacecraft’s solar panels, which act a bit like selfie sticks and allow the spacecraft to be in the foreground with Earth and the Moon in the background. Seeing Earth again from lunar distance for the first time in 50 years was a real treat, and having our satellite in the frame at the same time is a huge bonus.
We all know how algorithmic news tides come and go on the internet these days, but even when you’re expecting it, it can be shocking to see related stories suddenly popping up in your feed. Namely, we found a few stories this week about EVs suffering severe damage at charging stations. The first was a report from a Ford F-150 Lightning driver that a loader had bricked up his truck. User reports that while refueling at an Electrify America station in Oregon, he heard a loud boom before the charger and his expensive unholy vehicle went out, requiring a flat tow to to the Ford dealership for repairs. Separately, a BC Hydro charger in Vancouver reportedly damaged at least two electric vehicles, one of which netted $6,300 in repair costs. No word on the nature of the damage, of course, and BC Hydro says the charger was taken out of service. We can’t help but wonder what the competition in these two stories has to tell us about the state of charging stations in general, though.
Also from, “Isn’t that weird?” files, reports are popping up all over the world of LED streetlights suddenly going all purple. Normally, intense bluish-white LED streetlights in places like Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, California and elsewhere now glow an eerie but beautiful shade of dark purple. When we first saw this story, we thought it would just be a problem with the phosphors on the COB LEDs, perhaps wearing out and letting the underlying UV light shine through. And indeed that is the conclusion this story reaches, at least for the Vancouver lamps which appear to be suffering from delamination of the phosphor layer due to heat damage. The article goes a step further and blames the problem on pervasive “supply chain issues,” which honestly isn’t that hard to swallow.
And finally, can you turn a car into a column of salt? No, you can’t, but if you follow artist James Birdle’s lead, you might be able to trap a self-driving car with a few pounds of salt. James discovered that circling his car with a double-dotted salt line made the car believe it could both drive through the barrier and not breach it. The car therefore failed safely and remained inside the salt circles. We’d love to dive a little deeper into that – it’s unclear what the car is, but a comment on the Vimeo video claims it’s a 2006 SEAT Ibiza, whatever. A 16-year-old vehicle is unlikely to be self-driving, so maybe it has lane departure sensors.
#Hackaday #links #December