Well, this is embarrassing! Imagine sending a multibillion-dollar rover to the bottom of an ancient lake on Mars only to find out after a year of digging through rocks that it might not actually have been a lake at all. This seems to be the impression Jezero Crater is getting from planetary scientists after looking at the data coming from perseverance Because she nailed the landing in what looks like a dry lake, complete with a river delta system. A closer look at the sediment perseverance Sampling reveals plenty of the mineral olivine, which is rare on Earth near the surface because it readily reacts with water. Finding so much olivine near the surface of Jezero indicates that either it was once not all that water, or that the water was mainly cold. Results are limited to where the rover has been, of course, and the nice thing about having wheels is that you can go somewhere else. 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 NASA took the job a bit on the podcast a couple of weeks ago for not living up to SpaceX’s incredible standards in terms of SLS launch kits. Yes, the night launch is amazing, but not having all those internal cameras like the Falcon has left us kind of flat. But we had to be patient, because the photos back from Artemis 1 are simply amazing. We had no idea NASA had installed cameras on the Orion spacecraft’s solar panels, which act a bit like a selfie stick and allow the spacecraft to be in the foreground with the Earth and Moon in the background. Seeing the Earth from the Moon’s distance again for the first time in 50 years was a real treat, and getting our satellite in frame at the same time is a huge bonus.
We all know how the algorithmic tides of news stories ebb and flow on the internet these days, but even when you expect it to, it can be annoying to see relevant stories suddenly appear in your feed. To wit, we found a couple of stories this week of electric cars that were badly damaged at charging stations. The first was a report by a Ford F-150 Lightning driver that a charger breached his truck. The user reports that while boarding an Electrify America station in Oregon, he heard a loud bang before the Charger and his expensive car died, requiring a flatbed tow to a Ford dealership for repairs. Separately, a BC Hydro charger in Vancouver was reported to have charged at least two electric vehicles, one of which incurred $6,300 in repair fees. There’s no word on the nature of the damage, of course, and BC Hydro claims the shipper has been decommissioned. We can’t help but wonder what the simultaneity of these two stories has to tell us about the state of charging stations in general.
Also from “Isn’t That Weird?” files, reports are emerging all over the world about LED street lights suddenly turning purple. Typically, the intense bluish-white LED street lights in places like Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, California, and elsewhere glow with an eerie but beautiful shade of deep purple. When we first saw this story, we thought it was just going to be an issue with the phosphors on the COB LEDs, possibly fading out and letting the basic UV light shine through. And indeed, that’s the conclusion this story ultimately comes to, at least for the Vancouver lights that seem to be suffering from phosphor coating distortion due to heat damage. The article goes further and blames ongoing “supply chain issues” for the problem, which honestly isn’t hard to fathom.
Finally, can you turn the car into a pillar of salt? No, you can’t, but if you follow in the footsteps of artist James Burdle, you might be able to surround a self-driving car with a few kilos of salt. James found that encircling his car with a dashed double line of salt made the car think it could drive through the barrier and not breach it. So the car just failed and stayed inside the salty circles. We’d like to dig a little deeper into this – it’s not clear what car it is, but there is one comment on a Vimeo video that claims it’s a 2006 Seat Ibiza, whatever that is. The 16-year-old isn’t likely to be self-driving, so it probably has lane sensors.
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