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Hackaday Links: September 18, 2022

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We always love when people take the trouble to show information in new, creative ways — after all, there’s a reason that r/Data Is Beautiful exists. But we were particularly taken by this version of the periodic table of the elements, distorted to represent the relative abundance on Earth of the 90 elements that make up almost everything. The table is also color-coded to indicate basically how fast we’re using each element relative to its abundance. The chart also indicates which elements are “conflict resources,” basically stuff people fight over, and which elements go into making smartphones. That last bit we thought was incomplete; we’d have sworn at least some boron would be somewhere in a phone. Still, it’s an interesting way to look at the elements, and reminds us of another way to enumerate the elements.

It’s wildfire season in the western part of North America again, and while this year hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as last year — so far — there’s still a lot of activity in our neck of the woods. And wouldn’t you know it, some people seem to feel like a wildfire is a perfect time to put up a drone. It hardly seems necessary to say that this is A Really Bad Idea™, but for some reason, people still keep doing it. Don’t misunderstand — we absolutely get how cool it is to see firefighting aircraft do their thing. The skill these pilots show as they maneuver their planes, which are sometimes as large as passenger jets, within a hundred meters of the treetops is breathtaking. But operating a drone in the same airspace is just stupid. Not only is it likely to get you in trouble with the law, but there’s a fair chance that the people whose property and lives are being saved by these heroic pilots won’t look kindly on your antics.

Worried about an impending robot/AI apocalypse? Given all the news coverage of sentient AIs and, you know, the fact that we live in a world with Google, it seems like a reasonable concern. But silly humans — you’ve got it all wrong. It turns out that we’re all safe as kittens from robot attacks. You can take that to the bank since it came right from the mouth of the world’s most advanced humanoid robot. Its name is Ameca, which is a truly awful name, who assures us via a conversation with a Judas goat an engineer that robots are only here to “help and serve humans.” Now, where have we heard that before?

If you live in the Toronto area — and if you’re Canadian, there’s a pretty good chance you do — it’s time to get your stupid hat on. That’s right, the “Stupid Shit No One Needs and Terrible Ideas Hackathon” is coming to Toronto, and it sounds like a ton of fun. The promo video below is a gas — we were especially triggered by “massively multiplayer online Pong” and the idea to focus on meat-based plants rather than plant-based meats. The categories are a hoot too — “Collaborating with dictators” and “Things that seem immoral but actually are” seem very promising, while “Roomba waifu” has the potential to be pretty creepy. So if you’ve got a really bad idea and don’t take yourself too seriously, check it out on October 14 and 15. And look at that — it doesn’t even conflict with Supercon!

And speaking of stupid shi poop, someone pointed out this old but interesting article on research that concluded that dogs tend to align themselves on the north-south axis when pooping. The paper says the researchers enlisted 37 dog owners to record the orientation of their pooping pooches over a number of years, totaling over 1,800 eliminations. The numbers made it clear that dogs really don’t like pooping along the east-west axis for some reason. What with all the stories of lost dogs finding their way home over hundreds of miles, it’s perhaps not surprising that dogs have a sense of magnetic direction. We just can’t think of a reason for this pooping preference; the authors speculate that it might have something to do with keeping the sun out of their eyes while indisposed, thereby reducing the possibility of becoming some other animal’s lunch.

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