2021 posts

That's a wrap. (Almost.)06.30.2021

Today is my "last" day at ISU. Tomorrow, I will be officially retired. I've been mumbling about retiring for several years, but everything finally came together to make this right time.

For a professor, retiring is a little different than it is for most other jobs. Usually, when you finish at a company, you load your personal effects into a box, and then security escorts you to the door. In academia, your title changes to "emeritus", and you are allowed to hang around in some fashion. You can even continue on exactly as before — you just don't get paid for it. In EE 201 lingo, the difference can be expressed in terms of the time constant involved as the system changes from one state to another. In the "real world", the time constant is measured in minutes or hours. "Here is your congratulatory cake. Here is a box for your junk. Eat your cake, fill the box, and get out." In academia, the time constant might be measured in days, months, semesters, or years — it all depends on the person. I don't know yet what my time constant will be. I'll certainly stick around for a while, since I plan to help transition some of my favorite classes to other instructors. But at some point, the inevitable five time constants will transpire — my ISU gig will have decayed down to zero, and I will be on to something entirely new.

The Ingenuity flies!04.19.21

The little helicopter lifted off for the first time. It wasn't much of flight &mash; just up and down with a few seconds of hovering. But it is useful to remember that the Wright brothers first flight was only 12 seconds. Anyone who has tried to fly a copter in any sort of self-controlled mode knows how difficult that is. It's not hard imagine a day in the not-too-distant future when there will be drones zipping all over Mars.

DigiKey is getting into the PCB business.03.28.2021

Electronics prototypers have another option for getting their small-scale PCBs fabricated. It might be competition for our old favorite Oshpark. The "per square inch" price is not bad, but it's not clear yet how many pieces you get for that price. I'll try them out soon to see how they stack up.

Perseverance Easter egg.02.23.2021

Those crafty JPL engineers are sneaking hidden messages into their space systems. No doubt there is a Q-Anon connection somewhere.

Perseverance landing video.02.22.2021

This is super cool. This is the actual video — not an animation. These space gizmos are the ultimate embedded systems. While watching the crazy method of landing is great fun, the best part of the Perseverance mission is that it has a helicopter that will (possibly) be whirly-birding around on the Mars sometime in the next few months.

I found this nifty video of what appears to be NASA engineers testing out an early prototype of the Mars landing system.

Perseverance attempting to land on Mars.02.18.2021

Will it make? The landing is planned for about 2:55 p.m. CST today. NASA will be "live" streaming events. (In this case, the notion of live incorporates the 11-minute speed-of-light delay.) Here is a neat animationof what will be going down. (So to speak.) You can speed it up to get through the slightly tedious first 8 minutes or so, but then be sure to slow it back down catch all the action at the end.

21's all the way down.01.21.2021

At 9:21:21 p.m. tonight, it will be the 21st second of the 21st minute of the 21st hour of the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. It might be a good time to play a hand of 21. Of course, all these 21's depend on setting "0" at some arbitrary point in time, and not all of us choose to use the same starting point. But it is still kind of cool.

Go big or go home.01.21.2021

Ezra Klein advises the Democrats in charge to not make the same mistakes they made the last time they had to clean up the messes left by the other guys. He is correct.

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