As I write this, Supercon 2023 is in full swing down in Pasadena — 80 degrees and sunny at the moment, as opposed to 50 and pouring rain where I am, not that I’m bitter. Luckily, though, we can all follow along with the proceedings thanks to the livestreams on the Hackaday channel, which of course will all be available once they’re edited in case you miss anything live. There are a ton of interesting talks coming up, so there’ll be a lot to catch up on when the dust settles. And that won’t be far from now; by the time this post publishes, Supercon will be all but over, which makes it the Thanksgiving dinner of cons — all that work and it’s over in just a few minutes.
And once you come down from your post-Supercon high, it’ll be time to start thinking about what comes next. May we be so bold as to suggest coming up with a talk or workshop proposal for the 2024 Open Hardware Summit? The summit is tentatively scheduled for the end of April, or it may go into early May. Either way, it’ll be in Montreal, a beautiful city that can be pretty nice in the early Spring. The deadline for proposals is December 17, so start thinking about what you can bring to the table and get your proposals together.
In space news — because it wouldn’t be a Links article without space news — it looks like Solar Cycle 25 has some surprises in store for us. Back when this solar cycle started, expectations were that there would be relatively little activity at solar maximum, as assessed by the number of observed sunspots, which correlates to the magnetic activity beneath the Sun’s surface. Cycle 25 has already blown that prediction, with far more sunspots than expected — solar maximum for this cycle was supposed to have a sunspot number of about 115; we’re currently sitting around 130 or so. Not only that, solar maximum is probably going to arrive well ahead of schedule, possibly as early as the beginning of 2024. That’s a huge difference from the prediction of July 2025 for peak activity. That also means the solar max peak could stretch out far longer, which could have interesting implications for radio propagation, increased risk of Earth-impacting coronal mass ejections, and disruptions to satellites in orbit. On the plus side, solar maximum during the upcoming total solar eclipse could make for some pretty wild views of the corona.
If you’ve read the Links column much, it’ll be no surprise that we love factory tours around here. And brief though it may be, MagPi magazine’s tour of the Raspberry Pi 5 factory is worth checking out. The Pi 5 isn’t the only thing made at the Sony UK Technology Centre in Pencoed, of course; they make a ton of Sony broadcast cameras and associated equipment there too. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of tech on the assembly line, but a lot of it is “cobot” work cells, where robots and humans work on the same steps. They’re geared up to make 250,000 Pi 5s a week, which will hopefully put a dent in inventories and drive the pandemic-inflated prices we’ve all gotten used to back to more reasonable levels.
And finally, while we’re not sure we’d quite follow suit, Kyle Hill has a new video where he gets up close and personal with high-level radioactive waste, for… reasons? Actually, what Kyle has in mind here is the “de-Simpsonization” of the nuclear power industry. Kyle is a big booster of nuclear energy, so after touring places where nuclear power went terribly wrong, like Chernobyl and Fukushima, he wangled a tour of the Dresden Generating Station in Illinois, the first privately financed nuclear power station in the US. His goal is to dispel the myths surrounding radioactive waste storage, to which end he toured the fuel rod cooling pools with their eerie blue Cherenkov glow, or “sonic booms of light in water,” as he aptly puts it. The big moment comes out at the dry flask yard, where immense concrete and steel cylinders hold fuel rods for enough half-lives to render them harmless; that’s where Kyle shows his true feelings about nuclear power. “Controlled nuclear fission is a demanding mistress,” after all.