HAMNET Report 13th September 2020

Here’s another example of amateur radio coming to the aid of the community.

Nigel Vander Houwen, K7NVH, reported to the ARRL News on September 8 that some HamWAN users in the Puget Sound region of Washington, who were viewing the network’s camera feeds, spotted a large brush fire.

“They reported it to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which thanked them for the first report they’d gotten on the fire, and they’ve sent a team to try and keep it small and under control,” Vander Houwen said. “It’s estimated currently at around 50 acres, southeast of Enumclaw along Highway 410”. The fire was not said to be threatening any homes. State Route 410 was reported closed between Enumclaw and Greenwater, and drivers heading to Mount Rainier National Park were advised to take another route.

HamWAN is a non-profit organization developing best practices for high speed amateur radio data networks. It runs the Puget Sound Data Ring. So far, HamWAN networks have been used for such applications as low-latency repeater linking (including DMR), real-time video feeds, APRS I-gates, providing redundant internet access to emergency operations centres, and more.

Amateur radio licensees in the HamWAN service area can connect directly to the network with a modest investment in equipment and no recurring costs. The HamWAN Puget Sound Data Ring has cells deployed at numerous wide-coverage sites, interconnected with 5 GHz radios. The HamWAN technical team has been installing remotely controllable cameras at HamWAN link sites, and one of these was used for the wildfire report.

Thanks to the ARRL News for this report.

I’m not sure about the other regions of HAMNET in South Africa, but here in the Western Cape, we have taken to holding our monthly meetings online, during the lockdown. This seems to work well, although we don’t necessarily see all the same faces online as we see at the offline meetings, but there’s no doubt that it is very convenient to do the business online.

Reporting in Phys.org, Bryce Benda at Leiden University reports that astronomers there have published two articles on more sustainable astronomy in a special section of the journal Nature Astronomy. Among other things, they calculate that their online conference EAS 2020 consumed (I think that should be “produced”) 3,000 times less carbon dioxide than the face-to-face edition a year earlier. They also show that the programming language Python, which is often used by astronomers, demands excessive electricity.

The idea for a special section on sustainability and climate arose during the virtual conference of the European Astronomical Society (EAS). This conference was supposed to take place in Leiden last June but was held online due to the corona crisis.

The article on more sustainable conferences compares the carbon footprint of the 2019 European Astronomy Conference, held offline in Lyon, with that of the 2020 online conference in Leiden. It shows that an online conference emits three thousand times less carbon dioxide than a face-to-face meeting.

Leo Burtscher was one of the organizers of the online conference in 2020 and first author of the article: “Of course we expected that online would emit less CO2. But the fact that the difference was so huge came as a surprise.”

Burtscher and his co-authors suggest that a combination of online lectures with regional offline meetings could be a good alternative. These face-to-face meetings provide the interaction astronomers want and could, for example, take place simultaneously at various locations throughout Europe.

The article on more economical use of computers was written by Professor of Computational astrophysics Simon Portegies Zwart. He sums up five points of improvement: “Do your daily work, such as emailing and writing texts, on a simple laptop. If you use a supercomputer, don’t go to its full capacity. If you perform calculations on a fast workstation, don’t overclock that computer. For your calculations and simulations, use special computers with hardware based on graphics cards. And, very important: do not use Python if you want to do large calculations.”

Many astronomers won’t like the plea for less Python, thinks Portegies Zwart. That programming language is user-friendly and there are many collections of free code pieces that astronomers copy into their programs. Portegies Zwart calls for programming lectures for students to focus less on Python and more on programming languages that are much more efficient with the computer’s process.

Now, only in America will this kind of radio transmission take place.

Two airline pilots encountered unusual traffic near Los Angeles airport last week: a man with a jetpack flying around on his own at an altitude of around 900 meters.

The bemused pilots were on different flights when they reported the sighting, leading to incongruous radio communications with air traffic control: “Tower, American 1997. We just passed a guy in a jet pack,” reported one pilot, noting that the person was flying at about the same altitude as the plane, just about 300 meters away. The other pilot reported the same sighting seconds later, prompting air traffic control to urge caution.

Jet packs rarely fly at such high altitude. The FBI is still investigating the case.

Thanks to CGTN for that one. Incidentally, they also report on a trial in Botswana, where researchers painted eyes on the back of the haunches of a trial group of 683 cows in the Okavango Delta, and compared the results with a group of 835 unpainted ones. Believe it or not, none of the 683 painted cows were killed by predators in the four year study, whereas 15 of the unpainted cows were. Seems that the predator lions don’t like being watched as they attempt to sneak up on their prey!

I’m sure I enriched your HAMNET experience with that latter piece of news!

Finally, in answer to a question in the Physics Forum as to which form of life appeared first on Earth, authorities say that bacteria and archaea appeared first on earth. These are both prokaryotes, simple cells without a nucleus. After more than a billion years, the more complex eukaryote cells appeared (cells with a nucleus). From the initial eukaryotes, plants and animals evolved. There are also fungi and single celled eukaryotes that are neither plants nor animals. Probably plants arose first (in the oceans, that is), and probably also preceded animals on land. A big reason for animals to roam onto the land is to get food resources not available in the ocean. That would not happen before plants were there, plants that grow on land. Another reason for animals to be out of the water would be to escape predators.

Perhaps they should have had eyes painted on their behinds to protect them from said predators!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.