A musician has created a never-before attempted woodwind instrument that produces bone-rattling low notes and stands taller than the average adult: the subcontrabassoon.
When Richard Bobo was learning to play the bassoon in 8th grade, he read about a mythical instrument called the subcontrabassoon in a Guinness Book of World Records, made by a 19th century musician. It would be able to produce sounds similar to that of a large pipe organ, at two octaves below the regular bassoon, and one octave below the contrabassoon. Prototyping such an instrument had never been attempted before.
It turned out that the Guinness Book of World Records was wrong, he said, and such an instrument didn’t actually exist. “However, just because a true subcontrabassoon didn't exist historically did not mean it could not exist,” Bobo told Motherboard. “As I began my career as a professional contrabassoonist (with a tangent as a machinist/CAD designer at my dad's shop), I held out hope that someone would come along and make this myth real. Eventually, I realized that no one else was rushing at the opportunity, and that my background might make me the best (or, at least, most willing) choice.”
Bobo presented his creation at the International Double Reed Society in Boulder, Colorado in July. It weighs almost 32 pounds (not including metal keywork) and stands at around six feet tall—even taller depending on how the player needs to adjust the endpin for their own height. Wood is lighter than plastic, but he made this prototype using a 3D-printer and ABS plastic, with a support frame of welded stainless steel.
3D printing pieces of an instrument of this size and complexity is a feat in itself. Bobo’s Prusa MK3S printer limits prints to 200mm, this meant that the initial prototype was made of printed pieces that composed the subcontrabassoon’s multiple segments, which he then bonded together. The bonding process wasn’t robust enough for Bobo, however, so he designed his own custom 3D printer, a 200x200x600mm modification of the RatRig Vcore 3.
“With this, I am able to make the majority of the pieces for the next prototype in one solid piece, with no need for bonding,” Bobo said. He’s also switching to ASA plastic that’s less susceptible to warping and UV rays (just in case he needs to drag this thing outside for a plein air concert) and plans to switch to an aluminum frame to cut down on the weight.
Bobo’s big bassoon won’t be stuck in a hypothetical setting for long. In January—if all goes according to plan with further prototyping—the subcontrabassoon will be used in a live performance of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas. “The part is small,” Bobo said, “but if everything works out it will be the live premiere of an instrument that was, until just a few years ago, firmly in the realm of unicorns or the philosopher's stone.”
Beyond that, he’s trying to keep an open mind about where the project will go. “Maybe there will come a day when every serious symphony orchestra has a subcontrabassoon on hand, and maybe I'll even live to see it,” Bobo said. “But that's a high bar; even 180 years after its invention, the saxophone is not yet a regular member of the orchestra. But perhaps, like the saxophone, the subcontrabassoon will find a niche in other genres of music. Perhaps, like the contrabass clarinet and contrabass flute, it will have a home in chamber music written for instruments of the same family.”
The moment everyone saw coming is finally happening. Google officially confirmed that it's killing Stadia, the company's troubled game-streaming service. Phil Harrison announced today in a blog post that Stadia "hasn't gained the traction with users that we expected so we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service." Stadia will be laid to rest on January 18, 2023.
The good news is that the true Armageddon situation for Stadia customers is not happening. Google is issuing refunds, which will save dedicated Stadia players from potentially losing hundreds of dollars in unplayable games. The post says: "We will be refunding all Stadia hardware purchases made through the Google Store, and all game and add-on content purchases made through the Stadia store." That notably excludes payments to the "Stadia Pro" subscription service, and you won't get hardware refunds from non-Google Store purchases, but that's a pretty good deal. Existing Pro users will be able to play, free of charge, from now until the shutdown date. The controllers are still useful as wired USB controllers, and a campaign is already starting to get Google to unlock the Bluetooth connection.
Stadia's technology will live on as a Google Cloud product called "
Google Stadia never lived up to its initial promise. The service, which ran a game in the cloud and sent each individual frame of video down to your computer or phone, was pitched as a gaming platform that would benefit from Google's worldwide scale and streaming expertise. While it was a trailblazing service, competitors quickly popped up with better scale, better hardware, better relationships with developers, and better games. The service didn't take off immediately and reportedly undershot Google's estimates by "hundreds of thousands" of users. Google then quickly defunded the division, involving the high-profile closure of its in-house development studio before it could make a single game.
Stadia launched at a time when Google's reputation for killing products was (and still is) at
. Since purchasing a game from a streaming service only works if that service keeps running, buying a game requires confidence in the company running it. Most observers on the Internet expected the service to die, to the point that the official Google Stadia account tweeted
Google's damaged reputation made the death of Stadia a self-fulfilling prophecy. No one buys Stadia games because they assume the service will be shut down, and Stadia is forced to shut down because no one buys games from it.
The undersea explosions in two gas pipelines from Russia exposed Europe’s vulnerabilities — just as the continent faces a looming energy crisis.
European and NATO officials are blaming sabotage for three leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 undersea pipelines running from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. EU officials did not accuse anyone directly, but the allegation underscored the uncertainty around Europe’s energy standoff with Russia, and how volatile the continent’s energy security is as winter approaches.
Officials detected significant drops in pressure in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline on Monday, and then detected another pressure drop on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which were ultimately determined to come from three separate leaks. Swedish seismologists have said underwater explosions caused these leaks. The Danish military released footage of gas from the pipeline bubbling to the surface of the Baltic Sea.
One leak in a major pipeline is a singular event; another from a twin pipeline in an entirely different location is even more unprecedented. Add to that the fact that both of these pipelines are the source of geopolitical tension spilling over from the war in Ukraine, and it makes it very difficult to interpret this as an accident or coincidence. Oh, and in case you weren’t convinced, the Nord Stream leaks happened as officials inaugurated the Baltic Pipe, a new gas route from Norway to Poland.
“Deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, tweeted. “Deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response.”
Damaging the Nord Stream pipelines is a warning that any disruption to energy, whether by accident, an act of nature, or intentional, could deepen and prolong the energy crisis in Europe and beyond. “These attacks show that Europe does not have spare capacity in the energy system. It was already running up against that to begin with. Now this is an enormous vulnerability,” said Emily Holland, an assistant professor in the Russia Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College.
What we know (and don’t know) about the Nord Stream leaks
The leaks — two in Nord Stream 1 and one in Nord Stream 2 — were detected in the Baltic Sea, off Bornholm, a Danish island. According to the Financial Times, German seismologists detected a spike in activity shortly before Danish officials detected the Nord Stream 2 leak. Swedish seismologists also registered activity, which they said was in keeping with an explosion, and not a natural event.
It didn’t take long for officials in European states to conclude an act of sabotage, backed up by NATO. It probably wasn’t too hard of a conclusion to come to: Damages like these to undersea pipelines are rare, and for three to happen at the same time, on the same day, at the same time another gas delivery route to Europe opened? It’s hard to imagine this is all a big coincidence.
Publicly, officials have cautioned against rushing to conclusions on who and why. “This is something that is extremely important to get all the facts on the table, and therefore this is something we’ll look closely into in the coming hours and days,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Privately, many officials have a culprit: Russia. Experts emphasized that we still don’t know for sure, and it may be hard to fully know Moscow’s motivation.
Russia is also intensifying its war effort in Ukraine; Putin implemented a mobilization effort that is facing resistance and chaos at home. Russia is still under heavy sanctions from Western countries, and the Kremlin has already used energy infrastructure — Nord Stream 1 specifically — as a tool to pressure the West.
Russia may be trying to make clear that Europe won’t be getting gas from Russia — not this winter, not in the near future, and maybe not ever again. “It’s a signal that Russia is saying, ‘Fine, you don’t want our energy, find it somewhere else,’” Holland said. It would be Russia’s final break in the relationship with Europe, to indicate now it has no choice but to get its energy elsewhere.
Of course, Europe was largely doing that, and everyone knew Russia wasn’t sending any gas this winter. The Nord Stream pipelines are basically offline, so the immediate effects on supply are minimal. But the act of sabotage underscores the risk to other European infrastructure, like the now all-important pipelines from Norway. Norway and Denmark, for example, have increased security around their own oil and gas infrastructure.
After all, the Nord Stream pipelines are, right now, pretty useless to Russia, too. “That means [the way] to make use of it is to blow it up to impact the gas market,” Meister said. “It’s not on the current situation of the gas supply, but it’s more on psychology.”
The US had reportedly warned allies this summer that intelligence suggested Nord Stream pipelines might be attacked, and has, of course, backed up European allies as they investigate. Some have floated Ukrainian sabotage, as a kind of false flag, but experts said Ukraine likely doesn’t have the technical know-how or equipment to do that.
But, again, in some ways, the Nord Stream damage matters more for the risk it signals for Europe. “The supply situation is very tight. Every single molecule that we can find, we bring into Europe, at whatever price at the moment,” said Andreas Goldthau, an energy expert at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt.
Europe has no choice but to do that because Russian gas made up about 40 percent of Europe’s gas supply at the start of the war; now it’s down to about 9 percent. Europe had to replace that gas from somewhere, and so it sought out alternative sources. That includes more pipeline gas from Norway and liquefied natural gas from around the world.
But it doesn’t leave Europe with much room if another backup goes offline. Gazprom warned Wednesday it might cut off natural gas flowing through a Ukrainian pipeline to Europe. Other disruptions can happen, sometimes by accident. As Goldthau pointed out, US hurricanes could disrupt the LNG market, too. “There’s so much else that can go wrong, and now, on top of that, there is the pipeline situation,” he said. “And all of that is something that at least will, at some point, have an impact on the risk premium and on the futures market.”
The fears that other energy infrastructure could go down may affect the markets, and that makes it pricier for Europe to get gas — but also has a destabilizing effect on the rest of the world, as energy prices rise, and lower-income countries have to compete for even more expensive gas. (And for the world: The full climate and environmental impacts of these leaks are still unclear, but the methane leaching from those pipes is a “powerful greenhouse gas.”)
Beyond energy, infrastructure sabotage is the kind of hybrid warfare that many in the West worried about ahead of Russia’s invasion — cyberattacks, or other hacks on critical infrastructure. It’s unclear if Russia really has opened up a new front with the West as it wages its months-long war in Ukraine. But the Nord Stream leaks hint at an even more uncertain winter in Europe.
Longtime Slashdot reader root_42 writes: Remember the clicking sounds of spinning hard disks? One "problem" with retro computing is that we replace those disks with compact flash, SD cards or even SSDs. Those do not make any noises that you can hear under usual circumstances, which is partly nice because the computer becomes quieter, but also irritating because sometimes you can't tell if the computer has crashed or is still working. This little device fixes that issue! It's called the HDD Clicker and it's a very unique little gadget. "An ATtiny and a few support components ride on a small PCB along with a piezoelectric speaker," describes Hackaday. "The dongle connects to the hard drive activity light, which triggers a series of clicks from the speaker that sound remarkably like a hard drive heading seeking tracks."
A demo of the device can be viewed at 7:09, with a full defragmentation at 13:11.