S.G. Collins explains how the technology didn’t exist in 1969 to actually fake the Moon landings in the way most conspiracy theorists seem to believe. Even if you were Stanley Kubrick.
I particularly love his delivery: he’s both monotonous and compelling, sarcastic and likeable.
Important note: I’ve seen people complaining about the ‘unnecessary gay joke’ he makes at the end – a play on the ‘homo’ in ‘homo sapien’. Of course, this is actually a reference to the latin meanings of the words: Homo is the genus of hominids that includes modern man and sapien loosely translates as ‘wise man’.
Up Goer Five is one of Randall Munroe’s more famous recent xkcd infographics in which he attempts to describe the workings of a Saturn V rocket using only most commonly used 1,000 words in the English language. Here’s just a part of it:
Scientists have been trying to explain the work they do using only this reduced language. Here’s the work of a paleontologist summarised:
I study tracks, trails, places where animals make homes, and shit, both new and old, and figure out how animals do these things. Tony Martin, paleontologist
Some of these passages come across as quite patronising (“We burn dead black stuff so that we can build things, power our houses and make our cars go.”), but some of the better ones are quite poetic. io9 has a beautiful description of Saturn:
On August 6, 2012 the Curiosity rover will attempt a completely automated landing in Gale Crater on Mars. Curiosity is about five times larger than Spirit or Opportunity, so it can’t just deploy a huge beach-ball and bounce to safety — instead it needs to pull off a much more precise (and dramatic!) landing.
Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit relayed some information about photographic techniques used to achieve the images: “My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”
Tardigrades (commonly known as water bears or moss piglets) may reach a length of 1.5 millimetres. The name water bear comes from the way they walk, reminiscent of a bear’s gait. They can be found across the world, from the highest peaks to the deepest oceans, and scientists now think they may even be able to survive interplanetary space travel:
Researchers in 2007 launched anhydrobiotic adults into orbit above Earth to see if they would survive. Those animals endured naked exposure to space for 10 days, and a few even made it through an excessive dose of ultraviolet radiation while back on Earth.
Other laboratory experiments show that adult tardigrades can survive cold near absolute zero (-459 degrees Fahrenheit), heat exceeding 300 degrees Fahrenheit, pressures dozens of times greater than at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, and intense blasts of radiation.
“In the 1960’s NASA spent many years and millions of taxpayer dollars developing a special ‘space pen’ that uses nitrogen-pressurized ink cartridges to work in zero gravity, in a vacuum and at extreme temperatures ranging from -50 F to +400 F.
“The Russians used a pencil.”
This story keeps cropping up as an example of bureaucratic waste, or specifically as an example of what a colossal waste of money the space programme has been. It has been circulating the internet as fact since the mid ’90s, and even fictional White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry made the claim in a 2002 episode of the West Wing.
This Million Dollar Space Pen story is a pure fabrication however. The space pen was developed not by NASA, but by businessman Paul C. Fisher. It was only adopted by NASA after years of testing and the costs of developing the pen were never passed on to the US government. Furthermore, detritus from wooden pencils presented a potential hazard in microgravity, and Soviet Union would later adopt the Fisher space pen also. Continue reading →
Find an interesting science story from the previous week and post a link to it, using the #ScienceSunday hashtag. Ideally the story should have a human interest angle, or inspire a sense of wonder. The idea is to highlight the very real miracles that happen (or are discovered) every day in this world thanks to the hard work of scientists everywhere. Continue reading →
Science does not purvey absolute truth, science is a mechanism. It’s a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature, it’s a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match.
Solar updraft towers combine three technologies to produce power: the greenhouse effect, the chimney effect and wind turbine. Sunshine heats the canopy at the base of the tall chimney causing air to flow upwards towards the turbines at the base which then convert that flow into electricity. The solar tower requires low maintenance, no feed stock (uranium, coal etc.) and emits no pollution.
Some wonderfully detailed photographs of Discovery on Spaceflight Now. The space shuttle Discovery on Wednesday morning made her first public appearance outside the hangar since being retired, emerging without any main engines, nose thrusters or aft rocket pods. Seeing the stripped … Continue reading →
The title of this post is a quote from Arthur C Clarke, whose predictions may have often missed the mark, but his opinions on politics, religion and where we should be headed are always spot on:
‘Today, of course, it seems ludicrous that we could have imagined giant space-stations, orbiting Hilton hotels, and expeditions to Jupiter as early as 2001 …’
He says now, ‘I was there when Spiro Agnew said to Walter Cronkite, immediately after the Apollo 11 launch, that we must go on to Mars. In the event Agnew was lucky not to go to jail! Everybody was very euphoric at the launch. But it fell apart very quickly thanks to Vietnam, Watergate.