Lewis

Lewis

(0 comments, 9 posts)

This user hasn't shared any profile information

Posts by Lewis

Tribute to Apollo IV

The year was 1967. Earlier that year a fire had killed three astronauts. There was a degree of uncertainty perhaps and a degree of even more fierce determination. On November 9, 1967, NASA and the American people would get a win.

The Saturn V would fly for the first time. Even when it was all assembled and everything was checked and double checked, no one was still 100% sure what was going to happen when then engines ignited and the clock hit 0:00.

I’ve read accounts of people being in absolute shock and amazement from the power of this rocket. It dwarfed everything before and after it. No loss of crew or payload ever came at the hands of this machine. It was and still is the mightiest rocket to have ever been put into service. This is just a little tribute I put together.

The song is on my SoundCloud page and may beprone to changes because I honestly still want to tweak a couple of things with the audio. Getting all the voices to come through the pounding audio was hard enough. Thank goodness for modern day music editing!

NOTE: Some of the video clips are from Apollo 8. Not a whole lot of  high quality footage from this first flight exists that I could find.

Put a candle out with “air”

What you will need:
Baking soda
White vinegar
Measuring cups
One or more candles
Lighter or matches
Stable flat surface
Tall pitcher or large glass
* Adult supervision

The Set Up

First, prepare the baking soda and vinegar. Measure out about 1/4 cup of baking soda and around 1/2 cup of vinegar (if you’re container is smaller use smaller amount to avoid a mess). Once you’ve done that, set them aside and you can light the candle.

Next, mix the baking soda and vinegar. Pour the baking soda in first and then slowly add the vinegar. This will help keep it from bubbling over. Once the reaction has settled down you’re ready to put the candle out.

The Experiment

Take the container and make a pouring motion directly above the flame as if you were pouring liquid onto it.

Note: Do not pour the liquid onto the flame.
It might take a little practice with your aim but the flame should go out. You’ll know when you’re close as it will usually flicker before going out. If it doesn’t then you can mix more baking soda and vinegar and try again. If you had trouble getting the flame to go out, the next section might help.

What’s Happening?

The active ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid (5% usually). It’s this acid that reacts with the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). The reaction, as you can see, can be pretty vigorous. The byproducts of the reaction are sodium acetate, water and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the one we’re interested in because it is what puts the fire out.
Carbon dioxide is heavier than the surrounding air and this allows us to trap it in a tall container and pour it onto the flame as if pouring a liquid. The carbon dioxide gas deprives the candle of oxygen and extinguishes the flame.

Beaker Freaks Out!

I promise this won’t happen!

Extra Credit

Try putting out multiple candles at once. Can you think of another way to cut off the oxygen supply to the candle using the materials on hand? Remember to ask your parents for help!

All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind. – Martin H. Fischer

* Remember, safety first! Children should have adult supervision when doing this.

He’s a nifty video showing it in action

 

Spot The Station

I was recently asked by a local magazine The Kitchen Draw to write an article about science and/or space. I wrote two articles and the space one won out. It’s about how to spot the International Space Station.  I couldn’t find it on the site as it was print only but I figured I’d post what I wrote here because why not eh? So, without further ado.

Did you know that you can see the International Space Station with the unaided eye? In fact you might have seen it and not even realized it. Let’s start off with what we’re looking at in the first place.

What is the International Space Station?

The ISS is the largest man made structure ever built in space. If you were to lay it on a football field it would extend beyond the boundary lines. It measures some 350ft long and weighs in at over 100 tons. There are currently 6 crew on board but when shuttle was flying, there were as many as 13 on board. Construction on the station was completed in 2011 as the space shuttle went into retirement and it took 12 years to complete.
The purpose of the space station is multifaceted in that we want to know how to build things in space, live in space and conduct science in space. The effects of micro-gravity on the human body aren’t entirely understood and zero-g experiments on Earth are nearly impossible to conduct.

ISS

Ok, so, where is it?

It’s in space! OK, more specifically it’s in low earth orbit at an altitude of around 350km (220mi). The average speed of station is around 28000kmh (17,500mph). If that sounds fast, that’s because it is fast. Any slower and it would fall right back to Earth!
The first thing you need to know is when to look. Here’s a site I use which allows you to set up email notifications: spotthestation.nasa.gov.

The trick with looking for the ISS is that you can only see it with the naked eye in the morning or in the evening. The reason is that during the height of the day it’s just too bright to see the station. In the middle of the night the station will be in Earth’s shadow. Morning and evening is when you’re catching it in between these two extremes.

Now that you know when too look, you need to know where. Personally, I prefer evening viewing as I’m just not a morning person. The site will give you the option for either or both times of day. When you get a notification it might look confusing but it’s really quite easy once you get the hang of it. The diagram on this page will help to get you oriented but at the very least so long as you which direction to look (i.e. Northwest at 6:52pm) then you’re in pretty good shape.

A view of ISS from my hometown.

A view of ISS from my hometown.

So what are you looking for anyway?

It will initially appear as a slow moving dot and might even look like a plane. This is why you might have seen it and not realized what it was. The thing is, you won’t hear any sound and you won’t see any blinking lights.

What’s in it for me?

As much as I’d like to say it’ll be this massive object with solar panels bulging out and astronauts hanging off of it; it isn’t.

Wait, there is more! Despite it not appearing as more than a bright, fast moving dot, you have to remind yourself there are people inside that dot. They’re passing nearly directly over your head at many times the speed of a bullet. They’re studying everything from material science to medicine to planetary science.

To me that’s awesome enough but there’s one more thing station will do if viewed in the evening; it will pass into Earth’s shadow. It’s quite a sight to see as the white dot slowly takes on a yellow tint, then orange, and finally a deep red before being eclipsed by our home planet.

The take away, for me, is a deeper understanding of our place in the Universe. The ISS is a sort of beacon of humanity and what we can accomplish when we work together. As it is now, the International Space Station is our single outpost in space and will be for some time. Why not take a few minutes of a warm summer evening and gaze upward? It’s a subtle event but it’s worth your time. I’ll never forget the first time I said “Wow… There it is!”

Keep this in mind; This is what you’re seeing

Please watch this video. Set screen to full. Set to the highest resolution your internet can handle and turn it up. You won’t regret it.

MSL Commentary + Simulation

A couple of nights ago MSL made a perfect landing that would be the envy of any gymnast. I thought it might be fun to pair up the commentary video with the simulation that Eyes on the Solar System provided. So here’s that video. The sim video was my first take and I might be able to do a better job with that but I was just excited to get it out to see.

Countdown to MSL

I made this video a few months back. I love the energy of the song coupled with the outstanding CGI and a bit of real footage. We’re only hours away from landing. Saying I’m excited is a gross understatement!

The first day of the rest of the year

Now that our very large company function is over with, I can get back to a bit of normalcy.  Although, reading about the stuff Charlie Sheen has been saying, I think even Tom Cruise might be considered normal? I digress.  Also, I cut the feed off from my other blog, I think.  So there shouldn’t be any double dipping going on as far as posts go.

I have a few things to add to my site as far as sites/designs go.  I’ll be getting to that today or tomorrow.  It’s been a few months since I last updated that stuff.  It’s all good though because prior to that I had gone a few YEARS between updates.  Complacency takes hold sometimes.  Time to practice some positive jing.

Scienthusiast

What is that word?  I made it up.  It’s a mix of science + enthusiast.  I have to be careful though.  I’m NOT a scientist.  I’m enthusiastic about science.  So it’s what I’m going to start calling myself.

Yes, I’m a scienthusiast.

I guess it could be hyphenated  sci-enthusiast?  Maybe scien-thusiast?  Either way, I looked around Google briefly and it’s possible I thought of this before billions of other people?  Maybe it’s some horrible word that I shouldn’t use?  Nah, it’s great!  It describes me quite fittingly, I think.

So there, it’s my word.  It’s OK, you can borrow it.  I expect royalties though!

What to do with it?  Well, I think the world needs more enthusiasm for science.  Not to solve every lurking problem in our lives but to better understand how the world around us works.  Some mysteries shall remain so.  There are some exceedingly complex things in the Universe that aren’t really practical for everyone to know.  Unless it’s your job to know them, that is.

So, perhaps one of my goals in life is to help spread the word of science; Turn people on to how it all works, at a fundamental level.  It always goes back to a quote from Carl Sagan.  Roughly, we live in a world filled with technology.  So few people understand how it all works.  You don’t have to be a scientist to understand.  You simply have to open your mind to it.  When people learn how things actually work, it’s usually one of those “wow…” moments.

In saying that, remember, we can’t let go of reason for madness.  There was a time when people who studied the heavens feared retribution.  Good people were arrested, exiled or even killed for observing something knowable versus believing in something we couldn’t know.  It might seem insane to think that could happen again, but remember as a species, we’re very young.  There are a lot of good and honest people out there that speak for science.

Science is interesting because it changes based on observation.  In that sense, our view of the world has evolved, as our methods and tools have evolved.  The next few decades should prove to be very exciting in the realm of understanding.  How the forefathers of great thinkers should like to be alive today to have a glimpse at what we know.  How the great thinkers of our future might look back and realize how primitive our thinking was.  Each new generation stands on the shoulders of giants from the previous.

Life; space; time; the Cosmos; all encompassing and all waiting to be discovered and understood.  We are, in a way, how the Universe understands itself.

We, as the human race, must keep it going.  If we’re not to be scientists, we should at least be enthusiastic about science.

Enter: The Scienthusiast.

Space: The Final Frontier

No truer words can ever be spoken. The depths of the mind are indeed complex but not tangible. Our oceans floors hold many secrets about life and the history of our planet. Space is, for all intensive purposes, infinite. This isn’t technically true, to our knowledge. We estimate the true size of the Universe to be 93 Billion Light Years. So vast, in fact, that light from one side will never reach the other. This is why it is the pinnacle of exploration.

Eventually, one day, our destiny will lie somewhere in space. Perhaps another planetary body in this solar system or even another star system. That is, if we don’t blow ourselves up or suffer a cataclysmic set back.

The recent White House budget leaves me both concerned and yet I see an opportunity to be optimistic. I’ve been reading forums to get people’s takes on this. Mind you this is coming from people who work in the industry to plain people like myself. It is inevitable that politics gets head-firsted into the mix. I made that slang up. Nice eh? I guess there is no way around it but the degree of “This was Bush’s fault!”; “This was Griffin’s fault”; “Obama sux!” is just a little much.

I try my damnedest to take a middle road approach. I want science. I want exploration. I want a manned flight program (also termed HSF for Human Space Flight). At the moment we have it with Shuttle. In a few short months, it will be done and gone. What happens after that? We’re grounded, at least humans are.

Private companies are really getting into the mix of things which does excite me. Thing is, they’re a ways off from manned flight. It will happen, just not quite soon as we’d like.

Constellation is dead. I’m sad and yet I can understand this move. Some claim to have had the insight or ESP enough to know it was doomed from day one. I think having a pessimistic attitude isn’t very healthy. I don’t work in the industry, I follow it from a few rows back. I can say that my interest is important, not as a single entity but gathered with the combined interest of persons just like myself. Lack of public interest will kill a program deader than dead. Apollo anyone?

So, I thought about the cancellation of that program and realized, ok, maybe this isn’t as bad as it seems. I’m still icky feeling about not having the ability to put humans up but lets think this out. The downfall of Constellation was reaching back to the past to sort of re-use older technologies or at least model from them. What we need are newer technologies that are laced with our learnings of the past.

I think the biggest technological advance we need is in propulsion. Chemical rockets are dandy at getting heavy vehicles off the ground and into space but once in space you need something else. Something that’s less cumbersome, less prone to failure and has some oomph! These technologies should be researched to make Moon and Mars missions faster. Transit time to Mars is MONTHS. With new propulsion you could get it down to weeks; or so I’ve heard.

So, new technologies and private companies. I think I actually like the sound of that. Will they deliver? The talk is there, the walk is yet to come.

More notes on the budget are promised robotics and planetary missions. This is very exciting to me. Rovers are great tools for science! Just look at Spirit and Opportunity; they vastly outlived their planned mission time. If we had a mission going up every other month, I’d be stoked.

A final note about canceling the Moon program. Listen, we’ve been there before. Yes, actual people walked on the actual Moon. That program was initially a race; a race we would win. After that, you had a group of giddy scientists drooling over the prospect of getting some precious samples back. That came later and Apollo XVII was the final Moon-shot. We never spent more than a couple of days there. When we go back, we need to plan on STAYING for a length of time. Weeks, not days.

China wants to go there. Let them go, plant their flag and then come back. It’s a great thing for a country. I’d applaud them for it. As the saying goes “been there, done that”. It’s time we went a step ahead. That way when countries are landing and planting their flags, we can wave at them from our cozy Moon habitats. From that point we can build on and then eyeball Mars or even asteroids.

So, finally, it’s bittersweet for me. I wanted to see Constellation work but ultimately I want to see anything work. I’ll hold on the promise of some serious R&D and science missions. I’ll hold on to private companies keeping us in orbit too. It’s a big time shake up of things. Perhaps it was needed.

Obama says we need to get young people into science and math. I couldn’t agree more. If he truly means this then he needs to deliver on this budget. NASA has inspired generations of people. Let’s keep it that way.

If this flops as a dud and our space program is left floundering for years, I’ll be one mad space cadet. >:o

The Scale of the Universe [Updated]

This is a very clever little bit of flash put together by someone whom I have no idea who they are. All I know is that the site was blocked at work. I went in and nabbed the SWF file and I’m going to place it on my blog. You still have to endure the Newgrounds logo to see the animation.

[swfobj src=”http://static.onemorelevel.com/games3/scale-of-the-universe-2.swf” alt=”Scale of the Universe” width=”640″ height=”440″]

Use the keyboard to move left or right for a smoother experience. The largest things in the Universe are mind boggling. The really fascinating stuff is all of the tiny things that go into making the world around us. You can see how small a neutrino is for instance; and why it passes unhindered through just about everything (including entire planets!).

The music is very pleasant too. 🙂

Lewis's RSS Feed
Go to Top