June 07, 2017

Elmer Fudd: Super Genius

Isaac Arthur has one of my favorite You-Tube channels and I just realized I've never linked to him. That is a travesty on my part. This is a a superb channel focusing on futurism.


This video on the Kardashev Scale is a good primer for the channel. 


Beware!
The fellow has an epic speech impediment that inspired the post title.
This channel is online video crack and if one is not careful one will lose hours, possibly days basking in the sheer awesomness of it. 
Use responsibly!




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April 29, 2017

This is Why we Can't Have Nice Things

We noted this wondrous development last year, but had missed the inevitable follow-up.


This is incredible! This is the 21st century we were promised! Naturally, the federal government is on the case, taking money from us under threat of force to pay a stalwart army of Vogons to protect us from this joy.

Here's another view of this fantastical French phenomenon without the scolds, or their remonstrance. 

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March 17, 2017

They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore

At least, I'm pretty sure that computer manufacturing facilities do not employ seamstresses in crucial roles.  (via)



Rope? Memory? 


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March 14, 2017

First Fluorescent Frog Found

Well, that headline is pretty self explanatory, so there's very little to add to it except for a bit more alliteration. 

Alas, we're running low on polite "f" words.





"...Funky!"

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March 05, 2017

A Magnetic Field for Mars, on a Budget

Mars has lost the bulk of it's atmosphere in part because it's magnetic field is weak and only covers parts of its tropical regions. This has allowed the solar wind to strip away most of the planet's atmosphere other than the relatively dense CO2.


Therefore, one issue facing those who would terraform the red planet is the fact that if the atmosphere were built up through human endeavors, the atmosphere would immediately start to erode again, taking thing like the oxygen and nitrogen first. 

Giving the planet a magnetic field has been considered a far more daunting task than simply terraforming it, since to increase the output of the planetary dynamo would require bringing a large moon to pull on its core like ours does. 

This has...practicality issues.

One alternative is a vast series of cables built all over the red planet and powered by many gigawats of electricity. Such a system has been proposed for Earth to deal with a possible pole reversal.

However, scientists at Princeton University, have run the numbers and determined that Mars could be effectively protected from the solar wind by a small inflatable structure at Mars's Sunward Lagrange Point. This structure would generate a 2 Tesla magnetic field (that's 10,000 to 20,000 Gauss)...whatever that means.


"That's  less than one quarter of a typical MRI machine's maximum capacity."


Uh...thanks.

Anyway, the magnetic field generated would deflect the solar wind around the planet, rather more completely than Earths field does, since the field is separate and doesn't leave the poles unprotected. 



This would, even without any further human intervention, result in the Martian atmosphere thickening on its own.

This makes any terraforming of Mars much more sustainable.

We here at Brickmuppet Blog are more of the Dandridge Cole, Gerard K. O'Neal  schools of space settlement, but this is a really neat development. A planetary settlement does have some advantages with regards to resources, especially on a place like Mars. 

(Interestingly, this probably can't be made to work with regards to Earth, because our Lagrange Points are not balanced between Earth and the sun, but rather Earth and the Moon.)

HT: NBF

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February 23, 2017

We Ought to Name Them After the Days of The Week*


Wow! No less than SEVEN planets ranging from roughly Earth to Mars sized have been discovered in the TRAPPIST-1 solar system. No less than three of the planets are in the habitable zone! 


All 7, at least theoretically, could have water on their surfaces, though on the farthest planet, any water would almost certainly be ice, and the closest are...borderline. However, at least one of the planets in the habitable region has tentatively been identifies as being of water rich composition (mentioned at about the 04:40 mark in the embedded video).

Note that NASA recently tightened the definition of Habitable Zone which effectively reduced it in width for any given star. This model does not take into account many potential atmospheric effects, but does account for other things. By the older, less restrictive definition (given the distance from the star and sufficient atmospheric pressure, could liquid water exist on the surface of the planet) Venus, Earth, Luna, Mars and Ceres are all in the habitable zone of our solar system. Note too, that under the new rules Earth is a borderline case. 


Image via

The star is being described an ultra-cool-dwarf, which is NOT a charismatic little person, but a stellar spectral type classification (L-T) that has recently been shoehorned into the demarcation between red dwarf stars and brown dwarfs (which are substellar). The star is only 11% the diameter of the sun or about the size of Jupiter (though much more massive). The orbits of these 7 planets, therefore are pretty close together, kind of like the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, but they are much much larger. This means that...well...look...




From the video, this completely hypothetical view from the fourth planet out is quite speculative and hopeful regarding the snow and water and transparent atmosphere. However, given the latter, is accurate regarding the view of other planets.The other planets, at certain times of year would appear as actual planets rather than wandering points of light. In some cases, planets in adjoining orbits would appear bigger than the moon. The planets are all closer to their tiny, cool star than Mercury is to ours. 

Interestingly, while ultracool dwarfs are red stars, that is because so much of their emissions are in the infra-red. Their VISIBLE light from them (or red dwarfs for that matter) would be perceived by us as very similar to our own...basically white-yellow as all the colors are mixed together unless refracted, for example by a prism. (Earth's sun is technically a green star). There are some things missing from their spectrum though, blue and some greens are absent. Thus, optimistically assuming a Nitrogen atmosphere like ours, the nitrogen would not lightly reflect the blue as it does here, thus, the daytime sky would not be blue, but would be transparent. So, if not looking directly at the star, on an optimistically assumed clear day one might well see a black nightlike sky and even see stars (and passing planets) at noon if one was not looking at the star. Green plants, oceans and rainbows would look...different. 


I guess Trappist-1 really IS an ultra-cool dwarf!


Image from Wikipedia's Trappist-1 entry.

They are remarkably similar in size with much less variation than our solar system's rocky planets, ranging from a bit larger than Mars to a tad bigger than Earth. Given the proximity of the planets to one another (as little as 1.5 times the distance to the moon) and super short orbital periods (years on these worlds range from 1.5 to 20 DAYS) they would periodically subject their neighbors to tidal forces, that would provide tides in optimistically supposed seas and perhaps facilitate magnetic fields on the smaller planets in much the same way that Ganymede has one. This would greatly increase the possibility of life. Finally, since we're engaging in highly optimistic ponderings, such tidal forces might interfere with and prevent the assumed tidal locking.

Given current technology, 40 light years might as well be infinity. We could, if we went balls-out and spent something like the budget of the USN for a decade or two, we could make something related to an Orion type starship that could make 5-10 percent the speed of light (max) which would get us to the nearest star (ProximaCentauri at 4.5 light years)  in 45-90 years. The Trappist-1 system is a tad under 40 light years away and would be 400-800 years...which is a rather unsatisfactory commute. Still, this discovery is beyond cool and there is the infinitesimal possibility that something like the Alcubierre-drive might be possible and get developed. 

Here, one of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes  takes a moment to show off the 'work" she's planning on getting done in the hopes that she can one day see this wonder up close.


Art by Sukabu

There's more on this here, here, here, & here.

*There is symmetry in this: The days of the week actually were named after Graeco-Roman astrology, specifically, the 7 classical planets (which included the sun) themselves then named after the high ranking members of the Roman pantheon.


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February 13, 2017

BOOM!

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes reacts to news that a small U.S. aerospace company in Bolder is branching out into supersonic airliners...




Real Clear Future has an interview with the founder and CEO of Boom Technology  a small aerospace company that is designing a three engined, small (45 passenger) airliner with intercontinental range. The small size, is, in part, to mitigate overland sonic booms. A proof of concept prototype is set to fly this year. 

Given that the prototype is a two seater, the proposal is not as far along as the article suggests, however, BOOM Technology is not quite vaporware, having done work for LockMart, Boeing and Space-X. Additionally, Richard Branson of Virgin Airways has agreed to buy the first 10 of their airliners, which they hope to sell him in 2023.



Of course no matter how small their sonic boom, commercial supersonic flight is illegal over the United States, so they are focusing on overseas routes for now. However:
Scholl: My view is that when you can get from San Francisco to Tokyo faster than San Francisco to DC, there are going to be a whole lot of influential people who are motivated to get those rules fixed. I think we'll see that coming. That said, apparently fixing this is on Trump's first 100 days agenda, so we'll see whether that comes to fruition.
 

While this proposal is at least as well removed from the ticket buying phase as other, projects in the same vein, what is intruiging about this is the attention to ticket price by the designers.  Round trip prices to places like London, Sydney, Auckland, and Tokyo are estimated to be in the 5-7000 dollar range. Pretty steep, and three to five times what one might pay for a coach seat, but in line with business class....and it's supersonic flight.

We'll wait and see if their prototype even flies, but this is something to keep an eye on and look forward to.

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December 22, 2016

Meanwhile, in Space

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes sends you all seasons greetings and shows off a reliable and well understood way to generate thrust applied to one's shoulder. The Springfield model 1903 uses an explosion to send a 14 gram projectile at 760 meters a second in one direction and that force minus the mass of the rifle is applied to the shooters shoulder. 



Actually, she's Springfield, from Girls Frontline.

In stark contrast, China is claiming, that they have successfully tested (IN SPACE)  a system that generates thrust without expelling any propellant. They claim to have been running tests of the EM-Drive on their space station.


Note that "minute" doesn't do justice to the infinitessimality of the thrust levels involved.

The Springfield, does not violate any natural laws (asinine state laws are another matter) The same cannot be said for the EM Drive or any of the other RF Resonant cavity thrusters, like the Cannae Drive

There seems to be SOMETHING going on with these devices, but the thrust is so low (at least in the NASA sponsored tests) that prctical application of them seems dubious even if they do work. 

However, the place to test these is in free fall and the Chinese claim that
 "This technology is currently in the latter stages of the proof-of-principle phase, with the goal of making the technology available in satellite engineering as quickly as possible," Li Feng explained at the press conference. 
 

So maybe...

In any event, Cannae, a private company that is developing a similar drive (similar in that it looks like magic) is putting their money where their mouth is and will be testing their version in orbit as well. This indicates at the very least that even if they are incorrect, their pursuit of this technology is not a scam. 

In any event, after this Chinese announcement, we here at Brickmuppet Blog remain deeply skeptical, but ever so slight more hopeful. 

As it stands now, the thrust levels have little practical application, being orders of magnitude lower than even arc jets, However, IF, it actually works, and IF they can increase the thrust by a few orders of magnitude, then this could be a real thing. Those are a couple of pretty big and unlikely "Ifs"but they would portend a truly awesome development. 

It would also be a disturbing one since it would mean that our understanding of even the most very basic rules of our universe is completely wrong.

But hey....the way 2016 has gone thus far, would that really be such a shock?

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October 17, 2016

106 Years Ago Today

...the airship America broke records and achieved several firsts.


The ship was the brainchild of reporter/adventurer Walter Wellman and was initially financed by the Chicago Tribune, being designed and built for an attempt to be the first to reach the north pole. The aircraft was actually built in France, which was closer to Norway and allowed the designers to use the considerable expertise and physical plant of French balloon manufacturers, and presumably gain some input from the Gaelic airship pioneers. The craft, was, however, quite distinctive. America was a semi-rigid dirigible with a number of innovative features including swiveling airscrews capable of providing vectored thrust. 


America, as built, about to make one of her attempts to reach the pole.

In 1906 the airship left Spitsbergen  bound for the pole, but suffered from total engine failure. However, the crew managed to return as a balloon. The engine proved unrepairable and the ship was broken down and shipped to France for repairs. After the installation of a new engine the craft returned in 1907 and made 2 more attempts, however, both were stymied by abominable weather. The ship was shipped out again this tome to America and had it's envelope enlarged, had newer, more powerful engines installed, an electrical system including electric lights, and a wireless set was fitted, as was a lifeboat and a peculiar altitude regulator called an equillibrator, described here

 The device was a 300-foot long steel cable with 30 steel tanks containing gasoline and 40 wooden blocks. Each steel tank was 4-feet long and 9 inches in diameter and weighed about 100 pounds when filled with gasoline; the concave end of one tank fit into the convex end of another, like a ball and socket joint, and was padded with felt to absorb shocks and minimize wear and abrasion. The far end of the device consisted of 40 solid wooden blocks, tapering in diameter like the tail of a snake, that would float on the surface.  

This was intended to compensate for day/night changes in buoyancy, without permanently dropping ballast. This was obviously a hazard to people on the ground, but with Robert E. Peary having gotten to the north pole in 1909. Wellman and the ship's designer, Melvin Vaniman had set their sights on a different "first", one that would push their little airship to the limits of it's capability. Their new goal was to cross the Atlantic by air, and for this, the equillibrator actually made sense as it had the potential to minimize losses of ballast and hydrogen.

America as refitted.

On October 15, 1910 America took off from Atlantic city New Jersey. Almost at once, things began to go wrong. The ship's propellors set for full vertical thrust kicked up a spectacular sandstorm. Moments after takeoff a loud screech was heard and investigation revealed the presence of a terrified cat that had stowed away in a box near the engine. He was named Kiddo. Engine trouble quickly ensued and and the ship continued on one engine. Attempts at repair proved futile as it was discovered that the engine had ingested a good deal of sand that had been kicked up during takeoff and was a total loss. It was decided to disassemble  the other engine and clean it...but engine number two chose that moment to die. 

The second engine was not completely wrecked and was repairable, but a ballasting error resulted in considerable loss of hydrogen. Over the next day, a storm came up and one engine was not enough to overcome the strong winds which  pushed the ship far to the south.

The ship was far off course and the second engine became intermittent, so it was decided to abandon the flight. On the 17th, just north of Bermuda, the airship, now effectively a balloon spotted a British mail packet, the S.S. Trent, and hailed them via wireless using CQD (the predecessor to SOS). All six crewmen and Kiddo got into the lifeboat and were picked up by Trent, however, before a hawser could be attached, America, relieved of the weight of the lifeboat shot into the sky and was never seen again.
America photographed from RMSTrent. Note the visible "plug" in the envelope where the ship was enlarged & the equillibrator trailing in the water..


The flight, while unsucsessful, had a number of firsts.
2: Longest duration flight to that date by a considerable margin.
3: Longest distance covered by an aircraft in a single flight (over 1000 miles), also by a considerable margin.
4: First radio transmission from an aircraft was "Roy come and get this goddamned cat!"
5: First distress signal sent from an aircraft.
6: First launch of a boat from an aircraft.
7: First air-sea rescue....actually a sea-air rescue.

If things had broken just a bit different, America probably would have made it. An air intake filter would have prevented the loss of the engines. Of course this was one of the learning experiences that caused people to adopt them

Wellman threw in the towel on aviation after this, but Vaniman attempted another crossing of the Atlantic the next year in an improved and enlarged version of America named Akron (the first airship manufactured by Goodyear). Tragically, Akron exploded shortly after launch with the loss of all hands. The Atlantic would not be crossed by air until 1919.


If you are interested in more stuff involving airships, J.C.Carlton has you covered.

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October 05, 2016

It's Time to Have a Little Talk With HR

Scott Lowther notes another scolderiffic luddite pantywaist killjoy douche-mongler who is all upset about Elon Musks rather ambitious Mars plan. The piece is a sad commentary on our culture but would not really be worth noting were it not for one tidbit that Mr. Lowther turned up about this Calvinistic sourpuss who thinks that the ideal model for society is a pot of crabs. 


EMPLOYMENT
• Manager of Communications , NASA Astrobiology  Program, Jan. 2007 – present.
• Communication  research, planning,  and  analysis, NASA Planetary Protection Office, Sept. 2002 – 2006.
•  Director of Communications , SPACEHAB, Inc., Washington,  D.C., Sept. 1999 – Aug. 2002 .
• Chancellor’s Fellow  (1996 – 97, Knight  Fellow  (1997 – 99) , Indiana U. School  of Journalism.
• Director of Science Communication,  Life Sciences Division,  NASA HQ, Oct. 1994 – Aug.  1996.
• Manager of education  and  out reach, exploration office, NASA HQ, Dec. 1993 – Oct. 1994 .
• Senior editor/analyst, BDM International, April 1990 – December 1993.
• Editor, Lockheed Engineering & Sciences Co., July 1988 – April 1990.
• Senior editor for space, Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine, December 1985 – July 1988.
• Public affairs officer, National Commission on  Space, Sept. – Dec. 1985.
• Consultant, National Science Foundation, August – September 1985 .
• Editor, Space Business News, June  1983 – August 1985.  

"So...she's diametrically opposed to the Raison d ' être 
of the organization, and is more generally an enemy of reason. 
Why is NASA paying this person?"


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