Engineer & Entertain

Ideas I grapple with

Archive for the category “Physics & Astronomy”

Bohemian Gravity

Had I the ability to the sing I would have made this years ago. All I would have needed was the ability to sing. And know physics. And the ability to make sock puppets. But I could have totally made this years ago.

Awesome cover and physics lesson.


Talking about the Higgs Boson

Cosmologist Sean Carroll talking about the Higgs Boson.

He says we won’t get jet packs from this, but I’d bet that hover boards arise from the discoveries at the LHC.

Jerry Rig

I recently met Astronaut Jerry Ross at a book signing. He is the first human to be sent to space 7 times. He has spent over 1,393 hours in space; 58 hours were spent over 9 EVAs. This record breaking astronaut was kind enough to sign my circular slide rule.

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It goes without saying that I was ecstatic to meet him.  In less exciting news, I glued two pieces of wood together.

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This board is my circular saw guide. Rather than rely on my ability to make a straight cut, the saw rides on the lower board and is kept straight by the top board. While this is not as impressive as creating a carbon dioxide filter out of a sock, I do enjoy the simplicity and efficacy of this jig.  If you need more instruction than the thousand words I provided, you may find them on the Family Handyman website.

Even if I could not cut straight I also made jig to allow me to joint an edge with my router.

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A wavy edged board is started at the infeed, run through the bit, and is straight at the outfeed. A half inch straight bit is used to joint the piece. The infeed and outfeed areas are parallel, but the infeed fence is offset by 1/16 of an inch.

Neither of these jigs are all that impressive, but they are helpful.  For the sake of comparison, Col. Ross was test flight pilot when he was my age. I’m happy I can make a board straight.

The pleasure of finding things

I am a big fan of public libraries. They not only contain vast amounts of information and entertainment in books, videos, and other media, but they also have librarians to help you quench your thirst for knowledge.

Recently at a library book sale I found volume 2 of Feynman Lectures On Physics.

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Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize winning physicist who was as good as a showman as he was a scientist.

I found Paul A. Kaminskas’ copy actually. Along with some homework. Maybe your teacher will let you turn it in for late credit?

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Paul, if you have volumes 1 & 3, I would love to purchase those too. Or you can donate them to the library, so I can buy it from them and continue supporting my library.


An open letter to Neil Armstrong

Dear Neil Armstrong,

While this is an open letter to you, you likely won’t respond because you are dead. None the less I wanted to express how mind-blowingly awesome you are. When your Gemini craft docked with the Agena target and spun out of control, did you panic? No, you performed calmly as trained. When your lunar trainer went out of control and almost killed you, did you panic? No, you bit your tongue a little and calmly ejected. When the lunar module had 40 seconds of fuel left and 1202 alarms are going off, did you panic? No, you landed the LM calm as a cucumber. There are Zen monks whose brains fluster in comparison. You are an inspiration to thinking things through and practicing until you cannot get it wrong.

Per aspera ad astra,

P.S. It is because of you and the Apollo flight controllers that I learned how to use a slide rule.

Rusted Development

After 24 hours in an electrolytic bath, the chisel and hatchet have come out rust free.

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The hatchet came out dirty, but rust free.

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A quick rinse brought it out spic ‘n’ span.

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The rebar has quite a collection of rust on it.

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The hatchet head was then polished with sandpaper. It was hit with 100 grit followed by 150 grit and finally 220 grit. If it was graced with finer sandpaper then the hatchet head could have been brought to a mirror polish. It also received a liberal dose of rust preventative.

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Gratuitous action shot.

All that is left now is to put the hatchet to some good use, you know, like juggling it.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to practice so I can make a response video to that guy.

Jupiter removes its red spot by taking a meteor shower

The comet Swift-Tuttle orbits every 133 years. Despite its lengthy orbital period we can see an interesting spin off from this astronomical body.  It is the parent of the Perseid meteor shower.  Though the Perseid meteor shower has been observable since the end of July, your best chance of observing it is on Saturday night & Sunday morning.  You can learn more from or by watching the video below.

Down in front!

Today Venus will be like a drunk guy at the U.S. Airway Center and block our view of the Sun.  Unlike the unruly basketball fan, there is benefit to the transit of Venus.  Transits have let us estimate the size of our solar system, determine the distance from the Earth to the Sun, estimate the size of other planets, test how to search for exoplanets, and turn the Moon into a giant mirror.

If you have the opportunity to view the transit at an observatory I highly recommend doing so as your next chance will not be for another 38,537 days.  Transits occur in pairs separated by eight years.  The pairs occur every 105 or 121 years depending on orbital cycles.  If you do not have an observatory near by, you can observe a transit the same way you observe a solar eclipse – with a pinhole projector or using a telescope as a projector.

For some reason I am unable to link and post media so the links appear below

Got some space junk in your payload bay

The thousands of satellites and other low Earth orbiting objects are cause for concern i.e. they could interfere with other space flights.  To counteract this problem, the Global Aerospace Corporation struck GOLD, or the Gossamer Orbit Lowering Device.

GOLD is a balloon which is affixed to a satellite and then inflated.  It thereby causes the orbit to decay and the satellite to burn in the Earth’s atmosphere.  I am not sure how big of a problem space junk is, or if this is a viable solution, but on the plus side there is finally a use for the leftover Rovers now that Number 6 drove off the island.

Big Bang – Stop making that noise!

A scientist, let’s call him Smalbert Smeinstein, put forth the hypothesis that the universe is not expanding from the Big Bang, but rather space and time convert back and forth in an endless cycle.  Also proposed is that mass and length can be converted back and forth.  The conversion factors, in case you are wondering, are the speed of light and the gravitational constant.

As dictated by the scientific method, there is more to test and there are a variety of issues with hypothesis (e.g. the speed of light not being constant), none the less, it is an interesting notion.  On an unrelated note, $20 says Creationists will use this to suggest there is no Big Bang which created the universe.  On a semi-related note, the Big Bang theme song by the Bare Naked Ladies.

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