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George Albercook Teaches Kids About Space with High-Altitude Balloons (Video)

Roblimo posted about 2 years ago | from the higher-and-higher-we-fly dept.

Education 21

George Albercook says he got carried away talking with some third and fourth graders about space and asked them, "Would you like to go?" Except, of course, he couldn't send them beyond the atmosphere in person, so as a consolation he worked with them to send up a balloon that could carry experiments high enough that the sky is black 24 hours a day and the Earth's curvature is easy to see. This interview with George was at the 2012 Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire. Click on the link just below, if you'd like to read the transcript.

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That's not ont he script! (4, Interesting)

dywolf (2673597) | about 2 years ago | (#41325065)

Bad teacher! How dare you deviate from the script we have given you! You aren't supposed to innovate and teach beyond what we gave you!
Bad teacher! You'll be replaced at the end of the year with a proper drone and the children recycled to recieve proper rote training in how to pass tests.

Re:That's not ont he script! (0)

show me altoids (1183399) | about 2 years ago | (#41325357)

Not to be a hater, but it seems like /. has a story about somebody sending a balloon to the upper atmosphere once a week. This one does have an education angle, but really most of them do. That said, I would love to do it myself sometime, but I wouldn't expect /. to cover it.

Re:That's not ont he script! (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 2 years ago | (#41325851)

Not to be a hater, but it seems like /. has a story about somebody sending a balloon to the upper atmosphere once a week. This one does have an education angle, but really most of them do. That said, I would love to do it myself sometime, but I wouldn't expect /. to cover it.

And why not? It seems like a pretty easy way to get slashdotted. Heck, put a 4g phone on your balloon, and see if your project can be *literally* slashdotted. You know, for science.

Re:That's not ont he script! (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#41325977)

Well, 3g phone (iphone) has been done. You're going to have to go bigger.

Put a raspberry pi in the thing (it doesn't have to do anything) and you're gtg. ;)

Re:That's not ont he script! (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#41325937)

No no no. Here's how you get the guaranteed Slashdot article:

Put Bitcoin miner on a Raspberry Pi (running Linux, of course), then send that up into space on a balloon in a hardened steel case, with either a Simpson's or Monty Python quote on it. Use a small explosive charge to drop the payload onto either the RIAA or MPAA headquarters. Film the whole thing from your tablet, with commentary by some nerd celebrity (Wil Wheaton? RMS?)

Finally, bribe Randall Munroe into making an XKCD strip about it.

I think that hits every /. weak point at once, for massive damage.

Re:That's not ont he script! (1)

Merle Darling (33121) | about 2 years ago | (#41331783)

I like where you're going with this. For extra points you could also have him patent the process and sue other educators who attempt similar demonstrations, in whole or in part.

Re:That's not ont he script! (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41330715)

It allows you to do some pretty remarkable things on the cheap. For example, I was part of a group that sent a remote controlled airship [jpaerospace.com] up to 95,000 feet (which incidentally would be a world record, if we had gone through the considerable trouble to certify it). Overall cost was probably no more than $100k and a few man-years of volunteer labor (including previous launches of more normal high altitude balloons to prove some technology pieces we had trouble with).

What is a bit unusual about high altitude balloons is that it's not hard for a group of amateurs to craft balloon vehicles that are comparable to the current state of the art in some measures of performance. You're not going to duplicate the full performance and capabilities of a DoD funded reconnaissance platform costing hundreds of millions of dollars to develop.

But you can develop balloon platforms that can exceed the performance of that monster in a number of basic ways. No other aerospace field has this. For example, in our case above, it's like being able to make a home-made remote controlled plane with a substantially higher altitude ceiling than a U-2.

I'm lucky. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41325237)

I had a couple of science teachers who were that enthused. I still remember them fondly.

Then in college, my interest in science was crushed by the attitude that science was just weed-out classes for engineering and medical school students.

High school science was the last time I actually enjoyed science.

Easy to see curvature (1)

belphegore (66832) | about 2 years ago | (#41325269)

The earth's curvature is very easy to see even down on the surface. It's called "the horizon".

Re:Easy to see curvature (2)

cruff (171569) | about 2 years ago | (#41325301)

The shadow of the earth on clouds at sunrise or sunset is noticeably curved also if you have an unobstructed view.

Re:Easy to see curvature (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41325411)

That's not the axis they're talking about.

Re:Easy to see curvature (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41326913)

Wow. School aged kids will be _amazed_ by this and will definitely get excited learning about science by your pointing this out instead of doing something LIKE FLYING EXPERIMENTS TO SPACE.

You must be a blast at parties.

Re:Easy to see curvature (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#41328837)

Balloons don't reach space, so unless the experiment has a rocket, it ain't getting into space either.

Re:Easy to see curvature (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 2 years ago | (#41328029)

You do realize there'd be a horizon on a flat Earth too, right?

It wouldn't be in the same place and it wouldn't exhibit all the particularities that a spherical Earth has, but just saying that having a horizon means the Earth is curved is entirely false.

Re:Easy to see curvature (1)

belphegore (66832) | about 2 years ago | (#41328593)

You don't need a lot of magnification to see with your eyes the tops, but not the bottoms, of things whose base is beyond the horizon.

Would be better if... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41325617)

Would be better if he sent kids to space with high altitude balloons!

Re:Would be better if... (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#41328957)

Would be better if he sent kids to space with high altitude balloons!

It is impossible for a balloon to float up into space. Balloons rise because they are less dense than the surrounding atmosphere. To get into space, a balloon would essentially have to be less dense than a vacuum.

It's been done before. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41326223)

You could tie the kids to balloons and send them to high-altitude.
First-hand experience is always more lasting than seeing something else do it.

Little disappointing (3, Interesting)

puddingebola (2036796) | about 2 years ago | (#41326291)

A little dissappointed that this story has real relevance to science and techonolgy and it only has drawn about 11 comments.

Re:Little disappointing (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 2 years ago | (#41328047)

You can't bitch and whine about it, you can't criticize it, thus the average /. commenter sees no interest.

And on high altitude bacteria (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41330807)

IMHO, this guy's plan for immortality through high altitude bacteria has a good chance of success. There's a lot of space up there and if he's consistently sampling for bacteria and also has a good way to search for those bacteria in his sample, he'll probably pick up a bunch of new species.
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