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Pro-TEK-shun for your car
Hoboken, NJ is paying $198,000 over the next 3 years so their
robotic parking garage will continue to function. Last week
hundreds of cars were jailed by the robotic garage's inability
to operate sans properly licensed software from Robotics Parking,
Inc., and the two sides had quite the spat when the companies'
operators were required to leave the garage so Israel-based
Ultronics could take over operations. Don't feel too bad for
the city, though, the 314-space garage, if full, takes in
nearly $63k a month, so the city gets half of the take to pay
off the capital expenses.
How to Drive on Snow
I come from North Alabama, so I'm familiar with the problems driving on snow
and ice. It's that one idiot out there who thinks (s)he can drive 50 MPH on
snow that causes a problem. Perhaps some tips for drivers would be in order
in addition to the sound guidance, "citizens are encouraged to stay off the
roads today." I just vacationed in the Nevada mountains where they got 4
feet of snow in the week I was there, so here are my tips for driving on
- SNOW IS SLICK. ICE IS FOR HOCKEY. Snow is much slicker than rain on the
street. You can control your car, but the slick snow must be respected. Ice
is another matter entirely - it is absolutely treacherous. On ice, go
straight and do not apply gas or brake. You have no traction on ice. (If we
have a big ice storm, do not take a trip involving turns or acceleration.)
- TEST BRAKING. Get going 10 MPH, check behind you to see nobody is there,
and try stopping quickly. You will skid and probably swerve. Let off the
brake until you're not skidding. Pump the brakes if you want to stop a little faster. Learn the limits of your vehicle. Be aware
that it is much harder to stop going downhill than on level ground, and on a
steep hill, it may be impossible to stop.
- TEST STEERING. A simple curve in the road can be treacherous on snow and
worse on ice. Know how your car behaves in snow, and be prepared for it to
- STEER INTO THE SKID. To regain control of a skidding car, steer into the
skid. Once you have control, decide whether it is best to turn more gently
or try to stop. Allow plenty of space around your car in anticipation of
skidding. It will happen.
- DRIVE SLOWLY. 20 MPH is about as fast as you ever want to go on a
snow-covered road, and then only when the road is perfectly clear of
obstacles as far as you can see. Watch far ahead of your car. You will need
the extra distance to respond on the slick snow. Make all movements slowly
- IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED, TRY, TRY AGAIN. If you get stuck going up a
hill, you may be able to back up and try the approach again a few times.
- LEARN TO DRIVE. Allow yourself plenty of time to get accustomed to driving
in snow. Driving in snow is very different from driving in rain. In rain,
the vehicle sometimes skids. In snow the vehicle frequently skids. Be
patient and go especially slowly at first.
- LOOK OUT! The driver who doesn't know these things is right around the
corner unwittingly aiming for your bumper.
Spooky Action Clocks
Wouldn't you know it - someone wants a better clock. Here's an idea of how to make an atomic clock with precision of 1 second in 30 billion years using a trick einstein called "spooky action at a distance."
Called the iBOT Mobility System, the wheelchair uses sensors and gyroscopes to navigate stairs while balancing on two wheels.
Infrared Telescope Launches
Engineers Should Have Known
Slide 10 offers several scenarios where one tile is lost, and in each, they conclude "no issue", even though in the same block on the table they site temperatures approaching double the design temperatures (F). Aluminum melts at 1221F, but it gets brittle before then. The same frigging slide notes the design max temp at 350F.
My theory: Tile was significantly damaged by the foam as per case 1 in the analysis, and on reentry, the airframe heated to the 790F temperature they predicted. It vibrated, wiggled, and finally broke under the force of the atmosphere - about 8 minutes prior to LOS. After the airframe broke beneath one tile, plasma entered the wing, exiting as very hot gas by the aft sensors that failed first, then the plasma carried heat to the wheel well where we observed more failures. All the while, plasma was eating away at the airframe holding other tiles, and the zipper effect happened.
No word yet on which wing they found parts of.
NASA'S NEW SPACE PLANE
NASA is locked into using the Shuttle for the next decade or two because of
International Space Station (ISS) considerations and the simple fact that the
U.S. has no other manned launch vehicle at the time. They're talking about
stepping up speed on the space plane production. Read more.
...LANDING A MAN ON THE MOON...
Did you realize we can't launch a manned rocket to the moon this year even if
we want to? That's right. The first Saturn V rocket - the only design so
far capable of reaching the moon - flew November 9, 1967. The last manned
trip to the moon departed Earth on December 7, 1972 and returned on the 19th.
They were on the moon from December 11 to 14. The last Saturn V, rather than
going to the moon, hefted the U.S. space station Skylab into orbit on May 14,
Online, you can read the detailed history of the Saturn V, or read about the Apollo missions to the moon.
SO WHERE DO THEY GO?
If the Shuttle doesn't go to the moon, then where does it go? It flies at an
altitude of 200 miles above the Earth. It can't get much farther away than
that because of its weight. Travelling at 17,500 miles per hour, the Shuttle
still falls towards the Earth, but its forward speed allows it to miss the
planet. Then why bother to go just 200 miles up? Because from orbit,
everything in the craft seems weightless. Everything is falling towards the
Earth (and missing it) at the same rate. In microgravity (that's what they
call it because it's not purely zero-gravity), you can subtract the effects
of gravity and learn more about processes on Earth.
While I was in Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, I
attended a presentation entitled "Liquid Phase Sintering in Metals." Having
recently heard a terribly boring presentation on Space Shuttle window
construction, I wasn't too hyped about a talk with such an uninteligible
title. It turned out to be one of the best, though it was somewhat
technical. The problem is how we manufacture tools on Earth. Die cast
metals invariably have bubbles in them, and the size and location of the
bubbles severely weakens the material. By studying the bubbles in
microgravity, we can learn how to make better tools on Earth. Read more.
Comet NEAT Visible at Sunset
Air Force Columbia Photo & Sensor Schematics
Historical Tile Damage
Atlantis sustained notable damage on STS-27 (the second flight after Challenger's explosion). They concluded it was from the right SRB nose cap which had an old-style surface. They also found ET foam and cork from SRB joints in the tile's pits. NASA made an interesting report in approving launch for STS-29.
In December, 1997, NASA was readying Endeavour for STS-89. They sanded the ET near the SRB joints, remarking, "While investigations into the cause of Columbia's unusual tile damage continue, managers hope the additional work will reduce the possibility of external tank foam debris contributing to Shuttle tile damage." One individual wrote about the damage.
Update: The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) has re-released a report commissioned by NASA about the risk to space shuttles from damage to the spacecraft's protective tiles.
Update: RISK MANAGEMENT FOR THE TILES OF THE SPACE SHUTTLE - 1994
STS-87 POST-FLIGHT INSPECTION - 1997
Picture of Cracks on Columbia's Wing?
The picture was taken January 21 as video accompanying a satellite video conference between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Colonel Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli to travel to space.
I suspect the photo shows antennae. Otherwise, the astronauts would have been alarmed at the sight.
I remember when I was in 7th grade at lunch and someone told me, "The Shuttle blew up." Since those folks knew I liked the space program and since they always picked on me anyway, I figured they were teasing me once more. A teacher set me straight. But then, we thought NASA could do no wrong. Now we know they have had accidents and have improved the systems, but we know they're not perfect.
A college friend called me from Memphis, Tennessee at 9:30 Saturday morning and demanded, "Where's the Shuttle?" I had the TV on in seconds, shortly before they first showed the video of the breakup without being sure it was the Shuttle. I had no doubt. I've been listening to press conferences and news ever since.
Media has focused attention on the piece of foam that fell from the external tank during launch. I still haven't seen a picture of it in which I could make out the foam, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was ice attached which would have made the foam harder and heaver than they figured in their analyses. But what could they have done? Absolutely nothing. I suppose they might have aborted the launch had they figured out what happened in time, but they weren't set up to do that.
The astronauts died doing what they loved to do. They wouldn't have been happy doing anything else. They knew the risks, as did their families. (Families weren't as aware of the risks 17 years ago.) We were better prepared for such a disaster as a community, too, having seen similar things before.
I remember watching Columbia's first flight on the TV. It was spectacular, and all too brief. It was an amazing feat of engineering and technology. I have a large picture of Columbia making its second landing, in White Sands, New Mexico, over the couch in my den. It's been my favorite decoration in the space and southwest-themed room. Now we have seen Columbia's final flight. It too was spectacular, and the craft's tenure too brief. A very difficult sight indeed.
The President and Congressmen have promised that space exploration will continue. And if Owen Garriott knows, it won't be as long a hiatus as it was with Challenger. He said, "This time, it could be a quicker turnaround. We have the space station to be concerned about." Here's the full article.
We must mourn the loss, learn from it, and continue our exploration of the cosmos. Space exploration is not without its risks, and we must accept risks to do anything worthwhile.
Yours in peace,
Mars Exploration Rover - Comments Due Today
Scientists propose to keep the electronics from freezing by means of some radioisotope heater units (RHU) combined with some electric heaters. Each rover's 11 RHU's would collectively contain 1 ounce of plutonium (Pu-238) and provide about 11 watts of heat from the radioactive decay. The RHU's together would then contribute 365 Curies. A couple of other instruments would use tiny radioactive samples for calibration or experiments (much like your smoke alarm's Americium), adding another 0.4 curies.
NASA's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) says "RHUs are designed to contain the plutonium dioxide during normal operations and under a wide range of accident environments. The integrity and durability of RHUs have been well documented by the U.S. Department of Energy."
People have been invited to comment, and comment they have. Bruce Gagnon, of the Global Netowrk Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space wrote a lengthy comment in which he describes a military development agenda buried within the scientific mission. Gagnon has been party to suits against NASA in the past.
Tony Rusi wrote a thoughtful reply to Mr. Gagnon's comment.
Please, look over the materials and take a moment to write today (the last day they're accepting comments) expressing your support for the program as outlined in the EIS. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
China closes 1 in 3 Net Cafes
What a day!
I took some pictures of the ice but can't upload them until Elizabeth gets back with her laptop. To tide you over, I wrote this this morning:
Laden pines form arabesques.
The sun melts their sheaths.
A menagerie of icicles clinks to the ground.
A breeze intensifies the shower.
Another branch succumbs to gravity.
Stickman stayed over last night because his power was out (but his phone was working). Michael and Amy were planning to join us tonight, too, but Michael just sat down on our couch before we checked the message on the answering machine from Amy telling that their power had come back on thirty minutes prior.
The phone here was out for the better part of Thursday, and the cable (for internet) failed Thursday morning and came back Friday evening. The power still blinks here regularly as they switch sources and repair additional lines.
Stickman just now went home and called me about his CO alarm going off. I told him he needed to be talking to 911 instead. Before he called them, he checked his detector, and it was issuing the "Malfunction" warning. How disconcerting. He unplugged it, plugged it back in, and now it's quiet. He'll sleep at his place tonight.
Tomorrow the bedroom furniture comes. Now all we have to do is find a mattress. Sigh... I'd better go back in there and finish moving out the old furniture.
Solar Eclipse for Africa, Australia & ISS
Gulf Wars: Episode II