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Thursday
Feb062014

Massive object strikes Mars

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

You are looking at a massive impact crater discovered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. What is so special about this crater is that the impact took place sometime between July 2010 and November 2012. The crater is approximately 30 meters in diameter and the material that was ejected from the crater was blasted out as far as 15 kilometres.

This is one of the largest impacts ever recorded in the solar system so the significance of this discovery cannot be overstated.

Wednesday
Feb052014

Advertising in the good old days- Cigarettes for Christmas from a future President

As we have seen, advertising in the world of yesterday was a lot different to today. All manner of things have been promoted in ways that raise more than an eyebrow, including beer that helps your baby, to some very interesting spreads. Take the advertisement below for Chesterfield cigarettes by then Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan.

This ad is from 1952 and to put it into perspective, can you imagine George Clooney asking you to send cigarettes to friends for Christmas. I think not. But then again, maybe in 60 years we will discover that coffee is really hazardous to your health.

                                                          

Thursday
Jan302014

Pizza Parlours and their extra charges

 

Have you ever ordered a pizza and asked for something additional, like mushrooms on a cheese pizza (weird but stay with me on this) and the guy says "OK, but that will be an extra charge?". 

My local pizza parlour has $20 large pizzas. You can order a cheese pizza, or a supreme pizza (that has about 10 ingredients) and they are all $20. But if I order a cheese pizza and ask for mushrooms as well, they charge $1.50 for the "extra" topping. WTF! And it's not just my local pizza place. Many large and small outlets do the same.

For a few weeks I paid this silly charge until one day I woke up to myself. Then I began ordering a supreme pizza, but with no ham, capsicum, pepperoni, onion, or olives. Guess what that left me with. My cheese pizza with mushrooms for $20.

And that's how it should be. 

 

 

Thursday
Jan302014

Why this week is a reflective time at NASA

Late January is a somber time at NASA as the US Space Agency remembers those that lost their lives in pursuit of knowledge not attainable on the Earth. January 27, 28 and February 1 all mark dates where US astronauts lost their lives either in flight, or in training for an upcoming mission.

January 27 1967 - Apollo 1 Fire

Apollo 1 Crew Photo: NASA

On January 27, 1967, 3 US astronauts lost their lives in the Apollo 1 fire during a launch countdown test. Gus Grissom, the 2nd US astronaut in space, Ed White, the 1st US astronaut to walk in space, and rookie Roger Chaffee were training to make the first manned flight of the new Apollo command module. It is thought that electrical arcing started the fire, and as the spacecraft was pressurized with 100 percent pure oxygen, many items in the cabin that normally would not burn, became highly flammable. The 20 month delay in the Apollo program ensured that future astronauts that flew on Apollo, did so with a higher degree of safety. 

Apollo 1 Crew

Gus Grissom

Ed White

Roger Chaffee

 

January 28 1986 - STS-51-L Space Shuttle Challenger

Crew of STS-51 Photo: NASA

19 years and 1 day after the Apollo 1 fire, the Space Shuttle Challenger launched into a cold Florida sky only to explode 73 seconds after lift off. The previous evening saw the shuttle exposed to freezing temperatures that impaired the ability of rubber O-rings in the joints of the solid rocket boosters to provide an effective seal. This resulted in the right booster blasting hot gases onto the strut attaching it to the external fuel tank. The strut failed and the booster pivoted into the external tank causing it to explode. The Challenger disintegrated causing the loss of all 7 astronauts, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, the first civilian in space.

Challenger Crew

Greg Jarvis
Christa McAuliffe
Ronald McNair
Ellison Onizuka
Judith Resnik
Michael J. Smith
Dick Scobee

February 1 2003 - STS-107 - Space Shuttle Columbia

Crew of STS-107 Photo: NASA

On January 16, 2003 the space shuttle Columbia suffered damage to its left wing soon after lift off. Columbia spent 16 days in space before re-entering the Earths atmosphere on February 1. It was during re-entry that hot plasma forced its way past the thermal tiles on the damaged wing causing the Columbia to break up over the United States with the loss of the 7 crew members.

Columbia Crew

Rick D. Husband
William C. McCool
Michael P. Anderson
Kalpana Chawla
David M. Brown
Laurel Clark
Ilan Ramon

 

Conclusion

Space flight is dangerous. We should never forget that. When the space shuttle was developed, it was thought that 1 major accident would occur for every 100 launches. Sadly, it turned out to be 2 catastrophic failures in 135 launches. In fact, a report released in 2010 showed that NASA vastly underestimated the risks associated with the shuttle. This report said that there was a 1 in 9 chance of failure during the first 9 launches.

The risks associated with space flight must be remembered as commercial enterprises begin providing "joy flights" to those with a suitable bank balance.

[This was originally posted on January 28th 2013]

 

 

Tuesday
Jan282014

This was once the future of telecommunications 

Back in the days before mobile phones, snap chat, facetime and skype, AT&T had a way for you to see the people you were talking to on the telephone. It was 1992 and the phone was the model 2500. It allowed users to make a video call to anyone else that had one of these $1599 models. No wonder they gave you a discount if you purchased 2! Some of the features highlighted in the advertising blurb include a "self view button" to see how you look to your calling party and the ability to disable sound or video for privacy. Some of the earlier models could only manage video at 4 frames per second but this baby cranked it up to 10 frames per second.

There was a time when people thought that all calls in the future would include video. It is interesting that the humble voice call is still preferred by most that have the ability to make video calls.

Photo : www.vintagecomputing.com

 

 

 

Thursday
Jan232014

Image of the week - The Orion Nebula

Photo: NASA/JPL-CALTECH

This magnificent false colour view of the Orion Nebula, some 1,500 light-years away comes courtesy of the Spitzer Space Telescope. For an idea of size, the image you are looking at is about 40 light years across, or about 400 trillion kilometres.

Wednesday
Jan222014

Mysteries from Google Earth 

Google Earth began its life as EarthViewer 3D back in 2001. Originally created with the help of the CIA, it shot to global fame (pun intended) after it was acquired by Google and released to the public as Google Earth in 2005.

The program allowed anyone with a PC to zoom into any part of the Earth in varying degrees of resolution. When you can do such a think it's interesting what can be discovered. Take a look at this video of over 30 places on Google Earth that shows everything from the Nazca Lines in Peru to Area 51 as well as nuclear blast craters in the Pacific, to strange carvings in mountains in Europe. 

The world really is an amazing place.

 

 

Tuesday
Jan142014

Amazing Backyard Roller Coasters

As a kid I grew up living in an apartment so when I visited friends that lived in houses, I envied their backyards. And if their Dad put in a swing set or trampoline, well they had it made. Take a look at these 3 videos below of Dads who went above and beyond the call of duty in their backyards by building roller coasters. One even has a 360 degree loop!

Without doubt the third video is the best, not because it has the best coaster, but because of the joyful sound of the child has asking "again Daddy". 

Three "father of the year" contenders if you ask me.

 

 

 

 

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