QOTD: Isaac Asimov on Liquid Rocket Fuels

 

“Now it is clear that anyone working with rocket fuels is outstandingly mad.  I don’t mean garden-variety crazy or a merely raving lunatic.  I mean a record-shattering exponent of far-out insanity.

Explosion - Alternate angle of the massive explosion following a BLEVE ...

“There are, after all, some chemicals that explode shatteringly, some that flame ravenously, some that corrode hellishly, some that poison sneakily, and some that stink stenchily.  As far as I know, though, only liquid rocket fuels have all these delightful properties combined into one delectable whole.”

(From the Forward to Ignition!, an Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants, by John D. Clark)

Clark’s  autobiographical book is an entertaining read and, while giving a fair amount of technical detail, is accessible for those of us who barely remember the chemistry we learned in high school.  All that rocketry that looks like magic? Really it’s lots of engineering.

Published in Science & Technology
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 75 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I have seen people say that with enough thrust you can make a brick have lift.

    No idea if true.

     

    Yes they are called rockets

    LOL

    Thanks. You would know! 

     

    • #61
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I have seen people say that with enough thrust you can make a brick have lift.

    No idea if true.

     

    Yes they are called rockets

    You can fly a picnic table with enough thrust.

    Sticking the landing will be dicey.

    • #62
  3. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Percival (View Comment):

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I have seen people say that with enough thrust you can make a brick have lift.

    No idea if true.

     

    Yes they are called rockets

    You can fly a picnic table with enough thrust.

    Sticking the landing will be dicey.

    Paging SpaceX

    • #63
  4. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I have seen people say that with enough thrust you can make a brick have lift.

    No idea if true.

     

    Yes they are called rockets

    Or F4 Phantoms.

    • #64
  5. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I have seen people say that with enough thrust you can make a brick have lift.

    No idea if true.

    Yes they are called rockets

    Or F4 Phantoms.

    Very low camber.

    • #65
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I have seen people say that with enough thrust you can make a brick have lift.

    No idea if true.

     

    Yes they are called rockets

    Or F4 Phantoms.

    “Flying Brick” was one of the F-4’s nicknames. Also “Lead Sled.” “Rhino.” “Old Smokey.”

    • #66
  7. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Who says we can’t explain why planes fly? We know exactly how wings create lift with differential air pressure. Push it through the air fast enough and it flies. No mystery.

    This sounds like the ancient canard, “Science can’t explain how bumblebees fly, but they do”.

    It actually is not so simple. Airplanes fly upside down, too. :-)

    And my understanding of the bumblebee was that early photography undercounted by 50% the number of flaps per second (due to the frame rate on the cameras). So people thought the bumblebee could not fly. Until faster cameras rechecked the work, and found that they could fly, after all. They were relieved to hear it!

    • #67
  8. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    I’m reminded…

     

    • #68
  9. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    iWe (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Who says we can’t explain why planes fly? We know exactly how wings create lift with differential air pressure. Push it through the air fast enough and it flies. No mystery.

    This sounds like the ancient canard, “Science can’t explain how bumblebees fly, but they do”.

    It actually is not so simple. Airplanes fly upside down, too. :-)

    And my understanding of the bumblebee was that early photography undercounted by 50% the number of flaps per second (due to the frame rate on the cameras). So people thought the bumblebee could not fly. Until faster cameras rechecked the work, and found that they could fly, after all. They were relieved to hear it!

    And if I got this right, when planes fly upside down, they are really flying slightly downwards up into the air while falling slightly upwards downwards.

    • #69
  10. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Who says we can’t explain why planes fly? We know exactly how wings create lift with differential air pressure. Push it through the air fast enough and it flies. No mystery.

    This sounds like the ancient canard, “Science can’t explain how bumblebees fly, but they do”.

    It actually is not so simple. Airplanes fly upside down, too. :-)

    And my understanding of the bumblebee was that early photography undercounted by 50% the number of flaps per second (due to the frame rate on the cameras). So people thought the bumblebee could not fly. Until faster cameras rechecked the work, and found that they could fly, after all. They were relieved to hear it!

    And if I got this right, when planes fly upside down, they are really flying slightly downwards up into the air while falling slightly upwards downwards.

    Yes but they’re doing that with the angling of the wings, not because of the usual lift situation.  Wings cannot be designed that would produce ordinary lift, in both directions.

    • #70
  11. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Who says we can’t explain why planes fly? We know exactly how wings create lift with differential air pressure. Push it through the air fast enough and it flies. No mystery.

    This sounds like the ancient canard, “Science can’t explain how bumblebees fly, but they do”.

    It actually is not so simple. Airplanes fly upside down, too. :-)

    And my understanding of the bumblebee was that early photography undercounted by 50% the number of flaps per second (due to the frame rate on the cameras). So people thought the bumblebee could not fly. Until faster cameras rechecked the work, and found that they could fly, after all. They were relieved to hear it!

    And if I got this right, when planes fly upside down, they are really flying slightly downwards up into the air while falling slightly upwards downwards.

    Yes but they’re doing that with the angling of the wings, not because of the usual lift situation. Wings cannot be designed that would produce ordinary lift, in both directions.

    This is what I said.

    • #71
  12. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Who says we can’t explain why planes fly? We know exactly how wings create lift with differential air pressure. Push it through the air fast enough and it flies. No mystery.

    This sounds like the ancient canard, “Science can’t explain how bumblebees fly, but they do”.

    It actually is not so simple. Airplanes fly upside down, too. :-)

    And my understanding of the bumblebee was that early photography undercounted by 50% the number of flaps per second (due to the frame rate on the cameras). So people thought the bumblebee could not fly. Until faster cameras rechecked the work, and found that they could fly, after all. They were relieved to hear it!

    And if I got this right, when planes fly upside down, they are really flying slightly downwards up into the air while falling slightly upwards downwards.

    Yes but they’re doing that with the angling of the wings, not because of the usual lift situation. Wings cannot be designed that would produce ordinary lift, in both directions.

    This is what I said.

    But the acrobatic type planes are doing it when flying “upright” as well.  Not just when they’re upside-down.  It wouldn’t make sense to have the wings be producing normal lift when upright – at least not to the usual extent – which would then be actively working against flying upside-down.

    • #72
  13. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Who says we can’t explain why planes fly? We know exactly how wings create lift with differential air pressure. Push it through the air fast enough and it flies. No mystery.

    This sounds like the ancient canard, “Science can’t explain how bumblebees fly, but they do”.

    It actually is not so simple. Airplanes fly upside down, too. :-)

    And my understanding of the bumblebee was that early photography undercounted by 50% the number of flaps per second (due to the frame rate on the cameras). So people thought the bumblebee could not fly. Until faster cameras rechecked the work, and found that they could fly, after all. They were relieved to hear it!

    And if I got this right, when planes fly upside down, they are really flying slightly downwards up into the air while falling slightly upwards downwards.

    Yes but they’re doing that with the angling of the wings, not because of the usual lift situation. Wings cannot be designed that would produce ordinary lift, in both directions.

    This is what I said.

    But the acrobatic type planes are doing it when flying “upright” as well. Not just when they’re upside-down. It wouldn’t make sense to have the wings be producing normal lift when upright – at least not to the usual extent – which would then be actively working against flying upside-down.

    No.  This is not at all what Adams said.  Adams was talking about ALL airplanes and saying that NO wings gain lift by the Bernoulli effect, but work by “planing” on the air “like a boat.”

    • #73
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Who says we can’t explain why planes fly? We know exactly how wings create lift with differential air pressure. Push it through the air fast enough and it flies. No mystery.

    This sounds like the ancient canard, “Science can’t explain how bumblebees fly, but they do”.

    It actually is not so simple. Airplanes fly upside down, too. :-)

    And my understanding of the bumblebee was that early photography undercounted by 50% the number of flaps per second (due to the frame rate on the cameras). So people thought the bumblebee could not fly. Until faster cameras rechecked the work, and found that they could fly, after all. They were relieved to hear it!

    And if I got this right, when planes fly upside down, they are really flying slightly downwards up into the air while falling slightly upwards downwards.

    Yes but they’re doing that with the angling of the wings, not because of the usual lift situation. Wings cannot be designed that would produce ordinary lift, in both directions.

    This is what I said.

    But the acrobatic type planes are doing it when flying “upright” as well. Not just when they’re upside-down. It wouldn’t make sense to have the wings be producing normal lift when upright – at least not to the usual extent – which would then be actively working against flying upside-down.

    No. This is not at all what Adams said. Adams was talking about ALL airplanes and saying that NO wings gain lift by the Bernoulli effect, but work by “planing” on the air “like a boat.”

    The reason wings have flaps (and slats) is to increase the camber of the wings during takeoffs and landings. Flaps (and slats) increase lift at the expense of drag. 

    • #74
  15. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    Percival (View Comment):

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Who says we can’t explain why planes fly? We know exactly how wings create lift with differential air pressure. Push it through the air fast enough and it flies. No mystery.

    This sounds like the ancient canard, “Science can’t explain how bumblebees fly, but they do”.

    It actually is not so simple. Airplanes fly upside down, too. :-)

    And my understanding of the bumblebee was that early photography undercounted by 50% the number of flaps per second (due to the frame rate on the cameras). So people thought the bumblebee could not fly. Until faster cameras rechecked the work, and found that they could fly, after all. They were relieved to hear it!

    And if I got this right, when planes fly upside down, they are really flying slightly downwards up into the air while falling slightly upwards downwards.

    Yes but they’re doing that with the angling of the wings, not because of the usual lift situation. Wings cannot be designed that would produce ordinary lift, in both directions.

    This is what I said.

    But the acrobatic type planes are doing it when flying “upright” as well. Not just when they’re upside-down. It wouldn’t make sense to have the wings be producing normal lift when upright – at least not to the usual extent – which would then be actively working against flying upside-down.

    No. This is not at all what Adams said. Adams was talking about ALL airplanes and saying that NO wings gain lift by the Bernoulli effect, but work by “planing” on the air “like a boat.”

    The reason wings have flaps (and slats) is to increase the camber of the wings during takeoffs and landings. Flaps (and slats) increase lift at the expense of drag.

    Percy, we are engineers, and should just know when to quit explaining, so my wife tells me (especially when we are at one of her office Christmas parties).  

    • #75
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.