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Spoilers for Season 8, Episode 5. Game of Thrones episode “The Bells” reminded me of the famous Führerbunker scene from Downfall where Hitler chews out his generals for losing the Battle of Berlin. It would have been more satisfying if they actually took a page from Downfall and had Queen Cersei lash out and pin […]
Ilan Levine’s thread on his Flat Earth believing students brought to mind a conversation I had back in December with a friend-of-a-friend (let’s call him J). I mentioned it in a comment on that thread and a few people said they were interested in reading it. I’m slightly hesitant to post this because of the […]
We’ve seen a lot of foreign missile technology in the news lately — Iran and North Korea illegally testing ballistic missiles of ever increasing range, and Russia deploying a new type of cruise missile that violates the INF Treaty. I first saw this video about ten years ago. Produced by the US Army Space and […]
Many science fiction movies, like The Arrival, War of the Worlds, Independence Day, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, begin with the premise that aliens from another planet show up one day without warning and land, or otherwise park, their spaceships, here on Earth. But it seems likely that any sufficiently advanced aliens planning to visit […]
In the wake of the election, there have been renewed complaints about the Electoral College, specifically, how it unfairly rewards small states with disproportionate voting power. The supposed implication is that Donald Trump won the election, despite losing the national popular vote, because small states vote Republican. Well, I did a little number crunching.
Update: T-0 was at 9:35 am MDT. It looks like it was a full success. They recovered both the capsule and the booster intact. According to the announcer on the livestream this was the fifth launch and landing of this booster and it will now be retired. They didn’t expect it to survive the abort but […]
The video below shows an automatic flight control system saving the lives of an unconscious F-16 pilot and the instructor just seconds before they would have plummeted to the ground. Preview Open
The Ricochet staff solicited our expertise. Your friendly neighborhood aerospace engineer is here to deliver it from my desk on the corner of Karman Vortex Street and Tomcat Alley. (You may have seen my previous writing on the NAVSTAR GPS.) In this article we’ll cover a few common misconceptions about orbital mechanics and then ‘splain some fundamentals for the layman. There’s always some overlap between topics, and this article touches on reentry aerodynamics as well, but without further ado here is the orbital mechanics edition.
There is gravity in space
This article informing the masses what they are no longer allowed to wear showed up in the Wall Street Journal today, titled Nice Cargo Shorts! You’re Sleeping on the Sofa. Relationships around the country are being tested by cargo shorts, loosely cut shorts with large pockets sewn onto the sides. Men who love them say they’re […]
The Global Positioning System provides a simple and invaluable service to any Earthling who chooses to access it. It solves an ancient problem with ultramodern technology, answering a challenge that spelled doom for so many of our ancestors. With some irony it answers the profoundly local and timeless question — “Where am I?” — using atomically synchronized radio transmitters orbiting thousands of miles up in space.
For you Game of Thrones fans: Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Unindicted, Queen of the Pantsuits, Queen of the Media, Breaker of Laws, Mother of ________ Preview Open
In discussions of mass shootings the standard rebuttal to a ban on “assault weapons” is that other guns have the same ammunition capacity, rates of fire, etc., or that even more destruction could be wrought with another type of weapon like a bomb. That’s true: the two deadliest school attacks in US history were committed with handguns (Virginia Tech, 2007) […]
There’s a new-agey kind of trend in American professional sports, especially hockey, soccer, and women’s basketball, to name teams with words that have no plural form. Examples include the Miami Heat, the Orlando Magic, the Chicago Fire, Phoenix Mercury, Indiana Fever (?!), Seattle Storm, New York Liberty, and the Minnesota Wild. I don’t understand the reasons […]
The 25-yard point-after-touchdown kick is a bad rule change. It introduces uncertainty, but at the cost of reduced heroics, which is the lifeblood of any spectator sport, and greater disappointment and heartbreak, which only sells tickets in certain unusual markets.
One of the most exciting, dramatic, and satisfying aspects of football is the fourth-quarter comeback. The trailing team gets the ball deep in their own territory with the clock breathing down their necks. But they hit a couple of key passes, step out of bounds at the right times, and make efficient use of their timeouts. As the seconds wind down, they put the ball in the end zone for the game-tying touchdown!
I know some of you will accuse me of giving too much credence to numerology. But this one is just too true to ignore: November 2015 has a Friday the 13th exactly 13 days after Halloween. That happens only 49 times every 343 years! Preview Open
The Martian features Matt Damon as NASA astronaut Mark Watney, who with a six-member crew including commanding officer Jessica Chastain, is on a month-long science mission on the beautifully desolate surface of Mars. Of course, one month is only the planned duration of their stay on the surface; the deep space transit to and from Mars takes several hundred days each way, which becomes important later in the film.
We enter the story partway into the surface mission. The crew is collecting Martian soil samples when NASA sends them an urgent message about an impending storm. The storm is apparently so severe that the rocket which is supposed to lift the crew back into space at the end of their mission won’t survive the harsh winds on the ground. So the crew is forced to abort their surface mission and perform a hasty emergency launch. In the rush and confusion, Watney is left behind, presumed dead. All of this introductory material is completed in a very breezy few minutes, plunging us right into the survival story.
Damon is charming, self-deprecating, full of creativity, and despite the all the rational reasons to believe himself doomed, he remains confident in his training and problem-solving abilities. He shows well-earned pride of accomplishment and just the kind of cockiness you’d expect from a flyboy as he conquers the litany of challenges thrown at him by the deserted red planet, including lack of breathing air, food shortages, transportation, weather, and communication. However, the film seems to gloss over his coming-to-grips with his extremely perilous situation. Instead, it jumps ahead several weeks, thereby depriving us of the opportunity to watch Damon experience the full range of emotions you’d expect from a marooned spaceman, including grief, denial, anger, resentment, loneliness, despair, and hopelessness — especially in light of the events that stranded him there. We see a lot of footage of Damon entertaining himself by making smart remarks into a camera, and he is often hilarious. But there is little sense that he feels alone or lonely at all (in contrast with, say, Sam Rockwell’s performance in Moon), which reduces the euphoria we should feel when he finally re-establishes communication with NASA. Perhaps it is this unworldly optimism that helped keep him alive.
NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) has captured a series of unusual images showing the astronomical phenomenon known as the transit of the Moon across the Earth. They are unusual because out of the handful spacecraft are beyond the orbit of the Moon, very few are close enough to perceive the Earth and Moon as larger than a speck. The video below is not a computer simulation; it is a series of actual photographs taken on July 16, 2015.