May 2021 Archives

Saturday, May 8, 2021

CONTINUITY: Long March CV-5B Re-entry Prediction Refined to ± 4 Hours

Re-entry will occur somewhere on the indicated ground tracks. The debris field will be extended along the track depending upon the mass and density of the objects that survive re-entry.

Posted at 14:33 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Judging Theories of Everything, with Lee Smolin and Eric Weinstein

There's even a brief discussion of the forthcoming Pentagon disclosures on UFOs at the end.

Posted at 14:26 Permalink

CONTEXT: Why It’s Hard to Predict Where China’s Spent Rocket Stage Will Land

It can't land on Fourmilab, as its orbit only passes over latitudes ±42. Here is the latest prediction as of the time of this post.

Posted at 11:47 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: SpaceX Starlink L27 Mission to Attempt 10th Flight of Booster

If successful, this will be the tenth flight of first stage booster B1051-10, setting a record and achieving the original re-use goal for Falcon 9, after a 56 day turn-around following its previous flight. This will be the 117th launch of a Falcon 9, 63rd re-flight of a booster, and 84th landing of a booster. Launch is scheduled for 06:42 UTC on 2021-05-09. You can find the Webcast by typing “SpaceX webcast” in a YouTube search box starting around a half hour before the launch time.

Posted at 11:24 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Completes Fifth Flight

Posted at 11:19 Permalink

Friday, May 7, 2021

CONTINUITY: Scott Manley on the Flight of SpaceX Starship SN15

Posted at 17:04 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Discovering Physical Laws from Observational Data with Machine Learning

The paper is “AI Poincaré: Machine Learning Conservation Laws from Trajectories”.

Posted at 15:30 Permalink

CONTEXT: Woke Myrmecology

We can also tag this with #AgeOfStupid, in that they appended the English plural/epicene pronoun “they” instead of a Latin plural suffix such as “ayersorum”. Just jamming an English pronoun on the end is as inane as renaming Aleiodes gaga (a wasp named after Lady Gaga) Aleiodes gagashe (or would that be “gagshe", if you drop the final “a” as a Latin feminine ending?).

The one redeeming thing about this age is that it will give its survivors plenty to laugh about as they dig for grubs with dull sticks among its ruins.

Posted at 14:40 Permalink

CONTINUITY: A Floating Ring in a Silicon MEMS Gyroscope

Here is the data sheet for the CRM100 [PDF].

Posted at 14:12 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: GoPro Inside a Dishwasher

If he'd added detergent during the initial rinse cycle (note that the detergent dispenser has an indentation to the left of the compartment that holds the dose for the wash cycle intended for this purpose), the grotty cruft on the plates would likely have been removed much earlier in the cleaning cycle, with more flushed out with the rinse water before the start of the main wash. See SCANALYZER for 2020-12-22 for details.

Posted at 13:28 Permalink


There's a paper in the May 2021 issue of Advances in Microbology 11(5), “Fungi on Mars? Evidence of Growth and Behavior From Sequential Images” (full text [PDF] available for download from this link), which shows some intriguing images, both from orbit and rovers on the surface, that show striking similarities to fungal forms on Earth. Here is the abstract.

Fungi thrive in radiation intense environments. Sequential photos document that fungus-like Martian specimens emerge from the soil and increase in size, including those resembling puffballs (Basidiomycota). After obliteration of spherical specimens by the rover wheels, new sphericals--some with stalks--appeared atop the crests of old tracks. Sequences document that thousands of black arctic “araneiforms” grow up to 300 meters in the Spring and disappear by Winter; a pattern repeated each Spring and which may represent massive colonies of black fungi, mould, lichens, algae, methanogens and sulfur reducing species. Black fungi-bacteria-like specimens also appeared atop the rovers. In a series of photographs over three days (Sols) white amorphous specimens within a crevice changed shape and location then disappeared. White protoplasmic-mycelium-like-tendrils with fruiting-body-like appendages form networks upon and above the surface; or increase in mass as documented by sequential photographs. Hundreds of dimpled donut-shaped “mushroom-like” formations approximately 1mm in size are adjacent or attached to these mycelium-like complexes. Additional sequences document that white amorphous masses beneath rock-shelters increase in mass, number, or disappear and that similar white-fungus-like specimens appeared inside an open rover compartment. Comparative statistical analysis of a sample of 9 spherical specimens believed to be fungal “puffballs” photographed on Sol 1145 and 12 specimens that emerged from beneath the soil on Sol 1148 confirmed the nine grew significantly closer together as their diameters expanded and some showed evidence of movement. Cluster analysis and a paired sample ‘t’ test indicates a statistically significant size increase in the average size ratio over all comparisons between and within groups (P = 0.011). Statistical comparisons indicates that arctic “araneiforms” significantly increased in length in parallel following an initial growth spurt. Although similarities in morphology are not proof of life, growth, movement, and changes in shape and location constitute behavior and support the hypothesis there is life on Mars.

Here are some photos from the paper pointed out by Robin Hanson, with his comments.

Extraordinary claims…” and all that, but if any of this is correct, this is one of the most stunning scientific oversights in the last century, given that we have been observing Mars from orbit and the surface since 1976. If some of all of this (in particular, the gunk seeming to grow on the rovers) turns out to be contamination by terrestrial organisms which prove viable on Mars, it indicates that NASA's “planetary protection” standards (“maximum of 300,000 spores per spacecraft and 300 spores per square meter”) may have been “good enough for government work” but not for a universe in which “life finds a way”.

Posted at 11:49 Permalink

Thursday, May 6, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: A CPU Chip Bigger than Your Head: Cerebras Wafer Scale Engine 2

Cerebras Wafer Scale Engine 2 specifications:

  • 850,000 cores
  • 40 Gb on-chip SRAM
  • 7 nm TSMC process
  • 2.6 trillion transistors
  • 46,225 mm² silicon area;
  • 20 Pb/sec memory bandwidth
  • 220 Pb/sec on-chip interconnect bandwidth
  • 23 kW power dissipation (water cooled)

The wafer is designed with spare cores so that those with defects can be routed around, and hence fabrication yield is 100%.

Posted at 15:02 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Garbage Then, Garbage Now—Microsoft Windows 1.04

The 640 Kb BIOS memory test at the start ran for 48 seconds on this IBM PC/XT clone (4.77 MHz Intel 8088). Testing the 16 Gb RAM installed on many current PCs at this speed would take more than two weeks.

Posted at 12:14 Permalink

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: SpaceX Starship SN15 Successful Test Flight and Landing

Posted at 22:50 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: That Time a DC-8 Flew Faster than Sound

Here is an interview with Richard H. Edwards, flight engineer on the 1961-08-21 supersonic flight.

Posted at 12:46 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Sixty Years Ago Today: The Flight of Freedom 7

Posted at 12:36 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Internet Security, 1990s Style, from General Electric

From the people who brought you the light bulb.

Posted at 12:15 Permalink

CONTEXT: Cats—“If I Fits, I Sits”

Posted at 11:52 Permalink

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: SpaceX: Starlink Launch

Launch is scheduled for 19:01 UTC on 2021-05-04. If the launch is scrubbed today, a backup opportunity is available on 2021-05-05 at 18:39 UTC.

Posted at 16:00 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Posted at 14:00 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Freezing Water in a Sealed Container

Posted at 13:04 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Rendering 3D in the Brain—The Pulfrich Effect

Here is more about the Pulfrich effect.

Posted at 12:35 Permalink

CONTINUITY: 1964—Mariner 4 Flyby of Mars

Here is more on Mariner 4. The film includes production of the “paint-by-number” manual production of the first image of Mars, which can still be seen at JPL today.

Posted at 11:38 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: SpaceX Starship SN15 Medium Altitude Test

Road closures and airspace exclusion notices have been posted for today, 2021-05-04, and tomorrow, 2021-05-05 There is no way to know when in this window the flight test will occur, if at all. Today's (May 4th) window opens at 17:00 UTC.

Update: The flight is scrubbed for today, 2021-05-04. Another launch opportunity remains for tomorrow, 2021-05-05. (2021-05-04 16:07 UTC)

Posted at 11:01 Permalink

Monday, May 3, 2021

CONTEXT: News You Can Use—Pure Fusion: D-T Plasma Ignition by Overdriven Detonation of High Explosives

Edward Teller always believed this was possible.

In 1989, I wrote a story about abundant neutron generation by impact-driven pure fusion, “Not with a Bang”.

Posted at 18:24 Permalink

CONTEXT: Make a Space Suit from Duct Tape?

Paging Adam Savage….

Posted at 14:43 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: International Space Station Transits the Moon

Posted at 12:15 Permalink

CONTEXT: Smallest Rational Right Triangle with Area 157

Posted at 11:41 Permalink

CONTINUITY: From 1966—RCA TR-4 Video Tape Recorder

Introduced in 1964, the TR-4 was larger than a big American refrigerator and cost, depending upon options, US$35,000 and up in 1966, or around US$290,000 in today's funny money. It used two inch wide tape on giant reels and was able, with an optional accessory, to handle colour signals.

Posted at 11:00 Permalink

Sunday, May 2, 2021

CONTEXT: Using Liquid Air or Nitrogen as an Energy Storage and Transmission Medium

The Cryomatiks turbine cryogenic expander presently has specific energy around the same as lithium battery packs on current electric vehicles. It is being developed for commercial and fleet vehicles which can be refueled at their depots, avoiding the need for a wide-scale distribution infrastructure for the liquefied gas (which is already produced on a large industrial scale for other uses).

Posted at 15:41 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Rediscovery of the Coelacanth

Posted at 12:38 Permalink

CONTINUITY: HP 9825 Repair Part 6: Can the HP 547A Probe Get Us Out of Trouble?

As analysis progresses of the damage done to a 1970s vintage Hewlett-Packard (H-P) 9825 laboratory computer by a single shorted transistor in its power supply, one of the worst nightmares in digital circuitry debugging manifests itself: a stuck bit in an on-board bus. The stuck bit could be due to any of the numerous components on the bus, all soldered in place. To deal with this problem, in the 1970s, H-P introduced a piece of test equipment, the HP 547A current tracer. The idea was that by sensing the magnetic field of current flowing to the fault in the circuit, it would be possible to localise the fault on a bus with many components attached. Can this H-P gadget diagnose the fault in this H-P computer?

Posted at 11:57 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: SpaceX—Crew-1 Mission Return to Earth

Posted at 11:05 Permalink

Saturday, May 1, 2021

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: The Mind of a Chess Grandmaster

Posted at 14:11 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: When a Boeing 747 Flew with 1088 People on Board

Here is more information about Operation Solomon, of which the flight was a part. The exact number of people on the flight was stated in contemporary reports as between 1078 and 1122, with agreement that two were born on board during the flight.

Posted at 13:36 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: 21st Century Problems—(Memory) Leaky Faucet

Posted at 12:31 Permalink

CONTEXT: Extreme Engineering—Top Fuel Dragsters

Unlike the 1950s and 1960s, where rapid innovation in designs broke records and made champions, they have now standardised on a single engine and supercharger, making things less interesting from an engineering standpoint.

Posted at 12:06 Permalink