Recently in CONTEXT

Friday, May 14, 2021

What Happens If You Distill Red Wine?

This experiment used a water distiller which did not, unlike a spirits still, separate the ethanol from the water. Consequently, both the water, alcohol, and any volatiles with a boiling point less than water were in the distillate. Interestingly, most of the flavour and colour compounds are less volatile and remained in the distiller. How would “reconstituted concentrated wine” fare in a blind wine tasting?

Posted at 13:18 Permalink

SpaceX: Starship Orbital Flight Test Plan

SpaceX have filed a document, “Starship Orbital - First Flight FCC Exhibit” [PDF], as part of their application to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for a license to downlink S band telemetry from the flight test. This document provides details of the flight, with the “Flight Profile” as follows:

The Starship Orbital test flight will originate from Starbase, TX. The Booster stage will separate approximately 170 seconds into flight. The Booster will then perform a partial return and land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 20 miles from the shore. The Orbital Starship will continue on flying between the Florida Straits. It will achieve orbit until performing a powered, targeted landing approximately 100km (~62 miles) off the northwest coast of Kauai in a soft ocean landing.

Both stages will land at sea. The orbital stage (Starship) is planned to make a “soft ocean landing”, which presumably means a propulsive landing ending in a splashdown in the ocean off Hawaii. The booster (Super Heavy) will do a partial boost-back and land offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. It is not stated whether this will also be a splashdown or a platform landing, but as no suitable platform is known to exist or to be under construction, the former is the way to bet. If there's no plan to re-fly these vehicles, soft water landings demonstrate the landing capability, allow intact recovery to permit post-flight examination and analysis, and does not put the Starbase infrastructure at risk from a landing attempt on-site.

Some have quibbled with SpaceX's designating this a “Orbital” flight despite its plan to complete less than one complete orbit around the Earth. But from a dynamical and engineering standpoint, once you've achieved a perigee and apogee outside the atmosphere, you're in orbit, and it doesn't matter how many times you go around, even if it's less than one, before you perform a retrograde burn and re-enter the atmosphere. From a flight test perspective, the thermal, flight control, and mechanical stresses on the vehicle are identical, and allow testing return from an arbitrary orbital mission with the same orbital parameters. Targeting the splashdown off Hawaii avoids performing the re-entry over the western U.S., as would be the case for a return to the Starbase in Texas, with the attendant possibility of scattering Starship debris along the trajectory if it ends badly.

Here are the technical details of the application to the FCC. According to this document, the period covered by the application is 2021-06-20 through 2021-12-20, so the flight could occur any time in this June through December window.

Posted at 11:10 Permalink

Thursday, May 13, 2021

News You Can Use—How to Fill a Klein Bottle

Presented by Clifford Stoll.

Posted at 11:30 Permalink

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Finally—A Mind Controlled Flamethrower

Posted at 11:18 Permalink

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Sidewinder — The Missile That Changed Air Combat

Posted at 10:15 Permalink

Monday, May 10, 2021

Nicholas Wade—“Origin of Covid — Following the Clues”

This is a long (10,500 word) piece, but packed with well-documented facts about the nature and potential origins of the COVID virus of which you may not be aware if you rely upon the legacy media for information. Not only will you learn about details such as the furin cleavage site between the S1 and S2 sub-units of the spike protein and the extremely odd appearance of two adjacent CGG codones for arginine in the genome for that site, there's also a “follow the money” trail leading from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, which conducted its gain-of-function experiments on bat coronaviruses in a biosafety level 2 (BSL-2) laboratory, which is comparable to a U.S. dentist's office.

I've been describing this entire tawdry episode as the “Bonfire of the Experts”, in which self-appointed figures of authority have self-immolated by deception, outright lies, cover-ups, and constantly changing “truth”—“That was last week's truth. Today's truth is…”. Here is abundant additional fuel for the fire.

Posted at 12:36 Permalink

Sunday, May 9, 2021

SL-1: What Caused America’s First Nuclear Meltdown?

Here is the original U.S. Atomic Energy Commission film about the accident, investigation, and aftermath.

Posted at 15:13 Permalink

Saturday, May 8, 2021

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

Friday, May 7, 2021

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

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Cats—“If I Fits, I Sits”

Posted at 11:52 Permalink

Monday, May 3, 2021

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

Make a Space Suit from Duct Tape?

Paging Adam Savage….

Posted at 14:43 Permalink

Smallest Rational Right Triangle with Area 157

Posted at 11:41 Permalink

Sunday, May 2, 2021

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

Saturday, May 1, 2021

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

Friday, April 30, 2021

How Do Analogue Hygrometers Work?

Posted at 13:04 Permalink

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Apollo to Venus! The 1967 Bellcomm Manned Flyby Study

In 1967, NASA contractor Bellcomm, Inc., delivered a detailed study and mission plan for a manned flyby mission of Venus to be launched in November of 1973 using modified Apollo hardware and a single Saturn V booster. Here is the 177 page paper, “Manned Venus Flyby”, which I have read and found thoroughly fascinating. A fictional portrayal of this mission was the subject of Gerald Brennan's 2017 novel Island of Clouds.

Posted at 12:45 Permalink

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Forbidden Colours: Can You See Bluish Yellow?

Here is more about forbidden (or impossible) colours, including crossed-eye fusion pairs which may allow you to perceive bluish yellow and reddish green. Some people appear able to see them, others can't—it worked for me.

What's “crossed-eye fusion”? Here's a guide for how to do it, from the Solar System Live help documents.

Posted at 14:28 Permalink

Monday, April 26, 2021

Delta IV / NROL-82 Launch Replay

Posted at 22:02 Permalink

Mars Helicopter Ingenuity—Third Flight Video

Posted at 10:49 Permalink