Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quick Update

Just here at engineering camp. Not too much longer on the computer today, but I'll update a bit.

Apparently uranium has been found on the moon. BABlog link.

Ordered some stuff from Apogee on Thursday. It's in Denver now. More on that later.

That's all I've got time for now. More update-ness tomorrow.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Engineering Camp

Why I'll be gone till thursday. I've got an engineering camp up at UConn that I'm going to. Small chance that I'll have internet access up there, but otherwise I'll be back thursday.

Wikipedesis

When you go from wikipedia article to article to article, finding lots of cool stuff and opening dozens of tabs. Use it.

Source of the word here, about 2/3 of the way down.

Originally described here.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Massive Mid Power Order Planned

I plan to make a pretty massive order of mid-power stuff, in parts from multiple vendors. What I'm currently planning to buy:

From Apogee:
  • Cosmodrome Nike Apache: it's a large (52" long, 2.6" diameter) mid-power kit, roughly a 1:6.35 scale model. It's got thick-wall body tubes, nice balsa transitiona and nose cone, plywood fins, a solid recovery system, etc etc. Everything I need for both a large mid-power rocket and for my L1 certification. I might even be able to fly it on larger H motors in the 29/240 case, rather than the H128 which was the absolute maximum permissable in the Mozzie.

  • A 9x9" chute protector for the Nike Apache.

  • Epoxy clay, for the brick and to assemble certain parts of the Nike Apache.

  • A D21-4 or two. Because there's always something like Rama that can use a good kick in the pants.



From Hobbylinc:
Motors. Lots of motors; at least 6. F reloads for the 24/40 case; an E, F, and G for the 29/40-120 case, and a pair of F27R Econojets for the Mozzie and Nike Apache.

From Discount Rocketry:
  • A 29/40-120 case. It'll allow me to fly anything from E16s to G76s in one case, and I can buy single reloads (24mm loads come in 3-packs). Plus, you can't beat 6 dollar Es and 9 dollar Gs.

  • Possibly another motor case. Maybe an 18/20 system for the sub-3-dollar Ds, or maybe a new 29mm case alone, to use with the closures I already have for the 29/180-240 system.



From railbuttons.com:
Rail buttons. Duh. An even dozen series 1000 rail buttons at a quarter apiece. Rwo for the Nike Apache, 2 for the brick, and 8 left for whatever I want to fly off rails. I learned that at CATO - always have both 1/4" lugs and series 1000 rail buttons on largish rockets, so if you need to you can switch pads with a minimum of fuss.

I expect to spend about 150 to 180 bucks, for one large rocket, about 8-10 motors, a new motor case or two, and some needed parts.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Quick repairs update

1) I'm trying to reglue the broken boom on my Deltie Thunder. It's probably a lost cause, but I've got to try. I simply inserted wood glue into the broken joint and clamped it shut. Next I'll glue balsa and plywood pieces to the sides and top of the boom and clamp those to hopefully restrengthen it.

2) Working on my Orbital Transport. I've been putting fillets on the 4 vertical fins and the wing-body joints. I'll make another strake and reglue the seconf wing once I can find my ruler....

Also, I submitted reviews for the Madcow Mozzie and my Screaming Yellow Zonker! to EMRR today. Look for them in the next update. My current reviews.

Machnum Force update - advice needed

I did some more work on the Machnum Force today.

I found, alarmingly, that the CG was almost an inch behind the CP. Not good. I needed some weight in the nose to make it fly straight. Fortunately, as long as I keep it under 7 ounces unloaded it'll still break Mach.

I found a 300-count can of air gun pellets - 4.5mm lead pellets that pack pretty well - at Wally World for 3 bucks. I hollowed out over half the volume of my 29mm balsa ogive ( from BMS) with a drill clamped in place, which left a lot of volume. (Enough for about $2.30 worth of dimes, and then some). I'm glad for the wood glue coating - extra protection against splintering. I also made a solid, heavy attachment point, inspired by the way Madcow does their nose cone weighting. It's a long-screwed eybolt, plus a large, inch-diameter washer and three nuts. I poured a little shot in, the put on top a piece of pen tube for the long bolt. I poured shot around it for weight and to fix it in plac, then wood glue into it, to fill the space between the shot and for weight. Once I put the eyebolt - washer contraption on and epoxied it into place, I had an unbreakable, very solid 3.5-ounce nosecone with a solid anchor. Suitable for G power, or even a SU H if such a thing exists.

Then, to make sure, I actually did a swing test with it. Yes, with a 9-ounce rocket. I have a long roll of nice synthetic thread, of which I wrapped about three feet all around the fins and body tube so it would hold. I masking taped it so it's held right at the CG, and I swung (swing?) tested it. At low speeds, under about 8-10 m/s, it's not stable and tends to fly backwards, but above that it is stable, albeit with only half-caliber stability.

Now, the part I need advice with.

I assembled tonight the G78-7G loadable motor for the Machnum Force. Unfortunately, I forgot the forward insulator disk as I assembled it. Everything still fit together perfectly - Nothing's sliding around or anything like that. My question is, will it still fly okay, or will it CATO due to the missing disk? It's okay if it blows up during the delay or ejection - it just needs to survive 1.5 seconds of thrust to get to Mach.

*Sleep, goes to bed.*

Thursday, June 25, 2009

SpaceShipTwo Complete!

After 4 coats of paint and 3 hours of detailing and greeblage, it's finally complete!

First, on monday I applied two coats of white. That covered the blue nose cone, orangish-brownish-reddish tailcone, and graph paper wrap pretty well. Last night (tuesday night that is; I forget that it's the early morning already) I tried to color in the black areas with a sharpie, but it's a lot of area to cover and it wasn't going well.

Yesterday, I put a huge layer of masking tape over probably 2/3 of the area of the rocket, matching a dozen different curves rather nicely. It took almost 60 separate pieces of masking tape. I then put a nice thick coat of black paint on (as well as painting my twin saucers a nice shiny gold) and let it dry. Or so I thought. The moment i picked it up, the paint skin started tearing.

So I set it back down, but a second coat on, and let it dry for 4 hours. Then I took the tape off and it looks nice, if barren. So for the last 3 hours, I've been coloring in the bluish eye sections and adding all the details, like the windows, Virgin logo, DNA of flight, aircraft number (it's registered just like any other civilian aircraft), and even the tiny nose art.

First flight coming on an A10-3T, when I bother to pick some up. (I'm currently out).

Pictures also coming soon.

The brick

Yup, I'm gonna launch a brick.

The reason being, when I flew my Twin Saucers at CATO last saturday, someone compared them rather unfavorably to 'a brick with three motors strapped to it'. I'll be damned if I let that go untested. I plan to make an order pretty soon that'll include tubs of epoxy clay from Apogee. I figure that that stuff can hold anything to anything, even brick to motor tube. The average weight of a brick is around six pounds, so I'll either have to put rail buttons on it and launch it off the away pads at NERRF, or chop it in half. In half, it'll fly on Fs; whole it'll take Gs.

Of course, I'll put in the necessary stuff, like fins and a rather large parachute - at least 36".

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shrox Joins Quest

Artist and designer Donald Shrock, aka Shrox, has now joined up with Quest. He is now their 'creative director', which I take to assume he'll create cool-looking kits for them. He's the one who creates the Dynastar kits for Apogee, including the Lexxjet, Snarky, and Firefox SHX, as well as the Fliskits Alien8.

Considering that most of the stuff he's done for Apogee uses 24mm mid-power motors, I can't help but think that he'll be creating kits for the new D-F Thunderjet BP motors for Quest.

Announcement from Rocketry Planet

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What I've been doing

I haven't blogged in over two days - far too long a hiatus for a blog that I'm trying to update once a day, minimum.

Anyway, a rundown of what I've been doing:

Had a physical and a dental exam today. Everything is normal and I'm healthy. 135lbs, 5-10 and a half, blood pressure 112 over 68. Lucky me didn't even have to get a shot.

Got a checking account and a debit card, so I can more easily buy stuff both in stores and online, and don't have to carry cash. Next up: get an ebay account, and start buying enough rocketry stuff to put me on a couple of FBI watch lists.

Painted the SpaceShipTwo. It's got two coats of white on it and looks pretty good. I just gotta do touch-up with a brush, then apply this paint scheme. Since that's what's seen on the Virgin Galactic website, I assume it's the actual coloring scheme that with be used. Fortunately, that image is far better than anything I've found for the SS1. The Black-and-blue eye coloring, on both booms and the underside, will be the tricky part.

Began looking at large mid-power rockets for flying at CATO and for my cert flight. Narrowed it down to three. Emailed Tim Van Milligan about it and got a very nice response. Planning to buy and blog about soon.

Determined via CATO forums that the G75J is a legal motor at Salem, although it'll send most anything up pretty darn high - as high as an H128, in most cases, because the 15Ns higher impulse of the baby H is more than compensated by the longer burn (with lower speed and drag) of the G75.

Decided, or came pretty close to anyway, to buy a 29/40-120 casing rather than using SU motors or buying more 29mm cases. Became ecstatic at the idea of 6-dollar E motors, 8-dollar Fs, and 9-buck Gs. Debated buying an 18/20 case too for the under-3-dollar Ds.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SpaceShipTwo

After a couple months of having it sit on the bottom of my pile - literally - I finally got around to building it. I built most of the body on Friday and the rest today.

It's a 24mm diameter, ~6" long scale model, roughly a 1:90 scale, with a 13mm motor mount. It's got an Apogee nose cone half filled with clay, a 30" shock cord (I like having long shock cords, to minimize possible damage and facilitate removal from trees), a small body tube, and a tail cone made from the unidentified brown cone mentioned here. The fins are 1/8" balsa, except for the tiny tip fins which are 1/16" balsa. I'll use either a streamer or a small (~8") parachute.

It'll fly on 13mm motors - 1/2A3-2 and A10-3T to start, and possibly 1/2A3-4Ts and A3-4Ts if they'll work.

Pictures coming, eventually, after I get it painted and draw the DNA of Flight on the spine.

My April post on SS2

Launch Report #30 Part 2

Read the first part first!

My sixth flight of the day, and one of my best ever was the Nantucket Sound on an E18-4W reload.

I'm pretty proud of it; it was a difficult kit with unusal fin shapes and construction methods, like the doweled upper section and multiple paper shrouds, and I did a pretty good job. A number of people were impressed by it, both the CAP kids and the CATO folks who helped design it.


Here it is on the rack, along with the 'Ring Thing' (a Goonybird that rocked on an E9-8), a Launch Magazine missile on the 'wimpy' B6-4, the Screaming Yellow Zonker!, and a 3x13mm cluster that went pretty well too.


Here it is at the moment of ignition. It arced just a hair over the crowd under thrust with its impressive roar and bright white flame. Despite my sims, it deployed perfectly at apogee, and the chute came out cleanly.


Here it is under the 16" chute. Note the lack of motor casing. The casing ejected despite the motor hook; fortunately my dad recovered it from the grass. It landed safely on the supplied chute, but for landings with a heavy motor casing I'd suggest an 18" chute, and to always tape the motor in.

My next flight was the Orbital Transport on a C6-3. Folks were clearly impressed my the work I put into it. It took off cleanly and aquired a slight wobble due to the glider shifting. At ejection, the chute didn't fully deploy and it came down hard, losing a wing (recovered; will be reglued) and mising one strake - my only loss of the day was a 3 in2 piece of balsa. The glider, however, was at a perfect angle and speed and headed off towards Boston at 400 feet AGL. Just as it was leaving the field, though, it got buffeted in a gust of wind and turned right back into the field for a perfect applauded landing. Instead of losing the glider, I got it back after an amzing 45-second flight.

My final two flights were a Mosquito drag race: Mosquito on a 1/4A versus the Electric Mosquito on a 1/2A. They tied off the pad; I lost both in the glare after wards. I found the EM undamaged except for one loosened fin - repaired now - and the Mosquito with one fin broken off and the body tube wrecked. I trashed the tube but kept everything else for a rebuild.

Part Three: Other fliers


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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Launch Report #30 Part 1

The weather held off and we were able to hold CATO 150 today. The cloud cover held steady at around 1600 feet and the wind wasn't too bad. About 20 Civil Air Patrol kids were there, most flying small rockets on large motors, mostly Alphas, while others flew oddrocs of their own creation. They were occasionally annoying, and always took up the low-power racks, but I'm always glad to see new kids getting introduced to the hobby.

I flew 9 rockets on 10 motors, including one SU composite motor, one reload, and 8 BP motors. My total for today was 123.7 Ns, slightly less than a single G80 equivalent. I flew E motors for the first time, including my first White Lightning motors and my first sucessful use of a SU composite motor.

Note: Several posts will follow with more pictures, because I don't feel like creating phantom posts to funnel a dozen pictures into this one post.

My first flight of the day was the Mozzie on an E15-4. At that point, it looked like it was going to rain soon, so I wanted to get in at least one good flight. After a rack of CAP rockets, which were incredibly underpowered at worst and uneventful at best, I was the first off the away pads. It roared off the pad on with a spectacular burst of white-yellow flame and a pretty good roar. Since mine was the first high flight (~800 feet simmed) of the day, we had no idea of the winds, so when the chute deployed right at apogee, it started to drift... right into the trees. However, as you can see in the aerial view, there's a smaller field on one side of the field, separated by a small treeline. That other field saved both the Mozzie and another flier's rocket. I had to hike half a mile around the field to get to it, but it was well worth the exercise.

Me after the flight, with undamaged rocket and laundry.


The Nuclear Mosquito was next on a B6-4 to about 400 feet. The nylon chute tangled a bit due to the bad pack job by yours truly (see picture; click to embiggen), but it had enough drag to keep it from damage.


Before the Nuclear Mosquito, I'd tried twice to get the twin saucers in the air on the D12/C6 combo. Turns out, a bit of clay almost completely blocked the nozzle. I switched motors and it worked fine, making its usual 'chugga-chugga sound' that impressed the cadets. I drilled the bad D12 out tonight, making about a D13-0 booster that will still be legal.


Next came the Rokit on an A10-3T. Once I convinced the skeptical RSO of its flying abilities and legality, it took off straight and fast. The streamer wrapped a bit around one fin, prompting someone to say 'it looks like the streamer is coming out its butt' which has now migrated to my facebook quotes. It broke two fins on landing, and I may be retiring it. I might try to scare the RSO at NERRF, though, possible by flying it on a C rather than an A.

Fifth for today, and last for this section of the launch report, was the Screaming Yellow Zonker!. Nice flight, 250 straight up, good recovery, broke one fin a bit, repaired, yadda yadda yadda.

Part Two: flights 6-9
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Saturday's lineup, version 2

It looks like the rain might hold off, so hopefully I'll get to fly.

I've taken the Machnum Force out of the lineup as it still needs balancing, and added in instead the Screaming Yellow Zonker on an A8-3.

With any luck, my nezt post will be a luanch report.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I am a freak

I am a freak. For example, when I see this SMBC comic, I do not immediately read the caption and see the dirty joke. I look at the blackboard and think, 'Oooh, is that the Schrodinger equation?', and sure enough, I was right.

My second thought, as a result: why are some 'blackboards' green?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Watching the NRO launch

527 pm: watching the final countdown get ready. After a few weather delays, weather went green around 5:15 and they're currently finalizing for a 5:32 launch, the third of 3 launch windows.

529: off of 4 minutes and holding and into the countdown sequence. The images aren't too interesting- just the rocket sitting on the pad and venting steam ( or something else; condensation on the supercold propellant tanks), and inside images of flight control.

531: computers are now controlling the countdown. Almost there.

532: T-45 seconds....

533: Liftoff and everything looks good. Through the clouds, Mach 1, and Max Q.

536: Engine shutdown and clean separation. Well above the atmosphere.

538: Currently in 9-minute Centaur (upper stage) burn.

540: 12000 mph, 116 miles altitude, 7800 miles downrange.

542: 13740mph, 1300 downrange, 124 altitude. Jupiter (FL) tracking ends, Antigua station covering.

543: 14700 mph, 116 up, 1600 downrange.

545: 2 minutes to MECO (Main engine cutoff).

546: 108 up, 2092 out, 16250mph. Somewhere over libya. Antigua out.

547: MECO. Altitude 100 nautical mile (115 miles)

549: Still impressed that the animation on my screen is from the live transmitted data. In the coast period of 2:49.

551: Begining to ramp RCS motors for reorientation.

That's when I had to go to work. I was incredibly impressed by a number of things. First how NASA could make such a complex operation - launching a 2-ton orbiter to the moon - work absolutely perfectly. Second, I was impressed with the quality of what I was seeing. This was, streaming, live, a video feed that switched between several views of the rocket and launch control, then between the on-board cameras and ground cameras after liftoff. Once the groound on-board cameras lost tracking, It seamlessly switched to an animated version of the orbiter, showing its physical orientation, location on a digital globe, firing of thrusters, and continuously updated orbital data.
Third, I was simply amazed how all this is possible. Here I am, sitting my my living room, watching data transmitted from space to NASA, which is then put on the internet for anyone to watch, essentiall free to them. That's my tax dollars at work, and I'm proud.

Rockets Gone Wild

And once again a link to another of Steve Jurvetson's awesome picture montages, in this a compendum on CATOs. Amazing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Some stats for saturday

My physics final was 115 multiple-guess questions today. it was supposed to take the whole two-hour exams period. I was done in 40 minutes. Hence I had some time to do calculations, plus finally changing the program to allow for multiple stages. It now can calculate single-staged rockets, booster stages (both from a launch pad and mid-air ignition), and sustainers. It works very well, especially at low speeds, but multiple stages at high speeds and altitudes are problematic - it thinks a Comanche-3 on a full load should go 4200 feet (~2600 really), and I think the estimate of 2200 feet for D12-0 / B6-0 / A8-5 is a bit off, but I'll work on that.

Anyway, the calculations:
RocketMotorAltitude, ftMax velocity, fpsOptimum DelayDelay Used
Pen rocketMMX118732.11
Mosquito1/4A31701152.93
Electric Mosquito1/2A32271393.34
RokitA102681363.23
Nuclear MosquitoB63201933.34
Orbital Transport*C65112093.83
Comanche-3*: 1st boosterD12339323-0
2nd boosterB6639391-0
sustainerA8228811333 or 5
Twin saucers*: 24mm saucerD12104103-0
18mm saucerC64931620.50
MozzieE15W8162224.24
Nantucket Sound**E18W reload3452071.34
24mm SaucerF32T1841820.54
Machnum Force***G78G357215928.57


* The staging calculations aren't working quite right, and so upper stages go too fast and too high. In additions, the calculations give ridiculously high accelerations for UFO-shaped rockets becuase the tenth-of-a-second interval means that the drag is not quite continuous.

** The D12-3 and E9-4 are recommended for the Nantucket Sound, so an E18-4 should work despite the delay.

*** Very unlikely to be flown saturday. I'll save it for another time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Landing Large Planes on Carriers

I just finished reading Medusa's Child by John J. Nance. Decent aviation thriller, but the best part is the final scene.

WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS!!!

In the final scene, the 727 is crippled and far out over the Atlantic, leaking fuel, and in the middle of a hurricane. Their only chance for survival is the USS Eisenhower, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. Under normal conditions an airliner cannot land on a carrier; this would happen. However, in the novel, the carrier steams at flank speed (35 mph, or closer to 40 if you take the 'neither confirmed nor denied' option) into 75+ mph hurricane winds, creating a 110+ mph winds over the deck. The stall speed of a 727 is somewhere around that figure, so the pilot just turns the plane into the wind and lands at just 5 mph over-deck speed.
I think that is an incredibly cool idea. However, landing any plane during a hurricane, much less a crippled airliner on an aircraft carrier, is pretty suicidal. However, in good weather, it still may be possible. The plane would come across at stall speed, and quickly decelerate. Although it takes a long way to land an airliner at an airport, they can land quickly, as well as take off quickly. Consider this quote from an xkcd blag post:

"A 747’s engines produce a quarter of a million pounds of thrust. That is, each engine is powerful enough to launch a brachiosaurus straight up". That amount of thrust, reversed, can stop an airliner real quickly.

I can't find any proof that anyone has actually landed an airliner on a carrier. There's a few videos on youtube, but all are very-slow-speed animations that don't seem realistic.

However, other large planes have been landed on carriers. The C-130, with a 132-ft wingspan (compared to 108 for the 727 and 196-225 ft for 747 variants), has been sucessfully landed on a carrier (video), and was even investigated as a COD (carrier on-board delivery aircraft). Even at full load, it could land with the props at full reverse and then takeoff from the same spot, with tailhook nor catapult.

The U-2 spy plane (wingspan: 103 ft) has also been used on a carrier. Even the U-2R, with a 40% wider wing, was also sucessfully landed on carrier, and they were even investigated as possible anti-ship missile carriers.
Wikipedia even has a picture.

Finally, although I can't track down examples of airliners flying into very high wind speeds, this thread has a discussion on flying light planes at near-zero speeds, and even backwards, at around 40mph stall speeds.

The verdict: plausible.

Saturday's lineup, version 1

Here's what I currently have planned. 12 flights on 15 motors, including one of every motor class from MMX to G.

Pen rocket (or possibly crayon rocket*): MMX
Mosquito: 1/4A3-3T
Electric Mosquito: 1/2A3-4T*
Rokit: A10-3T

Nuclear Mosquito: B6-4 ***
Orbital Transport: C6-3
Comanche-3: D12-0 / B6-0 / A8-5 **
Twin saucers: D12-0 / C6-0

Nantucket Sound: E18-4W reload*
Mozzie: E15-4W***
24mm Saucer: F32-4T***
Machnum Force: G78-7G****

* First flight of rocket
** To be launched in a drag race with Al Gloer. This'll hopefully be my first 3-stage flight - my other two were failed attempts to launch Frankenstein into oblivion.
*** This motor is more powerful than I have previously used with the rocket.
**** only possible, depends on RSO approval and weather.

Purple Haze

Dick Stafford points out one hell of a cluster - a central H180 plus 60 C6 motors - a total of 745 Ns, or a small J. That's one of the largest clusters I've seen - I recall seeing a cluster of 200-something D11s or D12s on a Discovery Channel show once but this is the largest cluster I've seen reliably documented.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Driving #3

Making lots more progress.

Over the last couple of days I've gotten to drive around my neighborhood more, and in the one where my job is. That neighborhood has a confusing layout, narrow streets with lots of bushes, dark tree-covered areas, and tight turns and dead ends. There are lots of blind turns, weird intersections, and people walking dogs and riding wheeled contraptions. It's fun but tricky.

Then today, I was allowed to drive home. This involved driving over 3 miles on the main road plus a mile in two different nieghborhoods. I hit 50 for the first time, but I stayed in control and legal and it was awesome!

Exams

I've got exams over the next two days, so blogging will be lighter than usual. I've got an easy precalculus exam and a difficult chem one tomorrow, then an easy physics exam on wednesday and I'm done.

Fortunately, except for playing at the graduation ceremony on thursday, after wednesday I'm into summer, to be filled with lots of rocketry and programming and calculus and other fun geekery. The fun will start on Friday with prep for the saturday CATO launch and then pictures and recap on saturday.

Hooray for summer!

Happiness comes in a little brown box.

A little brown box? A little brown box.

Anyway...
My Apogee order came today. Very fast shipping - it was at my door stop less than 8 real days after I ordered, and they got it out the same day I ordered. They even threw in an instructional CD and a pack of epoxy to assemble the reloadable motor.

I am now the proud owner of a 29mm forward seal disk, an E15-4W, and a G78-7G LMS kit. The seal disk is small and uninspiring but needed for flying the very largest 29mm motors. The E15-4 came, impressively, not with the annoyingly picky and tricky Copperhead, but with a single Quest Q2G2 igniter for high reliablity and ease of use. This means that if I wanted to, I could fire this composite motor with my normal 6V launch system instead of springing for an expensive and heavy 12V system. I'll definitely buy a pack or two for my reloadable motor the next time I buy stuff from Apogee.

I haven't opened the G78 yet. I may or may not assemble it soon, because it's doubtful whether or not I'll get ot fly it saturday - it's CATO's first time on their new field and this would be pushing it, especially before we're familiar with the field's characteristics.

Update from later: I have opened the G78. It's very impressive. It's huge. The fuel grains are tiny, though, for having 105Ns of impulse. I'm glad that it comes with a Fire Fire Jr igniter rather than a copperhead - hooray for wired igniters. I now currently own every motor size from 1/8A to G - all 10 non-regulated motor classes. I plan to fly one from each on saturday. Hopefully.

The FSD is as heavy as a 1/2A3, and its internal hole is just as big. I'm still trying to comprehend just how big an powerful these 29mm motors are.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

TEP

Yet another reason why I want to go to MIT.

A frat house with a musical staircase, a couch suspended from the ceiling, a foam pit (remind anyone of xkcd?), an online tour of their frathouse, and a cobbled-together in-house Tepophone™ system that allows you to call all the individual rooms, plus Mr. Washer and the Ms. Dryers to see if they're busy.

WANT TO LIVE THERE.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Driving #2

It's been a while since my last driving post, and I've actually gotten somewhat better. Today I drove 8.5 miles around my neighborhood and an adjacient one in about 45 mins. I even got to go out on a main road, and even on that short strech I hit 35mph (11mps). I've gotten far better on turns and gradual accelerations and such. I hope to be able to drive to work within a week or two.

Big Bada Boom

Incredibile pictures. Wow. Wow. Wow.

Those are absolutely incredible shots of CATOs of big motors. Big big motors. The first is carrying 8 pounds of black powder, which I estimate to be about a K motor (1 oz ≈ 20Ns since a 17Ns D12 has 0.88oz of BP).

The fourth one is probably the best. It'sa picture of a P motor overpressurizing about blowing its top. The front half of the rocket is shooting gracefully into the sky - in front of a HUGE mountain in the background. The launch rail is being twisted and thrown from it spot. The best part: you can see the supersonic shock wave just feet from the pad.

That's what a 400mm zoom at 1/3000 second shutter speed will get you, as well as a quick trigger finger and skills at getting some of the best rocket photos out there.

Steve Jurvetson's page on scienceblogs.

Superfluidity

Sascha Grant points out this video of superfluidity. Superfluidity is a weird thing that happens when you bring liquid helium below 4 K. It can do strange things like climb glass (it has no viscosity) and leak through ceramic beakers. It has zero viscosity, zero entropy, and infinite thermal conductivity. It conducts heat in sound-like waves that move at 20mps at 1.8 K, a phenomenon known as second sound. The thin films, called Rollin films, that can climb glass display waves known as third sound. They act like ocean waves, except that the restoring force is not gravity but the Van der Waals attraction.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Binder Fun

I keep all sorts of stuff on my binder - printouts of thrust curves and xkcd comics, lists of jokes, a list of unusual units (like attoparsecs), and more. My latest decoration, though, is a high-quality hand-drawn version of this:


It's taken about 2 hours of work over four nights, but the current result is an almost-finished fake wikipedia page about the binder it will be on, including the familiar wiki background, an infobox, information about the binder, and even a carefully drawn wikipedia logo, complete with all the little letters. The only difference between it and a real page, besides the subject, is that the little notice at the top says "Help us provide fake content to the world by donating today". (The real version has 'free' instead of 'fake'. The languages tab and infobox design are based off this article.

Three bits of other stuff:
1) Thanks to Dick Stafford for the shoutout about the online CP calculator I found.

2) Updated reading list.

3) Computer tip of the moment: in Vista, holding [Ctrl] and scrolling the mouse wheel will change text and image size in IE.

1 Year!!!!!

It's been exactly one year since I started my blog. It's been quite possibly the best year of my life.

I've blogged about all sorts of stuff - starting with destroying a scanner and a primitive Invaders program, going into electronics and the first History day post (which I hope to make at least a weekly feature), my epic lists of semiconductor parts, buying a telescope, and that's just before summer ended. I then got back into model rockets, with a few non-numbered launches before I started numbering (I'm up to 29 numbered launch reports), with side excursions including school, astronomy, programming, and of course this infamous post. I joined the NAR, complained about comcast, bought my first composite motor, started making parachutes, made more rockets, and went to my first CATO meeting in years. I discovered the fun of 'mad science', and the usefulness of picasa for posting photos. I amde rockets out of legos, old motor casings, and other kits. I launched rockets in subzero weather. I saw venus in broad daylight and started programming again. I wrote and rewrote a simulation program for rockets. I crashed a 3-stage rocket and destroyed most of it. I went to NARCON and bought a shitload of stuff. I've classified galaxies, got my permit, and bought 29mm HPR casings. I reported on old-world motors and got linked to for the first time. I've chatted with a virtual God and built a very real machbuster. And I've blogged about it. A lot.

In meatspace, I've had an absolutely awesome year as well. It started out with (maybe) breaking my wrist, but quickly got better. I've (in no real order)survived almost my entire sophomore year, made some friends and made peace with a few enemies, gotten a job, survived my sister going off to college, gone to ARML for a second time, gone to Oregon, become a little indie rock nerd, discovered Questionable Content, learned a lot about math and science and rocketry and programming, gotten an A in English, turned 16, gotten my permit, rocked the house with Jazz Band, and more. Oh, and I've got an absolutely awesome girlfriend =D


I'm truly greatful for the comments and advice I get from all my readers. You really make this worthwhile. This is by far the largest project I've ever done - 1 year, 365+ posts, and between 50,000 and 100,000 words. I've had over 2300 views during that time - averaging over 5 views a day (besides my own visits to blog).

I've tried to live up to my promise of 'always entertaining, always intelligent, mostly safe, and lacking enough high explosives'. I hope that all of you like what I do here, because I like blogging and I really appreciate your readership and comments. I plan to continue this blog for a long time and I hope to continue to entertain and teach you.

Three words of thanks: First, to Mandachan for inspiring me to blog and putting up with my uber-competitiveness (and letting me copy many of her ideas), and second, to Dick Stafford for taking a look and putting me on his blogroll, as well as being a general source of information for my random rocketry questions. Third goes to my own sister for teaching me a little lesson in humility, as well as being awesome.

Have an awesome day, and I hope to have lots more cool, geeky stuff up here for your enjoyment before I next do a year's-end post. It's been a fun ride, and it's nowhere near over.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Various Stuff

1) Ordered my stuff from Apogee tonight - a G78-7G for Machnum Force, an E15-4W for the Mozzie, and a 29mm forward seal disk for my 29/240 casing. I chose to go with the -7 delay instead of the proper 10-second delay. First, ejecting 3 seconds and about 250 feet sooner assuses that it won't reach the 4000 ft waiver. Second, in case it does go unstable or such, that's 3 seconds sooner that the streamer will be out and three seconds' less chance of danger. I'm asking on the CATO forums if anyone has a launch tower I can borrow so I don't have to use a launch lug.

2)According to this useful calculator, the CP for the Machnum Force is at 28.6cm, or 11.25" from the nose - about an inch back from the leading edge of the fins. This means that less than half an ounce of nose weight will ensure 1-caliber stability.

3)cool.

4)Thing I learned last night: don't wet-sand wood glue. bad things happen. Took be half an hour with steel wool to get in back to smooth and shiny.

5) Now I gotta figure out what rockets and motors to fly. Mozzie on the E15-4 and Machnum Force on the G78-7G (pending approval from the club president). 24mm saucer on one of my F32s probably. *looks downstairs* One of my mid-sized mosquitos on a 1/2A. (Maybe the entire mosquito fleet even). Nantucket Sound on an E18-4W.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Interstellar Stuff

First, a listing of all 153 molecules known to exist in interstellar space (2 more are unconfirmed; 9 can also be found with deuterium replacing a hydrogen). Among the interesting molecules are a linear C5 molecule, Silane, and an SiC4 complex.
An interesting chart showing the interchange between hydronium, water, water ions, hydroxide ions, HCO ions, and H2 molecules in the interstellar medium:


And an interesting proposal: for SETI to use the 4462.4 Mhz spectrum for all interstellar broadcasts. It's equal to pi times the fundamental hydrogen frequency of 1420.42 Mhz. The irrational factor of pi prevents it from being mistaken as a harmonic of the fundamnetal frequency, yet still allows the two to be connected. It's in a mostly unused part of the Ku microwave band.

Isotopes

First off all, the incredibly useful complete table of nuclides.

Second, some of the stranger isotopes of hydrogen. Deuterium, 2H, has a neutron in the nucleus. It is stable and forms heavy water, D2O. Bacteria can grow in heavy water, but mammals become sterile at 25% replacement and die at 50% replacement of regular water due to different cellular effects. It's 11% more dense than regular water and is used as a moderator in some nuclear reactors.
Tritium, 3H, is radioactive with a 12-year half life. It's used in self-powered lighting application.
Hydrogen-4 thru Hydrogen-7 are all artificially synthesized and have half-lives in the 10-22 second range.

Third, strange Helium isotopes. The diproton is a nucleus with just two protons and no neutrons.
Isotopes with up to 8 neutrons have been prepared.

Fourth, neutrons have three main isotopes. Single neutrons are unstable and decay into a single proton and electron and antineutrino - beta decay. Dineutronium and tetraneutronium are theoretical and have not been synthesized. The former should be fairly stable; the latter will not.

Finally, see exotic atoms.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Strange Carbon Allotropes, Part 2

This is part 2 of 2 on strange carbon allotropes, part 3 of 3 on carbon, and part 5 of at least 6 on somewhat obscure and long-winded chemistry topics.

Atomic carbon, C1, is a short-lived species of monatomic carbon that forms in the arc between two carbon rods under high voltage and certain conditions - the same way as making buckyballs. Other than that, the article is greek to me.

Diatomic carbon, C2, is a normally impossible molecule. Normally a quadruple bond would be the only way that 2 carbons, with 4 valence electrons each, could bond. However, a quadruple bond includes a delta bond, which carbon cannot form - it has only p and s electrons, and not the d electrons for a delta bond. Instead, they form an unstable double bond with 2 pi bonds, but no sigma bond. It's rather rare; however, emission of diatomic carbon creates most of the light from fainter carbon.

Tricarbon, C3, is a small carbon cluster that, like diatomic carbon, appear mostly in the ion clouds of comets. It can also be found in interstellar space and in stellar atmospheres. It also appears in the middle of certain combustion reactions, but never as a product.

Prismane C8 is a theorized but not yet created metastable allotrope which would take the form of an elongated triagonal dipyramid.

Three other predicted forms are known. Hexagonite would have the same hexagonal layers as graphite, but with another carbon atom in the center of ech unit cell. Second, at extremely high pressures, diamond may act metallic. Third, at pressures above 1 terapascals, diamond may morph into an 8-atom cubic phase.

Fullerenes are a set of organized carbon structures. they include tubes (nanotubes), buckyballs, and nanobuds (buckyballs connected to nanotubes). Buckyballs are roughly spherical clusters of carbon atoms. C60, C70, and C540 balls are known, as well as a possible B80 boron buckyball.
Buckyballs can hold atom(s) inside them; this could be used to store simgle atoms or molecules for certain applications in nanotechnology.

D-Day

D-Day was 65 years ago. By this time 65 years ago, Allied forces had parachuted in under cover of darkness and landed on beaches at dawn under heavy fire and captured miles of heavily defended coastline in the greatest military effort even seen. Commandoes scaled the cliffs to attach gun emplacements and heavily defended bunkers. The French Resistance wreaked havoc behind the German lines. Ships, from midget submarines to battleships to landing craft, attacked the shore, cleared the way, and brought men ashore. The infantrymen landed on deathtraps of beaches and yet fought their way out to free the people of France and Europe from tyranny. Altogether, over 156,000 men defeated a vastly larger force on their way to defeat the greatest evil ever seen on the planet. Thousands gave their lifes in the pursuit of freedom.

We salute you.




(I encourage all of you to read The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan or to watch the movie adaptation. It is a incredible, sobering account of the landings from the first in to the final securing of the beachheads.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Strange Carbon Allotropes, Part 1

Besides diamonds, carbon has another dozen or so allotropes, all of which are also very strange. This first part includes the massed molecules; the second part will include smaller carbon groups.

Lonsdaleite, also called hexagonal diamond (diamond is normally cubic), is an sp3-hybridized compound (like diamond) with similar characteristics. It forms when graphite-containing meteorites impact the earth. The heat and force of the impact turns the graphite into diamond-like material that still retains the hexagonal shape of the graphite. Although natural samples only have a Mohs hardness of 7-8 due to impuritites, compared to 10 for diamonds, pure sample could theoretically be 58% ahrder than diamond.

Graphite, better known as pencil lead, is formed of layers of hexagonal sheets that slide easily over each other. this allows it to slide onto paper, or over each other for lubricants. Whereas diamond is one of the strongest known solids, graphite is one of the weakest. It has some applications in high-temperature crucibles. Pyrolytic graphite, which is artificially produced, has some covalent bonds across the sheets. This make sit stronger for uses like rocket nozzles, as well as making it diamagnetic, and thus able to levitate stably over a block of magnets.

Although the layered sheets of graphite make it very weak, graphene, a single hexagonal sheet of carbon, has incredible strength and amazing properties. It's incredibly strong for just a single layer of atoms; in fact, it's the strongest material known. It's got very strange electrical, quantum, and semiconducting properties that I can't even begin to understand, much less simplify and explain. It shows promise for semiconductor devices like field-effect transistor, intergrated circuits, gas sensors (since its entire area is exposed), transparent electrodes for LCDs, biodevices, and ultracapacitors capable of holding farads of charge in components that currently hold just microfarads.
The craziest thing about graphene, though, is its reflective ability. It reflects 2.3% of light (exactly: 2.29253%), a very high amount for a single layer of atoms. However, the even cooler thing is that number, 0.0229, is exactly equal to pi times a, the fine structure constant.

Glassy carbon is an irregular form of carbon that combines glassy and ceramic properties with those of graphite. Like other glassy substances, it exhibits conchoidal fracture.

Amphorus carbon is carbon that has absolutely no regular bonding, exhibits 'dangling' bonds, and is not as glassy as glassy carbon. Impure forms of it include coal and soot.

Tetrahedral amphorus carbon, also known as diamond-like carbon, is a general term for 7 different forms of amphorus carbon that exhibit diamond-like properties. It contains high numbers of the sp3 bonds seen in diamond. It's very hard and mostly used for coating for drill bits, molds and dies, engine components for racing vehicles, and as protection on the platters of hard drives.

Activated carbon is charcoal, mostly pure carbon, that has been processed to increase its surface area - to about 500 square meters per gram. It's used in gas purification, filtering, and removing pollutants from water systems.

Chaoite, aka white carbon, is a grey-white allotrope of carbon that may or may not exist - the experimental evidence is uncertain. If it exists, and most chemists think it doesn't, then it may be a form of carbyne, a string of carbon atoms connected by alternating single and triple bonds.

Carbon nanofoam is 'a low-density cluster-assembly of carbon atoms strung together is a loose three-dimensional web' (quote from wikipedia). Each cluster contains about 400 carbon atoms and the overall structure, which has negative curvature due to the inclusion of heptagons in the web, is like an aerogel, but with 1% the density - only about 3 times that of air. It's a poor electrical conductor - unlike carbon aerogels - but below -183° C (its Curie point) it is highly magnetic, and even at higher temperatures it can be attracted by magnets.

Carbon nanotubes are cylindrical tubes formed of hexagonal carbon structures. The tubes are formed entirely of sp2 bonds. They have incredible strength and exhibit unusual effects, such as concentric nanotubes sliding and rotating within each other, in essence forming nearly perfect bearings. They have unusual electrical properties, including high current-carrying capacity and semiconductor effects that vary depending on the structure of the nanotube.
Their potential applications are nearly endless; however, their toxicity is not yet fully determined and may be significant. Their hight tensile strength leads to uses including sports equipment, bulletproof vests, tear-resistant clothes, better concrete, long-lasting flywheels for energy storage, and the 'space elevator'. Electrical applications include artificial muscles, 'buckypaper' for heat sinks and Faraday cages, conductive films, motor brushes, magnets, optical ignition of small explosive charges, solar cells, ultracapacitors, superconductors, displays, and transitors, as well as high-speed field-effect transistors and diodes.
They may be useful for air, water, and hydrogen filters, as well as 50GHz mechanical oscillators, membranes, and surfaces slicker than teflon.

All information from Wikipedia.

Diamonds

Everyone knows about diamond. It's the shiny, clear stuff that you pay way too much for to put on rings. It's also one of the best naturally occuring thermal conductors, the hardest natural material known, and are made in volcanoes, meteorite impacts, and in the lab - in fact, 80% of diamonds, most for industrial purposes, are made in labratories.

They come in all colors, with off-white the most common and certain rare colors being extremely valuable, even more so than clear diamonds. Type 1A diamoonds, representing 98% of all finds, have primarily nitrogen impurities and can be clear or pale yellow, because they absorb blue light. Type 1B (0.1%) have more diffuse nitrogen impurities and absorb green light as well, leading to darker yellow and brown colors.

Type IIA diamonds are about 2% of finds and have few impurities, but have small misalignments in the tetrahedral crystal matrix, leading to colors like red, pink, yellow, orange, brown, and even purple. Type IIB, about 0.1%, have boron and nitrogen impurities which absorb red, orange and yellow light, leading to clear and grey diamonds, plus of course beautiful blues like the Hope Diamond.

Radiation, either from a natural nuclear reactor or an artificial source, will turn various greens and blue regardless of diamond type. This is because 12C atoms in the diamond turn to 13C and 14C, which absorb different wavelengths and thus show the different color.

Natural blue diamonds, though not the radioactivity-created ones, are semiconductors due to the boron impurities. Artificial diamonds are also being investigated for possible uses as electrodes for DNA manipulation, radioactivity detectors, high-power switches, detectors for redox reactions, and electrodes for situations that would destroy other electrodes. In addition, it can be doped like any other semiconductor, creating high-temperature transistors, high-frequency field-effect transistors, UV LEDs, and other high-demand, high-energy applications.

Diamonds are generally known as the hardest thing on the planet. However, there is one thing that is harder: more diamonds! Or more exactly, diamond nanorods.

Coming next: other strange Carbon compounds.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

20 Years

It's been exactly 20 years today since democracy made its last stand in China at the Tiananmen Square protests. 1 million people flooded the huge open square (by far the world's largest) after a prominent progressive politician, Hu Yaobang, died. The Chinese regime took the worst possible steps - and decided to force everyone out of the square, deaths be damned. When the blood and dust settled, at least 200 and possible as many as 5000 lay dead with hundreds of other missing. One badass hero, however, emerged for a few brief minutes to challenge the tanks. Such is the secrecy and nastiness of the Chinese government that 20 years later, neither the lone rebel's name nor fate is known and may never be known.

20 years later, China is just as evil. It's a world power now, and a few people do have a few rights, but it stands alone as the only large country to censor its presses and the internet, to prevent an entire country from regaining its freedom, and to kill thousands of its citizens every year, or force them to work in horrific conditions, without batting an eye. It's had an Olympics come, which instead of forcing the country to come clean about its human rights and democracy failures, instead let the government cover its collective ass and bury their tracks under yet more eminent domain.

Wake up, China.

Sorry for the rant here, but I'm a bit peeved at the moment. Except for a brief bit on D-Day on saturday, I'll try to make this the last politicking here for a long while.

Delta, Phi, and Gamma Bonds, Oh my!

Sorry for the crazy title, but it makes a little more sense at leats than the last thing I had down...

Anyway, continuing my at-least-2-part series of weird chemistry stuff (more if and when I feel like it), some more incredibly rare bonding stuff. In this case, it's not large groups of single hybridized bonds, but instead multiple bonds.

Sigma bonds, aka single bonds, involve just 2 electrons per bond, for example the H-F bond in hydrofluoric acid. They're named after the s-group electrons that form the simplest sigma bonds (for example the simplest possible molecule, H2, has a single sigma bond between the two hyrdrogen atoms).

Pi bonds, formed from p-group orbitals (hence the Greek lettering name), form the double and triple bonds in compounds like O2 (double) and N2 )triple). Pi-bonds are weaker than sigma bonds, but they can use more electrons from a single atom than sigma bonds, allowing non-halogens to form diatomic molecules.

Now we enter a stranger, oft unexplored land.

Delta bonds form, predictably, from the combining of d-group orbitals. They can form quadruple bonds, involving the inner metallic elements (Re, W, Cr, Mo), quintiple bonds, first discovered in 2005 in dichromium compounds, and sextuple bonds, so far known only in W2 and Mo2.

Theorectically, phi and gamma orbitals, corresponding to overlappping f and g orbitals, are possible, but none have yet been observed.

The next two topics: superacids and carbon in all its forms, including the strange dicarbon molecule.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Configuration Numbers Greater Than N=7

Quite possible the geekiest string of words I've ever put together.

Anyway, an introduction. For determining the molecular geometry ('shape' for those not freaks like me) of simple molecules, a system called VSEPR (Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion) theory can be used. Basically, the idea is that which a group of atoms is clustered around the central atom, the available electron pairs will move to the farthest points on the sphere. When there's four electon pairs, for example, as in methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), and water (OH2), the four pairs become the vertices of a tetrahedron. However, not all those elctron pairs are always taken - ammonia only uses 3, so it's in the shape of a pyramid, while water only uses two and is simply bent (the famous mickey-mouse shape).

For two available pairs, the electrons are simply in a line; for 3 they form the vertices of a triangle; for 4 a tetrahedron, for 5 a trigonal bipyramid; for 6 an octahedron; and for 7 a pentagonal bipyramid. For above 7, though, there's very few compounds / ions that fit. This Dartmouth site, though, has the 8-pair ion XeF8-2 and the 9-pair ion ReH9-2.

While discussing this in class with my chem teacher (I ask him questions that are way above the scope of the class, just for fun) I figured out three possible configurations for the 8-pair vertices. One was a cube, which I rejected because it put the electrons awfully close together. The second I can't remember, but the third, which is correct, is the square antiprism - sort of a cube, but with one face twisted 45°.

Here is another good site, this one with more information on all the hybridized electron orbitals, including the 8-pair, 9-pair, and weird cerium-nitrate 12-pair groups.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blog Stuffs

1) Added my reading list to the sidebar. I'll try to update it twice a week.

2) Going to start reading through my old posts for my coming retrospective. Should be interesting.

3) Only 8 more days for 12 posts to make 365. Can I make it? I think so.

Human Brain: the computer

According to some stuff I've been readinng, the storage capacity of the human brain is about 3 terabytes, with roughly one bit per neuron, although our brains have more efficient storage algorithms than computers. However, our RAM - instantaneous memory, is limited to seven different things, or about 2.5 bits.

Hence my about me description on facebook:
Generic Humanoid Carbon Unit. Size 1.05 smoots, weight 658N. Approximately 65% O, 18.5% C, 9.5% H, 3.3% N. Contains one carbon-based processor unit with 3TB ROM and 0.3B RAM. Primary memory type: non-addressed physical location-based. Operating temperature 310K; permissable temperatures 270K to 315K. Warning: contains large amounts of utterly useless information. Long term exposure will turn your brain to jelly, or make you smarter.

Machnum Force Revealed!

Finally: the obligatory pictures. Here's what it looks like. 17" long, about 32mm in diameter with a 29mm mount capable of accpeting 8" long motors. The block lettering in hand-drawn with pencil and Sharpie. It was almost perfect, but it got smudged by the wood glue coating.




Here's it standing up. Note the weird-colored fins - one was formerly a clementine crate and the other two from a small plywood helicopter model. Neither are great quality, but they're still pretty strong.













This last picture is a bit squished, but from L -> R: Machnum Force, 29/180 casing with closures, Mach my Day (18mm Machbuster attempt), 24/40 casing. The streamer is laid out in front.


From comparing to a couple of D12s, it was about 1.2 ounces empty (with recovery system but without motor or wadding), which would have put it close to Mach 1.3 (definitely supersonic) and about 3000 feet on a G78G - it was so light that it would have slowed down quick after burnout. (Edited 9/18: Actual values, after adding nose weight: 5oz, 1.1, 4000 ft.)

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Coupla things

1) I'll be implementing a 'What I'm reading' gadget in the sidebar soon. Shouldn't take too much html.

2) The Machnum Force is absolutely done. The shock cord mount has been wood-glued over for heat protection, all gaps filled in, and the nose cone tied on. All I have to do is pack the recovery system, stick in the motor, and fly. Pictures coming tomorrow.

3) I'll be buying some stuff from Apogee tomorrow - most likely a G78G-10 29mm SU motor for the Machnum Force, and a 29mm forward seal disk for use with my 29/240 RMS casing. More details tomorrow.

4)I've reached version 3.2.0 of my rocket simulation program. It's got over 70 motors from MMX to the Aerotech N2000W in it, with a fast flight simulator, parachute size / descent rate calculator, motor data display, thrust curve display, and the ability to change the air density, gravity, and latitude. All in 11kB. It's not Rocksim, but it surpasses RASP-93 by a lot and even approaches SpaceCad in functionality. Currently, it works perfectly, right down to drag realistically doubling at Mach 1.2. Next up: changing the motor data files to be more space-efficient, adding staging and drawing / CP, and a better startup animation.

The weight of the world

Just playing around with the Wolfram Alpha search engine and found some interesting stuff. For example: the total weight of Earth's population is almost exactly 1012 pounds. That's 1 trillion pounds, or 500 million tons. According to Google search results, that's equal to:
China's annual grain output
China's annual steel output,
The annual global plastics production
The annual coal output of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region
The total coal reserves of Jambi ( a province of Sumatra)
The amount of Iranian copper deposits discovered in the last 3 years
Russia's annual oil outputs
The annual CO2 output of the new power plants China built in 2006 alone
The amount of asphalt laid annually in the US
The upper bounds of Vietnam's estimated oil reserves
Venezuela's bauxite ore reserves
One-third of annual US Carbon dioxide emissions
The US's annual crop production
a cube of iron 399m on a side
a cube of gold 296m on a side
a cube of hydrogen 17.7km on a side
a cube of lead 353m on a side
a cube of osmium 280m on a side
a cube of white dwarf 7m on a side (at 1400000g per cc, or about a million times the sun's density)
a cube of water (or humans) 794m on a side