Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Project A119: The Flash

So, then. This project A119. Just how bright would the flash have been?

Fortunately, we have a pretty nifty benchmark. On August 11, 2004, astronomers observed the first known Perseid impact on the moon. What was calculated to be a 12g impactor hit the moon at 61,000 meters per second (approximately 137,000 mph), creating a flash lasting 1/30th of a second. Its visual magnitude was 9.5.

Each visual magnitude is 2.5* times fainter than a magnitude lower, and lower numbers are brighter. Thus, Jupiter at -4 is 100 times brighter than a magnitude 1 star.

E= 1/2 * mass * velocity2, so E = 1/2*12g*(61000m/s)2 = 22 Megajoules. (=2.2 * 107 J)

The largest US nuclear test was the Castle Bravo test of 1954, with a yield of 15 Megatons of TNT, which equals 63 petajoules (= 6.3 * 1016 J).

Assuming the energy / light ratio is similar, we can calculate just how bright the flash would have been.

6.3E16** / 2.2E7 = 2.9E9 times brighter. That's 2.9 BILLION*** times brighter.

log2.52.9E9 = 23.8 magnitudes brighter than 9.5. 9.5 - 23.8 = magnitude -14.3.

The full moon, by comparison, is magnitude -12.7. The nuke would be 4.3 times brighter than the full moon.

* actually the fifth root of 100, 2.512, so that 5 magnitudes is equal to 100 times difference in brightness

** Exponential notation. 1.5E4 = 1.5*104 = 1.5*10000 = 15000

*** American billion - 109

Project A119

So, back in the 1950s, it was the height of the cold war. The US and the Soviet Union were engaged in the sort of contest that usually involves a small change of painful zipper mishaps. The Space Race was just heating up, and everyone was thinking big. So, the newly-formed NASA formulated a plan to land men on the moon... and the Air Force formulated a plan to nuke it.

I only wish I was kidding. Project A119, guys and ladies.

Bad Driver Awards for Today

Honorable mention: the truck driver who stopped without warning right where the road narrows to 1.5 lanes, leaving me stopped short and forcing the car moving in the opposite direction to squeeze around me, while I could not move. A turn signal - and perhaps parking 20 feet in either direction where the road is wider - would have been real nice.

Runner-up: The lady in the zippy blue Subaru on I-395. I'm in the left lane going just over the speed limit, with heavy rain coming down, so I'm just about maintaining position in the lane. This lady zooms up behind me and gets about 5 feet on my bumper, and stays there till we're past the mass of cars in the right lane. I put on my right blinker, and she decides then is the time to zip around me.

And the winner is: the vapid moron in the blue-grey SUV, who decided to pull out short in front of me on Route 12. And not accelerate. With no headlights / tailights on. In ridiculously hard rain.

What is it about rain that brings out the bad drivers?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Marine Science Paper

The final toll:

7 pages of text (1.5 spaced 12-point font)
2254 words

2 giant processor-eating 3D graphs

9 pages of data printouts

Between plant data and elevation data for both 2004 and 2010, slightly under 1400 data points

And a whole lot of time. But it's done, turned in yesterday. Now I can get back to the important stuff, like blogging, and Nethack.

Oh yeah, and college essays and homework. Those too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More Nerd Rock

Continuing on my theme of nerds rocking out, I present Jefferson Airplane playing 'White Rabbit'. It's about Alice in Wonderland. (and drugs...)

One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small / and the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all / Go ask Alice / when she's ten feet tall

More Frustration

I brought my laptop into class today to work on my Marine Science paper. My functioning computer, and an actual mouse. (I hate touchpads and one-button-no-right-click Mac mice with equal furor).

But... the wireless networks don't work quite right. There were 12 networks that I could access in the Marine Science room, all with the same wireless key. Of the 5 with a strong signal, All failed to connect.

I'm now in the caf in study. Different wireless network works, but it's slow. Can't use Google Maps, can't open Google Docs.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Much Frustration

We're working on big giant projects for Marine Science. 6-page papers, with research, graphs, everything. I'm lucky enough to have two intelligent partners who care about their grades. But that doesn't mean there's not a lot of frustration for me.

First, the computers. As I mentioned a few days ago, most of the computers are old crappy laptops. The internet doesn't work on many of them. Or the battery is bad. Or it doesn't log on. Or the screen hinges are randomly loose. Can't get any work on them.

Even the good Macs have troubles. Some can't run the internet browser and Excel at the same time. They run an outdated version of Safari. Frequently, instead of saving, Excel crashes.

The most frustrating thing, though, is the data. One group, responsible for two of the seven elevation plots, completely bolloxed the data up. I noticed yesterday, when the teacher was gone on a field trip. It took till the end of class today to fix it and three other errors that popped up.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Finished the Nell side-frame-things

Yeah, the big long pieces of framework that connect the forward and aft sections. The ones made out of BT-2 tubing and 1/4" dowels. Yeah, finished those.

Next: gluing the whole rocket together. And repairing half my fleet.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Launch Report #42: CATO 165

Today was an absolutely perfect day for flying. No wind, high clouds, no rain, no bothersome farmers, and a small turnout that meant no waiting for a pad to launch.

First flight was the Orbital Transport on a C6-3. Despite the lack of wind, it did a spontaneous left turn at about 30 feet of altitude and crashed about 200 feet away. As I turned to collect the wreckage, the ejection charge fired, leaving an eerie mini-mushroom cloud of smoke marking its position in the crash. Although the impact was at speed, the only damage is a crimp in the forward body tube and a single missing fin. The glider is undamaged, and repairs should not be terribly difficult.

Second flight was the SR-71 on an E18-4W reload. The Copperhead igniter burned but failed to start the motor, so I replaced it with a more reliable FirstFire Jr, and it lit perfectly the second time. Reasonably straight boost, and it twisted and glided after burnout as the giant aerodynamic surfaces took effect. The ejection charge failed to deploy the chute, but the big flapping plastic body prevented any damage. The 24mm body tube, however, came unglued during the flight and I will have to reattach it. Still, a far superior life for that old plastic model than not being rocket powered..

Third flight was the Transwing on a C6-3. Perfect boost to around 400 feet, separation at apogee, and a beautiful, slow, turning glide. 38 seconds. Probably the best flight anyone has ever gotten out of a Transwing. Its wingtips need realignment, though. Goes on the to-do list.

Fourth was the Heli-roc on an A10-3 mini motor. Nice boost to around 300 feet, and it spun down perfectly... upside down. No damage, and I had to run out (with permission) to retrieve it because it had fallen directly under the future flame path of a G106 Skidmark on the away pads. That would not have been pretty.

Fifth was the Buckeye IV, as part of Viperfest. Only three on this rack. I was the first off the pad.... and Al Gloer's remained firmly stationary. The ejection charges burned a hole in my kevlar chute protector, and the chute failed to deploy, but it was undamaged.

Sixth and final flight was the Multi-Goon on a cluster of 5 A10-3 motors. It was my first 5-motor cluster. Al Gloer was (jokingly) talking trash beforehand. Instead, it lifted off hot straight, and normal, and I knew instantly that I had 100% ignition. Chute deployed at apogee, for an absolutely perfect flight.


So, I got bored in Marine Science today. We were supposed to be writing research papers, but that doesn't work too well when all our work is online.... and most of the computers don't work. We theoretically have a dozen laptops, but many don't login properly... or connect to the internet. Some that do connect still can't actually load websites.

I was dealing with one such laptop today. Having at that point absolutely nothing productive to do, I went under Accessories, and sure enough, I managed to access the Command Line interface. It's not supposed to be accessible on school computers (along with Facebook, Youtube, and anything deemed R rated), but somehow it was. I used ping and ipconfig to check the network status - the network was fine, Internet Exploder was the problem - then I typed the the command 'telnet nethack.alt.org'. A login later, et voila. Nethack.

It was the text-based graphical interface - I normally play with tiles - and the half-second lag was not fun. But I haven't died yet, and hey, Nethack. In class. It's the old-school technology version of the comic book behind the textbook.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Heavy Mithril

For some reason, it seems that being a nerd can help you play epic music. TVTropes calls it Heavy Mithril.

For example:
Ozzy yells about wizards:

"Evil power disappears / Demons worry when the wizard is near"

And yells about spaceships and fleeing an apocalyptic Earth:

"Rocket engines burning fuel so fast / Up into the night sky they blast"

Led Zeppelin, meanwhile, has been reading their Tolkien:

"Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair
But Gollum, and the Evil One, crept up and stole away with her"

But, for the ultimate nerdy songs, how about having an astrophysicist playing guitar. Queen does in Brian May. In '39, they sing about RELATIVISTIC TIME DILATION:

 "For so many years have gone/though I'm older but a year"

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Things I Am Bad At

Getting homework done

Maintaining a proper sleep schedule

Resisting the urge to listen to metal for hours on end

Not dying in Nethack

Finishing books

Blogging semi-regularly


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Finished the Orbital Transport

Finally finished the Orbital Transport. Took some sharpies, and drew on roughly what the decals look like in the original. Not perfect, but pretty darn good. My mom did the small lettering on the main body tube... curse my gigantic hands.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Google Pacman

Is located for all your flash-game needs at google.com/pacman. I'm really bad at it. Haven't even beat the first level.

Mike Dorffler

A few months back, I posted about the sad news of Mike Dorffler, rocket designer extraordinaire, having severe pancreatic cancer. Today came the news that he passed away this morning with his family by his bed.

You will be missed, Mr. Dorffler. May all the rockets in heaven fly straight and the winds be calm.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I'm better than Hurricane Earl

Because Earl was an absolute dud. We got no winds over 40, no extended periods of heavy rain, nothing. It weakened significantly - it was only a tropical storm when passing us - and it veered out to sea, following the Gulf Stream.

In fact, we got only two portions of heavy rain. And I drove through both of them. One on the way home from (shortened) school, the other at around 820 pm coming home from a friend's house. Not being able to see the road beyond the next dip was a little hairy, but the driving was fine.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Gnome With the Wand of Death

Yesterday, as I was playing Nethack, I suffered a horrible death. A promising young Valkyrie, already with speed boots and the artifact weapon Mjollnir, was killed by the (mostly) mythical Gnome With the Wand of Death.

It's a ridiculously long-odds occurrence. In Nethack, intelligent monsters can use wands (4% of randomly generated items). One of every 200 wands is a wand of death. But somehow, the random item that this gnome stumbled across was the 1-in-5000 wand of death.

Not to mention, gnomes are puny monsters. With an artifact weapon like Mjollnir, they die in one hit. But my character got felled by a pathetic monster with a powerful wand. Not fair.

The biggest irony: My character was called RNGbane. RNG is the Random Number God, the anthropomorphization of the random number generator that determines everything in Nethack - what monsters and items are generated, whether attacks hit, even the shape of the dungeon. The Banes are a type of artifact weapon that do double damage against their specific monster. Trollsbane, for example, does double damage to trolls. Thus, RNGbane should have been able to beat the RNG. Instead, the RNG pulled off a nearly impossible trick.

I captured the moment for all eternity:
Click on the image to embiggen it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Quoth the Hurricane: My Name is Earl

So Hurricane Earl is getting dangerously close. Although we're currently outside the projected track, it's big enough that we're still set to get winds of 60 mph or above. Pretty crazy.

And, we now have a half-day of school (dismissal at 12) tomorrow. Awesome.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Here we go again...

Another year of school has started. Same morons blocking the hall, same unidentifiable cafeteria food, same everything. I really hope this changes in college, because even with great classes and teachers, I'm going to go insane. If the Catholic Church is looking for a suitable location for Purgatory, I suggest they check out their local public high school.

My schedule for this semester is as follows (blocks are 82 minutes each; | separates alternating classes):

Block 1: Advanced Placement Physics B
Block 2: UConn ECE Marine Science (similar in scope to AP, though not as difficult)
Block 3: Symphonic Band | Study
Block 4: Study | Study

Looks pretty easy, no? Well... On Tuesdays and Thursdays, separate from my high school's schedule, I'm taking Multivariable Calculus at Conn College. It's a 200-level course. It's going to be awesome.

I really like this. Three awesome math and science courses. 3 out of every 10 days, I can leave after two classes and be home by 11:15. 3 out of 10, I can still be home by 1:00.

But, 4 days out of ten, I have to brave Interstate 95 and rush to my course at Conn. It's gonna be great, but that course is going to kick my ass and then break my back with homework. It starts tomorrow. Here goes nothing...

School Today

Woke up
Fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found the way downstairs
And drank a cup
And looking up
Noticed I was late..

-- The Beatles, 'A Day in the Life'