Bednorz & Müller discover high temperature superconductivity (1986)

posted Tuesday, 27 January 2015

27 January 1986: Johannes Georg Bednorz & Karl Alexander Müller at the at the IBM Zürich Research Laboratory discover high temperature (Tc = 36 K) superconductivity in the copper containing ceramic (LaB)2CuO4.

Apollo 1 Disaster (1967)

posted Tuesday, 27 January 2015

27 January 1967: Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died in the Apollo 1 command module during testing after a fire started. The command module was pressured with pure oxygen to 2 atmospheres making it an obvious fire hazard. Since the door was designed to open inward and the interior pressure was 1 atmosphere greater than the exterior, the door was held firmly shut. Toxic smoke asphyxiated the astronauts and the intense oxygen-fueled flames roasted them.

In memory
those who made the ultimate sacrifice
so others could reach for the stars

Ad astra per aspera
(A rough road leads to the stars)

God speed to the crew
Apollo 1

Launch Complex 34 Launch Complex 34 Launch Complex 34
Launch Complex 34 In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so others could reach for the stars - Ad astra per aspera (A rough road leads to the stars) - God speed to the crew of Apollo 1 Abandon In Place
12/1/60 Graffito Launch Complex 34 Saturn III Blast Deflectors

Thomas Edison receives patent for light bulb (1880)

posted Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Thomas Edison received US Patent 223,898 for the "Electric Lamp" on this day in 1880.

Edison’s device is an incandescent light source — an object so hot that it emits visible light. It also emits copious amounts of infrared (often called "heat rays"). Only 10% of the electric energy put into an Edison-style "Electric Lamp" comes out as useful illumination. The rest is invisible, wasteful heat.

The traditional light bulb is destined to fade away in popularity as newer, more efficient technologies take over. What will we use as the icon for a brilliant idea in the future?

Incandescent Light Bulb[magnify]

Opportunity lands on Mars (2004)

posted Sunday, 25 January 2015

25 January 2004: Opportunity (a.k.a. Mars Exploration Rover B) landed in Meridiani Planum.

Voyager 2 reaches Uranus (1986)

posted Saturday, 24 January 2015

Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Uranus on 24 January 1986. It is the only space probe to have visited this planet so far. Voyager 2 is one of five space probes currently on a solar system escape trajectory.

departing crescent view of uranus

Bathyscaphe Trieste (1960)

posted Friday, 23 January 2015

On 23 January 1960, the Bathyscaphe Trieste carrying carrying Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh visited the Challenger Deep — the deepest part of the ocean — 10,911 meters below sea level.

Last signal detected from Pioneer 10 (2003)

posted Friday, 23 January 2015

Pioneer 10 was launched 2 March 1972 from Cape Canaveral on a three stage Atlas Centaur rocket. It visited Jupiter for a few days in December 1973 and was flung out of the solar system by the massive planet. After more than 30 years the venerable spacecraft sent its last signal to Earth on 22 January 2003. At last contact Pioneer 10 was 82 astronomical units away from the sun (more than twice the average distance from the sun to Pluto). The last detectable radio signal (which was too weak to be decipherable) took 11 hours and 20 minutes to reach the earth. Pioneer 10 is currently 118 astronomical units from the sun and is traveling at 12 km/s.

Position of Pioneer 10 in 2010[animate]


Gigawatt Day

posted Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Using the US style of writing dates, today is 1/21. That means it’s Gigawatt Day! Roll your cursor over these images to hear what I’m talking about.

One point twenty one gigawatts!

One point twenty one gigawatts! One point twenty one gigawatts!
This sucker's electrical. What the hell is a gigawatt?

Back to the Future cowriter Bob Gale explains the "mystery of the jigowatts" on the director’s commentary audio track of the DVD.

I should talk about jigowatts for a second. The proper pronunciation is of course gigawatts. And when Bob and I were doing research, we talked to somebody who mispronounced it jigowatts. And we were actually completely unfamiliar with the term. And we thought that that was how it was supposed to be said. It does come from the Greek root gigos for gigantic. So I suppose it’s not beyond the realm of possibility, but never having heard of it we actually spelled it in the script j-i-g-o-w-a-t-t. So a jigowatt is actually supposed to be a gigawatt, a million [sic] watts. So the mystery of the jigowatts is now solved.

I think the actual Greek root word is gigas (γίγας) not gigos as Gale says in the commentary. As for the official pronunciation, both the hard "ɡ" and the soft "ʤ" may be used to start the word. I think the two variants in IPA would be written as "ɡɪɡəᴡɑːts" and "ʤɪɡəᴡɑːts".

Bob Gale also mixed up the size of the prefix. A gigawatt is a billion watts not a million watts.

Stirling engine patented (1817)

posted Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Robert Stirling received a Scottish patent for the engine that now bears his name on this day in 1817. The patent was filed 27 September 1816.

Robert F. Scott arrives at the South Pole (1912)

posted Sunday, 18 January 2015

English explorer Robert F. Scott and his expedition arrive at the South Pole on 18 January 1912, only to discover that Roald Amundsen had gotten there first. Everyone in the expedition died on the return journey. See my post on Amundsen’s arrival for more info.