Let me check my notes...
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Mad Science - Let me check my notes...

I want one of these (well, four)

As you might have noticed in the past - jet engines are cool. (I think they'll help me get chicks.) I know, I'm a nerd, I still think D&D is a sure-fire way to attract women. Occasionally I hit things with swords, I'm sure that makes me sexy. Well, this thing should be affixed on a sled for the damnedest way to run your head into a pole as has ever been invented. Yeah, country roads, a hovercraft, jet engines... I'm there. (yeah, the hospital bill will be immense, but maybe the nurses will be hot.)

I know, i should work on building one myself, but I'm working on a mobile dance-pole for the SPANC party for Dragon Con 2014. Its harder than it sounds.

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Naval Rail Gun

My college years, at NCSU, were spent playing with thermal-chemical and rail-gun plasmas. Yeah, I got to shoot stuff. I had a 3.35 km/s record.For folks who don't know, thats medium fast. Modern gunpowder will only get you around  1.3 km/s. My dad (I'm from a family of mad scientists) got a gun to shoot a bit faster than that, but he had the airforce budget. I think their gun topped around 5.4 km/s, but I don't know precisely. That was back in 1990...ish. So, they solved a plasma traveling problem that I didn't get funded to fix. It pushes them to the 7 km/s barrier.

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Global Warming - Science vs. Money

I'm a big fan of Dr. Spencer and UAH. Well, I live around the corner, it takes all my money, and I do a lot of good work with them. One of my old co-workers, Lee, was a student of Roy's and he had a very strong opinion of AGW back in 1998. I followed his lead and looked at his data... lo and behold, he seemed to be right.

The 2001 - 2003 time frame was the hard one for anti-AGW thought. The trends were against us and the government was against us and ... it just seemed like it was wrong. Still, the AGW crowd were busy changing historical data sets, which kept showing high temperature middle ages and roman era events. They say that these only happened in the Northern Hemisphere, while ignoring strong evidence of weather changes in the Southern Hemisphere. It was hard to understand why someone who was "winning" was working so hard to change the evidence.

AGW had to make a slam-bang case right out of the gates, or there was a danger that people would say "oh, well a little warming won't hurt us." (because it won't.) They had to say 1) this warming is different than any seen before. 2) Humans caused this. 3) the US caused this (really, that is their final answer) because 4) The US has to pay the world a trillion dollars to make up for it.

That is the big finale. Hundreds of millions of our dollars are going to the Special Climate Change fund and the Global Environment Facility. Yes, some money is going to poor countries for improvements (money we're already spending to improve water and infrastructure), but the vast majority of the new money will be tied up in UN and other bureaucracies.Yup, 20 years of arguing, what the nations of the world want is to tax the US, because we have the money, they want it, and they think they can vote the UN to collect it from us.

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Tuesday Mirth - Oh Bother

Everybody knows I like to laugh. I laugh at just about anything. But I love geeky humor.

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Hunting with Mongolian Eagles

copywrite Asher Svidensky

I'm a hawk/eagle freak. If you didn't know that ... seriously? ... ok, so I got pointed to this guys blog.

Asher Svidensky

He's got a hell of a portfolio and this article stood out. You don't think much about the middle ages (unless you do re-enactments on a weekly basis, like me) but people have earned their wages hunting with birds since before written records. There are tons of medieval paintings - such as casting of the falcons, below, where similar birds are used.

I used to spend many a summer day, up on the hill at my family's farm. I'd lay on the hot limestone rocks, staring up at the family of Red-Tailed Hawks who were circling above. The hill had been stripped of trees a decade before and was all grown up in blackberries. Hotter than the forests all around us, the thermals were a magnet for the birds. I imagined that the bunnies which lived in the bracken were also a big draw. I'd sit up there, maybe bring a book, but I'd keep an eye on the sky for hours.

Quick spotter's guide - Red tail (check) Black Shoulders (check) Buteo wingtips - fingers spread (check)  Nice Red-Tail you've got there. Side notes: Juveniles don't have the red tail and may have a dark chest, If they're totaly dark, they look more like golden eagles flying (except the size.)

But back to that lovely young woman who may decide to become a professional Eagle Hunter.

Its beautiful that someone can continue this most natural of hunting techniques in the modern day. I'm envious. I'd love to spend a few days out in the mountains, watching the eagles soar, having them return to me. To me it feels like a living poem, grander than I could ever find words to justify writing down. I feel them just knowing that this one girl exists and it makes me happy.
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Practical Astronomy - More tales from the dumb engineer

Below you see the future of astronomy... the 32 foot RV. Yeah, not really. But one year we decided to go there.

As I mentioned before, we had a big array of image-intensifying cameras, attached to videorecorders. The goal here was to look at meteors, determine the spectra of the plasma they emitted, then determine what the meteor was made of. (Having a landed meteor to compare results with was imperative.) HEY LOOK, we know what the Stardust spacecraft is made of, we can measure its spectra and use that as a starting point.

SO, we flew to Reno, loaded up an RV, and drove 2.5 hours into the desert. (According to the timeline, it was January 2006, I remember it being October and earlier, but obviously my brain is corrupted by caffiene and meetings.)

Projected landing zone (seen below) middle of nowhere.

Battle Mountain, NV-750px.JPG

Seriously, we drove to the town of Battle Mountain, our "staging area" which is as close to BFE as you want to go, then we drove 15 miles south of town and turned off into the desert. (It is a bunch of sage brush, not a foot tall, in every direction.) after five or ten miles of sage-brush and dirt road, we stopped at a little turn-around, which let us turn the RVasaurous around.

(picture below is just plain stolen.)

We were expecting a re-entry around 2 am, time may be mistaken, it has been at least most of a decade. We got out the cameras and set them all up a couple hours ahead of time. 1 am sharp, the sky went from clear from horizon to horizon, to utterly blocked. By 1:30, there were snowflakes the size of silver dollars falling everywhere. Visibility was exactly 1 star, which seemed a plausable enough direction to point the camera.

As an added bonus, we turned off the RV so that the infrared camera could take clearer pictures. The battery (which we had tested pre-mission) suffered a sudden and traumatic end-of-life event. The wide-spectrum cameras all went dark. I overrode objections and re-started the RV. Running on RV power, they labored to get the wide-array back on line. I used the pointing camera to stare at a very lonely star, and soon enough we had word that the mission had ended.

The mission wasn't actually a complete failure, there were some guys flying around in a big ole jet plane with an identical array. They got some good photos...but never shared the data.

We spent a few hours packing all the gear back up and storing it for flight back to Huntsville.We were all exhausted and mad, but it all got packed. Then, the sun coming up, we looked for the road.

Ok, I went outside and kicked stuff. The fluffy snow was sagebrush, the flat snow was dirt and occasionally road. I aimed the hundred-thousand dollar contractor-supplied equipment (The RV) between the piles of fluffy snow, ran the windshield wipers against more fluffy snow, and pounded Red Bull to keep my eyes open.

Took most of an hour to get 5 miles, another 30 minutes to get back to the hotel. I just went to my room and died.
p.s. There are NO bathrooms on that road between Reno and BM. dang.

I-80 near Battle Mountain, Nevada
from Walkoverstate
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Dark Matter

The Characterization of the Gamma-Ray Signal from the Central Milky Way: A Compelling Case for Annihilating Dark Matter

New paper came out which is extremely compelling. They are observing a 1 GeV gamma ray signal out of the plane of the Milky Way... from no specific source. This is troubling and needs to be resolved by looking at some of the dimmer galaxies - which have been rotating too fast for their matter. I'm not sure I understand how there could be a spherical expanse of dark matter, but it does match some equations. More importantly, excess 1 GeV signal does NOT match the products of annihilation for a 31 GeV particle. There should be a tail of reactions which go all the way up to 62 GeV. No sign of that has been seen.

Alien x

Ok, so we should be able to detect dark matter Annihilaaargh  (Ben 10 joke) annihilations in our solar system. But not everything has to exist, just because its on some super-hero's costume.

Does Dark Matter Exist?
+1) it is necessary for gravity to work at Galaxy scale    -1) So our equations/understanding of Gravity is wrong.
+2) It might be one of the cool super symmetry particles. -2) yeah, I love string theory - but I don't believe it.
+3) It explains a high GeV gamma signal    -3) The universe is a weird place, I can't explain everything.

Other concepts?
Actually, since Hawking's Radiation may have been removed, micro black holes may be a more serious candidate again. Interactions between Micro black holes are probably similar to dark matter...and the 1 GeV signature is much more believable. Of course, they are my favorite hammer ... so this is a job for Nail!

So, I personally discount my theory. Frankly, I'd prefer String Theory to pull out a win here. Finding WIMPS would do wonders for multi-dimensional theory. The anihilation would be perpendicular to our 3-space, so we only get 1 GeV of leakage in a 60 GeV reaction. There are some particles "created" which cease to exist a nano-second later, each with a convenient shower of lower-energy x-rays, electrons, protons, photons. The "clean" signature we'd expect from an electron/anti-electron event 0.51 MeV assumes all dimensions of an electron exist in this universe. (String Theory is the bomb, but creates all kinds of misery for those who claim to understand its math.)

I wish them luck - and thank God that I'm an engineer who gets to point and laugh at their misfortune. (Up till the time they actually build a Brane Engine and I'm required to operate it in a safe manner and not destroy the multiverse.) yeah, the Risk report is gonna take a while on THAT one.

Ya'll have a good weekend.
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The Calendar!

No, I'm not posting to your calendar, but you might as well know what is going on this summer. I have a ton of activities, personally, that you don't need to know about, but you might want to know the more interesting Mad Science items.
1) The Party In a Box

You may remember my old "Doom Box" well that needs an update, plus a stripper pole and some more light shows, you can never have enough.

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Pratical Astronomy - more tales of dumb scientists (me)

So here I am working for NASA. Now, I never turned a wrench on a rocket...though I approved parts which went on rockets plenty. Mostly I'm a "Natural Environments" guy.

Normal Human: "What the heck does that mean?"
Me: "I'm a space weatherman."

Ok, so sometimes it storms. Meteor storms.

So a buddy of mine invented Video Meteography. This is the process of pointing a light-intensified camera at the sky and video taping for a few hours. Digitize the video and pick out things that change. You have to get rid of the bugs, the planes, the satellites, but sooner or later you are down to meteors. It helps if there is a storm going on, you get better results.

I've gone to Spain, I've gone to Reno, I've worked in the Lunar Observatory, I've been at the Von Braun. None of these have gone as planned- though many have worked out fine.

One of the most memorable events was working at the Von Braun Observatory for a Leonid meteor shower back... oh probably 2001. Now the camera we mounted up on the roof was so sensitive that we were constantly worried about burning it up. There were a lot of people gathered out on the lawn to watch the meteors with us and we warned them against using flashlights or any bright lights.

Three o' clock in the morning. I've had a thermos of Columbian coffee pitch black and I'm having trouble staying awake. I can't work outside anymore, since it is nice and quiet and the people working counting are lying on their backs...well... I'd just fall asleep.

SO, Leigh has me working with her inside the VBO, watching the monitor. We're only seeing a few degrees of sky, but we get more meteors than the people on the grass, since we can see tiny & faint meteors that the groundlings can't.

Suddenly, the screen goes completely white. I'm out of the chair and heading for the door. I'm going to find the A$$#*!& who decided to destroy our camera, drag him out of his car and beat him do death with the charred metal frame of the image intensifier.

"ooooohhhhhh" I hear the crowd outside applauding the biggest meteor they ever saw. I hit the off button on my temper and walk outside. The light of the meteor is bright enough to see by. There is still a giant S curve in the sky from the meteor trail and a crackle hiss like a breeze, though the air is still. It was amazing.

Most Meteor showers are pretty boring, but it is worth it to keep checking them out in the hopes you see something like this. I couldn't recover a picture, but I have one from the same day, same shower. Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)

Explanation: This dramatic four-frame animation shows a fireball meteor and its developing persistent "smoke" train, recorded two weeks ago in skies near Salvador, Brazil. Indeed similar sights are astonishingly familiar world-wide to witnesses of this November's fireball-rich Leonid meteor storm. A few skygazers even discovered that some bright Leonid fireballs made faint, gentle, hissing sounds(!), a surprising effect only recently appreciated and understood. Accounts of fireball meteors making noise have long been viewed with skepticism, particularly because sounds were reportedly heard just as the meteor was seen overhead. But light travels much faster than sound so, like delayed thunder from a distant lightning stroke, a meteor produced sound should only be heard long after the meteor streak was seen. A sound explanation supported by laboratory tests is that turbulent plasma created by the meteor's passage generates very low frequency radio waves. Traveling at light speed the radio waves reach the ground simultaneously with visible light where they are strong enough to induce oscillating currents and audible vibrations in common objects like grass, leaves, wire-frame glasses, and perhaps even dry, frizzy hair.


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Stories from the Reactor

So, I'd like to say that playing with a 1-MW reactor is in general about as exciting as watching grass grow. Yeah, if you have an experiment running it can be a blast. (But mostly, about as exciting as mowing your grass)

Raleigh Public Record

Example: I put stuff in tube, I attach air hose to tube, I blow things to center of reactor, I do it again because I missed. Third time is charmed. I wait 24 hours for objects to get appropriate number of neutrons. I blow air in tube and carefully remove objects which are now quite warm. (and emitting radiation.) I stick said object into a detector for 30 minutes for a good count. I write notes on paper. When all 20 samples are finished. I shout "yea!" and go buy a pizza with my fabulous Grad student check. (986 dollars a month, every month.)

Here is a shot of someone doing this in 1950... identical process.
Researcher testing radioactivity level of sample with a geiger counter, 1950s?
Researcher Testing Sample

A picture of the 1-Mwatt reactor in action...


So, the only real difficulty in keeping the grad student lifestyle is that the "powers that be" want you to keep taking (and passing) their classes. They think this is fun, as they endeavor to put thousands of roadblocks between you and actually accomplishing this. They think it builds character....well... I'm a character all right.

SO - and finally into the actual story here - one of their little roadblocks was installing a French 201 class in our study room. There are only two classrooms in the bloody nuclear engineering building, so we tended to study in the one not being used. Clearly this violates some principle the teachers had discovered, so they loaned out the room we used on Wednesday nights to try to figure out Nuclear Thermodynamics. (Hell, served by Dr. Doster.)

Since our classroom/study hall is currently being used by a bunch of droning undergraduates, we graduate students are lounged around the staircase bitching about everything. Some poor undergraduate wades through us, just as the red-spinning light comes on above the door to the reactor control room.

"Gahh!" he says, startled "what does that mean?"
"Meh," we say, all old hands here, "the reactor is critical."

The young boy sprints down the hallway shouting "the reactor is critical! the reactor is critical!"

I'm relatively sure that the French instructor wasn't worried and was just shutting her door against this sudden wash of noise, but her students saw the teacher 'hurriedly' get up from her desk and cross to the door.

The room emptied immediately.

Realizing the great injustice, misunderstanding, and humiliation occurring here, we nuclear engineering  grad students rushed to help... well hell, here are the stairs, I bet we belong in our offices now. Yeah, we were NEVER near there, EVAH.

And to the best of my knowledge, there was never a French class in that building ever again.
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