Quantcast
Latest StoriesScience
    The Spacesuit Fire That NASA Refuses to Forget

    These days, Joe Nowetner is an operations manager at UTC Aerospace Systems, the contractor responsible for NASA's fleet of spacesuits. Early in his career, Joe worked as an electrical technician at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) supporting the testing regimen of a new spacesuit design, the EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit). One particular test served as a startling reminder that exploring space is a dangerous business…even for those who never leave the ground. Joe has never forgotten the lessons he learned that day. Neither has NASA.

    The Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) has been the suit worn by spacewalking astronauts since the beginning of the Space Shuttle Program. A mishap during development of the EMU helped to shape NASA's current safety culture.

    The EMU Fire

    The EMU design would persevere to become the spacesuit worn by spacewalking astronauts throughout the Space Shuttle Program and even today on the International Space Station. In the nearly 40-year history of the suit, truly scary moments have been so infrequent that they are still referenced in generic terms, with no distinction needed…i.e. "the water leak", "the chamber incident", "the bellows failure". In that lingo, the events of April 18, 1980 are summarized as "the EMU fire".

    At that time, the space shuttle was still ramping up for its inaugural flight and the EMU was an unproven system. Nowetner was part of a JSC team tasked to execute functional tests on an EMU unit. This task was a critical step in preparation for the first manned test of the suit, an event where space-like conditions would be simulated in a large vacuum chamber.

    Although the EMU was unmanned for the April test, the suit's life support system was exercised. Ironically, it was the life support system that caused a flash fire which burned two technicians (one severely), destroyed the EMU, and reawakened a culture of safety throughout NASA. Here's what happened.

    10 Essential Items In Your Home Disaster Relief Kit

    A natural disaster can strike without warning, leaving your family in danger. No matter where you live or what kind of catastrophes strike your area, it’s vital to have a disaster relief kit in the home to handle basic survival needs until help arrives. Today, we’ll show you ten essential items that every household should have in case of Mother Nature letting loose some bad juju.

    Suit Up: 50 Years of Spacewalks

    "This NASA documentary celebrates 50 years of extravehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalks that began with the first two EVAs conducted by Russian Alexey Leonov in March 1965 and American astronaut Edward White in June 1965 . The documentary features interviews with NASA Administrator and astronaut, Charles Bolden, NASA Deputy Administrator and spacesuit designer, Dava Newman, as well as other astronauts, engineers, technicians, managers and luminaries of spacewalk history. They share their personal stories and thoughts that cover the full EVA experience-- from the early spacewalking experiences, to spacesuit manufacturing, to modern day spacewalks aboard the International Space Station as well as what the future holds for humans working on a tether in space. "

    The 10 Weirdest Creatures Hidden Deep In Earth’s Oceans

    A little over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, and because of our useless, clumsy lungs we can’t really explore it as much as we’d like. The sheer diversity of ocean life is unbelievable, especially when you head down 20,000 feet or more below the surface. Let’s commandeer a metaphorical bathysphere and discover some of the most bizarre animals living down in the depths of the ocean.

    In Brief: How JPEG Image Compression Works

    Your smartphone's camera sensor and lens are the primary factors contributing to how your photos look, but your camera app's JPEG compression algorithm is also an important factor. Not all lossy compression settings are the same, and YouTube channel Computerphile has a new series explaining JPEG compression. The latest video features image analyst Mike Pound, who explains the Discrete Cosine Transform function that is the key behind JPEG. It's a really interesting watch that's not too difficult to follow along! (h/t Petapixel)

    Norman
    Making Dessert at America's Test Kitchen!

    Our week at America's Test Kitchen appropriately concludes with some dessert! Will learns about how the cooks developed recipes for Baked Alaska--Swiss and Italian Meringues--through a rigorous testing system where every variable and procedure is examined. It's time to set that cake on fire!

    The Science of Meat Texture at America's Test Kitchen

    At America's Test Kitchen, recipe cooks use specialized scientific equipment to test ingredients, like this Texture Analyzer. Will chats with cook Dan Souza about the testing of meat texture over a range of temperatures to find the point where the meat is the most tender. How springy or gummy do you want that steak?

    Making Kale Delicious at America's Test Kitchen

    Will chats with America's Test Kitchen cook Dan Souza about the science of making Kale taste good, in salads and other dishes. We learn how to tenderize Kale to make it more palatable and how the test kitchen experiments with every variable in a recipe. Time for a taste test!

    Making Butter Burgers at America's Test Kitchen!

    We learn how to make "butter burgers" at America's Test Kitchen! The cooks in their laboratory explain how they tested different ingredients and methods to arrive at this recipe, the result of which is one of the best burgers we've ever tasted! It's ridiculously good!

    In Brief: ILM's John Knoll on the Death Star and Star Wars Physics

    A week ago, attendees at Star Wars Celebration got the first glimpse of the first Star Wars Anthology film, named Rogue One. Director Gareth Edwards revealed that the film would be about the theft of the Death Star plans before the events of Episode IV, and showed a short teaser clip created by ILM specifically for the announcement. The clip, which has yet to be officially released by Lucasfilm (but for which bootleg copies were immediately uploaded to YouTube), showed the massive Death Star looming over the horizon of a forested planet. AICN writer and professional astronomer used screencaps of that footage to calculate the physics of that shot to assess it's "realism", and was subsequently contacted by effects legend John Knoll to walked through ILM's thinking behind that shot. Knoll's explanation is wonderfully geeky, and shows how much thought effects artists and engineers put into their work, beyond just the "wow" factor. It's the very best of sci-fi apologetics, from the behind-the-scenes technicians closest to canon. (h/t Gary Whitta)

    Norman
    Weird Ways Your Brain Triggers Pleasure

    The brain is a fascinating thing. Over our lifetimes, it makes billions of unique neural connections to guide our behavior towards pleasure and away from pain. But pleasure is a fascinating thing, and some very unlikely stimuli can make us feel it. Today, we’ll explore nine things that scientists, doctors and mindhackers have done to give themselves good feelings.

    Awesome Jobs: Meet Ann Ross, Forensic Anthropologist

    When someone is murdered, the medical examiner isn't always able to discover the cause of death. Sometimes, especially in cases where a body has been buried for a long time, they have to call in a scientist that specializes in understanding how bones work. Ann Ross is a forensic anthropologist and the co-director of the Forensic Sciences Institute at North Carolina State University. It's her job to help authorities find buried bodies and inspect their bones to help puzzle out what brought about their demise. Ross chatted with us about what it's like to adapt tricks of the archaeological trade to find success in her unconventional field work.

    What's a forensic anthropologist?

    That's a good question because I always ask people what they think it is and I get so many different answers! It's the applied discipline of biological anthropology or skeletal biology. We are experts on bones. A lot of skeletal biologists are dealing with prehistoric or past populations but we apply that to contemporary issues or issues of the law.

    What kind of law? Is it crimes that have happened recently?

    Not necessarily recent. A lot of time we're experts in the tools that make some kind of pattern on the bone or a trauma. The medical legal community, the medical examiner, or law enforcement need our help in identifying the class of weapon that make the wound. Or was the fracture made at around the time of death or post mortem.

    The skeleton can tell us so much. We can tell everything that you do in life--it's almost mapped on your bones.

    Where is your lab? Do you work out of police offices?

    Most of us work in the university context. Quite a few of us work in medical examiner offices. There are other government agencies that contract forensics or have one on staff. I work at North Carolina State and when there's a case I get a phone call or an email. It can be from a medical examiner's office or the sheriff's department or the SBI. Generally it's remains that I need to see. I either go pick them up or bring them to the laboratory. A lot of times we reexamine cold cases. So it can be as old as the 70s or as recent as a year ago.

    10 Weird Ways Inventors Want To Harness Energy

    As fossil fuels dry up and human consumption continues to increase, scientists are starting to get a little worried about how we’re going to power our civilization moving forward. Sure, alternative energy sources like solar and wind are already gaining a foothold, but we need more. Today, we’ll examine ten inventors who want to get juice from some very unusual sources.

    Watch SpaceX Rocket Launches in 4K

    SpaceX just uploaded this montage of its recent rocket launches (but not landing attempts) which were shot in 4K resolution. YouTube 4K is pegged by some reports at around 15mpbs, though Google recommends that 4K source files are encoded at 35-45mbps. Regardless, the footage looks spectacular, even if you're viewing it on a 1440p monitor. Happy Friday!