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    Imported Warbirds: Appreciating the Nanchang CJ-6

    For many airplane enthusiasts, the term "warbird" invokes images of P-51 Mustangs, T-6 Texans and other American-made military classics. There is also a wide variety of lesser-known foreign aircraft that satisfy the warbird distinction. These metric machines have found favor with many American owners who appreciate the non-traditional attributes that only an imported warbird can provide. I recently spoke with the owner of a foreign warbird to better understand the benefits and challenges that these airplanes offer.

    Flying For Good

    Kimberly and Bill Mills are the driving forces behind Mills Aviation Charities (MAC), which provides scholarships for college students pursuing aviation-oriented degrees. A large part of the organization's outreach efforts involves flying its aircraft at various public events. I visited the organization's hangar in Florida to get a closer look at one of those airplanes, the Nanchang CJ-6.

    The Nanchang CJ-6 is a Chinese military trainer that has found favor with civilian owners due to its ruggedness and affordability. (Chris Dilley photo)

    The CJ-6 is a 2-seat, single-engine trainer that formerly served in the Chinese military. Now that it is a civilian airplane, the Mills' colorful Chinese warbird is one of the most photographed of the American-owned CJ-6s. The couple can be found in the MAC CJ-6 performing in airshows and flyovers across many states…often in formation with other CJ-6 owners. They even host an annual airshow at their home airport in Palm Coast, Florida.

    If you fancy yourself an airplane aficionado but, you're not familiar with the CJ-6, don't feel bad. I felt the same way when I first stepped into the MAC hangar. I walked out with a much better understanding of the airplane and why it's so appealing to private owners.

    Tested: The Best Ways to Sear a Steak!

    Summer is here, and it's time for some food science! We team up with Serious Eats' Managing Culinary Director J. Kenji López-Alt (and the author of James Beard Award-winning cookbook The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science) to test for an ideal way to sear a steak. Adam and Kenji discuss some misconceptions about steak searing, and test four searing methods at different temperatures.

    The (Shortened) History of The Microscope

    The microscope was never really "invented." It's probably more accurate to say that it evolved. And that seems right for what is possibly the most useful and important laboratory tool ever created. The history of the microscope is directly tied into the history of the lens. But it's not completely clear where the first lens came to fruition. Some say the earliest known example is the Nimrud Lens (or the Layard Lens) -- a carved piece of convex crystal that dates back to 750 B.C., Assyria, which historians believe could have been used as a crude magnifying glass (though according to The British Museum, which houses the lens, its convex shape was more likely an accident and the lens is actually just a piece of jewelry). Others say the first lenses weren't created until the 11th century for the purpose of magnifying small text (at the time they were called "reading lenses"). But other historians say the 11th century is late in the lifespan of the lens -- that's because there are references to a "burning-glass" in literature from ancient Greece. One thing we do know for sure is that the first real and true use of eyeglasses can attributed to the Italians around 1260. But before that, well, let's just agree that humans have been using lenses to magnify things for a really, really, really long time.

    Image credit: ZEISS Microscopy via Creative Commons

    Given our long history with using lenses to magnify objects and manipulate light, it's kind of surprising that it wasn't until 1590 that a Dutch eyeglass maker and his dad made the world's first actual microscope. Zacharias Janssen and his father Hans made the first sort-of microscope in Middleburg, Holland (Germany and Holland were well-known at the time for being the world's top lens-makers). It looked a bit like a kaleidoscope and consisted of three tubes -- two with a lens on one end and one that was open on either side to hold them together. The lens you looked through was biconvex, meaning it was curved on both sides. The lens that faced the object you wanted to magnify was plano-convex, meaning it was flat on one side and curved on the other. By elongating or shortening the tube, the microscope's user could magnify an image from three to nine times its original size. Kind of like a telescope.

    Janssen's compound microscope.

    It should be noted that some say Janssen and his father actually didn't invent the first microscope but, rather, their competitor Hans Lippershey, an eyeglass maker who lived nearby actually beat them to the punch. Because even in the 1500s new inventions had intellectual property controversies! Either way, this early device almost immediately set off a flurry of innovations and upgrades.

    Tested: Hail Damage to Solar Panels

    How much hail damage can a solar panel endure? We take our high-speed camera to the Westpak testing facility, where we fire balls of ice at different velocities at a panel to see if they're truly weatherproof. Their high-pressure ice cannon is named "Mr. Freeze!"

    MIT Ingestible Origami Robot Design

    From MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab: "Researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have demonstrated a tiny origami robot that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by external magnetic fields, crawl across the stomach wall to remove a swallowed button battery or patch a wound." Read more about how this robot was designed for the human body here.

    Ryan Nagata's NASA Spacesuit Replicas

    Prop maker Ryan Nagata is obsessed with NASA spacesuits, and has made the best replicas Adam has seen. While at his workshop, Adam and Ryan geek out over the process of fabricating fake spacesuits, including fabric selection, sewing, building hardware, and weathering. Plus, Adam gets a surprise!

    The Lobster and its Amazing Noses

    Our friends at the California Academy of Sciences have launched bioGraphic, a new online magazine celebrating Earth's biodiversity and the extraordinary discoveries of life scientists. Their stories are beautifully told, like this video about the sensory abilities of lobsters (which have up to 12 noses, depending on how you count!) The video was directed by Flora Lichtman, previously of Science Friday. This YouTube channel is an instant subscribe for us!

    Microsculpture: Levon Biss' Insect Photographs

    Microsculpture from Levon Biss on Vimeo.

    FromLevon Biss, who takes thousands of shallow depth-of-field photographs of insects, stacking them into one incredible macroscopic image: "Microsculpture is a unique visual experience. A 10mm insect is shown as a 3 meter print, revealing minute detail and allowing the viewer to take in the structure of the insect in its entirety. The beautifully lit, high magnification portraiture of Levon Biss captures the microscopic form of these animals in striking high-resolution detail."

    Maker Spaces: Adam Savage Tours Ryan Nagata's Workshop!

    In this new series, Adam Savage visits makers to learn about their work spaces and how they build. We first stop by the new shop of spacesuit replica builder Ryan Nagata. Ryan moved into this space after working out of a garage, and chats with Adam about how he organizes and utilizes his tools for costume and prop fabrication.

    Rocket Footage from 75 Miles High

    This video of a rocket launch from the rocket's perspective was released by Colorado-based UP Aerospace last November, and is highlighted by GoPro in their awards showcase: "On November 6, 2015 UP Aerospace successfully executed a mission for NASA to deploy the Maraia Earth Return Capsule. The mission reached an altitude of 75 miles above Spaceport America and landed 30 miles down range on White Sands Missile Range. The missions was UP Aerospace's 10th SpaceLoft rocket launch and the first deployment mission." Find more videos of UP Aerospace launches here.

    Hands-On with NASA's HoloLens Mars Demo

    NASA has been working with Microsoft's HoloLens technology to allow its Mars Curiosity rover engineers to visualize Mars and plan missions for the robot. We try a version of this OnSight application and chat with NASA's Dave Lavery about the potential of this kind of mobile virtual reality.

    Simple Feats of Science: Liquid Nitrogen Experiments!

    In this episode of Simple Feats of Science, we're joined by Zeke Kossover from The Exploratorium to demonstrate an unconventional experiment with liquid nitrogen. Kishore and Zeke discuss some liquid nitrogen basics, and then show how you can use it to illuminate a broken light bulb!

    In Brief: Topographically Accurate Lunar Desk Globe

    I am completely enamored by this desk model, a project four years in the making by artist Oscar Lhermitte and London design studio Kudu. It's a 1/20million scale model of the moon (~7-inch diameter), modeled with accurate topographical data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and 3D printed with an industrial SLS printer at 100 microns layer height. The resin cast globe rotates on a simple motorized pedestal, illuminated by a ring of LEDs on an extended arm to simulate the sun. The photos of this globe look stunning. Find the project on Kickstarter here, where the desk model is selling for $700 for the globe and motorized LED arm. Too expensive for me, but it's absolutely lovely.

    Adam Savage Mini Science Fair Project

    In honor of the 2016 White House Science Fair, Adam spotlights some counter-intuitive science, demonstrating how an acorn-shaped object can roll evenly -- just like a ball bearing! Find out more about #WHScienceFair here!

    Octopus-Inspired Robots Can Grasp, Crawl, and Swim

    Video of a robot developed by The BioRobotics Institute in Italy, which explores high-dexterity soft-bodied robots that mimic the movements of an Octopus. It's not just the form of the robot that takes inspiration from Octopuses, but also the way its limbs are controlled. From IEEE Spectrum: "Rather than relying on top-down instructions from the central nervous system, many of an octopus’s movements happen almost spontaneously–the result of the physical interplay between the animal’s body and its surrounding environment." Read more about this robot and its biomimicry lessons here.