Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Links!

First off, this must be one of the craziest ideas I've ever seen (thanks Sirius): flying a paper airplane into space. Here's an excerpt:
Japanese scientists and origami masters hope to launch a paper airplane from space and learn from its trip back to Earth.

It's no joke. A prototype passed a durability test in a wind tunnel this month, Japan's space agency adopted it Wednesday for feasibility studies, and a well-known astronaut is interested in participating.

...In a test outside Tokyo in early February, a prototype about 2.8 inches long and 2 inches wide survived Mach 7 speeds and broiling temperatures up to 446 degrees Fahrenheit in a hypersonic wind tunnel — conditions meant to approximate what the plane would face entering Earth's atmosphere.

In theory, this could improve the design of re-entry vehicles, but there's a catch:
At this point, the proposal faces just one challenge, but it's a potentially crippling one: There is no way to track the paper craft or predict when or where they may land.

Um, oops.

From John D'Angelo, three interesting links. First, a link to an image from the latest space shuttle mission. Then, a fascinating story that I'll let him explain:
One of the podcasts I listen to is about astronomy, and as I was catching up on old shows, one of the episodes talks about gravitational lensing. If you don't know what that is, its where light is actually bent by the gravity of massive objects, sometimes acting as a magnifying glass or redirecting light along a bent path. Anyway, I had heard of lensing before, but in episode 37, they talked about something that blew my mind and I had to listen to it 3 or 4 times to actually wrap my head around it.

Apparently, there are these two quasars in the northern sky that are actually one quasar, which astronomers call "Old Faithful" (Not very original). Besides the light that comes right at the earth, there is a galaxy cluster off to one side of this object with enough gravity to redirect some of the light passing by from the quasar back at the earth. This cluster is far enough away from the original quasar so that we see the bent light as a second its the same quasar twice in our sky. Not only do we see two of the same object, but because of the distances involved, the "lensed" quasar's light is delayed around 1 year from the light coming straight at us. This allows astronomers to watch whatever happens in the quasar twice; once now, once in a year. As one of the hosts of the podcast said, its like a TIVO for the universe. The whole idea of the distances, sizes, masses and physics involved is just mind boggling cool.

Here is a link to the show where they talk about it, and another link to the wikipedia article on it.
Wikipedia entry

From Scott Zimmerman, a link to the Aptera, an electric car that is just ridiculously cool. Also, a link to Modu, the world's lightest cellphone (1.41oz, believe it or not). Then there's a new ship design for cargo chips being developed at the University of Michigan that would be ballast-free. Why should we care? Here's why:
At least 185 non-native aquatic species have been identified in the Great Lakes, and ballast water is blamed for the introduction of most—including the notorious zebra and quagga mussels and two species of gobies.

Gobies. Those bitches.

From Sirius, a link to a story about the solution of the Road Coloring Problem, a mathematical puzzle that has remained unsolved for almost forty years, now solved--by a sixty-three year old mathematician.

Also from Sirius, a link to a story titled "Are you a ferocious T. rex — or just chicken?" It's not an easy story to summarize, but it's interesting.

From the Edwin Garcia Links Machine, a stunning series of photographs about pollution and climate change. They are remarkably striking. Next, an insanely fun episode of Top Gear, which involves shooting machine guns and rockets at launched cars. That's right--launched cars.

From Jessie Leimkuehler, a link to What Will Life Be Like in 2008?, from a 1968 issue of Mechanix Illustrated.

From Ryan Shalek, a link to a demented series of cover letters for resumes titled Overqualified.

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