Small Fish, Big Pond


More efficient equipment conserves energy better than “going without”

by Kerensky97 on Aug.17, 2010, under Philiosophy, Science

I’ve always suspected that turning off lights and unplugging cell phone chargers was just a case of the “warm fuzzies” (things that make you feel good but don’t really make a huge impact).

Most people in the dark about best ways to save energy

The gap between curtailing inefficient appliances and using efficient ones can be large, so it shocked the researchers how many people underestimated it. An example: a 100-watt bulb that is on for six hours uses 600 watt-hours. By leaving it on for one hour less, you save 100 watt-hours. On the other hand, a 15-watt fluorescent bulb could be left on for all six hours and only use 90 watt-hours, saving 510 watt-hours over the incandescent bulb.

The really good news here is this proves that the key to conserving energy doesn’t lie in cutting conveniences out of your everyday life; it’s just a matter of upgrading your house to more efficient appliances. On a side note CFLs take a few seconds to come to full brightness, pay the extra bucks for the “instant on” CFLs, it’s well worth it.

Still if you don’t have the money to upgrade all our household appliances now it’s still a good idea to cut back on waste.
-Closing the blinds on a window because it’s too bright then turning on the light in a room doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
-If you can remember to make all your trips around town in one big loop rather than 5 individual trips out and back saves a lot of gas (and time in my experience).
-If you have to wrap in a blanket in the summer because the AC is too cold, maybe dial forward the thermostat a few degrees.
-Conversely if you’re in a t-shirt and shorts in winter and complaining of the cold, maybe try putting on pants and a sweatshirt before cranking the heat to 78 degrees.

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Last launch of the Shuttle Atlantis.

by Kerensky97 on May.26, 2010, under Science

Excellent video of the space shuttle Atlantis making it’s last jump into space.

One slow day at work we watched a NASA feed of a shuttle launch from T-5mins to fuel tank separation (~+8min). One co-worker is a walking encyclopeida of the shuttle and it’s systems so it was like being on a tour of the launch process.

If you notice at launch, water (350,000 gallons in 41 seconds) floods the pad. It’s not to cool things off, it’s added sound suppression because the shockwaves from the engines were actually damaging the Solid Rocket Boosters and Shuttle wings.

The shuttle is clamped down to the pad and won’t launch until the explosive bolts blow and the clamps let go. Hence the impression that the shuttle leaps off the pad. The Saturn Rockets that flew the Apollo missions worked the same way. Astronauts often have colorful ways to describe the feeling of going from rumbling on the pad to instant high-G acceleration.

The shuttle launches “Downrange”. Although it seems it’s going straight up the shuttle is really rolling onto it’s back as it launches; because it’s lateral speed around the earth that sends it to orbit, not necessarily altitude alone.

At an altitude of about 35,000ft the shuttle hits Max Q which is where the speed and air density create the maximum dynamic pressure and stress on the shuttle. After this point speed increases but due to low air density the stresses on the shuttle lower making it a major milestone in the launch.
The Challenger disaster happened around Max Q; when stress on the structure was at it’s peak the SRB mount broke causing the SRB to turn into the fuel tank. As the fuel tank broke up the orbiter veered out of position and the aerodynamic forces at Max Q caused the orbiter to disintegrate (it didn’t actually “explode”).

As the shuttle launches if you listen to the NASA sound feed you’ll hear Ground Control announce the passing of certain Abort Modes.
-First is Return To Launch Site (RTLS). The shuttle would ride until the SRBs burn out (they’re like bottle rockets and can’t be stopped once they’re lit), then shut off main engines, jettison the 3/4 full fuel tank and glide back to Florida.
-Next is Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL). Upto about +8mins the shuttle can abort, run out the SRBs and main engines then land in Europe about 25 minutes after launch (beat that Concord!). Weather conditions need to be good at Florida and at least one of the three Europe landing sites. Prep at the sites begins 2 days in advance of launch.
-Abort Once Around (AOA) is rare. It’s when the shuttle has too much speed to make Europe but not enough for a stable orbit. The Shuttle would return to a Florida landing 90mins after launch.
-Last is Abort to Orbit (ATO). Basically orbit can be attained, but possibly not as high as they wanted. But it does give the opportunity to think things through and either come up with a solution or find a way down. It’s only been invoked once, the Challenger had one of it’s main engines shutdown during launch but made it to orbit. The mission was salvaged and it landed safely.

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Cilp-On Shed for an urban garden.

by Kerensky97 on Mar.31, 2010, under Hydroponics, Science

Where have I heard that idea before…

Treehugger has a cool concept from a green design challenge. It’s a clip on shed for apartments; although I prefer the term one of the comments used, “Parasitic Architechture.” I have to say it’s a great idea, I just posted on my own desire for the same thing.

Those of us lucky enough to have yards can consider a garden shed as way of getting a little more space. But what about those in apartments and condominiums? They don’t have basements or spare rooms or space for a shed.

The Plant Room solves this problem. It is a “a prefabricated room that bolts-on to a variety of existing apartment types, improving the quality of living, reducing energy and water use, and generally making the building more sustainable.”

I still like my idea more: It’s not a concept. The price is so affordable anybody can do it. It doesn’t violate any building codes. Somebody can make their own over the weekend.

But a clip on shed is still a cool idea. If properly built it could allow for some extra features, although it seems like it requires alot of materials to create a small area. I like using a handful of easy access materials to make better use of existing space and resources.

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NASA’s summer blockbuster

by Kerensky97 on Mar.18, 2010, under Comedy, Science

Somebody at NASA is freaking awesome.

They’ve made up these authentic NASA mission posters for various missions. Some are pretty average but others look like they belong as movie posters for a Hollywood Summer blockbuster.

It’s good to know that NASA isn’t the stuffy government organization that many assume and that beyond expanding human understanding they know how to have some fun (and are pretty good at photoshop).

Thanks to Gizmodo for the link.

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Video of Chile Tsunami hitting Japan

by Kerensky97 on Mar.02, 2010, under Science, World

Saw this at Japan Probe. It’s a video of the tsunami from Chile finally hitting Japan and traveling up the mouth of a river.

It doesn’t seem amazing but you have to remember how much energy it takes to physically shove so much water that it crosses the Pacific ocean at hundreds of miles an hour to create waves in Japan (the wave slows and gets taller as the water comes to shallow water). To get an idea of the energy needed imagine being in the pool and shoving the water as hard as you can to make a wave a few inches tall travel ~20 feet.

Also you can see how a Tsunami isn’t just a big wave it’s a long wave. Watch the water level along the bank and it rises about a foot as the wave passes and stays there as water rushes up the river.

Seems to freak the birds out too.

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Longest total eclipse of the 21st century strikes Japan

by Kerensky97 on Jul.21, 2009, under Science

I’m so jealous. I was hoping to be living in Japan by now and able to take a tour to Akusekijima to get the longest moment of totality, 6 and a half minutes.

Most people I’ve read or talked to who have seen total eclipses say it’s a very memorable, possibly life changing moment when the world goes into an eerie twilight where the moon swallows the sun. It’s no surprise than when these events were witnessed by more primitive civilizations they thought them to be the anger of the gods and the end of the world. I mean day becoming night is a Christian biblical sign of the end of the world!

I love those moments in life where the world around you seems so alien that you think that what you’re witnessing is something from another world. I definitely plan to travel to Kentuky for the next US total eclipse in 2017. It’s a paltry 2min 45sec by comparison but for 2:45 you’ll be able to pretend you’re in another world, or put yourself in the mindset of an Aztec Shaman or Hohokam Medicine Man wondering why the sun god that has provided the crops for your survival as suddenly forsaken you.

My personal favorite imaginary scenario is sci-fi, astronomy geek, scenario that due to extreme circumstances the sun has suddenly collapsed in on itself leaving a small black hole that the earth will fall into compressing us all to the size of a grain of sand. Or maybe it would be an odd supernova where during the contraction the sun goes dark right before it explodes and blasts the life off of Earth, ala Romulus in the new Start Trek Movie.

If you’re lucky enough to be in an area that can see a total eclipse don’t let the opportunity pass you by. For one thing they will eventually go away (in 600 million years the moon’s distance will be too great) and they have had major historic influences in our past, sometimes causing wars, other times stopping wars.

Read up, it’s really interesting stuff.

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End of the EcoSphere

by Kerensky97 on Jun.04, 2009, under Science

End of the EcoSphere
Originally uploaded by Kerensky97

Today I dumped last years ecosphere back into the water from whence it came. Although with the Jordan river at flood levels right now the sandbar that the "tidal pools" that the life came from is completely submerged. But it seems fitting to dump it back like this since the life has struggled so long that dumping it into the garden and letting it die would be a tragedy.

The backstory:
Last year for fun/as an experiment I made a second homemade ecosphere using the knowledge I had gained from the first one the year before. The goal would be to get a Vertebrate (small fish) to live in a balanced, self contained world over the winter for 6-12 months. The fish from the first ecosphere lasted 2 weeks. This little guy made it 8 months but unfortunately died too early to be released back into the wild.
Life went on for the tons of snails, moss, and algae; however the crustacean protozoa never came back after the fish died.

Anyway today was the first time this separate world mixed it’s air and water with ours in nearly 11 months. Perhaps some of the life will survive to continue on in the Jordan River ecosystem in the future.

Go there now.

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