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NASA has ended a quarter billion dollar mission that began with the launch on September 6, 2013 at 11:27 pm, crashing the LADEE satellite on the dark side of the moon.  Traveling at over 3600 miles an hour, LADEE crashed yesterday between 9:30 and 10:22 PST.  LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, pronounced Laddie, was balanced and packed on the top of a US Air Force powered Minotaur V and launched at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, in Wallops Island, Virginia on Pad 0B.  LADEE had a host of new sensing and communications technology on board.Top right shows the location of the Ultraviolet and Visible Light Spectrometer (UVS).  ThePrincipal Investigator is Anthony Colaprete of NASA’s Ames Research Center, based in Moffett Field, California.  Top Left shows the Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX), which will collect and analyse lunar dust particles that may be floating in the ultra thin atmosphere. The Principal Investigator is Mihaly Horanyi, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder. Bottom right shows the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD), which NASA intends to showcase the new technology of using lasers instead of radio waves to communicate with Earth.  Bottom left shows the Neutral Mass Spectrometer (NMS), which will measure variations in the lunar atmosphere over multiple lunar orbits with the moon in different space environments. The Principal Investigator is Paul Mahaffy, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

LADEE was a mission of firsts, achieving yet another first by successfully flying more than 100 orbits at extremely low altitudes,” said Joan Salute, LADEE program executive, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Although a risky decision, we’re already seeing evidence that the risk was worth taking.”

This was the first deep space launch from Wallops Island, which although not as well known as other launch sites is actually the oldest continuously used rocket launch facility in the US, brought into service in 1945.  

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Images courtesy NASA, in the public domain.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

April is the month of Space Science anniversaries!  In addition to NASA naming the first American astronauts on April 9, 1959 and Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight on April 12, 1961, today marks the 33rd anniversary of the very first space Shuttle flight, STS-1.  Lifting off at 12:00:04 UTC on the twentieth anniversary of Gagarin’s historic flight,  Commander John W. Young and Pilot Robert L. Crippen would spend two days in space on the very first flight of the Space Transportation System.  When designing the Shuttle program, NASA was looking for a word to signify reliability, cost savings and re-usability.  The noun shuttle entered English first, in the mid-14th century to signify a weaving tool, from Old English scytel meaning a dart or arrow.  A hundred years later the verb shuttle arrived meaning to move back and forth quickly or to move rapidly to and fro, no doubt taken from the speedy action of the shuttle in use during weaving.  It did not acquire the modern sense of to move via a shuttle service until the advent of buses and public transportation.  NASA began using the word around 1969 as they began working on the Shuttle program.  Interestingly, the word rocket also derives from weaving:  the word rocket entered English in 1610 from the Italian word rocchetto, meaning a bobbin or spool head.  The Italian root probably derived from a Germanic root such as rocko with the same meaning.  The word was first used in English to describe a device propelled by a rocket engine in 1919. 

Image of the STS-1 Launch and crew courtesy NASA.

Three days ago was the 55th anniversary of NASA’s announcement of the first 7 American astronauts, and marks the day that the word astronaut went from abstract to concrete.  Today marks the 53rd anniversary of the flight of 27 year old Russian Air Force Major Yuri Gagarin, the world’s first cosmonaut, turning that word from abstract to concrete overnight!  The term cosmonaut is combination of two Ancient Greek words kosmos and nautes, a cosmonaut was a sailor of the cosmos, while an astronaut sailed the stars.

Recently declassified documents from the Russian Space program show that even while headed for the stars, Gagarin had very real world concerns.  Immediately prior to the launch, Gagarin had this conversation with chief rocket designer Sergei Korolyov, who reminded the Gagarin where his food was located.

'There in the flap you have dinner, supper and breakfast,' Korolyov said.

'Got it,' Gagarin replied.

'You've got sausage, candy and jam to go with the tea,' Korolyov said. 'Sixty-three pieces - you'll get fat! When you get back today, eat everything right away.'

'The main thing is that there is sausage - to go with the moonshine.' Gagarin joked.

Less than a decade would pass before an American became the first man on the moon when Neil Armstrong took his famous step.  Today the legacy of Yuri Gagarin is stronger than ever, with the Russian space program playing a major role in the International Space Station.  Today there are three Russian cosmonauts in space in the International Space Station, along with Expedition 39: Pictured on the front row are Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata (right), commander; and NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, flight engineer. Pictured from the left (back row) are Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Tyurin and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, all flight engineers. 

Photo of Yuri Gagarin and Vostock 1 courtesy the Russian Space Agency.  Photo of ISS Expedition 39 courtesy NASA.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Today marks the anniversary of a significant American technological milestone and represents one of the few words in the English language to move from pure theoretical abstraction to concrete reality in a single day. While humans have been dreaming of flight since the dawn of time, it wasn’t until the turn of the nineteenth century that the Wright brothers achieved that magical 59 second flight covering 852 feet, skimming over the beach not more than twenty feet off the ground. The new science of flight and aeronautics was born and after thousands of years of dreaming about flight, it only took another two and a half decades to coin the term astronaut and set the bar higher for flight. A combination of two Ancient Greek words aster meaning star and nautes meaning a sailor, an astronaut was a sailor of stars.
 On April 9, 1959, the word took on a new meaning when NASA announced the first seven American astronauts: Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Deke Slayton. These seven men would become known as the Mercury Seven. More than simply a new word though, these early pioneers of both space and technology became heroes of popular imagination. They inspired generations of young boys and girls into science and technology and the technology derived from the space program has enriched our everyday lives from breakfast foods to automobile safety.
On a personal note, just last week I had the rare honor to shake the hand of Buzz Aldrin as he spoke at his high school alma mater, the Severn School.  
Image of the Mercury 7 astronauts courtesy NASA.

Today marks the anniversary of a significant American technological milestone and represents one of the few words in the English language to move from pure theoretical abstraction to concrete reality in a single day. While humans have been dreaming of flight since the dawn of time, it wasn’t until the turn of the nineteenth century that the Wright brothers achieved that magical 59 second flight covering 852 feet, skimming over the beach not more than twenty feet off the ground. The new science of flight and aeronautics was born and after thousands of years of dreaming about flight, it only took another two and a half decades to coin the term astronaut and set the bar higher for flight. A combination of two Ancient Greek words aster meaning star and nautes meaning a sailor, an astronaut was a sailor of stars.


On April 9, 1959, the word took on a new meaning when NASA announced the first seven American astronauts: Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Deke Slayton. These seven men would become known as the Mercury Seven. More than simply a new word though, these early pioneers of both space and technology became heroes of popular imagination. They inspired generations of young boys and girls into science and technology and the technology derived from the space program has enriched our everyday lives from breakfast foods to automobile safety.

On a personal note, just last week I had the rare honor to shake the hand of Buzz Aldrin as he spoke at his high school alma mater, the Severn School.  

Image of the Mercury 7 astronauts courtesy NASA.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Deep in the interior of the skull is a saddle shaped structure that forms the bottom boundary and support for the pituitary gland.  This structure is known as the sella turcica, which in Latin means a Turkish saddle or Turkish chair.  The pituitary gland has been known since antiquity, but it wasn’t until physician Harvey Cushing (born on this day, April 8, 1869) discovered that the pituitary gland is a part of the endocrine system and was the first to understand the relationship to the regulation of hormones.  The word pituitary entered English in the 1610s as an adjective from the Latin noun pituitarius meaning clammy, phlegm, mucus, slime.  Early doctors and scientist thought that the pituitary gland was responsible for mucus, hence the association.  

Deep in the interior of the skull is a saddle shaped structure that forms the bottom boundary and support for the pituitary gland.  This structure is known as the sella turcica, which in Latin means a Turkish saddle or Turkish chair.  The pituitary gland has been known since antiquity, but it wasn’t until physician Harvey Cushing (born on this day, April 8, 1869) discovered that the pituitary gland is a part of the endocrine system and was the first to understand the relationship to the regulation of hormones.  The word pituitary entered English in the 1610s as an adjective from the Latin noun pituitarius meaning clammy, phlegm, mucus, slime.  Early doctors and scientist thought that the pituitary gland was responsible for mucus, hence the association.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

barnfind:

You’ve driven by this car, or one like it:  rust bleeding through various panels, tires dry rotted and flat, mice living in the upholstery.  You pass by this car on your way to work, or you see it peeking out from under a tarp on a carport at the end of the street, or you see it out by your parent’s place.  Not quite your car, but it is interesting.  What did that thing look like back in its prime, you wonder, back in 1972 or 1955 or whenever.

I drove by this 1940 Chevrolet Super Deluxe two door coupe and had to stop and look.  Original plates, ancient tires with original hubcaps, what looks like an original but decrepit interior.  Registered in early spring 1940.  The car is in the front corner of a yard with a small decrepit house that looks as though it was abandoned years ago, but a small dog yaps at me from a gap in the curtain the whole time I am there.  There is no mail box, no number indicating address and the house is far from anything that might indicate location other than a cell phone pin drop.

Back home I start with google, and learn that the Chevrolet corporation built thousands of these ‘value cars’ back in the late 30s and early 40s.  As part of the GM value line, the car originally stickered for $659!  I find a lot of Chevy’s converted to modern hot rods, massive rear tires, candy coated paint jobs and the inevitable blower sticking out of the front hood. I find vintage ads and newspaper clips.  I keep digging and find old black and white photos of the car in its glory day, as well as a host of random photos, such as a 1940 Special Deluxe in a disastrous head on accident back in 1941.

Finally I find the photo every Barn Find seeker finds:  a 1940 Special Deluxe two door coupe rolling off the assembly line with 25,000,000 soaped on the windshield, surrounded by all the corporation heads of General Motors-President William S. Knudson, Chevrolet General Manager M. E. Coyle,  and C.E. Wilson, executive vice president of GM, and later president, Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., chairman of the board.  On January 11, 1940 the General Motors corporation built its 25 millionth car, and it was a Special Deluxe!  I find a newspaper account from the Associated Press that says 800 people attended the celebration including company veterans from when Chevrolet was an independent company back in the teens.  The article says that by 1940 GM employed almost 250,000 people and was already a billion dollar company.  A GM employee is quoted about how big GM is, “It’s so big that even we don’t know really how big it (GM) is.”

Could this be the 25,000,000th car built by General Motors, rusting on the side of the road?  There is no phone number attached to the for sale sign, there is no address on the building or for a mile in either direction as far as I can tell, no one answers the door when I knock, other than the small dog yapping incessantly.  A 1940 Chevrolet Special Deluxe two door coupe, registered in the spring of 1940 in Maryland, sitting quietly on the side of the road.  Could this be that car?  Directions to find the car would go something like this, “after you go under the double underpass-you know the train and the highway-you keep going past the bog and around the corner.  If you drive all the way to the house with the lions out front or the new state building, you’ve gone too far.”

You’ve seen this car, or one like it.  Driving to work or visiting a friend, you see massive fins sticking out from under a tarp, or gentle curves that indicate a bygone time.  You see four flat tires or acres of rust.  You see signs of an estate sale, some elderly grandparent now gone, credenzas and golf bags arrayed in the yard and that ancient car towed forward for your review.  Do you stop this time?  Is that car special?  One in a million?  Or even one in 25 million? Do you stop and check it out?

Or do you keep driving?

New post on my new car blog-stop by and check it out!

Guest Post by Luke Hauser
Leedsichthys belonged to a group of fish know as Pachycormids, a very large ancient fish reaching sizes up to 53 ft, and like the modern whale shark it was a filter feeder with large gill rakers to extract plankton. It lived during the Jurassic in what is now Europe and South America and scientists know from fossils that it was preyed upon by large Pliosaurs.
The name Leedsichthys (Leeds-ich-thys) which means Leeds fish is not named because it was found near the city of Leeds, England. It actually refers to the discoverer a Mr Alfred Nicholson Leeds who was a farmer in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was an avid fossil collector working mostly on fossil of the Oxford clay. He was so prolific that twice he filled parts of his house with fossils later selling his collection to London’s Natural History Museum. The Ancient Greek word ἰχθύς (ichthys) means fish.
The problematicus (proble-mati-cus) part of the name was given to this fish for a very simple reason. This fish was so large that when one died and sank to the bottom a number of things happened: first such a large amount of meat would attract many predators which would break up the body. The other issue would be that such a large animal could never be covered entirely in sediment (this is vital if an animal is to become a fossil). This all results in the fossil remains of the fish being fragmentary and when trying to work out what the animal looked like or what sort of fish it is can be a…..problem.
So there we are Leedsichthys problematicus an amazingly large fish with a fantastically long name-yet the reasons for its name are really quite straight forward.
Special Guest post by Luke Hauser. Luke is a twenty something palaeontologist hailing from the U.K., he works at the University of Portsmouth as PhD student. Interested in all manner of fossil life but focuses on fish and dinosaurs. He also has his own blog called ancient anglers where he discusses fossil fish.Links
E-mail: luke.hauser@port.ac.ukWeb page: http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academic/sees/staff/title,143809,en.htmlBlog: http://ancientanglers.wordpress.com/Twitter: https://twitter.com/Palaeofreak
Image of leedsichthys courtesy seamonster wiki, used with permission under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.

Guest Post by Luke Hauser

Leedsichthys belonged to a group of fish know as Pachycormids, a very large ancient fish reaching sizes up to 53 ft, and like the modern whale shark it was a filter feeder with large gill rakers to extract plankton. It lived during the Jurassic in what is now Europe and South America and scientists know from fossils that it was preyed upon by large Pliosaurs.

The name Leedsichthys (Leeds-ich-thys) which means Leeds fish is not named because it was found near the city of Leeds, England. It actually refers to the discoverer a Mr Alfred Nicholson Leeds who was a farmer in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was an avid fossil collector working mostly on fossil of the Oxford clay. He was so prolific that twice he filled parts of his house with fossils later selling his collection to London’s Natural History Museum. The Ancient Greek word ἰχθύς (ichthys) means fish.

The problematicus (proble-mati-cus) part of the name was given to this fish for a very simple reason. This fish was so large that when one died and sank to the bottom a number of things happened: first such a large amount of meat would attract many predators which would break up the body. The other issue would be that such a large animal could never be covered entirely in sediment (this is vital if an animal is to become a fossil). This all results in the fossil remains of the fish being fragmentary and when trying to work out what the animal looked like or what sort of fish it is can be a…..problem.

So there we are Leedsichthys problematicus an amazingly large fish with a fantastically long name-yet the reasons for its name are really quite straight forward.

Special Guest post by Luke Hauser. Luke is a twenty something palaeontologist hailing from the U.K., he works at the University of Portsmouth as PhD student. Interested in all manner of fossil life but focuses on fish and dinosaurs. He also has his own blog called ancient anglers where he discusses fossil fish.
Links

E-mail: luke.hauser@port.ac.uk
Web page: http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academic/sees/staff/title,143809,en.html
Blog: http://ancientanglers.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Palaeofreak

Image of leedsichthys courtesy seamonster wiki, used with permission under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.

Saturday, April 5, 2014
I started a new blog about the romance of finding old cars-here is the first post. If you like old cars, car culture or the mystery and fun of finding a diamond in the rough, this blog is for you. Follow and Share!

By the time this 1964 Porsche SC was built Porsche had been producing some version of the 356 for 16 years and 50,000 cars had rolled off the line. The Porsche Type 901 (later re-badged as the now legendary 911 to avoid a trademark conflict with Peugot) was already in pre-production and the 356′s days were numbered. Around 10,000 Porsche 356s were built in 1964, and Porsche had already earned the nickname ‘Giant-killer’ as the little two liter and smaller engined cars outdrove much larger engined cars on racetracks around the world. How many are left? Corvette produced over twice as many cars in 1964, and Ford introduced the Mustang as a 1964 ½ model that year with over 120,000 made! So again-how many 1964 Porsche Coupes are left? And how many were the Sport-Coupe models, the top of the range?

I started a new blog about the romance of finding old cars-here is the first post. If you like old cars, car culture or the mystery and fun of finding a diamond in the rough, this blog is for you. Follow and Share!

By the time this 1964 Porsche SC was built Porsche had been producing some version of the 356 for 16 years and 50,000 cars had rolled off the line. The Porsche Type 901 (later re-badged as the now legendary 911 to avoid a trademark conflict with Peugot) was already in pre-production and the 356′s days were numbered. Around 10,000 Porsche 356s were built in 1964, and Porsche had already earned the nickname ‘Giant-killer’ as the little two liter and smaller engined cars outdrove much larger engined cars on racetracks around the world. How many are left? Corvette produced over twice as many cars in 1964, and Ford introduced the Mustang as a 1964 ½ model that year with over 120,000 made! So again-how many 1964 Porsche Coupes are left? And how many were the Sport-Coupe models, the top of the range?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Przewalski’s Horse

Today is the birthday of Russian colonel, explorer and geographer Nicolai Mikhaylovich Przhevalski, born March 31, 1839 (old style) and died November 1 1888.  Przhevalski (also spelled Przewalski) explored Central and Eastern Asia in search of the holy city of Lhasa in Tibet.  Although he did not find the holy city, he was the first European to describe the only known wild horse, now known as Przewalski’s horse.

Image of Przewalski’s horse courtesy Drew Avery, used with permission under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Anesthesia and the birth of modern medicine

image

Today marks one of the most significant milestones in medicine and by extension, human progress.  On March 30, 1842 American physician Crawford Long completed the first surgery using general anesthesia.  Long had read of the physiological properties of nitrous oxide described in the year 1800 by Humphry Davy and worked with ether (diethyl ether) in his practice.  He sedated a man and removed a tumor from his neck painlessly and successfully.  

The word anesthesia existed in English for over a century by the time Long performed his surgery, entering the language in 1721 from Modern Latin anaisthesia, derived from the Ancient Greek alpha privative prefix α- (a-) (here αν- (an-) as it occurred before a vowel) which negated the word to follow it and the word αισθεσις ·(aisthesis) meaning feeling.  

Four years after Crawford Long began his use ether for anesthesia, William Thomas Green Morton staged the first public demonstration of the use of ether by extracting a tooth.  Morton was unaware of Long’s earlier experiments, and while Long was an actual doctor who completed medical school, Morton only flirted with the profession, dropping out of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery (now part of University of Maryland, Baltimore) before taking some classes at Harvard Medical School before dropping out there without a degree.  Morton became obsessed with proving that he (and not Long) had discovered the anesthetic properties and qualities of ether, and spent the rest of his life seeking patents and Congressional injunctions to prove it and be paid for it.  

Image of Crawford Long in the public domain.

 
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