Posts Tagged ‘Science’

Why “Why” is Such a Powerful Word

January 26, 2015

Once humans evolved from bacteria in the ocean to walking and talking people, they started asking “why?”  Seeking answers to that question has brought us to the point that we are today, able to go to the moon, split atoms, eradicate deadly diseases, compose and perform magnificent music, plays, movies, books, and produce computer games, among other really neat things.

Of  course, there is a downside to technological advancement, because it has also brought to the point that we can easily destroy the world.  All it will take is for one insane head of a country with an arsenal of nuclear weapons to push a button.  Then, there is the process that takes a little longer, but can also do the job, and that’s the  destruction of our environment by the side effects of machines and processes that produce pollutants.

Those thoughts occurred to me as I watched David Christian’s TED talk “The History of the World in 18 Minutes.”  You can check it out at http://www.ted.com/talks/david_christian_big_history?language=en .

 

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Mental Telepathy is Here

February 26, 2014

(This is not the “biggie” I told you that I am working on. That’s not ready yet. This is a thought I got when watching The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart interviewing Ichio Kaku about his new book The Future of the Mind.)

It’s been here probably as long as the brain has been here. According to Ichio Kaku, a City College of New York theoretical physicist, the brain’s capacity to emit radio signals has incredible potential. Some of it is already being realized. For instance, Stephen Hawkins, the paralyzed English theoretical physicist, can type and send email using a computer chip attached to the frame of his glasses. That’s because the chip is picking up radio waves from his brain and transmitting those thoughts to a computer.

After watching Stewart’s interview, I immediately bought the Kindle version of the book. I don’t mind contributing to Dr. Kaku’s fortune because I hardily approve of brilliant intellectuals writing scientific books prosaically enough for ordinary people like me to understand. They are probably our best hope of reversing the dumbing down of society by mass media.

For Folks Under Age 45, Moon Walking is Something You Read About in a History Book

January 31, 2014
AStronaut Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon.  (NASA Photo)

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon. (NASA Photo)

I just read a story in the Richmond-Times Dispatch about the Smithsonian’s new $79 million dollar conservation hanger at the National Air and Space Museum at Dulles International Airport,  where among its many artifacts that are being prepared for conservation are Apollo-era spacesuits.  Those spacesuits are now 40 and 50 years old. They are fragile, brittle and deteriorating.  Conservators are working on ways to slow the decay.

It made me reflect on the fact that the incredible act of putting a man on the  Moon is a historic event.  America put 12 men on the Moon between 1969 and 1972, and then stopped.  No man has set foot on Earth’s natural satellite since December, 1972.

China, the 3rd country to successfully conduct a soft moon landing – the U.S. and the former Soviet Union being the first two –  safely landed a robot called Jade Rabbit on the moon in December and it has sent back scientific information, but it has suffered a mechanical problem and could stop working.  The robotic rover was named Jade Rabbit after the Chinese mythical rabbit that was said to have lived on the moon.

How well I remember that first Moon landing in 1969.  I was working at WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina. My son Rick, a small boy at the time,  and my late wife Judy, and I could look out our den window and see the bright full Moon as we watched the lunar landing on TV.  We had just bought our first color set to see it in color. It was telecast in black and white.  Still, we then had a color TV to enjoy for many years.

Rick was ten years old at the time, so he can remember the event, so it’s not just history to him.  But, it is just history for anyone over 45-years-old.

Will any country put a man on the Moon in the future?  It’s possible, but with sophisticated robots to give us scientific information about it, why spend all that money and risk human life?  Space exploration continues, but it’s a robot’s game.  Who would want to spend the 150 to 300 days in a small space ship it would take to get to Mars?  That’s what it has taken for the different spacecraft that have made the trip over the last 50 years.

STEMMING the Education Crisis

March 25, 2013

Just about all of us know there is a crisis in public education, one that must be overcome in order for America to continue to lead globally. There is a program that offers hope. It’s called STEM. Instead of institutions of higher education just decrying the fact that our public schools are not properly inspiring and preparing students for college,  they are starting to do something about it, to get involved in helping them do that, and Columbus State University is accepting the challenge to, as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Tom Hackett says, “create innovative solutions to expand and energize the next generation of STEM leaders.” STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, disciplines in great demand for the economic success of our country.

The school is about to launch NeXtGen STEM with a one-day Immersion Conference on Thursday, and it is bringing Dr. Bernard Harris, an astronaut, physician, businessman, and the frist African-American to walk in space, to  work with the Columbus Middle and High School Educational Community, and to be the Hunter Lecture Series speaker Thursday night at seven at the Iron Works Convention and Trade Center.

This is an encouraging development.

 

 

 

My Trip to Mars

February 7, 2012

"Mars Control"

It was me serving as communication’s officer on the space ship heading for Mars, and my old friend and venerable retired music educator Dr. George Corradino serving as my counterpart on the planet.  We were assigned that position as we participated in the Challenger Learning Center Mars Mission.  We got to press the mike button and pass along important travel instructions and end our messages with phrases like “over’ and “over and out.” 

"Mars Transport Vehicle"

 It was all part of a program for Coca-Cola Space Science Center Members. About 30 of us flew the mission just like sixth grade school kids do every year.  It was  more than instructional. It was a lot fun.  The instructors at CCSSC are really good at their jobs,  and I can see how the school kids would love participating in the space missions. I recommend it to anyone interested in the wonders of the universe.

"Mars Transport Vehicle"

 The universe is fascinating place, and though a lot has been learned about the plants, galaxies, black holes, and stars, a lot continues to be learned because there is so much we still don’t know.  I can’t think of a more enjoyable way of learning about it than at the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.   The Omnispehere, a world-class, state-of-the-art planetarium, alone is worth a trip, but I would also recommend the space travel missions, also, especially for the kids.

I’m just about to renew my membership because it’s a bargain, with special privileges and special events, and because the CCSSC deserves the community’s support. You Can learn all about it by clicking ont his link.

Taking Stock Philosphically: Social Evolution

December 28, 2011

While we have come a long way in scientifically explaining how we have evolved from a fish to a person,  what I want to know is why, if we are so smart, can’t we evolve socially? Why do we continue the insanity of wars? Why can’t we learn to work as the human family for the common good?

The superb PBS NOVA program on Charles Darwin’s explanation of the evolution of living species and how science is now answering questions that Darwin could not made me reflect, not only on natural evolution, but also, on social evolution.

  Darwin figured out that species do adapt to their environments, do mutate. But he could not explain how. But now, as I learned watching “What Darwin Never Knew,” another superb program in the NOVA series on PBS, scientists are now cracking nature’s biggest mysteries at  the genetic level.  They are, as a NOVA explanation says, “linking the enigmas of evolution to another of nature’s great mysteries, the development of the embryo.”

I do not doubt that humans have physically evolved, that our brains have enlarged over the eons, and that we have some incredibly brilliant scientists, but where we seem to have  not evolved is in our ability to work as a human family to make the world a better place for the human race. Why?

I welcome your thoughts on this, and I have more of my own on which I will elaborate in future posts on this subject.

Andrew and Tesla and Wireless Electricity

May 6, 2010
WHO’S ANDREW? WHO’S TESLA? READ ON.
 
Some kids do science projects because they want to get a good grade in their science class.  Not my step-grandson Andrew Champion who lives in Kennesaw, Georgia. He does them for enjoyment.  His latest project is electrifying, and, if you are not careful, shocking!  Literally!  Recently, when I visited him and my stepson Ken, step-daughter-in-law Katrina, and my two step-granddaughters,  Shannon and Caitlin, he demonstrated his Tesla Coil for me.  He explained it as the sparks flew, but I figured it would be easier for him to tell you about it than me, because I couldn’t remember all of that technical stuff. 

Andrew Champion and his Tesla Coil

I have always been interested by the mechanics and inner-workings of machines. For the past four years, I have focused heavily on the electronics aspect of mechanics, such as building small electronic circuits and low voltage devices.  My interest in high voltage sciences began when I built a small coil gun out of camera flash circuits and capacitors. My little “gun” would fire a small nail about 10 feet when I applied a magnetic pulse to it. 

After my coil gun, I began work on my most ambitious project yet, the Tesla Coil.  At a cost of over one thousand dollars, countless hours of work and even, some blood and tears, I am now the proud creator of a fascinating machine invented by Nikola Tesla, arguably the most influential inventor of the industrial age. 

Tesla Coil emits a dazzling and loud spark that circles around the machine. When he demonstrated it for me he handed me a pair of protective earphones. They helped...some.

Dr. Nikola Tesla was born in Serbia and began his career in France as a simple electrical engineer. During this time he devised the idea of transmitting electricity via alternating current (AC).  Later he moved to America to work for Thomas Edison at the Edison Corporation (later to become General Electric). Tesla’s genius was actually stifled by Edison because Tesla doubted the feasibility of Edison’s pet method of city-wide electrical transmission, direct current (DC). 

Tesla was later hired by the Westinghouse Corporation as a chief engineer.  It was at Westinghouse where Tesla perfected his AC motor and generator.  Although Thomas Edison is the much more commonly recognized name in electrical history, it was Nikola Tesla who pioneered the AC electrical distribution system used throughout the world to this day.  Edison’s DC method had a number of technical shortcomings and fell out of favor quickly.

Nikola Tesla, circa 1896

Tesla also designed another method to wireless transmit electricity from a central transmitting station wireless to receiving antennas at homes and businesses.  The primary device which generated the wireless electricity would become known as the Tesla Coil.

 

Andrew graduates from Shiloh Hills Christian School on May 21st.  He’s then going to Southern Tech in Marietta for two years,  then transfer to – where else?  –  Georgia Tech.   He plans to be a nuclear physicist.  We had a good scientific conversation about matters nuclear. Wish I knew what he was talking about. 

WHO?

November 26, 2008

  Among the seven books that different friends and family gave me for my birthday – they have rightly guessed that I like a good book, or either they are getting even with me for giving them books for their birthdays – is David McCullough’s Brave Companions: Portraits in History.  This book brings home the fact that there are a lot of important, interesting people that I don’t know about, and I have read a lot of history and taken a number of history courses.

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Baron Alexander von Humboldt, German naturalist, painted by Joseph Stieler, 1843 (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

  Ever heard of Baron Alexander von Humboldt, the great German naturalist, scientist and explorer? Who? Well, I hadn’t either until I read the opening chapter in McCullough’s book. I guess we really don’t have to feel bad about it because McCullough says, “It is doubtful that one educated American in ten could say exactly who Humbolt was or what he did.” I’ll bet it’s not more than one in one hundred. However, it’s probably close to ten out of ten who have heard of the great American explorers Lewis and Clark. That’s because Lewis and Clark’s travels were in the United States, but Humboldt’s were in Spanish America. However, Humbolt’s travels were of far greater scientific consequence, and were just as dramatically adventurous.

  That adventure started in 1799 when he and a French medical doctor turned botanist, Amie Bonpland, set out to explore Spain’s American colonies, where they would make maps, astronomical observations, and collect specimins for scientific study. When they returned to Europe their stories were a sensation and Humbolt became celebrated the world over, inspiring people like Simon Bolivar, John James Audubon, and Charles Darwin, who, during the voyage of the Beagle, carried three book to inspire him,  The Bible,  Milton, and Humbolt. President Thomas Jefferson invited him to the White House where he stayed for several weeks so that that they could talk about Humbolt’s travels and discoveries. Jefferson said, “I consider him the most important scientist whom I have met.”  So this was quite a guy, one who made a lasting contribution to science and understanding nature and the environment. But, I’d never heard of him until now. 

  Now, I continue my advernture of discovery about important people in Brave Companions as I move on to Chapter Two, where I will learn about the American Adventure of Louis Agassiz.  Who? Well, I’ll tell you after I learn.

Baron Alexander von Humboldt, self-portait, 1814  Since the camera hadn't been invented, it was handy for an explorer to be able to sketch. He could.

Baron Alexander von Humboldt, self-portrait, 1814 (Courtesy: Wikipedia) Since the camera hadn't been invented yet, being able to sketch was essential for an explorer.