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Planes! Photos! A Day in Torrance, CA October 9, 2010

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Aviation.
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The Western Museum of Flight is located next to Robinson Helicopters, and these are ready for delivery.


Today, we drove  up to Torrance to see the airshow at the Western Museum of Flight. We’ll write more about that and about the Portal of Folded Wings in nearby Burbank soon. In the meantime, enjoy a some photos.


Today's airshow at the Western Museum of Flight featured dozens of aircraft. We're fond of this one from the annual Stearman fly-in in Galesburg, Illinois.



The B-25 featured in the film Catch-22



P-51 Mustang getting ready to fly



Bob Hoover, airshow pilot who demonstrated the P-51 Mustang for decades.



Stearman in flight.


Beer! October 6, 2010

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Collaboration, Science, Space Exploration.

An old joke used to have it that ten glasses of Guinness, a glass of orange juice, and a glass of milk was a balanced daily diet. Perhaps, that’s the application intended by the beer’s slogans, Guinness is good for you and A Guinness a day. Some researchers have found antioxidants in the stout, and it’s a slight 125 calories per 12 ounces and a mere 4% abv (alcohol by volume). Beer is a simple food, requiring time and four basic ingredients: water, barley (or another starch source), hops, and yeast. While we can’t attest to the nutritional completeness or wisdom of this diet plan, we can discuss some of the fascinating properties of Guinness and other beers.

In 2004, one of the great beer mysteries, an existential quandary that had plagued generations of barstool philosophers and saloon scientists, was solved. Why do Guinness bubbles sink instead of rise? When you’ve poured your pint, bubbles near the inside surface of the glass experience drag (see Monday’s Guest Blog for a definition of drag) as they try to rise, but the bubbles at the center of the glass rise swiftly. When those bubbles in the center hit the froth, they are pushed outward toward the edge of the glass. The edge of the glass directs this flow downward, where you observe liquid flowing down the inside of the glass. Until the beer has settled and more bubbles have gathered at the top, this process creates a circulation of Guinness up from the center, over the top under the froth, and back down the sides. In addition, you see this happen in a pint of Guinness because the bubbles are small as they are released through tiny holes; the bubbles are nitrogen, which dissolves less well than carbon dioxide; and the liquid is very dark.


Anna at St. James Gate


If you’d like to repeat this experiment for yourself (and repeatability is part of what makes it science), we recommend that you go directly to the Guinness Storehouse at St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland. Guinness was first brewed in 1759 on that spot, and the Storehouse was built in 1904 for the fermentation process, then changed into a small visitor’s center in 1988. In 2000, the building was completely remodeled as a seven-storey pint glass that walks visitors through the history and processes of Guinness, culminating at the Gravity Bar, which offers a panoramic view of Dublin and a free pint. You might also repeat the experiment at the Brazen Head, the pub on Bridge Street near the River Liffey that poured its first beverage in 1198, almost 300 years before Christopher Columbus happened upon the Americas and insisted he’d made his way to the Asian continent (Monday honors this event).


Guinness Hops


With that amount of lead-up, it’s about time that beer made its way into space. In the past year, beer and space travel have intersected in several ways. First to launch was Sapporo’s Space Beer. The recipe calls for barley descended from grains that sprouted on the International Space Station. Space Beer, unfortunately, was brewed in very limited quantities and its distribution has been limited to terra firma, specifically Sapporo’s home market of Japan.

Beer should be ready for space soon, though. An Australian company is developing a stout, akin to Guinness, intended for consumption by the anticipated hordes of space tourists that will be leaving Earth in the next decade. The goal was to create a beer that tastes delicious in low gravity, a problem because zero-gravity thwarts both bubbles and taste buds. The new brew was bottled last month and will be tasted next month on a plane that flies an elliptic path to create weightlessness. Given the wide range of physiologically unpleasant side effects reported in zero-G by even experienced astronauts—your digestive tract stops, dizziness leads to nausea, your hands and feet swell as the heart struggles to circulate blood—plying the novice space tourists with beer seems a logical advance. We imagine there will be no end of Earthside volunteers for the next test phase of this product launch in outer space.

Meanwhile, here on Earth, it’s pumpkin beer season. Our latest find in this category is Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale, which is just pumpkin enough without going overboard and has a 7% abv. For one that’s more reminiscent of pumpkin pie and has a lower abv at 5.2%, try Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale. Other seasonal options include Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale, O’Fallon Pumpkin Ale, Saranac Pumpkin Ale, New Holland Ichabod Ale, and Wild Goose Pumpkin Patch Ale.

Talking with an Astronaut October 5, 2010

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
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Michael Massimino

At 7pm TODAY at Chapman University, the astronaut who sent the first tweet from outer space joins the screening and discussion of An Article of Hope. Astronaut Michael Massimino, live via videoconference from Houston, will talk with the film’s producer, who is also our first Guest Blogger Christopher Cowen. The documentary is about Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, a payload specialist on the ill-fated Columbia mission. On that voyage, he carried a small Torah passed down from a survivor of a concentration camp.

Astronaut M. Massimino

There’s still time for you to help select the wake-up songs for STS-133. That’s the Space Shuttle launch we’ll watch in person next month. Click here to vote.

It’s Nobel Week!

Monday: Robert G. Edwards (for in vitro fertilization) in Physiology or Medicine

Tuesday: Andre Geim and Konstatin Novoselov (for graphene) in Physics

Wednesday: Chemistry

Thursday: Literature (Monday’s odds favored Swedish Tomas Tranströmer, but Americans Cormac McCarthy and Joyce Carol Oates are supposedly in the running.)

Friday: Peace

Monday: Economic Sciences

Guest Blog: How I Learned about Flight October 4, 2010

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Aviation, Guest Blogs, Science.
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Last week, Lofty Ambitions launched a special Guest Blog feature with a piece by film producer Christopher Cowen, who will be screening and discussing his film An Article of Hope this Tuesday at 7pm at Chapman University as part of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education lecture series. Special guest: an astronaut!

Today, we continue our Guest Blog spot, which will appear every first and third Monday of the month. Our regular posts will continue every Wednesday, and we’ll add timely posts on occasion. For instance, this week is Nobel Week, so we might have to say something about the roll-out of those prizes.

Jack Dechow is an honor roll student and was  a finalist in last year’s Illinois Young Authors contest. This past summer, Jack attended Knox College for Kids. We are both alums of Knox College, with fond memories of Old Main and SMAC. Jack also happens to be our nephew, but mostly he’s a kid who is interested in writing, science, and history.


Jack Dechow entering Historic Old Main

At the beginning of the summer when I received my sign-up sheet for Knox College for Kids, I was excited because I had a great time the previous year, and I hoped this year would be just as good, if not better. One of my classes was about the horror genre, where we talked about Edgar Allen Poe and other important authors. Another class was on science fiction; we explored a huge timeline of the history of science fiction. But this  blog is about aviation and science, so I’ll talk about the Physics of Flight class. Physics of Flight is an introductory class on the basic physical properties of flying, and is taught by Professor Mark Shroyer. My first impression of the class when I walked in was, “Wow. Lots of little kids.”

I was the only kid in the class in my grade (there was one kid a grade behind me), and the rest of the children were all grade-schoolers. That really surprised me, as I expected more older children (10-13) interested in physics and interested in flying, not grade-schoolers. I figured, even if there were many little kids in the class, it would still be fun. I was right. And of course, I had been one of those little kids when I started College for Kids.

First, we started talking about the forces involved with flight (and motion in general), and we started with the two simplest ones : drag and gravity. Drag is the resistance caused by air, and gravity is the downward force caused by the mass of an object in the proximity of the spinning Earth. We talked very in depth on each force, and eventually built two objects, one to fall completely to the ground in the shortest amount of time, and one to do the opposite—to fly. A lot of kids seemed to struggle to understand the concept of drag for a while, but I got first place in the fastest drop category!

Jack Dechow in the Common Room

Over the course of the two weeks, we built on the basic forces of gravity and drag, then started talking about lift and thrust. Lift is the upward force caused by Bernoulli’s principle, which is when air flows faster over the top of a surface causing lower air pressure than on the bottom of that surface. Thrust is the forward motion provided by a motive device, such as a jet engine. We also touched on Newton’s third law, which surprisingly one of the 4th graders already knew about. And we talked about how cold air drafts and hot air drafts can be used to gain lift. For instance, cold air tends to be more dense, and dense air increases lift.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Overall, I very much enjoyed Knox College for Kids. This was my 4th year participating in this program, and next year will be my last, because it’s open only to grades 1-9.  The fact that it will be my last is very disappointing because Professor Shroyer was the best teacher I have ever had in any class. I had taken classes with him for the past three years—and three years of astronomy with the same teacher still didn’t get boring!


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