Category Archives: Science

Tycho Brahe 12.14.12 Thought of the Day

“I conclude, therefore, that this star is not some kind of comet or a fiery meteor… but that it is a star shining in the firmament itself one that has never previously been seen before our time, in any age since the beginning of the world.”
–Tycho Brahe

The astronomer Tycho Brahe

The astronomer Tycho Brahe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tycho Ottesen Brahe was born on this day in Knutstrop Castle, Scania, Denmark-Norway in 1546. Today is the 466th anniversary of his birth.

Noble by birth Brahe’s twin brother died before he could be baptized. Tycho’s ode to his dead brother was his first published work. At two his  uncle,  Jorgen Thygesen Brahe,  took him (perhaps kidnapped him) to live at Tosterup Castle, and Tycho became Jorgen’s heir.  At 12 he entered the University of Copenhagen to study philosophy and rhetorics. There was a solar eclipse in 1560 and young Tycho was fascinated by it. He began studying astronomy. When he started at Leipzig he  began to study astronomy without permission…

but was soon forgiven after demonstrating successes. He found that old observations were very inaccurate, and started to design methods and instruments for high-precision measurement of positions of celestial bodies. [TychoBrahe]

From Leipzig he continued his academic pursuits  in  Germany, studying at Wittenberg, Rostock and Basel. In Rostock he had a famous duel with another student to determine who was the best mathematician.

Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe (Photo credit: lilspikey)

His nose was cut so badly that  for the rest of his life “he covered the scar with a plate probably made of a silver-copper alloy to imitate the colour of the skin.” [Ibid]

During this period his interest in alchemy and astronomy was aroused, and he bought several astronomical instruments.[The Galileo Project]

He returned to Scania and built a laboratory to study chemistry. In November of 1572 he turned his sights to the heavens again and observed …

a new brilliant star in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Tycho’s measurements showed that it really was a distant star and not any local phenomena. This was very intriguing at that time, since the sphere of the stars was considered to be divine and perfect, hence no changes ought to take place there. Tycho observed its brightness evolve until it faded away the next year. He reported the event in his book “De stella nova”, which made him famous all over Europe. [TychoBrahe]

With his new found fame he could have studied anywhere in Europe, but he chose to return to his beloved Denmark. King Frederick II  granted him the Island of Hven.

Map of Hven from the Blaeu Atlas 1663, based o...

“…There he built his observatory, Uraniburg, which became the finest observatory in Europe.” [The Galileo Project] He designed new instruments and developed a nightly program of observations.

Tycho Brahe's Stjerneborg observatory on the i...

Tycho Brahe’s Stjerneborg observatory on the island of Hven, restored. 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The observatory was visited by many scholars, and Tycho trained a generation of young astronomers there in the art of observing. [Ibid]

He left Hven after he had an argument with King Christian IV and, after traveling for several years, wound up in Prague.

Tycho Brahe died 24th October 1601 of a urinary bladder infection. It has long been thought that the cure (a self-induced potion that may have contained lead) was the real culprit. But that has recently been disproved.

English: Signature of Tycho Brahe.

English: Signature of Tycho Brahe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tycho Brahe ved Knutstorp, Knudstrup

Tycho Brahe ved Knutstorp, Knudstrup (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Thought of the Day 11.17.12 August Mobius

August Ferdinand Möbius

August Ferdinand Möbius (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

August Ferdinand Mobius was born on this day in Schulpforta, Saxony (Germany) in  1790. Today is the  222nd  anniversary of his birth.

Möbius was an only child whose father died when he was just three years old. Möbius was home schooled until he was 13 when he went to the College of Schulpforta. He went to the University of Leipzig to study Law, but  after about a half a year’s study he switch to his real calling of math, astronomy and physics.

He went on to study astronomy at the Gottingen Observatory in 1813. Then he went to Halle where he cemented his studies in mathematics.

In 1815 Moebius wrote his doctoral these on The occultation of fixed stars and began work on his Habilitation thesis… on Trigonometrical equations …he was appointed to the chair of astronomy and higher mechanics at the University of Leipzig in 1816. [Mac Tutor History — Möbius biography]

He became a full professor in astronomy at Leipzig in 1844 where he held the post of “Observer at the Observatory at Leipzig.” [Ibid]  He supervised the rebuilding of the Observatory and became the director in 1884.

Möbius published several important papers in both astronomy and math. His…

1827 work Der barycentrische Calcul, on analytical geometry, became a classic and includes many of his results on projective and affine geometry. In it … He introduced a configuration now called a Möbius Net, which was to play an important role in the development of projective geometry. [Ibid]

Möbius net [Image courtesy: Thingiverse]

He is best known for the Möbius Strip or Möbius Band — “a two-dimensional surface with only one side. ” [Mac Tutor History — Mobius biography]

Giant Möbius Strips have been used as conveyor belts (to make them last longer, since “each side” gets the same amount of wear) and as continuous-loop recording tapes (to double the playing time). In the 1960’s Sandia Laboratories used Möbius Strips in the design of versatile electronic resistors.[bellevuecollege.edu]

A parametric plot of a Möbius strip

A parametric plot of a Möbius strip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Möbius died at age 77 in Leipzig.

08.CaligraphicMoebius.CharlesPerry.CC.VA.10Apr...

08.CaligraphicMoebius.CharlesPerry.CC.VA.10April2011 (Photo credit: Elvert Barnes)


Thought of the Day 11.14.12 Fred Haise

“I grew up on Buck Rodgers and Flash Gordon. There wasn’t a space program or NASA when I was a kid,”

“We just kept putting off the worry as we focused on the next problem and how to solve it,”

“Given that the movie had to condense four days into two hours, and given that the communications were sometimes rather tedious and technical, it was pretty accurate…”

–Fred Haise

Astronaut Fred Haise in his Apollo 13 space suit. [Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.]

Fred Wallace Haise, Jr.was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, USA on his day in 1933. He is 79 years old.

His interest in flying happened by accident.  He was in junior college pursuing a career in Journalism when the Korean War broke out. Haise wanted to enlist

“The only program I could get into that would lead to a commission, which was my primary goal, was the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. So… I ended up in the flying business, which I loved.” [Johnson Space Center Oral History Project]

After being honorably discharged from the service –Haise went from the Cadet Program to the Marine Corps, served a tour of duty, then went into the Air National Guard —  he got his  BS in aeronautical engineering from the University of Oklahoma.

It was quite a path for a young man who had never been in a plane (not even for a commercial flight) prior to entering the Navy. He reckons he’s “flown about 80 types of aircraft.” [Ibid.]

While in the Oklahoma Air National Guard he was introduced to the idea of becoming a NASA research pilot. He was very interested, but the queue at Langley, Ames and Edwards Air Force Bases — NASA’s premier flight test centers at the time — was long. So Haise opted for Lewis Research Center. He worked for 7 years before entering the NASA astronaut program as a research pilot. This was the same path Neil Armstrong had taken three years ahead of him.

He was part of the “Original 19”  astronauts, nine of whom flew in the Apollo program and eight of whom flew in the Shuttle Program. Haise did both. He was a the back up Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 and the back up commander for Apollo 16. But the flight he is best remembered for is Apollo 13.

Apollo 13 was slated to go to the Fra Mauro region of the Moon; deploy “a set of scientific experiments involved in the ALSEP [Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package] packages” [Ibid]  and do field geological work while on EVA.

English: S70-34854 (11 April 1970) --- The Apo...

English: S70-34854 (11 April 1970) — The Apollo 13 (Spacecraft 109/Lunar Module 7/Saturn 508) space vehicle is launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center (KSC), at 2:13 p.m. (EST), April 11, 1970. The crew of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) third lunar landing mission are astronauts James A. Lovell Jr., commander; John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot; and Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The mission took off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida on April 11, 1970. The crew included Commander by James Lovell, Lunar Module Pilot, Haise and Command Module Pilot, Jack Swigert. Swigert was a last-minute replacement for Ken Mattingly who was exposed to the measles and pulled off the primary crew a week before take off.

When the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 13 crew was about 2/3rds to the Moon there was an explosion in the oxygen tank. Haise recalls:

‘I was still buttoning up and putting away equipment from a TV show we had completed, and… we were going to get ready to go to sleep. I knew it was a real happening, and I knew it was not normal and serious at…that instant. I did not necessarily know that it was life-threatening.” [Ibid]

He quickly went to his station where he encountered an “array of warning lights.” [Ibid] Haise looked at an instrument panel that read the pressure, temperature and quantity of the oxygen tanks. One had the needles at the bottom of all three gauges.

They had lost an oxygen tank, and, according to Mission Rules, that meant they had lost the Moon. They were now in abort mode.

Still, the situation didn’t seem life threatening. But after a few minutes it became evident that the second oxygen tank– the remaining tank — was also leaking.

“When it became obvious it was dwindling or losing oxygen, then the handwriting was on the wall that the command module was going to die and have to be powered-down.” [Ibid]

The crew transferred to the smaller Lunar Module.

Ground controllers in Houston faced a formidable task. Completely new procedures had to be written and tested in the simulator before being passed up to the crew. The navigation problem had to be solved; essentially how, when, and in what attitude to burn the LM descent engine to provide a quick return home. [NASA.gov]

Power and consumables were the first concern, but another danger, Carbon Dioxide, proved a hidden foe.

There were enough lithium hydroxide canisters, which remove carbon dioxide from the spacecraft, but the square canisters from the Command Module were not compatible with the round openings in the Lunar Module environmental system…Mission Control devised a way to attach the CM canisters to the LM system by using plastic bags, cardboard, and tape- all materials carried on board.[Ibid]

To navigate back to Earth the space craft was  put on a free-return course that required two burns of the engines. The first burn lasted  35 seconds and occurred  5 hours after the explosion. The second burn was 5 minutes and took place as they approached the Moon.

Apollo 13 crew aboard the USS Iwo Jima after splash in the Pacific. They are (l-r) Fred Haise, John Swigert and James Lovell. [Image courtesy: about.com]

Amazingly the three men in the capsule and the hundreds of people back at Mission Control were able to get the space craft back to Earth safely. Apollo 13 splashed down near Samoa  on April 17, 1970.

After Apollo 13 both Haise and Swigert had hopes of being assigned another Moon mission, but that did not come to pass.  (Swigert went on to become a member of the House of Representatives from Colorado in 1982 before dying of bone cancer.)  Haise stayed with NASA and worked on the Shuttle program.

Portrait of Astronaut Fred H. Haise Jr. in flight suit holding a model of the space shuttle. [Image courtesy NASA]

He was commander of one of the two 2-man crews who piloted space shuttle approach and landing test (ALT) flights during the period June through October 1977. [Ibid]

There were a total of 8 “piggy back” flights that tested  the Shuttle’s critical glide, approach, landing, rollout, and flare capabilities.

After resigning from NASA in 1979 Haise became VP of Space Programs at Grumman Aerospace Corporation.

View of NASA 747 and T-38s flying over Shuttle Orbiter 101 “Enterprise” just after Haise and C. Gordon Fullerton landed the Shuttle on September 23, 1977. [Image courtesy NASA]


Thought of the Day 11.7.12 Marie Curie

Well, I think my blog got hit with some residual radiation or something today. For some reason the text/formatting has just gone off the hook wacko. And I’ve run out of time and patience trying to trouble shoot it. I KNOW Madame Curie wouldn’t give up… but I am. Sorry, dear readers. I hope you can read past the odd formatting and enjoy this profile of this amazing woman…

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N o t h i n g   i n   l i f e   i s   t o   b e   f e a r e d .   I t   i s   o n l y   t o   b e   u n d e r s t o o d .
– –   M a r i e   C u r i e

Polish/French physicists Marie Curie

Polish/French physicists Marie Curie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

M a r j a   S a l o m e a   S k l o d o w s k a     w a s   b o r n   i n   W a r s a w ,   P o l a n d   i n   1 8 6 7 .   T o d a y   i s   t h e   1 4 5 t h   a n n i v e r s a r y   o f
h e r   b i r t h .
P o l a n d   a t   t h e   t i m e   w a s   u n d e r   C z a r i s t   R u s s i a n   r u l e ,   a n d   M a r j a ‘ s   p a r e n t s   w e r e   n a t i o n a l i s t s .   H e r
p a r e n t s   w e r e   t e a c h e r s .   H e r   f a t h e r ,   L a d i s l a s ,   t a u g h t   M a t h   a n d   p h y s i c s ;   h e r   m o t h e r   r a n   a   b o a r d i n g
s c h o o l   f o r   g i r l s .   W h e n   R u s s i a n   t i g h t e n e d   t h e   r u l e s   o n   e d u c a t i o n   a n d   n o   l o n g e r   a l l o w e d   l a b o r a t o r y
i n s t r u c t i o n   i n   P o l i s h   s c h o o l s ,   L a d i s l a s   b r o u g h t   h o m e   t h e   l a b   e q u i p m e n t   a n d   h o m e   s c h o o l e d   h i s   c h i l d r e n .   H e   w a s   a l s o   v o c a l   i n   h i s   p r o – P o l i s h   s e n t i m e n t s   a n d   “ w a s   r e p e a t e d l y   f i r e d   a n d   d e m o t e d   f r o m
t e a c h i n g   p o s i t i o n s   o v e r   h i s   l o y a l t i e s . “   [ T h e   W r i t e r ‘ s   A l m a n a c ]     T h i n g s   g o t   w o r s e   w h e n   h e r   o l d e r
s i s t e r ,   Z o f i a ,   d i e d   o f   T y p h u s   w h e n   s h e   w a s   8 ,     a n d   t w o   y e a r s   l a t e r   h e r   m o t h e r ,   B r o n s i t w a ,   d i e d   o f
t u b e r c u l o s i s .
L a d i s l a s   r a i s e d   M a r j a   a n d   h e r   r e m a i n i n g   s i b l i n g s ,   J Û z e f ,   B r o n i s B a w a     a n d   H e l e n a .   M a r j a   w a s
b r i g h t   a n d   d i d   w e l l   w i t h   h e r   l e s s o n s .   S h e   w a s   s e n t   t o   b o a r d i n g   s c h o o l ,   b u t   w a s   u n a b l e   t o   g o   t o
u n i v e r s i t y   b e c a u s e   s h e   w a s   a   g i r l .   I n s t e a d   s h e   a t t e n d e d   “ T h e   F l o a t i n g   U n i v e r s i t y , “   a   s e c r e t
i n s t i t u t i o n   t h a t   t a u g h t   d e f i e d   t h e   R u s s i a n   a u t h o r i t i e s   a n d   t a u g h t   a   p r o – P o l i s h   c u r r i c u l u m .

D e t e r m i n e d   t o   g e t   a   p r o p e r   e d u c a t i o n ,   t h e   t w o   s i s t e r s   m a d e   a   p a c t   t o   t a k e   t u r n s   f u n d i n g   e a c h
o t h e r ‘ s   s c h o o l i n g .   M a r i e   t o o k   w o r k   f o r   t h r e e   y e a r s   a s   a   g o v e r n e s s   o n   a   s u g a r   b e e t   p l a n t a t i o n ,   w h i l e   s h e   f u n d e d   B r o n y a   t o   s t u d y   m e d i c i n e   i n   P a r i s .   . . . .   W h e n   s h e   f i n a l l y   g o t   h e r   o w n   c h a n c e   t o   s t u d y   a t
t h e   S o r b o n n e   i n   F r a n c e ,   M a r i e   t r a v e l e d   f o u r t h   c l a s s   w i t h   h e r   o w n   c h a i r   o n   t h e   t r a i n . . .   S h e   k e p t
w a r m   b y   w e a r i n g   e v e r y   p i e c e   o f   c l o t h i n g   s h e   o w n e d   a n d   w o u l d   g e t   s o   e n g r o s s e d   i n   s t u d y   t h a t   s h e
o f t e n   f a i n t e d   f o r   l a c k   o f   f o o d . . .   W i t h i n   a   f e w   y e a r s ,   s h e   g r a d u a t e d   t o p   o f   h e r   c l a s s   i n   p h y s i c s   a n d
m a t h .   [ I b i d ]

U p o n   g r a d u a t i o n   s h e   b e g a n   t o   i n v e s t i g a t e   t h e   m a g n e t i c   p r o p e r t i e s   o f   d i f f e r e n t   k i n d s   o f   s t e e l s .
S h e   m e e t   P i e r r e   C u r i e   w h e n   l o o k i n g   f o r   l a b   s p a c e .   “ T h e i r   p r o f e s s i o n a l   r e l a t i o n s h i p   s o o n   t u r n e d
r o m a n t i c ,   a n d   t h e   t w o   w e r e   m a r r i e d   i n   J u l y   1 8 9 5 . “   [ I b i d ]   M a r i e   r e c e i v e d   h e r   D o c t o r   o f   S c i e n c e
f r o m   t h e   S o r b o n n e .

M a r i e   C u r i e   w a s   n o t   a f r a i d   t o   t a k e   r i s k s .   H e r   f o r c e f u l   c h a r a c t e r   l e d   h e r   t o   a   l e v e l   o f   i n d e p e n d e n c e   u n u s u a l   f o r   h e r   t i m e .   I n   F r a n c e   d u r i n g   t h i s   p e r i o d ,   g i f t e d   w o m e n   w e r e   s c o r n e d   a n d   l o o k e d   d o w n
u p o n .   [ W i r e d . c o m ]

U n d a u n t e d   s h e   c o n t i n u e d   t o   p u r s u e   h e r   w o r k .   S h e   b e c a m e   f a s c i n a t e d   w i t h   F r e n c h   p h y s i c i s t   H e n r i   B e c q u e r e l ‘ s   w o r k   o n   u r a n i u m   c a s t   o f f   r a y s .

C u r i e   t o o k   B e c q u e r e l ‘ s   w o r k   a   f e w   s t e p s   f u r t h e r ,   c o n d u c t i n g   h e r   o w n   e x p e r i m e n t s   o n   u r a n i u m
r a y s .   S h e   d i s c o v e r e d   t h a t   t h e   r a y s   r e m a i n e d   c o n s t a n t ,   n o   m a t t e r   t h e   c o n d i t i o n   o r   f o r m   o f   t h e
u r a n i u m .   T h e   r a y s ,   s h e   t h e o r i z e d ,   c a m e   f r o m   t h e   e l e m e n t ‘ s   a t o m i c   s t r u c t u r e .   T h i s   r e v o l u t i o n a r y
i d e a   c r e a t e d   t h e   f i e l d   o f   a t o m i c   p h y s i c s   a n d   C u r i e   h e r s e l f   c o i n e d   t h e   w o r d   r a d i o a c t i v i t y   t o   d e s c r i b e   t h e   p h e n o m e n a .   [ B i o g r a p h y . c o m ]

M a r i e   a n d   P i e r r e   d i s c o v e r e d   a   t h e   r a d i o a c t i v e   e l e m e n t   p o l o n i u m   i n   1 9 8 9 ,   a n d   R a d i u m   i n   1 9 0 2 .
T h e   f o l l o w i n g   y e a r   M a r i e   C u r i e   b e c a m e   t h e   f i r s t   w o m a n   t o   r e c e i v e   t h e   N o b e l   P r i z e   i n   P h y s i c s .   “ S h e   w o n   t h e   p r e s t i g i o u s   h o n o r   a l o n g   w i t h   h e r   h u s b a n d   a n d   H e n r i   B e c q u e r e l ,   f o r   t h e i r   w o r k   o n
r a d i o a c t i v i t y . “   [ I b i d ]
I n   A p r i l   o f   1 9 0 6   P i e r r e   d i e d   t r a g i c a l l y   ( h e   w a s   h i t   b y   a   h o r s e – d r a w n   w a g o n ) ,   s h e   t o o k   o v e r   h i s
p o s i t i o n   a t   t h e   p h y s i c s   d e p a r t m e n t   a t   t h e   S o r b o n n e .   ( S h e   w a s   t h e   f i r s t   w o m a n   p r o f e s s o r   a t   t h e
S o r b o n n e .
I n   1 9 1 1   s h e   w o n   h e r   s e c o n d   N o b e l   P r i z e   – –   t h e   f i r s t   s c i e n t i s t   t o   d o   s o   – –   t h i s   t i m e   f o r   c h e m i s t r y .
I n   1 9 1 4   s h e   w a s   a p p o i n t e d   D i r e c t o r   o f   t h e   C u r i e   L a b o r a t o r y   a t   t h e   U n i v e r s i t y   o f   P a r i s .   D u r i n g
W a r   W o r l d   I   s h e   “ c h a m p i o n e d   t h e   u s e   o f   p o r t a b l e   X – r a y   m a c h i n e s   i n   t h e   f i e l d “ [ B i o g r a p h y . c o m ]     t h e   d e v i c e s   w e r e   n i c k n a m e d   “ L i t t l e   C u r i e s . “     A   d e c a d e   l a t e r   s h e   e s t a b l i s h e d   t h e   R a d i u m   I n s t i t u t e   i n   W a r s a w   w i t h   f u n d s   d o n a t e d   b y   P r e s i d e n t   H e r b e r t   H o o v e r   o f   t h e   U n i t e d   S t a t e s .   H e r   s i s t e r   B r o n i s l a w a
w a s   t h e   i n s t i t u t e ‘ s   f i r s t   d i r e c t o r .
I n   J u l y   o f   1 9 3 4   M a r i e   C u r i e   d i e d     f r o m   a p l a s t i c   a n e m i a .


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