Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lakes on a Plain

Titan's got lakes. Lots of lakes. As a matter of fact, right now Titan's got the only other known lakes in the whole-entire universe besides Earth. (:o Here is the hi-res image. And here is more information.

Last week's radar scans of the north regions of Titan showed dramatic lakes. The dark areas represent almost no radar scattering and thus must be extremely smooth - most likely liquid. Some of the dark areas show some roughness which could be wind-driven waves in the liquid. More passes are planned.

Top Men would love a Mars rover on Titan!

Previous related Wohba links:
Cassini Half Time

Friday, July 21, 2006

Insane Surfing Man

Top Men are please to bring you another installment of the Insane Man series...

On the north shore of Maui they use jet skis to catch monster, killer, awesome, perfect waves, dude. Here is a video. You can see some more small clips (and actually buy more video) here.

If you want a photo try this one of insane guy Pete Cabrinha riding a 70 footer. (Top Men wonder what happened to the photographer.)

(Thanks rsjm!)

Previous related Wohba links:
Insane Flying Man
Insane Rocket Man

Cassini's Half-time Extravaganza

Cassini has been orbiting Saturn for a couple years now. Time to bring a few things to your attention.

First is this video (6.7 MB) which NASA released to show the details from the last radar imaging across the moon of Titan. Watch the video as it points out features like coastlines, rivers, mountains, and lakes. Here is a high-res image of the swath featured in the video. (FYI - the role of water is played by methane or ethane on Titan, so don't plan your vacation.)

Second is the fact that Cassini is making another close pass of Titan today. The radar will be imaging the high northern terrain of Titan. Because it's shadowed and colder top men hope to spot some large hydrocarbon lakes.

And third is just a statistical note that the next two years of Cassini's four year mission will include 29 more passes of Titan - that's almost double the number of passes so far. We'll get to see a lot more of Titan.

Previous related Wohba links:
Huygens Masterpiece Edition
Another Titan Pass
Titan TV

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Apollo Guidance Computer

37 years ago today we landed on the moon. Still seems hard to believe - especially with the technology that was available. Top Men have dug up a few details on the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) to help you appreciate the feat even more.

- The AGC and display weighed almost 90 pounds.
- Almost a decade to design and build.
- First computer built from "chips" (integrated circuits) - 4000 of them.
- Building the 75 AGCs at one point used a large percentage of the worlds ICs.
- 2 MHz clock speed. (Playstation2 - 300 MHz)
- 4,000 bytes of RAM (Xbox - 64,000,000 bytes)
- No hard drive, CD, or floppy disk.

Here is a photo of an AGC display. Here is a diagram of the Command Module main control panel. AGC display is in section "C". Here is closeup of that section.

The AGC lead designer Eldon Hall once stated (Top Men are paraphrasing here) that if they had known more, they would have concluded it couldn't be done. Bound to be a lesson in there somewhere.

Previous related Wohba links:
Google Moon
Lunar Vista

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Just Plane Lucky

Here is what it looks like when a plane gets hit by lightning. (Here is slowed down view.) We wonder what it looks like from the inside?

Top Men would like to calm your nerves by reminding you it's been over 40 years since lightning caused a major plane crash. Today's aircraft (US and European built) are well protected against fuel sparks and electronic failure that might be caused by lightning. Relax and enjoy the view.

(via NOAA, images by Zen Kawasaki)

Night Tornado

At last - the circle is complete. Top Men have previously posted images of tornado and rainbow and rainbow and lightning. At last we have found final image to complete the circle, the illusive lightning and tornado photo. Rest can come at last.

The image is making the rounds these days. The real story is that it was taken by a guy named Fred Smith on June 15, 1993. Just an amateur photographer, he was out on his deck taking lightning shots, when he got lucky and caught this bolt illuminating a waterspout.

(Via Accuweather)

Previous related Wohba links:
Tornado and Rainbow
Rainbow and Lightning

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rocket Cam

Those NASA top men just keep adding more and more cameras to the Space Shuttle for "safety" reasons. Yeah. Sure. We know it's because video cameras on rockets are sweet!

They've generously released the full videos from before launch through splashdown from cameras on the Space Shuttle's Solid Rock Boosters (SRB). For those who don't remember, the SRBs are the long white cans that are filled with gunpowder. They light 'em for extra push on the way up. When they burn out they separate from the external tank and freefall until chutes carry them into the Atlantic. They are retrieved and used again.

The full length versions are long, but amazing.

Real Video - Full length video looking down. (Great view of splashdown.)
Real Video - Full length video looking up. (Great view of SRB separation.)
mpg Video - Short clip looking up (High quality view of SRB separation only.)

Previous related Wohba links:
Space Shuttle Tiles
Space Shuttle Main Engines
Free Falling
Space Balloon

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Lightning's Fingerprint

Sometimes, under the right conditions, a high-voltage electrical discharge will create a cool fern-like pattern called a Lichtenberg Figure (named after Georg Christoph Lichtenberg.)

They are found in sand when lightning strikes. (called fulgurite)
They are found on the surface of water in 300 trillion watt pulse generators.
They are found on human skin when lightning strikes.
They are found in lawns where lightning strikes.
They are found in chunks of polymethylmethacrylateacrylic (acrylic) that you can buy here.

From Ant to Zinc

Pesky ants. Top Men poured water down an ant mound last week. What an exercise in futility. We should have used molten zinc.

Walter R. Tschinkel would have us believe that he pours blazing hot metal into ant mounds for scientific research. Riiiiight. He does it to kill the blasted ants. He gets some amazing sculptures as a bonus.

Here are some photos...

Narrow Vertical
Closer Detail
Big Nest