The ‘R’ behind the Thompson-Ramo-Woolridge (later TRW) corporation passed away a few months ago at age 103. Simon Ramo saw the future and made a lot of it happen in a bygone era when technical people ran corporations. Here, he explains what we currently call Cloud Computing over a lovely guitar score by Nell Hultgren of whom little, unfortunately, can be found.
To this day, the questionable Wernher von Braun gets credit for most American space accomplishments of the 1950s and 1960s. He tirelessly aimed at the stars (with the occasional drops on London) but engineering realities were at odds with his grandiose plans and even grandioser rockets. John Houbolt’s Lunar Orbit Rendezvous approach eventually won out and his role in Apollo’s success is insufficiently known. Here’s a comparison.
The International Printing Museum in Carson showed (and, hopefully, still does show) visitors a working Linotype machine. Inspiring engineering that lasted a century, now surpassed by digital methods that are replaced at much greater frequency.
Big tankers tie up offshore and disgorge their contents into brightly lit and mostly inscrutable refineries. This sixty year old film by Shell Oil neatly explains the chemistry, chemical engineering, and physics of distillation that takes gives us our gasoline, diesel, oils, and waxes. In a different setting, it also gives us many different kinds of beverages.
39 years ago today, Voyager 1 took flight on its Grand Tour. It has gone farther than any other man-made object in history and won’t stop until it reaches the stars long after we and all that’s important to us are dust. Idealism wasn’t for chumps back then. Or maybe it was. JPL and NASApost the mission data from all these interplanetary missions and it is all free.
I had the great fortune of looking out my grad school office window into a sculpture garden of Rodin bronzes. The lost wax process used to make these marvels keeps eluding me. Every time I think about it, I forget steps and/or get them mixed up. These two videos from the Israel Museum and The Getty go a long way to shoring up a sagging memory.
Back to the garden: So, did we chemists appreciate what we had in front of our eyes? Yes, quite a bit. The program was stressful and we’d wonder darkly whether we were on the wrong side of the Gates of Hell while having lunch in front of it. The fate of an adjacent parking lot stirred a lot of debate between a supportive faction of chemistry faculty, staff, and students and the late Prof.Albert Elsen of the Art History Department, eminent Rodin scholar, and advisor to the Cantor Foundation that donated the works. The Loma Prieta earthquake intervened and gave us all other things to worry about. The statues don’t look any worse for wear decades later despite fears that they’d dissolve into nothing. Careful stewardship and loving cleaning, enabled by a little chemistry, have served them well.
Stanford conservators work to preserve Rodin Sculpture Garden
Architectures, by Richard Copans and Stan Neumann, beautifully surveys iconic buildings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Produced by Arte tv in France, the DVDs are tough to purchase in the U.S. without going to the evil that is Amazon. Here is a low-res playlist while the hunt continues:
We take the jet engine for granted but the invention by Whittle and von Ohain will dazzle anyone who takes the time to burrow into the details. It’s simple on the surface – Intake, compress, combust, and exhaust(*) – but immensely complex and even beautiful in practice. Enter AgentJayZ, a Canadian engine repair technician for S&S Turbine Services, a company that repairs, restores, and/or refurbishes jets for military and civilian customers. This involves a lot of detail work followed by testing which the Agent documents gleefully on his Youtube channel. Yes, there are people who get to light afterburners without ever leaving the ground.
Even more impressive is his growing collection of answers to viewer questions. 86 lengthy episodes as of this post where he explains fine points of engine-ering with equal parts fact, humor, and snark.
My question? What is it like to love your job that much?