A young filmmaker dives deeply in five parts into the technical and artistic innards of his (and one of my) favorite movies. One wishes that he spoke a little slower and left some breathing room in his edits but it is an earnest, meticulous, and illuminating effort. The engineering alone that went into 2001 is awe-inspiring. Did Kubrick sleep during the two years it took to make?
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.
A large, cold, dilute gas of hydrogen and space dust collapses slowly under its own gravity, compression, heating, and fusion take place aided and abetted by shock waves, and then a star glows for millions to trillions of years.
That’s how it is usually explained but the numbers are hard to grasp. The clouds can be dozens of light years across, the gas pressures are lower than the best vacuums on earth, the shock waves aren’t the kind we associate with sonic booms, and it can take tens of millions of years to get the party started.
Yet it happens and we are here because of it. The details are very toughsledding but equally interesting.
Introductory Astronomy: Star Formation and the Lifetimes of Stars
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.
A lot of my research over the years required cooling objects to ‘freeze out’ some phenomena in order to study others. Liquid helium was often essential to get to these temperatures. Its a fascinating material quite apart from its practical value as a refrigerant. Alfred Leitner’s beautiful demonstrations from 1964 give a glimpse into a liquid that continues to be actively studied by many laboratories.
Astronomy buffs should enjoy Chris Impey’s free online courses offered through Udemy and Coursera. One interesting feature of the Astronomy State of the Art course is his regular online office hour where he takes questions submitted in real time as well as by email. The questions are invariably very good, spanning terrestrial, planetary, galactic, and cosmological topics. Impey takes time to respond thoroughly. The live sessions are broadcast on a Google Hangout and archived on Youtube. Here’s a collection of them.