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Alex Wilson

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Everything posted by Alex Wilson

  1. Launch Time: 10:50 am Team Members Present: Me! Alex Wilson Play-by-Play: Rather than dangerously dance with gravity turning, I opted to do a 45 degree turn at 15,000m. After watching my orbital path on the map, I eyeballed when to move down to 90 degrees, and burned until the periapsis and apoapsis were about equal (75,000 each). Then, after a bit of orbiting I used a maneuver to bring the rocket back to the surface. Time-of-Flight: ~1 day (orbiting is fun) Summary: I now know how to orbit! Opportunities / Learnings: Try to come back into the atmosphere at a slower velocity, the command pod was getting dangerously hot and going really fast. Strategies / Project Timeline: Perhaps fly to and orbit Mun and back?
  2. Pre Flight: Team Name: The Lone Ranger Available Funds: N/A Vehicle Name: Orbiter Vehicle Parts List and Cost: Mk1 Command Pod, Mk16 Parachute, TR-18A Stack Decoupler, T400 fuel tank (x4), "Swivel" engine, "Reliant" engine, T800, "Hammer" solid fuel boosters (x3), Design Goals: Get safely into/out of orbit Launch Goal: Execute a proper turn to make it into orbit, and come back. (This time with enough fuel!) Pilot Plan: Start the turn at about 15,000 m and slowly lean over to 90 degrees once the rocket reaches ~20,000 m. Whenever the fuel canisters run out decouple them. Once in a relatively circular orbit, execute a maneuver to come back to Kerbin
  3. Launch Time: 10:40 am Team Members Present: Me! Alex Wilson Play-by-Play: I totally miss timed the gravity turn and ended up turning way too late, which wasted a lot of fuel.... Luckily, the rocket still made it into orbit. Unforunately, the rocket had no more fuel to actually come back to the planet because of the inefficient ascent into orbit. Time-of-Flight: Infinite? Summary: Gravity turns are more difficult than anticapted Opportunities / Learnings: Maybe I'll just skip the gravity turn and do a semi-inefficient turn at 15,000m , which would be easier to do. Strategies / Project Timeline: I'm going to do it again, but turn better next time
  4. Pre Flight: Team Name: The Lone Ranger Available Funds: N/A Vehicle Name: Orbiter Vehicle Parts List and Cost: Mk1 Command Pod, Mk16 Parachute, TR-18A Stack Decoupler, T400 fuel tank (x4), "Swivel" engine, "Reliant" engine, T800, "Hammer" solid fuel boosters (x3), Design Goals: Get safely into/out of orbit Launch Goal: Execute a proper gravity turn to make it into orbit, and come back. Pilot Plan: Start the gravity turn at about 5,000 m and slowly lean over to 90 degrees once the rocket reaches ~20,000 m. Whenever the fuel canisters run out decouple them. Once in a relatively circular orbit, execute a maneuver to come back to Kerbin Illustrations:
  5. Launch Time: 11:05 AM Team Members Present: Me! Alex Wilson Play-by-Play: The launch started out fairly smooth, until I realized that I should have looked up how to actually control the rocket.... It ended up in a tumble at about 10,000M Photographs: I should also find out how to post the pictures here... (I'll edit later) Time-of-Flight: 3 minutes exactly! Summary: I failed miserably at actually controlling the rocket that's about all that happened Opportunities / Learnings: I want to put the second rocket in the same stage as de coupling the radial boosters Strategies / Project Timeline: I will for sure look up how to control the rocket!
  6. Pre Flight: Team Name: The Lone Ranger Available Funds: N/A Vehicle Name: Traveller Vehicle Parts List and Cost: Mk1 Command Pod, Mk16 Parachute, TR-18A Stack Decoupler, "Reliant" Liquid Fuel Engine, 3x Radial Decouplers, 3x Basic Fins, Advanced Inline Stabilizer Design Goals: Just test out my first rocket ever! I followed the basic rocket tutorial plus added fins for stability and the inline stabilizer because why not. Launch Goal: Learn the controls of flying in KSP Pilot Plan: See how far the rocket flies, and come back down (hopefully safely) Illustrations:
  7. Lately in the video game world there has been a lot of purposefully bad simulator games: Surgeon Simulator and Rock Simulator to name a couple. Now, there is a sim game called I AM BREAD. In the game you play as, well, bread. Duh. The purpose of every level is to become toast and stay edible. The best part of the game is that it has really wonky controls. Also, the physics make little sense. The bread you play as has grip and can climb walls. It also seems to be a rather heavy mass since it can break bottles and push bowling balls around. The series Teens React has a video with it: My favorite part is that they all ask "Wait, so I'm the bread?"
  8. Pcgamer.com recently had a cool article showing real-life spacecraft creations in Kerbal Space Program. http://www.pcgamer.com/kerbal-space-program-2/ It's cool that somebody took the time to think about how to recreate these models of famous spacecraft. I found it amusing that he says the smaller spacecraft - particularly Pioneer 4 - were so small (only 6.1 kg!) that the thrust simulation in the game would make it go extra long distances with ease. As several of us in APC already know, after the AP exam we will get to play around with Kerbal Space Program in class. I personally think it's a fantastic game and is as close as you can get to simulating real life space travel for only $20.
  9. Everybody who has flown in a plane has experienced turbulence. I personally never understood turbulence - what causes it, how dangerous is it, etc - but I read an article from an airline pilot explaining it. Turbulence occurs when fast moving air hits slow moving air and the air currents are disrupted. Rather than flowing smoothly, they are crashing and moving around each other. According to this pilot, encountering light to moderate turbulence is like a bumpy road in a car. It just happens. Planes are made to withstand the constant ups and downs that happen from turbulence. If you watch the wings of a plane when going through turbulence, they are made to flex. Since I am going into aerospace engineering next year, this information will become extremely relevant to me. Fluid dynamics were intimidating enough last year with algebra based physics, so I imagine calculus based will be absolutely gruelling. Oh well. #engineeringmajor I guess
  10. Even though Frozen has been over played, over hyped, over sung, over rated, and just freakin' annoying at this point (in my opinion) the level of detail that Disney and Pixar alike put into their 3D movies is incredible. Just take a look at this video: Now, I have no idea what that stuff was in the beginning other than "velocity" and "particle", but clearly it uses very high level physics and therefore calculus algorithms. It's crazy to think that back when The Incredibles came out, just animating people's skin and hair realistically was impressive, and now animators are focused on entire environments and tiny particles being realistic. The applications for physics and math are endless.
  11. So, in my quest to create these blog posts tonight, some of them will be sort of repetitive. Like this one. But still cool, don't worry. I found this video from a guy that made an awesome looking giant sandman animation. The entire thing is made of 1,000,000 particles. Clearly, he is using some sort of alien computing technology to render it because that would blow up any normal person's computer. The fact that computers exist that can move 1 million particles together in smooth animation is incredible. If our physics engines continue like this, we will be able to accurately simulate just about any situation with ease.
  12. Despite my love for terrible physics, there is of course a beauty in simulating very realistic physics with a computer. I think this video perfectly sums up what I mean: Blender is a fantastic free 3D modeling program that I have spent some time messing around with.... It is extremely complicated. I could hardly create anything on my own. It is is amazing that people can use programming logic to create realistic destruction animations. Each individual particle that breaks away has to be taken into account. You need to think about changes in momentum, rigidity of objects, velocities of those objects, and so many other factors to make the collisions look real. Truly, animation tests a person's knowledge of mechanical physics tremendously.
  13. To reiterate what I said in my last blog post, bad physics are the best physics. So, here's some more! A super fun game with purposefully terrible physics is Just Cause 2. In the game you are pretty much the cheesiest action hero ever, and as such can do ridiculous stunts. For instance, you can fall any distance you want, so long as you use a grappling hook to pull yourself into the ground. This makes no sense whatsoever because obviously the grapple would pull you faster into the ground not slow you down. You can also ride on top of jet planes no problem. It doesn't matter how fast they accelerate, how much wind resistance there is, or how cold it would be on the outside of a plane. There are lots of other physics that make the game fun as well, like getting shot a bunch of times and living, crashing vehicles and being flung ridiculous distances and surviving, and whatever other action hero stunts you can think of. Here's some of the fun stuff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPOjUD2kCBM
  14. Anybody who knows anything knows that it is a universal law that bad physics are good physics. By which I mean hilarious. This is particularly obvious in awful video games, such as Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. There are SO MANY GLITCHES. The best is being able to jump infinitely as the character, Knuckles. It clearly demonstrates the physics concept that if you paused life, you could jump forever. Wait... That's not a thing. Oh well. This video shows the infinite jump and a bunch of other terrible physics glitches.
  15. With the announcement of Windows 10 this week, Microsoft also announced a new product: the HoloLens. They have been worked on for several years in secret, by the same person who created Kinect. Although, at the moment, they are only available to developers and are a very new concept. Still, they are extremely cool and could change how we see the world in a few years. Images, which Microsoft is calling holograms, come up in the real world. The lens can process many terabytes a second which sounds absurd. The glasses can map specific rooms and overlay information onto it. Here's the new promotional page: http://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us Of course, they work nothing like they do in the promo videos and pictures. But, from what I have read they still work pretty well. The only downside is that the view is only a smallish area in front of your face, as opposed to being all around you like Occulus Rift and other virtual reality. The holograms are projected similar to how prescription eyeglasses work. The light rays hit your eyes at specific points, which can make the image appear out in space. Microsoft is hoping to create consumer versions in the next decade, and I personally cannot wait. It's starting to feel like the future!
  16. Just last night I watched a new animated movie, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. It's very dark and definitely made for adults. People get killed left and right and it's horribly (awesomely?) violent. Here's the trailer: The movie primarily follows The Flash as a protagonist and his travels through time and parallel universes. A lot of The Flash's abilities and physical limitations are countered through comic book magic, such as the fact that he has an "aura" around him that prevents air resistance from burning him and his clothing up. I'm more interested in the conundrums that are not explained by the writers. Most of the time The Flash's main way of fighting is to move at a ridiculous speed and punch bad guys as hard as he can. However, according to our Lord and Savior of Physics - Isaac Newton - and his Third Law "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" meaning that if you hit table, tables hits you!...With the same amount of force, in the opposite direction. By that logic, The Flash punching a guy's face so hard that he goes flying back into a wall would hurt The Flash's fist just the same. Think about how much your knuckles hurt just punching something as hard as you can as a normal human being. Now picture it at light speed. Broken arm, anyone? Now, according to the comic book universe, The Flash can heal at rapid rates since all of his body functions are sped up. However, if he hit something so hard that his whole body broke up he wouldn't be able to heal fast enough, he would be dead. That is unless The Flash can react so quickly to the force against his fist that he is able to absorb it, like when a baseball catcher catches a 90 mph ball in his glove and gradually slows the ball down so his fingers don't break. Anyway, I'm going to continue my suspension of disbelief so I can further enjoy super hero movies. Especially with about 1 million Marvel movies coming out in the next couple years.
  17. Alex Wilson

    Vinyl

    I've always been fascinated with old electronics. Like those old digital readout clocks from the 80s, that flip the numbers down instead of having LEDs. There's something about having a true literal system that is more interesting to me than just virtual code on a computer. Vinyl records are another example of this. You can actually see the music and sound being created as the record and needle move on a turntable. The start of vinyl was a discovery by Thomas Edison. Edison knew that sound was vibration of particles in a medium (usually air). He invented the phonograph which could record and play back sound. It worked by having a membrane connected to a needle, which rotated and moved linearily when the membrane was rotated by a crank. Sound waves caused the membrane to vibrate and then the needle would etch grooves into the foil and record the sound. Unfortunately, the phonograph was impractical among the general population. Later, a German by the name of Emile Barliner created the gramophone. Gramophones could not record but they could play back sound. This created the whole record industry. Music would be recorded on a master record and then copies would be made and sold. Modern vinyl records are a bit more complicated and have electrical signals which transmit the vibrations to create grooves and have a longer, but more effective, process to creating copies.
  18. There's a Marvel movie coming out in the near future whose protagonist is Ant-Man. While he may sound pretty boring, he's actually pretty cool. Ants are basically already super heroes. If you don't believe me, check out this video. Would you go and attack a giant?! No, of course not. Unless you were Ant-Man. Ant-Man's power is that he created a gas that allows him to shrink himself and other people and objects and he created a helmet that lets him communicate with insects. When he is shrunk down, he keeps the same strength he had when he was normal sized. "Hey, look at that weakling, he's like 3 centimeters tall! What the- Oh god, he can still pick me up! Nooooooo!...." *The villain's dumb lackey gets chucked over a railing* The absolute coolest power he has is to be able to enter the unlimited "microverses", fictional parallel universes. Once you're inside the microverse it's not microscopic, only its entrance is. The microverse is accessed when a mass (such as Ant-Man) gets compressed so small that it creates an artificial nexus into the parallel universe. It's interesting that Stan Lee decided to create his own physics for what happens when something gets shrunk to a ridiculously small size.
  19. Lately my friends and I have been playing the new Super Smash Bros on 3DS. In the game, as the title suggests, you smash everyone around and you win when you are able to smash all the enemies off the stage. The more you get hit, the higher your damage % goes up and the farther you fly each time you get attacked. I thought it would be interesting to think about what physics concepts could cause this. Perhaps the higher damage actually reduces drag forces on the character. Maybe tiny particles that are impossible to see are being broken off the character therefore making them lighter and fly farther. Honestly, I can't think of anything creative or realistic that would cause this effect. Must just be video game magic. If anybody thinks of something creative tell me in the comments!
  20. Monday is the start of the Nordic ski season! (That's cross country skiing for those of you who don't know) Skiing, particularly Nordic, has tons of potential for physics conversations. I'm going to focus particularly on poling. To get the most out of poling while racing, its necessary to go the fastest while also using the least amount of energy. In order to achieve this it's important that the poles are planted as close to 45 degrees to the ground as possible. Physically, this makes total sense. Your sine and cosine components of force would then be equivalent. You would not be wasting energy pushing yourself vertically off the ground and you get the most forward push with every plant. Then, you use the least amount of energy for the amount of momentum you gain, since a stronger push gives you more velocity and momentum = mass*velocity. Momentum is crucial in skiing because more glide means that you can go farther and faster than the person next to you without getting totally exhausted too soon.
  21. I recently found this extremely intriguing video game, Miegakure, in which you solve puzzles using the 4th dimension. http://miegakure.com/ This game is completely mind boggling. The player has to switch between the 3rd dimensions and 4th dimensions to do absurd tasks like walking "through" walls. At first I thought you were just going into another screen where the wall does not exist, walking past where the wall was, and then switching back to the 3rd dimension. However, the more I read about the creation of this game, the more I'm convinced it's not that. The creator literally programmed the game in 4th dimensional code; the coordinates are sort of like (x,y,z,w). From what I have figured out through reading, the 4th dimension is similar to how we view the differences between the 2nd and 3rd dimensions. Every 3d shape has 2d faces, so therefore every 4d shape has 3d faces - still impossible to comprehend to be honest. I do know that we could do seemingly ridiculous things if were able to move about in 4 dimensions. For instance, if you were to draw a simple square on a piece of paper, you could see everything that is "inside" the square. The same concept could be true if we could visualize the 4 dimensionally. We could see what is inside of 3d objects by moving to another facet of it. Also, it would seem like you could teleport around by moving through the 4th dimension. All of these are possible theories and ideas, but they seem to work. The physical feats we could accomplish would be amazing, if only we could move about 4 dimensionally.
  22. Many, many people have wondered why the U.S still doesn't use the metric system for everything. It's decimal based and way easier to use. For instance, acceleration due to gravity in metric (like we use in physics) is 9.8m/s^2 which can easily be rounded to 10, an easy number to multiply mass by the find weight. However, in all my math and engineering classes, teachers always seem set on using U.S Customary Units, which makes gravity's acceleration be 32.174 ft/s^2 which is a ridiculous calculation to do in your head, and makes doing physics problems that much more time consuming. Plus, its super easy to convert units. Grams to kilograms you just move the decimal 3 places to the left. Simple. And on certain products we use metric, other ones we don't. Why do we have a gallon of milk but 2 liters of soda? I decided to look this up. We got the U.S units from the British Imperial System (both are actually identitcal, but different words for some measurments). In the late 1700s, France was developing the metric system. Also at this time, the U.S and France didn't particularly like eachother too much so Americans couldn't travel to Paris and learn about the new system. In addition, it was decided that switching to the metric system could screw over a lot of people because it would be hard to make sure everybody has a centimeter that is actually a centimeter. In 1866 America finally recognized the metric system saying, Although the metric system is recognized, it's not always used. In 1975 the Metric Conversion Act was passed which said everyone should convert to the metric system. A major reason that a lot of businesses and scientists and engineers have no converted to metric is because of the cost. If it were mandatory for every measurment to be converted to metric, the man-power and therefore dollar cost would be huge, particularly in complex blueprints like the ones for the space shuttle. Fortunately, some places have switched to metric in the U.S such as pharmacy, film, tools, and bicycles. In conclusion, Americans are painfully slow with switching to the metric system. At least scientists seem to be smart enough to let us use metric, even if I still have to use silly Americaaaaa!!! "horsepower" in engineering.
  23. Last winter I got to try this really awesome "toy" at Bristol Mountain: a giant airbag jump done by Acrobag (http://acrobag.org/). For an hour I could go off the big jump, do anything and wanted, and not get hurt if I messed up a landing. This reason for this is completely related to what we are doing in physics this week. The change in momentum (impulse) is over a longer period of time which makes the force your body feels much less. For example, for proof of concept we can assume that when a person hits this bag they are in free fall so their velocity = sqrt(2gh). So they are going at about v=sqrt(2*9.8*3)=7.7 m/s. Therefore, their momentum is about p=(70kg)(7.7m/s) = 539 kg*m/s. We can use impulse to find the force they would feel without the Acrobag. F=(change in p)/(change in time) or F=539/.001=539,000 N which would definitely cause some injury. With the Acrobag, this force is greatly reduced. F=539/2=269.5 N...Obviously a huge difference in the force the person feels.
  24. So if you haven't heard, a rocket that was supposed to bring supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) exploded on October 28. Here's a short article and video talking about it: http://www.wired.com/2014/10/antares-rocket-explosion/. Obviously, this kind of sucks. The rocket cost about $200 million and now most of the supplies won't make it to the ISS. However, explosions are still really fun to watch, especially one that big and I don't feel bad saying that since the rocket was unmanned. Also interesting is that the rocket was made by Orbital Science, under contract of NASA. This shows that the space industry is slowly because more of a private industry with Orbital Science and SpaceX leading the way at the moment. They aren't sure exactly what caused the rocket to fail, but the actual explosion was caused by the self-destruct being purposefully activated. The real problem was right when it fired its first stage - you can kind of see this in the video. As soon as this problem was noticed, it was decided to destroy the rocket before it reached a populated area and could potentially cause damage. Any number of factors can mess up a rocket launch; there are a lot of variables. Wind speed and direction, an area clear of people, weather, calculations, etc. I think the biggest things I learned from this are that those errors we usually don't account for in our physics labs (FRICTION!!) matter a lot in the real world, and that we still have not perfected going to space. I'm excited for space tourism anyway.
  25. A few days ago I was merrily browsing the internet when I saw this intriguing post from Discovery: http://news.discovery.com/tech/gear-and-gadgets/worlds-first-hoverboard-for-realsies-141021.htm If there is one invention that everybody has wanted since 1989, it's that hoverboard Marty McFly rode in Back to the Future II. These real life hoverboards are being made with the brand Hendo Hover and are really cool. They let the rider glide around 1 inch above the ground and seem to have some sort of stabilizing system so they go where you want them to. Unfortunately, the board has to be used on a metal surface to create the electromagnetic repulsion and the battery only lasts 7 minutes at the moment (Hendo hopes to create fancy metal "hover parks" where the boards could be used, so that eliminates some of the problem of a metal surface). So, how do they work? Well, to be honest, they are pretty complicated. I do know that it has to be something with changing the magnetic field in 2 coils of wire by varying the current applied to one of the coils. This draws a lot of electrical current, which is another obstacle to be overcome. They had a Kickstarter page, I think it is still there (I can't look since the school blocks the website...) and if you donate enough money you can get a cool little hover block to mess around with and take apart, since Hendo wants people to begin innovating with their technology and see what can be created. I can't wait to see what this stuff will do in a few years!

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