Flying the world’s fastest plane: Behind the stick of the SR-71
“You’d light up the afterburner right after that first refueling, and take it to full power for the next hour. That’s pretty amazing, because no other plane can fly in full afterburner continuously. All other planes have either a three minute limit, or five minute limit on that, but you’d be going at full afterburner for an hour, hour and a half.”
If that quote gives you a semi, then click here for the full interview with former SR-71 pilot Rick McCrary.
Sunday morning travel: The painted hills of Oregon
When most people think of Oregon, they think of rain, Portland, rain, the Oregon trail, hipsters, and rain. However, east of the Cascade mountains, Oregon and Washington State contain miles of desert and scrub lands.For an example of the Washington desert, see my Flickr set from the area.
The Painted Hills in Oregon are the remnants of a large, ancient river flood plain. Unlike the striated rock formations you might see in Arizona and Nevada, the Painted Hills are surprisingly delicate layers of soil, rock, and minerals. A change in humidity will drastically change the coloring of the layers, so the hills often look different depending on the weather.
This is what it looks like when a spiral galaxy, traveling nearly 4.5 million miles per hour, plows into interstellar gas clouds. This composite made from images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Telescope show a trail of destruction spanning light years of space. I’m sure this is making a helluva light show for anything living in that galaxy.
Now that’s some cold shit: The world’s largest ice cave
Located in Werfen, Austria, the Eisriesenwelt (German for “World of the Ice Giants”) is the largest ice cave in the world. Composed of limestone and 42km long, it is a truly astonishing work of nature. For years, many locals believed that the cave was the entrance to Hell and refused to go near it. It was eventually explored by Anton Posselt in 1879. What he discovered was one of the most beautiful natural formations ever discovered.
It’s the Andromeda Strain! Scientists accidentally create a two-dimensional quasicrystal made from self-assembling organic molecules
This odd quasicrystal is flat, made from a single layer of molecules with five-sided rings. The molecules form groups within the layer as weak hydrogen bonds link them together. These molecular groups are assembled in a way that forces other molecules in the layer into shapes including pentagons, stars, boats, and rhombi. If this were a regular old crystal, you’d expect to see these groups and shapes repeated over and over throughout the layer in a predictable way. But in this quasicrystal, you’ll see the same shapes over and over in the layer, but not in any organized pattern.
The things that set these quasicrystals apart from all the others, scientists say, are its organic materials and self-assembling parts.”
But add to that the moments when sufferers try to enjoy a meal with friends or family. The frustration attendant with being unable to keep food on the fork or spoon becomes another consequence of the disorder.
Now a San Francisco startup called Lift Labs is selling a piece of assistive technology that counters hand tremors and lets users have a meal without embarrassment or annoyance. The device, called Liftware, mounts utensils on an active stabilizing platform that diminishes uncontrollable jerking movements.
This month, Lift Labs is matching donations to its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to send Liftware to people in economic hardship. The company will send the devices to the International Essential Tremor Foundation for distribution to those in need. Click through to see the campaign video.
3800 year old Chinese mummy found with what may be the world’s oldest cheese
Historians believe that cheese making goes back to around 6000 BC, but there is precious little cheese to be found from that period. This mummy, which was buried in China’s Taklamakan Desert 3800 years ago, was buried with small pieces of cheese. The cheese may have been intended as food for the afterlife. However, it looks more like a mid-morning snack for the afterlife.
A giant sunspot has made a 3rd trip across the face of the sun
The sunspot in question has been responsible for 2 X-class solar flares, as well as several flares of lower magnitude. Most sunspots change and disappear in a week or two, but occasionally, they have some staying power. This particular flare has been around for over 100 days, making it an old timer, sunspot-wise.
Oil from the Exxon Valdez spill is still being found in Prince William Sound
You might be excused for looking at this pic of oil from the Exxon Valdez and thinking “Oh, that picture must be from 1989”. Actually, it’s from 2014. Apparently, the US’s second largest oil spill (knocked out of first place by the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010) is still wreaking havoc on Prince William Sound, but just not in places that are visible. Cleaning crews did a great job of cleaning up the shores, but they didn’t bother cleaning behind rocks on the shore. Oil from the spill is still present in these nooks and crannies, and it’s fresh as harvest day.
Labs regularly harvest horseshoe crab blood, and you have likely benefited from it
Have you had any sort of shot or vaccination in the past 30 years? If so, then you have reaped the benefits of horseshoe crab blood. Their baby-blue blood contains a special chemical called coagulogen which coagulates around any bacteria it encounters, trapping it in a lump of goo. The crabs developed this as a defensive mechanism, since a cracked shell could allow bacteria to invade the cozy space between their shell and soft bodies. As a result, it ends up being able to detect bacteria at a parts-per-trillion level, which is such a low concentration that no other technology can compete at the moment.
90% of the crabs aren’t killed by the bleeding process. Only about 30% of the crab’s blood is drawn, and they are returned to the wild far from their harvest point, so they don’t get harvested multiple times. A quart of coagulogen runs about $15,000, so scientists aren’t keen on accidentally killing off the crabs. They are starting to see signs that the bleeding may be preventing some females from breeding, however. Advances in technology may soon make the harvest unnecessary. Until that happens, these labs will continue to harvest crabs for their delicious, baby-blue goodness.