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Roger's Equations

This blog is all about science and technology (with occasional math thrown in for fun). The goal of this blog is to try and pass on the sense of excitement and wonder I feel when I read about these topics. I hope you enjoy the posts.

Cool GIF Series: Apollo 12 Saturn V Rocket Stage Orbital Path

Posted January 08, 2015 5:00 PM by Roger Pink

On November 14, 1969, the Apollo 12 mission was launched. The Saturn V launch vehicle for the Apollo 12 mission had several stages, including the S-IVB third stage that was discarded into a heliocentric orbit.

Flash forward to September 2002. Bill Yeung, an amateur astronomer, found what he thought was an asteroid in elliptical orbit around the Earth. The new object was designated J002E3.

Spectroscoptic analysis of J002E3 revealed the 'asteroid" had the same chemical signature as the paint used on Saturn V rockets. It was quickly realized that J002E3 wasn't an asteroid at all but the S-IVB third stage from Apollo 12, appearing again after years in an unstable high Earth orbit. For nine months astronomers tracked J002E3 till it left Earth's proximity in June 2003, ejected by the moon's gravity.

The good people at Wikipedia have a GIF of J002E3's orbit as modeled by astronomers.

J002E3's Orbital Motion

Also, here's a great behind-the-scenes story about the Lunar Lander.

Lunar Lander: How One Engineer's Persistence Led to Apollo Success

14 comments; last comment on 01/14/2015
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Top 5 Favorite Blogs/Articles from 2014

Posted January 04, 2015 9:00 AM by Roger Pink

Hello all! I went into my archives and picked out my top 5 favorite blogs/articles I wrote last year. I'm looking forward to writing some more in 2015, my 10th year on CR4!

Google Leaps Into Quantum Computing - Google has hired Dr. John Martinis to head up a group to build a Quantum Computer from the bottom up. If successful, it will change computing forever.

Exoplanets! - When I wrote this roughly a year ago, 1074 exoplanets in 812 planetary systems have been confirmed. As of a few days ago, that total has increased to 1855 planets in 1164 planetary systems. A new age of astronomy has begun!

Lockheed Martin's 100 MW Fusion Reactor - Lockheed Martin believes it could have a working fusion reactor prototype in 5 years! A production model in 10 years! Sound too good to be true? Many agree, but there are tantalizing signs that the dream of fusion may actually become reality this time.

The Nuclear Weapons of the United States - For those of you nostalgic for the days when desks protected you from radiation, or for a younger generation addicted to "The Americans" and wanting more.

Delicate Audacity: The Saturn V Rocket - A look back at an engineering marvel. A reminder of what we can accomplish when we put our hearts and minds into something.

Anyway, that's it. I hope you've enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed researching and writing them. I'm looking forward to learning about new technologies and dragging old cool technologies back into the light. Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best in 2015!

1 comments; last comment on 01/04/2015
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What Do Turkey Timers and Sprinkler Systems Have in Common?

Posted December 23, 2014 3:52 PM by Roger Pink

Fusible Alloys

Fusible alloys or low-melting alloys have some interesting properties, but often are overlooked. Their solidification characteristics make them useful for tooling applications as well as components in product design.

Fusible alloys have low melting points, usually below 300 degrees Fahrenheit or 150 degrees Celsius. Many fusible alloys have eutectic compositions, which provide an alloy with a distinct melting point similar to a pure metal. Non-eutectic fusible alloys would melt over a range of temperature and act slushy between their liquidus and solidus temperatures. Many fusible alloys are based on bismuth alone or bismuth in combination with lead, tin, antimony, gallium, cadmium, zinc and indium. Some fusible alloys are based on gallium or indium.

Bismuth-based fusible alloys are desirable because of the pure bismuth's characteristic of expanding 3.3% upon solidification. The bismuth content in a fusible alloy is adjusted to produce a fusible alloy with desirable shrinkage or expansion characteristics. Bismuth alloys containing more than 55% bismuth expand while those with less than 48% contract during solidification. Alloys with bismuth levels between 48-55% exhibit little change in volume when they solidify.

Article Continues Here...

2 comments; last comment on 12/24/2014
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3D Printing: Fad or the Future?

Posted December 18, 2014 6:10 PM by Roger Pink

3D Printing Impressions

I have to admit, the first time I heard about 3D printing, I thought it would be a fad. After all, it seemed an awfully inefficient way to manufacture products. Then someone pointed out to me that what it lost to traditional manufacturing lines in efficiency, it made up for in flexibility. Made to order parts! Warehouses a thing of the past! Ok probably not, but a single machine that can manufacture a bunch of different parts should be useful.

The Future Is Almost Now?

So then it was just a matter of efficiency vs flexibility, at which point I realized there would definitely be applications where it would be a real solution. Still, I had imagined those applications to be niche. Now I'm fully realizing the mistake I made when I first wrote this technology off as a fad. In the article below, from our sister site IHS Engineering 360, it's made clear that 3D Printing is transforming from a niche segment into a viable large scale manufacturing alternative. It's an interesting read, give it a look if you have a chance:

IHS Engineering 360 Article on 3D Printing

11 comments; last comment on 12/20/2014
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UV LEDs: A Cool Alternative to Arc Lamps

Posted December 13, 2014 2:20 PM by Roger Pink

Soon we may live in a world where all lighting applications are solid state. We will think of light bulbs the way we think of vacuum tubes. Already LED light bulbs are starting to replace traditional incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs in homes. The next frontier for LEDs is the ultraviolet.

Ultraviolet lighting market is currently dominated by inefficient High Intensity Discharge (HID) Lamps. Today companies are spending a lot on R&D so to replace HIDs with LEDs. With applications in sterilization and curing, there is a large market out there for UV LEDs. Read about it in my IHS Engineering360 article on UV LEDS.

12 comments; last comment on 12/15/2014
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Moore's Not Enough: The Future of Computing by Roger Pink

Posted October 15, 2014 9:04 AM by Roger Pink

Moore's Law

Gordon E. Moore, in his 1965 paper entitled "Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits" made the observation that the number of components (such as transistors) in an integrated circuit doubles every two years. At the time Moore wrote his paper, integrated circuits had around 50 transistors per chip.

By 1972, the Intel 8008 had 3,500 transistors. The semiconductor industry had adopted "Moore's Law" as an industry standard and reinvested profits into research and development to meet the schedule, thus the law became a self fulfilling prophecy. In 1982 Intel introduced the 80186 which had 55,000 transistors. 1993 saw the release of the Pentium chip with its 3,100,000 transistors. By 2008 AMD had reached 758 million transistors in the K10 Quad-Core. This year Intel released the 62-core Xeon Phi with 5 billion transistors. Next year Oracle will release the 32-core Sparc M7, a chip with 10 billion transistors. Moore's law is alive and well....for now.

But there are clouds on the horizon. There is a fundamental limit on the number of transistors you can fit on a chip. The semiconductor industry is already using a 20 nm process to make these chips and are quickly approaching the atomic scale. by 2020 the industry is expected to be using a 5 nm process. As the industry edges closer and closer to that fundamental atomic limit, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the hectic pace set by Moore in 1965.

That's not to say that improvements to chips can't be made, but the costs are becoming greater and greater. Today's desktop processing power dwarfs anything that existed 20 years ago, yet counter-intuitively we are increasingly confronted by computing problems that conventional computers couldn't hope to solve.

Different, Not Moore

More than 30 years ago, a group of physicists and computer scientists held a conference on the Physics of Computation at MIT. Among the points to come out of the meeting was that there were many problems in science that could not be calculated by classical computers in an efficient way. The broad outline of a computer based upon quantum mechanics was proposed.

In the decades since there has been a lot of research in the field. How would a quantum computer work? What would it physically consist of? What kind of problems could it solve? For years quantum computers were more science fiction than reality, with tantalizing promises of computing efficiency as demonstrated in the graph below.

Several weeks back Google announced that it had hired Dr. Martinis from the UC Santa Barbara to work on quantum computing. I detail the story in an article I wrote:

Google Leaps Into Quantum Computing

As the technology of computing has evolved, the limitations of "classical" computers have grown more apparent. Many problems are so unwieldy they would take several times the age of the universe to solve. It's becoming increasingly clear that more processing isn't enough. Fundamentally different approaches to computing also are needed.

For the past few decades, several types of computing have been proposed and investigated including DNA computing, chaos computing and, perhaps the closest to becoming reality, quantum computing. Last year Google, in a joint initiative with Universities Space Research Association and NASA, announced the creation of the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab (QuAIL). Its goal is to pioneer research into how quantum computing might help with difficult computer science problems.

Article Continues Here


Other Approaches

Quantum computers aren't the only alternative to classical computers. Mechanical computers existed in antiquity. DNA and other biomolecular computational methods have been proposed. Even Chaotic computers, which I personally find fascinating, have been suggested. There are all kinds of unconventional computer designs that may be better suited for certain problems.

It's not hard to imagine a not too far off future where a computer has multiple types of processors and software that chooses between them based upon the type of work being done. Need to factor a large number or have a program that uses machine learning? Use the Quantum Processor. Designing a new protein? Perhaps the DNA Processor is best. It's hard to say now what will be possible since unconventional computing is a nascent field. What is increasingly clear is that brute force computing isn't enough. If we want to continue to progress technologically as we have with the control and manipulation of information, we will need to develop new approaches.

1 comments; last comment on 10/16/2014
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