Aug 252016

Don’t meet me in St Louis! City tops FBI’s most dangerous list in the United States, closely followed by Memphis and former ‘Murder City’ Detroit in third

1. St. Louis, Missouri: 88.1 violent crimes per 10,000 people

2. Memphis, Tennessee: 84.2 violent crimes per 10,000 people

3. Detroit, Michigan: 83.4 violent crimes per 10,000 people

4. Birmingham, Alabama: 82.8 violent crimes per 10,000 people

5. Rockford, Illinois: 76.3 violent crimes per 10,000 people

6. Baltimore, Maryland: 67.7 violent crimes per 10,000 people

7. Stockton, California: 67.4 violent crimes per 10,000 people

8. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: 65.3 violent crimes per 10,000 people

9. Cleveland, Ohio: 61.5 violent crimes per 10,000 people

10. Hartford, Connecticut: 55.8 violent crimes per 10,000 people

11. Atlanta, Georgia had 55.7 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

12. Springfield, Massachusetts had 54.4 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

13. Anchorage, Alaska had 53.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

14. Tallahassee, Florida had 52.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

15. Odessa, Texas had 51.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

16. Newark, New Jersey had 50.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

17. Buffalo, New York had 50.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

18. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had 49.1 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

19. Albuquerque, New Mexico had 48.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

20. Wichita, Kansas had 45.5 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

21. North Las Vegas, Nevada had 43.4 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

22. Jackson, Mississippi had 43.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

23. Durham, North Carolina had 42.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

24. New Orleans, Louisiana had 42.7 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

25. Tulsa, Oklahoma had 41.5 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

26. Pueblo, Colorado had 41.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

27. Des Moines, Iowa had 38.7 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

28. Salt Lake City, Utah had 38.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

29. Tacoma, Washington had 36.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

30. North Charleston, South Carolina had 34.8 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

31. Tucson, Arizona had 32.4 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

32. South Bend, Indiana had 32.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

33. Louisville, Kentucky had 30.2 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

34. Manchester, New Hampshire had 28.9 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

35. Providence, Rhode Island had 26.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

36. Norfolk, Virginia had 24.5 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

37. Billings, Montana had 21.1 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

38. Sioux Falls, South Dakota had 20.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

39. Lincoln, Nebraska had 17.4 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

40. Eugene, Oregon had 15.3 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

41. Fargo, North Dakota had 14.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

42. Boise, Idaho had 13.5 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

43. Honolulu, Hawaii had 11.6 violent crimes per 10,000 residents

I must admit surprise at seeing Salt Lake City on the list. But then, the office of Mayor has been held by a single certain political party since 1974…

 Posted by at 12:57 am
Aug 242016

In lieu of a detailed and lengthy screed about whatever is going on in the world of politics, here’s William Shatner, circa Star Trek V, talking about Captain Kirk climbing a mountain. Re-edited and set to music to become “Shatner of the Mount.”

Because you wanted this, you just didn’t know it.

 Posted by at 6:48 pm
Aug 242016

Huzzah. A vaguely Earth-ish planet has been confirmed to have been detected orbiting the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, 4.25 lightyears away. It hasn’t been visually observed; detection was by way of detecting the slight wobble of Proxima (via Doppler shift) caused by the gravitational pull of the much smaller planet.

What’s known about Proxima Centauri B:

Mass is 1.3 Earths or more; 90% chance that it’s less than 3 Earth masses.

The length of the local “year” is 11.186 terrestrial days.

It’s 4.3 million miles from Proxima (about 0.046 AU)

It’s in the “habitable zone” where liquid water can exist. It gets about 65% the solar flux as Earth does.

Proxima Centauri is an unfriendly host star, with X-Ray bursts and the like that, even though the planet might be in the habitable zone, would potentially blow any atmosphere off the planet. It gets about 400 times the X-ray flux as Earth.

Not much more than that at this time. Speculations and ramblings:

If the planet is low in heavy metals, being basically just a chunk of rock, the greater mass than Earth might still result in an Earth-like surface gravity (and a noticeably larger planetary diameter).

Chances are good that it’s tidally locked to Proxima. But it might be in a resonance, such as three rotations for every two revolutions. If so, it would have some long days, but that would help it maintain proper weather patterns, rather than a perpetually frozen dark side and a day side with the atmosphere cooked off.

It *might* have a substantial moon (it’s possible that the 1.3 Earth masses might be distributed as, say, a 1 Earth mass planet and a 0.3 Earth mass moon). To pull this off, the two would have to be close. Chances would then be good that the planet might be tidally locked with the *moon.* In any case, if it has a close, massive moon, tidal forces between the moon and the star would make the planet tectonically entertaining.

If it’s a big fluffy rock… probably no magnetosphere to speak of. And thus probably no atmosphere to speak of, unless it’s a high molecular weight hellscape of burning carbon dioxide like Venus. If it has a spinning molten iron core, then maybe a good magnetosphere and some useful protection from Proximas tantrums.

Red dwarfs like Proxima have lifespans measured in *trillions* of years. So assuming phantom energy doesn’t tear the universe apart in a few billion years, Proxima will be sullenly glowing away when it is 300 times the current age of the universe. The sun will be a cold, dark black dwarf and the remaining planets flung off  into the galaxy long before Proxima will have expired in about 4,000,000,000,000 years. Of course by that point Sol and Proxima will be nowhere near each other; tens or hundreds of thousands of galactic revolutions will see to it that the two systems wander far apart from each other. By the time Proxima nears its end, the galaxy will be a shadow of itself… somewhat lower in mass due to having flung stars out into the universe (unless it’s heavier due to colliding with Andromeda and the two melding together) and from mass-energy having been radiated away for trillions of years; very, very red and dark, with the only stars still burning being red dwarfs like Proxima, some younger than Proxima with still more trillions of years of life in ’em. If Proxima B still orbits Proxima, the night sky would be almost utterly black. There would be almost no other galaxies visible; they will have all wandered off over the visible horizon by that point. The only stars in the sky would be other red dwarfs… and from Earth, Proxima Centauri is invisible to the naked eye. So even though there might still be millions of red dwarfs still cooking along… you’d need a pretty good telescope to see even the closest ones.

Since Proxima is relatively cool, much more of its radiant energy is shifted towards the infra-red end of the spectrum. Someone standing on Proxima B would still see things in pretty much normal color, but the sky would look funny. With less light on the blue end of the spectrum, there’d be that much less blue light to scatter in the atmosphere, thus it’d look dark in daytime. Not sure if you’d be able to see stars in daytime, but maybe…

 Posted by at 6:00 pm
Aug 242016

An early/mid 1960’s concept model of an interplanetary spacecraft using a nuclear fusion powerplant. Back then there was a LOT of faith in the idea of fusion reactors being just around the corner. One very obvious design flaw? No radiators. Any internal-fusion system (or internal-fission, for that matter) would need *vast* radiator surface area.

Details on the photo are unavailable. I originally downloaded this image from the GRIN (Great Images in NASA) website, which has now been closed in favor of a Flickr account that is difficult to search. Feh. If you want the full-rez version *another* Flickr account has it HERE.


 Posted by at 5:12 pm
Aug 242016

Telegraph pole? Who the hell still uses the telegraph?

Airlander 10, the world’s largest aircraft, crashes into telegraph pole on test flight

Looks like they crashed the *cockpit* into the telegraph pole. All kinds of possible reasons why that might have happened, but one part of an aircraft you really don’t want trashed in flight is the cockpit.

UPDATE: that headline? She is wrong. The Airlander 10 didn’t hit a telegraph pole… it hit the friggen *Earth.*

Go home, blimp. You’re drunk.

 Posted by at 10:36 am
Aug 242016

Last thirty or so years, “carbon fiber” has seemingly become the answer to everything in the world of structures. Some months ago I saw “carbon fiber”  reading glasses on sale at a pharmacy; on close inspection, it turns out that it *really* *did* have carbon fiber cloth. On even closer inspection, that cloth was a single layer, a strip about 1/8″ wide that was simply glued onto the exterior of a standard cheap plastic frame. I was unimpressed.

Aerospace and automotive engineers are integrating carbon fiber into everything to reduced mass. In aircraft and spacecraft that’s vitally important; in autos, less so. Sure, lower mass cars are good, but sometime the materials you’re replacing have other properties that make them better. Carbon fiber is strong, but it’s not ductile…. a steel or aluminum auto body would bend and crumple in a crash, where a carbon body would simply shatter. Additionally, broken carbon fiber spits out tiny little shards that are skin-irritant, eye- and lung-damaging. (This I discovered to my personal dismay many years ago at United Tech in California, with the result that all the clothes I was wearing at the time wound up in the trash.)

And for all carbon fibers strength in tension… it’s not worth diddly in compression. Behold:

Note that after the second item goes under the press, the people working near it are suddenly wearing respirators.

The carbon fiber fails fast here. This did not surprise me. The exact mechanism of failure, though, was a little surprising. It’s remarkably uniform.

 Posted by at 10:23 am
Aug 242016

A NASA-Langley film from decades ago, a collection of quick clips from wind tunnel tests. These show models designed to bend and flex somewhat like their larger real-world kin, and then they are massively overstressed to the point of failure. If doing a spit-take was a real thing rather than a Hollywood trope, I woulda spit-took at about 1:20, when a Boeing 2707-100 supersonic transport model is shown being turned into a damn porpoise in the wind tunnel (instead, I just blurted out “holy shee-it” and laughed for a while). About 15 seconds later it (or a model similar to it) is turned into so much confetti. I assume the wind tunnel had some sort of shrapnel-filter to keep the junk from being sucked into the blades…




 Posted by at 2:17 am
Aug 222016

The Ryan XV-5A Vertifan was a 1960’s VTOL aircraft that was given considerable testing and proved to be reasonably successful, yet it was not chosen to be put into production. he video below (a couple different versions of it) show the XV-5A being put through its paces. It’s shown to be a remarkably nimble and stable platform. Also shown are numerous pieces of concept art, the XV-5A being used in a rescue capacity. Interestingly, the idea presented was to send the VTOL right alongside strike aircraft so that it would be right there on the scene ready to collect any pilots who happen to get shot down during the mission.

The XV-5A used largish fans embedded win the nose and wings to provide vertical thrust; the fans were driven by the exhaust from the jet engines. This is not a particularly elegant solution, unlike the Harrier with its fully integrated single engine system, but the fan approach would provide both better fuel efficiency during hover and lower jet velocity compared to something like the Harrier or the F-35. This would mean that the vertical thrust would tear up the dirt or deck plating a whole lot less.

One wonders how well the XV-5A would perform today. It would have the benefit of better engines and better materials, meaning more thrust at lower fuel consumption, in an aircraft that weighs less. And perhaps more importantly, modern avionics and computerized controls would make this plane much more stable, controllable and safe in hover.




 Posted by at 9:09 pm
Aug 222016

Hmm. One wonders what existential threat the German government foresees…

Germany Wants Citizens to Stockpile Food

…the German government plans to bring back its Cold War-era requirement for people to stockpile enough food for 10 days and enough drinking water for five, as well as medicine and other supplies. The government is also planning to boost security by bringing in a nationwide alarm system.


 Posted by at 4:25 pm
Aug 212016

I don’t know if it has been apparent the past few months via changes in blogging, but I’ve been swamped with work. This is rather something of a change of pace… starting in June I’ve been working on a contract job that has provided real work and a real paycheck, something I’ve been devoid of lo these many years. It’s nothing classified, but I’d as soon not go into too much detail just now. In short, I am making a handful of CAD models that will be used to make physical models. This is work I’ve done for years for the likes of Fantastic Plastic. But rather than models that require small cardboard boxes to ship, these will require large intermodal shipping containers, and a substantial number of them, to send where they’re going.

You know, these things:

This has turned out to be rather challenging and labor intensive (oddly, something 50 feet long requires different engineering and level of detail than something 5 inches long) , to the point where it has shoved aside other projects I was working on, even some paid projects. That’s not so good, of course. But it’s real work with a real paycheck, and if the clients are happy, and so far they seem to be, it promises some *more* work.

So, perhaps less in-depth snark on the blog for a while.

 Posted by at 7:32 pm