Oct 312008
 

Sometimes you find just what you wanted just a little bit late. This happened with the most recent issue of Arospace Projects Review; it had a big article on the Project Pluto nuclear ramjet cruise missile, with some discussion of early designs including a few lines on a reported North American study from 1947 describing nuclear rockets and ramjets. When the article was published, the North American study was unavailable, and was thought to be likely to be a vague mathematical treatise. However, not long after publishing I came across and photocopied/scanned a copy of that very report. Far from being vague, it was fairly massive and contains detaield engineering schematics of a Mach 3 nuclear ramjet cruise missile, its liquid rocket booster, and what is essentially an enlarged V-2 witha  nuclear rocket, capable not only of serving as an ICBM, but also capable of sending a payload onto an interplanetary trajectory.

The next issue of APR will have an update article describing these.

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 Posted by at 8:13 am
Oct 292008
 

After sundown, big-ass lamps are turned on at Mt. Rushmore to light up the mountain. I was there at about 7:30 PM this evening… clearly this is the “off season.” It was me, two Japanese chicks and a German family.

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On the way from the main facility back to my motel in Hill City, I noticed the “Profile View” viewing area, which got me this:

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This was a surprisingly moving experience. Not for patriotic rah-rah reasons, but because there I was on a pitch-black mountainside, with this huge-ass face off in the distance… and not a single sound *at* *all.* It was truly dead silence. No cars, machines, wind, birds, bugs… nothing. It’s been a good long while since I’ve heard silence that complete. And after a brief moment for my eyes to adjust, the night sky was every bit as filled with stars and Milky Way  as it is in rural Utah… perhaps more so.

Note: these photos were prepared via the stacking process (ten images each) that I described here. Here are before-and-after detail shots.

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 Posted by at 12:22 am
Oct 262008
 

In the “basement” of the National Air and Space Museum is what you might call the annex of the NASM’s gift shop. On display in the gift shop is the original filming model of the Starship Enterprise from the original Star Trek TV series. I did a brief walk-around with the camera.

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And if you like “hard” science fiction, you’ll love this…

At the Garber facility, in an area not on displey, I found two original filming miniatures for the “Tholian” ships. Sadly, photography was discouraged in this area, as it was a non-public storage and restoration facility, not stuff on display. The models were extremely simple.

 Posted by at 3:32 pm
Oct 262008
 

<>A common way to get good photos of low-light subjects using digital cameras is via “stacking” the images. The images, if properly overlaid, will line up and the noise will be eventually cancelled out, leaving only signal (the image you were actually after). This process is very common with astrophotography. However, it can also be used with landscapes and other dark, motionless subjects.

The layers need to be stacked atop each other such that they precisely line up. Additionally, the layers need to be set to varying levels of opacity… the background image set to  100% opaque, with the images becoming less opaque as you approach the outermost layers. I use this set of settings:

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<>As an example, I took ten photos from the Iowa shore of the  Mississippi river, looking into Illinois. A tripod was used to assure that the images would be of a fixed view. They all pretty much look like this:

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With a closeup that looks like this:

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But after stacking ten images, this is the result:

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With this for a closeup:

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Pretty neat, eh?

 Posted by at 12:47 am
Oct 242008
 

Oh, goodie! After a century of being “allies,” the French are going after the Brits on military matters. And as seems to be terribly popular in the Old World, they’re still cheesed off about things that happened before Columbus even found the Americas.

According to the Mail Online:

To Shakespeare, it was the moment a feckless youth turned into a great king, leading his army to victory against seemingly impossible odds.

But French academics have a very different view of the Battle of Agincourt – claiming that English soldiers acted like ‘war criminals’.

They also accuse King Henry V of giving his permission for captives to be burnt to death and ordering his bodyguards to execute a noble who had surrendered.

‘At the very least the English forces acted dishonourably. The Middle Ages were a very violent time, of course, but some might accuse the English of acting like what might now be called war criminals.’

 Posted by at 10:10 pm