Several people forwarded this great clip from MSNBC. I'm used to terrible science coverage in the mainstream news. It tends to get completely lost and misses the point of the wonder and awe of the sport. But this piece is different. While there is little detail (and in 11 minutes it would be inappropriate to give detail), it does get at the "why" question. Even the post interview session between Brian Williams and Harry Smith seem to touch on that. This is so rare - I wish it happened more often. (sadly it is in Flash, so it won't work if your machine doesn't support that cumbersome and rapidly receding delivery system
Last night I sent a piece to several people that I'll reprint here - so those of you who saw this can move on to the recipe section if that is of interest.
I've long been fascinated by what you can do experimentally for a very low budget with a bit of cleverness. There are a lot of people interested in science who might be able to participate ranging from kids to retired people. Some will have a lot of scientific sophistication and others not so much - but everyone stands to learn a lot.
In the 80s I worked on some amateur cosmic ray and radio telescopes and have continued with mostly instrumentation specific work to help people get started. A few of these have made really nice projects with people I've mentored. Often building this sort of thing focuses you on the important things - namely how do you ask questions, what are those questions and how do you sort out what you find … are they rich enough to lead to deeper questions.
This works at the low end as a lot has never been studied - big science, even table top science in the Universities, tends to focus on hot areas. There is nothing wrong with looking into things that may not be hot and perhaps something startling can happen.
I've wanted to orbit a satellite for a long time. Not for the sake of flying a satellite, but for putting some instruments in orbit to make measurements I can't make on Earth. Amateur radio satellites have been around for four decades and low end "Cubesats" for about ten years. Amateur radio sats (Amsats or Hamsats) aren't terribly interesting as they are just communications relays. Lots of fun radio work and engineering, I guess, but no science. Cubesats are small cubes that tag along with "real" satellites. The chassis and core electronics are very inexpensive - it is possible to put something crude together for about $15k and go to orbit. The failure rate is pretty high due to the harsh environment, so you need some serious experience building them, but there are is potentially a lot of science that can be done. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of money and it isn't possible for me to drop $15k on a project like that (realistically more like $30k to $40k with the engineering effort required).
But a Kickstarter project appeared that gives people bits of time and even the ability to design experiments sharing one of these. I'm hoping it is the first of many.
I ponied up $775 and the cc has been triggered - the project succeeded. I have a student I've been mentoring and I've proposed we come up with something centrally interesting to him and his studies (he is a junior in physics). It may be a total failure for us - it may fail to orbit, our experiment may fail - there are so many potential failure modes… But I'm getting my money's worth from the learning, he may get some good experience. (I'm going to leave most of the experimental prototyping and programming up to him - but I'm going to make sure that the experiment is sound enough and work with him on dealing with the information we get)
pretty exciting stuff!
I've been in contact with some people at Woods Hole about possible serious amateur science that could be attached to some of their vehicles - or what it might mean to see amateur unmanned craft - thermal gliders as well as shorter range craft that can go deeper . The budgets for what they do are being hammered as the right wing hates any form of science that deals directly or indirectly with environmental issues. James Cameron is doing some great work at the high end, but so much of the ocean is virgin (anything from 300 meters down to 100 meters above the floor is basically an unknown..)
And little computers with net, gps, bluetooth 4, and cameras … iPhones and iPads for example … are potentially very powerful. There is an enormous opportunity opening up for amateurs as well as education. There is also a fascinating possibility for very talented engineers and designers to make the kit - a very small, but talented cottage industry supports the Cubesat efforts of many.
What triggered me writing this was a call for skycube funding.
Skycube is just a twitter transponder and a camera. You can go out and watch it go overhead and send your message out through it and perhaps snap a photo. At the end of its operational life a 10 foot reflective balloon will be deployed to increase the tiny drag in the extreme upper atmosphere enough to force a re-entry. Not only does this keep low Earth orbit neat and tidy, but the craft will be highly visbile with the balloon out just after sunset and before sunrise when it is flying overhead. It would be a *wonderful* way to give kids a sense of awe and a bit of participatory ownership in something cool (even if it is very limited). If it sparks a few dozen young minds, that's all that is important.
a sort of recipe and a review
Gregg recently had a birthday and he confessed to loving pie, so here is my go-to apple pie and crust recipe. Note that I am a vegetarian and don't use lard - many pie lovers scream.
the dough is a bit odd, but the mix of butter and shortening work. As a vegetarian I don't do lard. This one really works well! Feel free to substitute your own, or buy a ready made crust if you are just learning (the filling part is easy)
° 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
° 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into half inch cubes
° 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold
° 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
° Yolk of 1 egg, beaten
° 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
° 1/4 cup icy water, from 3/4 cup ice water.
° Using the pulse function of a food processor, blend together the flour, fats and salt until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. There should be pebbles of butter throughout the mixture.
° Combine egg yolk,vinegar and ¾ cup icy water. Drizzle about 4 tablespoons of this mixture over the dough and gently pulse to combine. Test it by gathering a golfball-size bit of dough and squeeze a bit. If it does not hold together, add a little more of the liquid and stir or pulse, then check again. Iterate.
° Plop the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball. Don't overwork the flour, but not too careful; the dough should hold together. Divide the ball in half with a knife or a pastry scraper, then divide each portion in half again, and again, to create eight portions. Using the heel of your hand, flatten each portion of dough once or twice to expand the pebbles of butter, then gather the dough together again in one ball. Divide this ball in half.
° Flatten each ball into a 5- or 6-inch disc and dust lightly with flour. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 60 minutes.
° 2 tablespoons (30g)unsalted butter
° ~1.25kg apples, peeled and cored, then cut into wedges (5 large honeycrisps will do it - but I like mixing honeycrisp, braeburn and gold delicious)
° 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
° 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
° 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
° 175g white sugar
° 2 tablespoons (15g) all-purpose flour
° 2 teaspoons (8g) cornstarch
° 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
° 1 recipe of the pie dough
° 1 large egg, lightly beaten.
° Melt butter in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat and add apples to the pan. Stir to coat fruit with butter and cook, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk together the spices, salt and 2/3 cup sugar, and sprinkle this over the pan, stirring to combine. Lower heat and cook until apples have started to soften, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle the flour and cornstarch over the apples and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, add cider vinegar, stir and scrape fruit mixture into a bowl and allow to cool completely. (spread it out on a cooking sheet if you want to cool it rapidly)
° Position a large baking sheet on the middle rack of oven and preheat to 425°F. (have you calibrated your oven recently?) Remove a disc of dough from the 'fridge and, roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is roughly 12 inches in diameter. Fit this crust into a 9-inch pie plate, trimming it to leave a 1/2-inch overhang. Place this plate, with the dough, in the freezer. If you are like me there is some pathwork to do. Not to worry - it all tastes great:-)
° Roll out the remaining dough on a lightly floured surface until it is roughly 10 or 11 inches in diameter.
° Remove pie crust from freezer and put the cooled pie filling into it. Cover with remaining dough. Press the edges together, trim the excess, then crimp the edges. With a sharp knife, cut three or four steam vents in the top of the crust. Lightly brush the top of the pie with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. (makes it look cool:-)
° Place pie in oven and bake on hot baking sheet for 20 minutes, then reduce temperature to 375°. Continue to cook until the interior is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes more. Remove and allow to cool on a pie rack, about two impossibly long hours.
Since many of you are frequently in Manhattan a review of sorts.
NYC Gelato Review - L'Arte del Gelato in the West Village
There are people who will chase after foods in search of "the best" - at least to them - and I can understand that. I'm interested in "the best" chocolate, ice cream, milk shake and gelato. There are a few other things, but these are items I'll mentally catalog and celebrate when I find a new level.
L'Arte del Gelato in Manhattan's West Village at 75th and 7th. I've been twice and have tried five flavors (two of their way too small "medium" cups) and Sukie tried two along with one of their drinks. I'm clearly going back for more, but can recommend:
Vaniglia del Madagascar
The Madagascar Vanilla was particularly wonderful as was the Chocolate Mocha. It isn't often that I can praise a vanilla, but this one is worthy. I'm told their olive oil is excellent, but I didn't try. Sukie loved their Affogato all'Arancia, which is fresh squeezed orange juice with lemon sorbetto and a bit of Campari.
Very spendy but certainly worth it. The next time I'm tempted to skip lunch and just order a pint, which is a comparative bargain at $10.
Grom is also very good in my book, but I really need to check it out again to see which is really the best, but so far I'm loving this one.
Some things you have to take into your own hands... for milkshakes the bsst I've had are those I make. I'm not particularly gifted and I suspect most simple don't pay enough attention to detail.