Tag Archives: Olympics

Winning Science January 29, 2014

Well folks, once again we here at Therefore I Geek are snowed in. We are in fact, significantly more snowed in than last time. While we try to figure out our escape plans, take a few minutes and enjoy winning science.

I grew up in the desert so I’ve always been skeptical of the wind chill factor. I always had a sneaking suspicion that it was all just a bunch of crap, but once again, science has proved me wrong. While wind chill doesn’t actually lower air temperature, it’s based on a mathematical model that approximates how the outside air feels to your skin. Since our body temperature during the winter is warmer than the air, we generate a small layer of warmer air around our bodies which help keep us warm. When the wind is blowing that layer of air is swept away and past a certain point it is blown away faster than we can replace it, which is why we feel much colder despite the fact that the air temperature hasn’t changed.

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There are several different models. Some are relatively simple, using just wind speed, while other try to account for things like cloud cover and sun angle.

With the Winter Olympics coming up I recently found myself wondering how exactly skiers keep warm in those flimsy looking suits. Turns out the suits are actually very advanced garments. Scientists have been using electron microscopes to evaluate new materials that can be used for ski suits. The US team has settled on one that functions similarly to shark’s skin, maximizing warmth while minimizing drag. The team also used data gained from practice runs to perform wind tunnel tests under similar conditions to those at Sochi.

It looks good close up, but I'm still not completely convinced it'll keep me warm.

It looks good close up, but I’m still not completely convinced it’ll keep me warm.

The amount of science that goes into an athlete’s performance is almost equal to the amount of practicing they do the get there. Crazy.

Stepping away from the wintery weather science for a minute, there is a really awesome new piece of video hardware called Oculus. Oculus is a 360 degree VR headset that was primarily designed for use with video games, but is finding new use with film. The writer describes the scene at a Beck concert like he was actually on stage with Beck. This is of course just a demonstation piece, but the possibilities in the film industry are endless. Imagine being able to look all around a movie, not just at the particular camera angle the director wants you to see. It’s a huge step forward in interactive entertainment. The biggest problem right now is waiting for the rest of the necessary technology to catch up. Shooting 360 will provide some interesting challenges.

Oculus Headset

Oculus Headset

The downside is having to wear the rather large headset, but hopefully the experience will be worth it.

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Winning Science December 24, 2013

Recently DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) held a robot Olympics in sunny Miami.  At stake is not only pride, but also one million dollars in additional research funding for any team that makes it through this first round.  The winning team after the second round will earn another two million. The robots are competing in several events which mimic tasks that humans might have to do in emergency situations, such as climbing ladders or turning valves. During the accident at Fukushima several valves could have been operated to significantly reduce the severity of the accident.  Unfortunately, due to radiation levels, human operators couldn’t reach them.  It’s hoped that these robots, or ones similar to them will be able to perform tasks where and when humans are unable to, preventing or at least reducing potential disasters.

lifesaving-robots-03-1213-lgnIt might be here to save my life, but this one looks way too much like Godzilla for my personal comfort.

Today is the 45th anniversary of the beautiful earthrise photo taken by the astronauts on Apollo 8. To commemorate this event, NASA’s Goddard Space Center has put together a computer generated recreation using photographs from the command module, the audio record of mission, as well as new data provided by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). It’s very interesting to listen to these events unfold (and more than a little humorous listen to Jim Lovell trying to find color film) and to hear the wonder in the voices of the astronauts.

I always like it when NASA takes the time to remember these cool little moments in the history of space exploration.

Yesterday Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the infamous AK-47 assault rifle died at the age of 94. No matter what your thoughts may be about guns and warfare, it is an undisputed fact that the AK-47 has been one of the most influential pieces of technology of the second half of the 20th century. The AK-47 has become synonymous with rebellions and insurgencies, cementing it’s place in the American collective memory during the Vietnam War. While the gun itself was more of a group effort and a conglomeration of several designs, Kalashnikov was likely chosen by Stalin because he best fit the image that the Soviets wanted to project. Regardless of how much of the design actually came from him, Kalashnikov became almost as much of a symbol as the rifle which carries his name.

Kalashnikov with his creation (kind of).

Kalashnikov with his creation (kind of).

Driving home the point of the rifle’s influence, the flags of Mozambique and Hezbollah and the coat of arms for Zimbabwe and East Timor all feature the AK-47

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Around the Web November 9, 2013

Let start off today’s Around the Web with a little Star Wars news. Disney has released a new Star Wars mobile Tiny Death Star game based on the popular Tiny Tower. I’ve already downloaded the game and so far so good. I’m not all that far in, but I’m already loving the 8-bit graphics and the little goofy bits. The game starts off with a conversation between the Emperor and Darth Vader regarding how to pay for the new Death Star in which Vader offers to get a job to help out.

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The other news, a bit more disappointing, is that the yet unnamed Star Wars VII will not begin with the familiar Fox theme music. This makes sense given that Disney now owns the franchise, but Star Wars has one of those very memorable openings, and the Fox theme is part of that opening.

Popular Science has a clever little Do-It-Yourself project that many of you may find handy. It’s a stand that you can build to use your phone as a scanner. Best of all it only costs around $5.

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Even a broke college student can find five bucks. Just don’t do laundry for a few weeks and save the quarters. Don’t tell your room mate I said that.

In advance of the Sochi Winter Games the Russians have pulled out all the stops trying to show off and they may actually have a leg up this time. The Russians have sent the Olympic torch into space, which has never been done before, and then sent it on a space walk. The torch is, of course, not lit, because that would be bad, but at this point I’m not sure what anyone else can do to top it.

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The torch gets to go into space, and I’d kill for the chances. This isn’t very fair.

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