Sunday, July 31, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Shuttle set rerelease

As part of a tribute to the end of the Space Shuttle program, LEGO is rereleasing set 10231, Shuttle Expedition. This is a fairly minor reworking of last year's set 10213, Shuttle Adventure. It's supposed to be a more sturdy design to be more play-able for younger kids.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Just because the Space Shuttle program is over doesn't mean NASA is shutting down. Our astronauts will continue to visit the International Space Station using other rockets, and a future manned program is in the works. More immediately, though, is the Curiosity (here built by Tim Goddard), an unmanned probe that will launch for Mars later this year. The Mars Space Laboratory's mission is to collect and analyze samples to see if Mars can, or has in the past, support any form of life.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Doppler effect

Since sound travels as a wave, if you move the source of that sound, the waves will be pushed closer together (higher tone) or further apart (lower tone). This is the source of the doppler effect, as you can hear when a firetruck goes past, or in this rotating speaker by ISOGAWAYoshihito. This is also the source of the red shift that indicates that other galaxies are moving away from us.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Welcome home, Atlantis

With the landing of the Atlantis, three decades of the Space Shuttle program draws to a close. It feels like I've been watching these things go up in the air for most of my life, so it's kind of a sad moment. Whither now, NASA? Remember when George Bush announced the next step for NASA was a trip to Mars? The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 provides for development of a new launch system, to ultimately move beyond Earth orbit in five years, but in the meantime our Astronauts will be riding Russian rockets up to the ISS, or else fly on commercial carriers. This Shuttle sculpture is from Legoland Windsor.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy birthday, Gregor

As anyone who visits Google knows, today is the 189th anniversary of the birth of Gregor Mendel (here in LEGO form by Kaptain Kobold). Mendel discovered the basic laws of genetics while observing the growth of pea plants. He noted that if two plants with purple flowers are crossed, the offspring has purple flowers. If two with white flowers are crossed, the offspring has white flowers. However, if a purple flowered plant is crossed with a white flowered plant, the offspring has purple flowers. While the molecular basis for this would not be discovered for fifty years, he correctly surmised that flower color is driven by a pair of factors, and there are dominant and recessive genes. He worked out the implications of how genes are mixed and matched in sexual reproduction, and is considered the father of genetics.

Just a quick apology for the month long hiatus in this blog. Life has been hectic lately.