Stephen Hawking, Rest in Peace

Stephen Hawking, a gifted physicist who was able to bring science into the living rooms of common folk everywhere, has passed away.  You might know him as the “wheel chair science guy with the computer voice.”

Hawkings may not have made the biggest contributions to science since Einstein, but he popularized it, published frequently, went into the big existential debates about physics and space, and served as an inspiration to disabled people everywhere.

Towards the end, his ideas may have fallen a bit on the fanciful side of the spectrum, but what scientist doesn’t begin to daydream and ponder in their later years?


NASA releases time-lapse Video of Disappearing Older Arctic Sea Ice

NASA recently released this stunning video, where you can see what is essentially the disappearance or death of older Arctic sea ice, an obvious result of our ongoing global warming issues.

Global warming, or climate change, is the biggest problem facing humanity, and yet there probably could not be a more difficult problem for humans to face.  It’s a massive problem but its impact will no be fully realized for decades.  So it is an easy problem to brush off and leave for “someone else,” or to hope that things “might not be as bad” as predicted.

Even getting around that, to solve the challenge of global warming, humans will have to drastically re-examine and rethink the ways we produce energy, not to mention dealing with those who have a huge interest in maintaining energy production just the way it is.

Beyond energy is the fact that the whole world has to work together.  If only one nation gets serious about global warming, other less-serious nations will quickly fill the pollution void and will be able to win economic battles with cheaper, dirtier energy.

Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida: What We Know

Well, unsurprisingly (and quite tragically), we have another school shooting.   What we know so far is that there are 17 confirmed murder victims, and 15 wounded.  3 to 4 of the victims were teachers, and the rest appear to have been students.  12 people were killed inside the school building, three were shot dead in the street, and two died in the hospital.

The gunman has been identified as a 19-year-old former student of the school.  He had been expelled, and returned today with an AR-15 rifle to murder people.  A little less clear is the manner of the shooting.  Some reporting suggests he pulled a fire alarm to ambush students as they left their classrooms in response.  The killer then left the scene but was captured by law enforcement.

Student victims also uploaded numerous videos of the shooting, as it happened, to Twitter, and hoax and fake videos were also posted shortly thereafter.  Links to the videos are below, if you are interested.  Obviously avoid if it will be too upsetting for you.

More videos here. (loud)

Doctors held a press conference in the night hours, but did not answer many questions about the conditions of the students, other than to say this was the biggest mass casualty event for Broward Health North.  The doctors, however, do not anticipate more deaths from the hospital, and when asked by the press one doctor said the remaining victims at the hospital will undergo successful surgeries and then go home.


Cleaning Records with Wood Glue

In this video, “ghettofunk13” plays us an old Miles Davis record that has some significant noise artifacts.  After he plays it, he keeps the phonograph spinning and squirts wood glue over the entire record!  After applying the glue, he uses a business card to spread the glue out evenly.  He lets it sit out overnight to set, then peels the dry glue right off.

The results are noticeable.  Watch the video.

Abandoned Russian Space Shuttles (Burans) in Baikonur, Kazakhstan


In the late 1970s, the Soviet Union decided to essentially rip off the American space shuttle and create their own “bigger and better and more Soviet” version.  The result was the Buran spacecraft. While multiple Burans were built, only one flew in space for about 3 hours.  Then it was put into a building and locked away by the Soviets because the program was just too expensive to run.

Although the Burans live on, albeit in a degraded and failing state due to the natural elements and looters, the boosters that took the Buran to space were completely destroyed in 2012 after a storage roof caved in.  So these guys will probably never fly again (unless they were fully restored and the boosters completely reconstructed).

Recently, some European adventurists sneaked into the facility and took some incredible footage that you can watch on their youtube channel:

You can read more and see more incredible pictures from National Geographic here.

The Buran started off as a copy of the US space shuttle, but quickly took on a life of its own.  The Russians decided to go essentially pilotless, and in fact the one and only Buran flight was done without any crew.  It was essentially a spaceship drone.

If the Russians were able to do autopilot space missions, why couldn’t the Americans?  In Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff there is some discussion about the Mercury astronauts insisting on a design that would allow them to have more control over the space shuttle.  The pilots wanted to feel like they were flying the capsule and not just along for the ride, which was probably more in line with what NASA had in mind at the time.  After all, the Mercury ships were piloted by trained chimps on their test flights!

As for the Soviets, they were known for simply locking things up and walking away when they ran out of money.  And so, you have Russian space shuttles sitting out in the middle of nowhere, rotting away in the dustbin of history.



Tianjin Explosion a Day of Infamy for Firefighters Everywhere

New video of the MASSIVE explosion is emerging today.  It is reported that the original fire concerned a container of calcium carbide.  In what can only be a grave misunderstanding by firefighters, they began to douse the calcium carbide with water triggering the massive explosion that likely incinerated dozens of firefighters at the scene.

When calcium carbide is mixed with water it creates acetylene gas.  When that is mixed with air and ignited, a massive explosion will ensue.  For some reason nobody communicated what the chemicals were with the fire crews both ahead of time and during the accident, leading to the devastating catastrophe.  In other words, the firefighters sealed their own fate.

A text exchange between firefighters captures the heartbreaking moments after the explosions (translated):

Fireman: Are you there, bro?

Friend: I’m here. What’s wrong?

Fireman: I can’t get any calls out.

… Gang Zhi… he’s gone. He sacrificed himself. He’s dead.

Friend: What the cow are you talking about.

Where are you.

Fireman: I’m in the truck, on my way to soup cry (autocorrect). Tanggu District.

Friend: You call me right now. You hear me.

Fireman: I’m already in my suit, no one else has a phone.

Friend: Then you’ll call me first thing in the morning. Got it?

Fireman: … if I don’t come back, you’ll take care of my dad, won’t you?

… and tell my mom deceased I loved her.

Friend: … I got your dad, bro. Don’t worry about him.

You worry about yourself.

A text exchange between