Nod to APOD


Jupiter, as seen from Voyager; March, 1979I thought perhaps I should mention that the new banner is a detail taken from a 1979 Voyager photograph of Jupiter, presented by the one and only APOD. Something about some really cool digital processing by Björn Jónsson.

Anyway, yeah. Nifty.

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Fun With Wikipedia: Accidental comedy in history


A fun bit from Wikipedia, on Operation Plumbbob:

During the Pascal-B nuclear test, a heavy (900 kg) steel plate cap (a piece of armor plate) was blasted off the top of a test shaft at an unknown speed. The test’s experimental designer Dr. Brownlee had performed a highly approximate calculation that suggested that the nuclear explosion, combined with the specific design of the shaft, would accelerate the plate to six times escape velocity. The plate was never found, but Dr. Brownlee believes that the plate never left the atmosphere (it may even have been vaporized by compression heating of the atmosphere due to its high speed). The calculated velocity was sufficiently interesting that the crew trained a high-speed camera on the plate, which unfortunately only appeared in one frame, but this nevertheless gave a very high lower bound for the speed. After the event, Dr. Robert R. Brownlee described the best estimate of the cover’s speed from the photographic evidence as “going like a bat!”

Even funnier, though, is the attempted summary of the above paragraph for an entry on Project Orion, a crazy idea about using nuclear explosions to shoot stuff into space:

A nuclear-explosion propulsion device component.A test similar to the test of a pusher plate occurred as an accidental side effect of a nuclear containment test called “Pascal B” conducted on 27 August 1957. The test’s experimental designer Dr. Brownlee performed a highly approximate calculation that suggested that the low-yield nuclear explosive would accelerate the massive (900 kg) steel capping plate to six times escape velocity. The plate was never found, and Dr. Brownlee believes that the plate never left the atmosphere (for example it could have been vaporized by compression heating of the atmosphere due to its high speed). The calculated velocity was sufficiently interesting that the crew trained a high-speed camera on the plate, which unfortunately only appeared in one frame, but this nevertheless gave a very high lower bound for the speed.

Accidental comedy gold.