Science Art: Five of Spades, from Playing Cards: Engineering


This is one of a whole deck of… well, they’re practically a technological tarot, really. They’re playing cards illustrating concepts in engineering. (The two of diamonds is also beautiful, though some might prefer the human figures in cards like the seven of clubs.)

They were originally collected by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York City subway. He was on the library board from 1911 to 1932, when he died. More importantly, he also donated a set of mechanics pla…

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Science Art: Red White Blood Cells, by NCI-Frederick.


The one carries oxygen around, the other keeps the system clean. They’re teeny tiny.

Image from the Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick).

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SONG: Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)

SONG: “Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..”

ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen.

Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and t…

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SONG: One (is the Loneliest Number) (penitential cover)

SONG: “One (Is The Loneliest Number)”.

ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.)

SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins.

ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way …

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Science Art: To Scale: The Solar System by Wylie Overstreet.

To Scale: The Solar System from Wylie Overstreet on Vimeo.

I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go.

That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door?

This far away. …

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Science Art: Aequorea Forbesiana by Philip Henry Gosse.

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This is a jellyfish drawn by Philip Henry Gosse, a naturalist and Creationist (!) who gave us the word “aquarium” as a place to see marine creatures. Before Gosse, an aquarium was a place to water cattle.

He built the very first public one as the “Fish House” of the London Zoo in 1853.

A few years later, he published a book trying to prove that fossils couldn’t disprove Genesis because of course the act of creation would make things appear to be older than they are. …

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Again, airships. With a little difference.

12 February 2015 // 0 Comments

CityMetric takes a look at why the zeppelins went down in the end… and how one new system might bring them back Today, the Van Wagner group, an airship organisation, estimates that there are only 25 blimps currently operating around the world; there are even fewer zeppelins. But all this is about to change, if Igor Pasternak has his way. As a young man growing up in Ukraine, Pasternak’s love of airships led him to study engineering in search of the latest breakthrough in zeppelin technology. That breakthrough would ultimately come in the form of the COSH system… The COSH – Control of Static Heaviness – system works by rapidly compressing helium into storage tanks, making the airship heavier than air. While conventional airships take on air to descend, they must still dedicate most of the space in the helium envelope to actually storing the helium itself. That makes the landing process more difficult and […]

NASA breaks scientific boundaries… in ballooning.

31 December 2014 // 0 Comments

Nature profiles the amazing new high-atmosphere vehicle for exploring space from Antarctica: If all continues smoothly, experts expect the flight to last for 100 days or longer. The current record for the longest NASA scientific ballooning flight is 55 days, using a traditional balloon. The record for a super-pressure balloon is just a day shorter, at 54 days. More time aloft equals more science. The new super-pressure balloon is carrying a ?-ray telescope to hunt for high-energy photons streaming from the cosmos. Known as the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI), it can detect where in the sky these ? rays are coming from, and thus begin to unravel various astronomical mysteries. COSI is the first science payload designed from scratch to take advantage of NASA’s super-pressure technology, says team leader Steven Boggs, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley. Its predecessors used liquid nitrogen to cool themselves, meaning that the nitrogen ran out in […]

New flying car has landed.

3 October 2014 // 0 Comments

You probably know about the Moller SkyCar and you might have heard of the Terrafugia “roadable plane.” Well, now, The Guardian is reporting on a new, European car that flies: Organisers of Vienna’s Pioneers Festival, an annual conference for future technology and digital entrepreneurship, announced on Thursday that they would unveil the prototype of “the world’s most advanced flying car” on 29 October. An earlier prototype of the Flying Roadster by Slovakian company AeroMobil reportedly took its first test flight in October last year. The latest version will be tested a day before its premiere, on 28 October. Company co-founder Juraj Vaculik said that AeroMobil had sped up the prototyping process after having seen “enthusiastic reactions of the global engineering and design community”. Weighing 450 kg, with carbon-fibre wings that fold behind the cabin and a flight top speed of 124mph, the two-seater promises to be more of a flying sports car than a flying […]

Science Art: Fig. 2 from “Drawings, views and engine of the Levasseur transatlantic plane” in NACA Aircraft Circular #50, Levasseur 8 Transatlantic Airplane, 1927.

28 September 2014 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen This is from a government report – from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a precursor to NASA – on L’Oiseau Blanc, an aircraft used in an unsuccessful attempt to fly from Paris to New York. The U.S. took a keen interest in what the French were trying to do. Two weeks after the plane vanished (with two World War I heroes aboard), Charles Lindbergh met with more success flying in the opposite direction.

Helium-filled planes take off.

16 November 2013 // 0 Comments

New Scientist rises swiftly to break the news of hybrid aircraft that combine helicopters, planes, hovercrafts and blimps: The peculiar aircraft is currently undergoing feasibility tests in the European Commission’s Extremely Short Take Off and Landing On any Surface (ESTOLAS) project. Led by Alexander Gamaleyev at Riga Technical University in Latvia and Dimitris Drikakis at Cranfield University in the UK, the research team envisage a squat, propeller-powered aircraft made of ultralight carbon fibre. But instead of an airplane’s usual long, thin fuselage it will have a bloated central void that can be filled with helium gas to make the aircraft lighter. In addition, the entire body of the plane will be wing-shaped, to provide extra lift while in motion. This means that it can take off and land at lower speed than a normal aircraft of similar size – and so use shorter runways, says Gamaleyev. And the void space can hold cargo as well […]

Science Art: Plate 2527 Guarda (a mechanism for protecting airships), by Charles A.A. Dellschau, 1912.

24 March 2013 // 1 Comment

Click to embiggen This may be an important historical record of the early days of aeronautics, or it may be a vivid fantasy by a lonely, old man. Either way, it’s beautiful. The notebooks of Charles A.A. Dellschau were, The Atlantic tells us, rescued from a Texas landfill. They’d been dumped there after a house fire in the 1960s. Inside the pages were descriptions – and brilliant illustrations – chronicling the mid-1800s meetings of the Sonora Aero Club. This is the only record of the club’s existence, so it’s hard to tell if this is all real records of real concepts (exchanged by hard-drinking, often broke working-class tinkerers) or if it’s a fantastic imaginary world dreamed up by a German expat who never quite struck it big in the Gold Rush. On one night in 1858, a man by the name of Gustav Freyer stood to present his invention: the Aero Guarda, a sort of […]

Newest new Zeppelin is taking test flights. And *landings*.

8 January 2013 // 0 Comments

It’s the first rigid-body airship since the Hindenburg, says the Register. And the military is banking on Pelican to change the way we fly: The 230ft-long, 18-ton demonstrator has been built for the US military by radical airship firm Aeros of California, helmed by Ukrainian LTA visionary Igor Pasternak. … But the airship can potentially do things that planes can’t: specifically it can come down vertically or nearly vertically, like a helicopter, on an unimproved landing zone – and it can do so after a much longer trip than any realistic helicopter can make, as its engines only have to push it along rather than holding it up too. … Unfortunately, while airships until now have been able to bring troops to a landing site, actually getting them off the ship in a timely fashion without a disaster would normally involve venting off huge amounts of lifting gas. This would effectively take the ship out […]

We built a blimp to hunt Bigfoot….

17 October 2012 // 1 Comment

Oh, yes we did. We’ve already used zeppelins to hunt for aliens (or at least meteorite strikes). And now, MSNBC tells us, we’ve got an odder airship for an odder task: Using a 45-foot-long, camera-mounted, remote-controlled airship, project founder William Barnes plans to work with a team that includes one scientist to conduct nighttime flyovers of reported Bigfoot hotspots around the United States. Barnes, a gold dredger whose current endeavor was inspired by an alleged encounter with a Bigfoot-like creature he claims to have had in 1997, thinks the helium-filled craft will allow his team to succeed where others have failed due to its unprecedented advantages in two key areas: stealth and maneuverability. The camera aboard the craft can film in infrared, thermal imaging and high definition. And as the ship scans densely wooded regions from a penetrating vantage, it will never spook a potential subject with a broken twig or run out of breath […]

Science Art: Paillettes de glace eclairées par les rayons du soleil observées en ballon, by M. Albert Tissandier

21 May 2012 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen When you’re a pioneering aviator, it pays to have a brother who’s an illustrator. From the Tissandier collection in the Library of Congress, a dream of the sky from the past. In 1875, Gaston Tissandier flew higher than anyone had ever gone. Two of his companions died from the altitude and he went deaf. And a few years later, with the help of a Siemens motor, he piloted the first electric-powered flight.

A zeppelin for hunting space rocks.

7 May 2012 // 0 Comments

No, McClatchy ain’t making this up. Members of SETI and NASA are using an airship to seek traces of meteorites – and, possibly, alien life: On Thursday, the scientists flew over the Sierra Nevada foothill region in a chartered zeppelin, hoping to spot craters, burn marks or other signs of falling space particles. The meteorite did not arrive quietly early on that Sunday morning. Residents throughout the Sierra Nevada, from Lassen to Kernville, reported hearing explosive sounds as it burned in the atmosphere. Many saw a bright white streak in the sky. The track of that streak ended around Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma, where pieces of the meteorite were found in the parking lot. … “It’s a gamble,” said Gregory Schmidt, deputy director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute, who was part of Thursday’s search effort. “But for a once-in-a-lifetime (meteorite) fall like this, we think it’s worth it.” Scientists say […]

Science Art: Bosch Magneto ad, Aeronautics, July, 1912

6 May 2012 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen In 1912, aeronautics was a sport. And the athletes had to start their engines somehow… so Bosch, now known mostly for their spark plugs, made magnetos. And summoned pilot genies to keep those flying machines in the air. This bit of science art nouveau was found on The same issue has a wonderful “Get a Balloon!” ad from Goodyear. And, you know, actual engineering information for planes and stuff.

Senators demand giant blimp. (No, really.)

4 April 2012 // 0 Comments

Wired’s Danger Room takes a long look at the Blue Devil project – a 370-foot-long airship that, if some legislators have their way, will be flying over Afghanistan soon: At 370 feet long and 1.4 million cubic feet fat, it is one of the largest blimps built in this country since World War II. All that size allows it to stay in the air for days at a time at 20,000 feet. And it enables the airship to carry an enormous array of cameras and eavesdropping gear — enough to keep tabs on at least four square kilometers at a time. No other singular eye in the sky could track insurgents for so far around. No wonder then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates noted in a Nov. 17, 2010 memo (.pdf), obtained by Danger Room, that “the Blue Devil Air Ship initiative [is] urgently needed to eliminate combat capability deficiencies that have resulted in combat fatalities.” A […]

Happy birthday, zeppelin!

14 March 2012 // 0 Comments

Wired celebrates the anniversary of that very special day, March 14, 1899, when Count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin got the U.S. patent for his design for a hard-bodied balloon with engines and rudders: Zeppelin, who received a German patent nearly four years earlier, can more accurately be said to have perfected, rather than invented, the cylindrical-shaped craft. His final designs were based on ideas originally conceived by David Schwartz, a Croatian aviation pioneer employed by the German army. Upon Schwartz’s premature death, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, whose interest in maneuverable balloons went back to his days as a German military observer during the American Civil War, bought the rights to Schwartz’s designs from his widow and established a commercial company. After several false starts, including a couple of near-disastrous demonstrations, Zeppelin’s rigid airship was reliable enough to attract interest from the army. Structural rigidity, i.e., a metal airframe, is what distinguishes a zeppelin from a blimp. Zeppelin […]

Riding airships into orbit.

7 November 2011 // 0 Comments

Discovery is looking up to a way to get satellites into orbit using balloons instead of rockets: …[T]he now-retired NASA space shuttle was the Hindenburg of the space age. Like the zeppelins, the shuttles were a limited fleet, extremely weather-sensitive, fragile, expensive, required huge ground support crews, and were ultimately retired after two deadly accidents. In the post-shuttle era, private companies are competing to make human access to space comparatively simpler and affordable. But it’s time to think of something other than rockets for passenger travel into orbit. To me, floating up to a sky-city platform at 200,000 feet is more leisurely than being strapped into a rocket that zips you to the edge of space and back in 25 minutes. … This is what the folks at JP Aerospace are dreaming about: The first part of their space balloon infrastructure is an atmospheric airship that would ascend to 140,000 feet. The vehicle is operated […]

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