This is a thermonuclear weapon, lodged in a field in North Carolina where it landed after falling from crashing B-52 on January 24, 1961. Some new documents detailing the history of the Goldsboro Incident were declassified this week.
Besides information the history of Goldsboro and several other near-disaster, the documents focus on problems with nuclear arsenal safety during the Cold War. The documents particularly focus on issues with weapons design. At Goldsboro, for instance, the weapons ended up armed (increasing the risk of an actual detonation) because the manual arming switch was designed in such a way as to allow it to turn itself on in response to the force of the plane crash.
The documents also discuss the risks of "sealed-pit" weapons, which were designed with the plutonium or uranium core already sealed into the warhead — unlike earlier designs that required operators to insert the nuclear material when the bombs were ready to be used. The sealed-pit design greatly increased the risks associated with lost or accidentally dropped bombs, as in the case of Goldsboro. Read the rest
The winners of Purdue University's Rube Goldberg Machine Contest show off their creations on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Read the rest
This is the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a ship that's as important to the history of engineering as it is to the history of insanely crazy Cold War CIA schemes.
In 1970s, the CIA used this ship to capture a sunken Russian nuclear submarine — i.e., lifting a 2000-ton object from a depth of three miles to the surface. It was the most expensive intelligence operation ever and it only kind of worked. Read the rest
MIT researchers built a 70-pound robot "cheetah" meant to demonstrate the high efficiency of a new electric motor design. Among other improvements, the design enables the impact energy of the robot's leg hitting the ground to be captured and fed into the robot's battery. Soon, they expect the motors to enable the cheetah-bot to gallop at 35 mph which, of course, is still just half the speed of a real cheetah. However, it will hit those speeds much more efficiently than other running robots. Read the rest
Did you know that Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd once invented a refrigerator
? And a life-saving refrigerator, at that. Read the rest
Popular Science has a great slideshow of tools
used to make the sort of fancy, $15 cocktails that are served to you by gentlemen wearing handlebar mustaches. From CNC routers that carve ice, to drinks aged in sous-vide machines, to repurposed lab equipment like centrifuges and rotary evaporators, it's a cool behind-the-scenes view of the gadgets used by the modernist bartender. (Random shout-out to Peder at Marvel Bar!) Read the rest
Bryan Cantrill from Joyent explains
why the company expects engineers not to use gendered pronouns in documentation: "empathy is a core engineering value—and that an engineer that has so little empathy as to not understand why the use of gendered pronouns is a concern almost certainly makes poor technical decisions as well." Read the rest
In Japan, engineers are attempting to contain radioactive contamination from the Fukushima power plant by freezing the ground around it into "ice walls" that will remain frozen for years
. At Nova, Jessica Morrison writes about this weird technique, which has been around for over half a century and is more commonly used as part of massive construction projects with large underground components, including Boston's Big Dig. Read the rest
The term "gonzo journalism" gets thrown around pretty loosely, generally referring to stuff that's kind of shouty or over-the-top, but really gonzo stuff is completely, totally bananas. Case in point is James Mickens's The Slow Winter [PDF], a wonderfully lunatic account of the limitations of chip-design that will almost certainly delight you as much as it did me.
Read the rest
The iceberg wasn't the only thing that took down the Titanic, explains Yale University materials scientist Anissa Ramirez. Instead, cold temperatures in the icy North Atlantic changed the behavior of the materials that made up the boat — changes that reduced the ocean liner's ability to withstand a head-on iceberg collision.
Check out more Anissa Ramirez science videos Read the rest
How the ancient Romans created color-changing glass goblets
that shifted colors based on what you put in them. Read the rest
507 Movements brings to life Henry T Brown's 1868 treatise "Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements, Embracing
All Those Which Are Most Important in Dynamics, Hydraulics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Steam Engines, Mill and Other Gearing, Presses, Horology, and Miscellaneous Machinery; and Including
Many Movements Never Before Published
Several Which Have Only Recently Come Into Use," and includes selected animations of the mechanisms. Hypnotic and educational!
507 Mechanical Movements
(via O'Reilly Radar)
Read the rest
As they move through tunnels dug in a wide variety of soils, ants do sometimes slip and fall down their own shafts. But they catch themselves, with their limbs and even with their antenna. Scientists are studying the ways ants brace against a fall to help design better robotos for search-and-rescue missions
. Read the rest
American astronaut Sally Ride monitors control panels from the pilot's chair on the flight deck in 1983. Photo by Apic/Getty Images, via PBS NewsHour.
Tonight, PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien will serve as master of ceremonies in a Kennedy Center gala honoring the life and legacy of astronaut Sally Ride. The tribute will highlight her impact on the space program and her lifelong commitment to promoting youth science literacy.
Her Sally Ride Science organization reached out to girls, encouraging them to pursue careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, where a gender gap persists.
At the PBS NewsHour website, read the column Miles wrote immediately following Ride's death in July 2012, 17 months after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Sally Ride, first American woman in space, has died
Sally Ride's sister, on the quiet acknowledgement of her orientation ...
Astronaut Sally Ride's partner won't receive death benefits ...
Read the rest
Why build a normal, weak sand castle, when you could have a defensible sand fortress?
This morning, Marketplace Tech Report had a story on a new cellulose-based building material that could be made by genetically engineered bacteria — altered versions of the bacteria that naturally make stuff like kombucha. This tech sounds like it's got a long way to go from laboratory to the real world, but if they can perfect the process and make it large enough quantities, what you'd end up with a strong, inexpensive goop that could be used to build everything from medical dressings, to digital paper, to spaceships. Yes, you could theoretically use this stuff to make rocket casings, according to R. Malcolm Brown, Jr.
, a professor of cell biology at UT Austin. And if you can build a rocket from this stuff, you could also break the same material back down into an edible, high-fiber foodstuff. Read the rest
Let's sit down for some story time with everybody's favorite science uncle, Richard Feynman.