You always know shit’s about to get real when Michio Kaku starts a sentence with “We physicists..”

A beaten and damaged Mir, the result of the space equivalent of being backed into by that determined angry looking guy with sunglasses on who knows his station wagon will fit in spot in front of yours. Everyone give the Progress M-34 unmanned cargo spacecraft the finger.

Apollo 13 Command Module recovery after splashdown.

Happy birthday, Nikola Tesla!

I’m sure you’re up there somewhere, making lightning storms, with the ghost of Edison trying to claim credit for them.

Fulgurites are natural hollow glass tubes formed in quartzose sand, silica, or soil by lightning strikes.They are formed when lightning with a temperature of at least 1,800 °C (3,270 °F) instantaneously melts silica on a conductive surface and fuses grains together, the fulgurite tube is the cooled product.

This is Echo 1A, the first passive communications satellite, launched into orbit on the 12th of August, 1960. The 30.5m (100 ft) diameter mylar balloon redirected transcontinental and intercontinental telephone, radio and television signals by simply providing a large reflective surface to bounce signals off from one point of the Earth to another.

After Project Echo’s larger 41.1m (135 ft) diameter follow up, Echo 2, passive communication systems ceased to be explored any further, with active systems found to be more effective. Both Echo 1A and Echo 2 were easily visible with the naked eye, and due to their large size and low mass, both satellites worked as solar sails to a small extent (Solar sails being craft which utilize radiation pressure from a source of light, usually a star, as a means of propulsion, literally sailing on light).

The Z Machine

Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Z Machine is the worlds largest X-ray generator. When discharged, for a brief period of about 70 nanoseconds, the Z machine releases 80 times the electrical output used by the entire planet. One of its main objectives is to study the conditions of extreme temperature and pressure, with the hope of solving the practical difficulties in harnessing the power of nuclear fusion. The temperatures reached in the Z Machine (up to 3.7 billion kelvins) are well beyond those required for standard hydrogen, deuterium and tritium fusion. This could potentially allow for the fusion of light hydrogen atoms with heavier atoms, such as lithium and boron. These fusion reactions would not produce neutrons, which means they would not produce radioactivity or nuclear waste, which would provide a far cleaner and more efficient source of power than is currently available.

Apollo 17 leaving the moon on the 14th of December, 1972.

Having broken records for the longest manned lunar landing flight, longest total time spent walking on the surface of the moon, largest lunar sample return and longest lunar orbit. The Apollo 17 mission also marked the last time man set foot on the moon to date, with all manned missions since staying within low Earth orbit.

Shown here refracting a classic image of Einstein himself, is what was, up until 2008, the closest thing to a perfect sphere ever made by humankind.

Crafted from fused quartz (which is made by melting down and further refining high quality quartz crystal, resulting in a much more consistent and pure form of glass than is achieved by standard means), four of these spheres went up in 2004 as components of four gyroscopes on Gravity Probe B, a satellite designed to test Einstein’s theories on the effects that large spinning objects, such as Earth, have on space and time. The precision of the measurements that were to be taken, required each sphere to be engineered to as close to perfection as was possible with technology available at the time. Even advanced high-end gyroscopes used here on Earth are millions of times too inaccurate to perform these kinds of measurements, due to the slightest imperfections in their design and production. The meticulous construction of these spheres, for the most part, overcomes those issues, being near perfectly round to within just forty atoms. This means if you were to scale one up to the size of Earth, the tallest peak would be 2.4m high.

However during 2008, in a bid to redefine how a kilogram is measured, a new standard was set when a number of teams, including CSIRO and the Australian Centre for Precision Optics, crafted spheres of silicon-28 so near perfectly smooth, that if one were scaled up to the size of Earth, the most noticeable imperfections would be slight ripples of about 12 to 15mm. This feat is perhaps only topped in nature by objects like neutron stars or single electrons.

Just to clear up some confusion about what was covered in my last post concerning the Super-Kamiokande, here’s a very basic summary of what a neutrino is.

While being difficult to detect, neutrinos are quite literally all around you, far outnumbering other, more familiar subatomic particles like protons, neutrons and electrons, which are the building blocks that make up atoms. Most neutrinos we encounter here on Earth originate from our sun, which sends around 65 billion neutrinos through every single square centimeter on Earth, including you and me, per second, at nearly the speed of light.

The reason we don’t notice this is because neutrinos are absolutely miniscule, even in the realm of subatomic particles. They make atoms look plain obese. Also, they have no electromagnetic charge, unlike the positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons. This means they almost never interact with anything else, they pass through the entire planet as though it isn’t even there, they’re the elitist snobs of the particle world. Every now and then, though, one does bump into something ordinary. It’s these elusive, faint interactions that neutrino detectors keep watch for.

Pictured is the Super-Kamiokande, a giant neutrino detector, buried 1000m underground in Japan. Usually filled with 50,000 tonnes of pure water, the observatory detects neutrinos by watching for interactions with the subatomic particles in the water. These interactions are extremely rare, which is why the detector needed to be built to the scale it is.