Projectile Goodness

I have come into possession of a trebuchet.
It’s not a very large one (the arm is only 12″ long and it uses AA batteries as weights), but it will suffice for now.
Right now, it’s being used to bombard (with partial success) my co-workers with small pieces of plastic. Much amusement ensues.
Myself and several others in the physics department are working on a project to construct a larger trebuchet, which will hopefully be used for bombarding things with water balloons. Being physics folks, we’ll try the gravity method first, but we’re looking at using a solenoid to attract an iron rod and drive the arm, so we can better tune the force to compensate for range.
Please disregard any mention in the police blotter of the local papers regarding a mad scientist with medieval siege engines. It couldn’t possibly be me. No way.

I Love the World

The Discovery Channel really hit this one out of the park. Really an amazing commercial for an amazing channel.
The only problem I’ve found with doing science is that it’s stupendously amazing and that there’s too damn much of it. I’d love to do just about everything they do on that channel, learn about ancient things, hot magma, space, explosions, and tasty, tasty crab. (Tasty crab is science! Really, honey!) Sadly, the world is too big for an individual to see and do everything…yet at the same time, that’s what makes it amazing.
xkcd has a similarly geeky and awesome comic related to this as well.
Ah, the world is an amazing place.

Mars Update

Not only did the University of Arizona’s Phoenix lander land safely on the surface of Mars yesterday and get some neat photographs, but the HiRISE camera (also owned and run by the University of Arizona) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter managed to snap a picture, from orbit, of the Phoenix lander parachuting to the surface.
Talk about a long shot: the Phoenix lander was all bundled up for the descent, and was less than two meters in diameter. To get the picture, the MRO had to rotate 62 degrees off-down-axis and take the picture from a highly inclined angle. My back-of-the-envelope calculations show that the MRO was about 602km (~375 miles) away from Phoenix when it took the photograph. That’s some impressive photography.
This is the first time in history that a spacecraft has photographed another spacecraft landing on Mars.
I seem to have recovered somewhat from the excess champagne consumed yesterday. All of us here at the UofA are still quite giddy about it. Regular posting will resume shortly.

Slow Blogging Day

Today will be a slow blogging day: the University of Arizona’s Phoenix lander will be landing on Mars in a little more than three hours, so I’ll be on campus for most of the day.
If anyone in the Tucson area wants to stop by, say hello, and (hopefully!) celebrate the landing, feel free to drop me an email and we can meet up.