Posted in Astronomy, Biology, Carnivalia, Foundations of science, History, Math, Space
Tagged Astronomy, Biology, carnival, Carnivalia, History, Space
More formally known as Mesosaurus brasiliensis, here’s a water lizard fossil on display at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Washington:
Mesosaurus was one of the first aquatic reptiles, returning to the water around 360 million years ago. As a result, it had four legs with webbed feet, but the structure of its elbows and ankles would have limited its mobility out of the water. It was much like a small (up to 1 meter / 3.3 feet long), early crocodile.
Mesosaurus’ significance, though, goes well beyond its role in its environment. Since in life Mesosaurus was constrained to coastal environments, but its fossils have been found in both southern Africa and southeastern South America, it provided early evidence for the theory of continental drift (now explained by the geological mechanism of plate tectonics).
On display at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum; Box Elder, South Dakota:
The B-57 Canberra started out as a license-built version of the English Electric Canberra bomber, entering service in the U.S. in 1953. It’s unusual in that the U.S. Air Force is not prone to buying foreign aircraft — but at the outbreak of the Korean War, need outweighed national pride, and the Canberra was the best available model. Since English Electric couldn’t produce aircraft fast enough for the U.S.A.F.’s needs, the Martin Company in the U.S. was tagged to produce a modified version of them under license — eventually producing a total of 403 B-57s.
But the aircraft suffered though a series of issues, engine-related and otherwise, and so it was soon deemed unfit to be a front-line bomber. Instead, many of the aircraft were converted for other roles — as was the case for this airframe.
From the placard:
The EB-57B was an electronic reconnaissance conversion of the B-57B. Like the EB-57A, the basic mission of the EB-57B was to fly aggressor missions against the North American continent. The aircraft used electronic jamming equipment along with chaff dispensers mounted on wing pylons to attempt to penetrate US and Canadian airspace by evading detection by ground-based radar stations and airborne interceptor aircraft. During a typical training mission, the Air Defence Command ground controllers had to identify the incoming threat and direct jets to intercept the EB-57B.
The EB-57B gradually replaced the EB-57A because it carried more-advanced electronics and was generally a more capable aircraft. The B-model aircraft were in turn replaced by the improved EB-57E starting in the mid- to late-1960s. The EB-57B continued to serve with the Air National Guard throughout the 1970s.
Posted in Astronomy, Biology, Carnivalia, Critical thinking, Geology, Space
Tagged Astronomy, Biology, carnival, Carnivalia, Geology, Space
In this case, to a Clovis point (on display at the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington):
Clovis points are a distinctive North American technology dating to about 10,000 – 13,500 years ago. For flaked stone tools, they’re also remarkably prone to controversy.
Clovis points were first found in 1932 at a site near Clovis, New Mexico (and named accordingly), but have since been found over all of North America and as far south as Venezuela. Their discovery was a huge upset to then-current theories of the settling of the western hemisphere — a process once thought to have started some 3,000 years ago was pushed back by at least 10,000 years. But the meaning of the technology, and the significance of its beginning and end continue to cause dispute.
- The points are somewhat similar to those produced by the Solutrean culture in Europe’s Iberian peninsula — so are they really a local (to North America) development, or were they introduced by hunters who crossed the Atlantic ice shelf and became some of the earliest settlers of the western hemisphere?
- Once Clovis points show up in the archaeological record, they show up nearly universally across the North American continent. Is this symptomatic of a huge (and very fast) wave of settlement, or of very rapid technological diffusion among already-existing native communities, or both?
- The appearance of Clovis points is well-correlated to a catastrophic loss of megafauna in the western hemisphere. Did the new weaponry help spur the loss of species, or are they both symptoms of a more-subtle underlying cause?
- Clovis points were eventually replaced by Folsom points — lighter, in a sense more beautiful, but far more fragile. Was the new technology’s lightness sufficient to cause its replacement of the older style, or were cultural issues a bigger factor?
Here you see a Redstone on static display outside the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A direct descendant of (and engineered by many of the creators of) the V-2 missile, the Redstone missile was the U.S.’ first large ballistic missile. A short range surface-to-surface beast, it had a useful range of 57.5 miles (92.5 km) to 201 miles (323 km), and was the first missile to carry a live nuclear warhead in flight (in tests in the Pacific Ocean in 1958).
Working from lessons learned from their V-2 experiences, the Redstone’s designers built the missile to split in two in flight — the front section carrying the warhead was separated from the main body carrying the propellant tanks and rocket engine in order to improve both accuracy and range. You can see this separation plane just behind the small fins about 1/3 of the missile’s length behind its nose.
Should you be in any doubt of this bird’s parentage, all you need to do is take a look at its tail section. The control surfaces at the edge of its fins, and the control vanes in its engine’s exhaust plume, are both direct copies from their V-2 forebears. And the engine (although built by North American Aviation, originally for the Navaho cruise missile) ran on Liquid Oxygen (LOX) and a water / alcohol mix — just as the V-2 did.
The development of the Redstone started in 1951, and Redstone missiles were fielded by the U.S. Army from 1955 through 1964. But that role in the Cold War was hardly the high-water-mark for the design, as derivatives of it would go on to make history. On January 31, 1958, a Jupiter C rocket lifted Explorer 1 (the U.S.’ first satellite) into orbit. And just three years later, on May 5, 1961, a further modified Redstone rocket lifted Alan B. Shepard, Jr. into suborbital flight — beginning the U.S.’ human spaceflight program.
Posted in Astronomy, Biology, Carnivalia, Critical thinking, Math, Space
Tagged Astronomy, Biology, carnival, Carnivalia, Math, Space
Should you ever find yourself in Chicago, you definitely owe it to yourself to carve out a few hours for a visit to the Field Museum. It’s got a wealth of exhibits, hands-on experiments for the kiddos, and front and center as soon as you gain admission, it’s got Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex.
As you may recall, Sue’s a skeleton with a bit of history behind her.