The scientific tourist #346 — Dilophosaurus tracks

If you happen to be in the neighborhood of the Glen Canyon Dam, I’d definitely recommend you take the time to swing through the visitor’s center.  Along with all sorts of artifacts and displays on the building of the dam, there’s also this bit of more-ancient history — the 170 million year old tracks of a Dilophosaurus:

Dilophosaurus Tracks

First appearing in the early Jurassic period, the Dilophosaurus (named for the pair of bony crests on its head was a one-ton, twenty-foot long carnivore — a smaller version of one was presented (with much creative license, with a neck frill) in the first Jurassic Park movie.  This real one left its mark in the marshy riverine deposits of the Kayenta sandstone formation, to be uncovered in our time in a nearby side canyon.

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The scientific tourist #345 — Glen Canyon Dam

A feat of engineering, yet also a remarkably controversial piece of concrete, it’s the Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Arizona:

Glen Canyon Dam

The Glen Canyon Dam was built for two stated reasons — to provide hydroelectric power, and to assure the supply of water to states on the lower half of the Colorado River.  Construction of the dam started in 1956, and lasted for 10 years; the end result was the creation of Lake Powell, upriver of the structure.

While it has fulfilled its original purposes, the Glen Canyon Dam has not been without abundant controversy over its working life.  It nearly collapsed due to a historic flood season in 1983, it submerged miles of once beautiful canyons upstream, and permanently changed the ecology of the Colorado River downstream of it (essentially, through the Grand Canyon).  Much of its downstream impact comes from the trapping of sediment that would otherwise flow down the river unimpeded; recent restoration efforts aimed at periodically generating flood-like flows have been only partially successful.

If you’d like to see the dam yourself, it’s quite a bit off the beaten path.  It’s not terribly far off one of the usual routes to see the Grand Canyon, though.  Meanwhile Page is the easiest jumping off point if you’re planning on visiting either upper or lower Antelope Canyon, just a few miles to the east.

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The scientific tourist #344 — “Cluster’s Last Stand”

Here you see what was once the last flight-worthy Saturn IB (“one B”) launch vehicle, now on static display at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Visitor Complex:

Cluster's Last Stand

As you may well expect, this vehicle has quite a story to tell.

While most people associate the Saturn launch vehicles with the Apollo program, the Saturns actually started development in 1956 as a productive way to occupy Werner Von Braun’s team at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (now the Marshal Space Flight Center) after the authority to develop new ballistic missiles was stripped from them.  Von Braun and the ABMA’s commander, General Medaris, decided that a worthy and worthwhile challenge was to develop a launch vehicle that could take heavy loads to low Earth orbit.

To save development cost, the first stage of the Saturn I (and subsequent Saturn IB) was built from a cluster of 8 70″ diameter tanks built with Redstone tooling surrounding a single 105″ diameter tank built with Jupiter tooling.  This arrangement was cost effective, but led to the joke nickname of “Cluster’s Last Stand” for both the Saturn I and IB.  The Saturn I only saw flight a few times, while its upgraded variant (with a more powerful second stage) the IB was folded into the Apollo program, and wound up being a workhorse from 1962 well into the 1970s.  Its S-IVB second stage was also the third stage of the Saturn V rocket — easing the use of the Saturn IB as a testbed for the Apollo spacecraft and lunar module (as they in this way had the same launch vehicle interface for both launchers).

Ultimately, twelve complete Saturn 1Bs and parts of two others were built, although only nine of them flew.  Five Saturn 1Bs supported the Apollo program, three lofted crews to the Skylab space station, and one flew the ASTP Apollo spacecraft to its international rendezvous in Earth orbit.

This vehicle on display at KSC is Saturn 1B serial number SA-209.  It was kept in readiness to launch a rescue crew for all the Skylab missions, as well as for the ASTP mission.  It also would have been used for a potential Skylab 5 mission, to re-boost the space stations orbit.  Not having seen use in any of those scenarios, it was retired to its current display spot in the KSC Rocket Garden.

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Carnivalia — 12/03 – 12/09/2014

The past week’s selection of (mostly) science-related blog carnivals:

Carnivalesque #107

Carnival of Space #383

Friday Ark #500

Morsels for the Mind 05/12/2014

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The scientific tourist #343 — Ball Court Marker, Lubaantun

Seen at the “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” traveling exhibition, it’s a Limestone Ball Court Marker from Late Classic (780-790 AD) Lubaantun, Belize:

Ball Court Marker, Lubaantun

The mesoamerican ball game may be surrounded by modern-day uncertainty, but in its heyday it was laden with both religious and political import.  As a result, ball courts are central to Classic era Maya sites.

This limestone marker once helped delimit one of three ball courts at the Classic Maya site of Lubaantun in southern Belize.  It’s eroded, but you can still make out two players lunging at a rubber ball; the six glyphs at the top of the marker (now eroded beyond recognition) likely once named the competitors.

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Carnivalia — 11/26 – 12/02/2014

The past week’s selection of (mostly) science-related blog carnivals for your reading pleasure:

Carnivalesque #106

Carnival of Evolution #77

Carnival of Space #382

Friday Ark #499

History Carnival #140

Math Teachers at Play #80

Morsels for the Mind — 28/11/2014

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The scientific tourist #342 — Chinese MiG-15

I’ve written at length previously about the MiG-15 — an impressively compact (and lethal!) little fighter from early in the Cold War.  But I came across this picture of another example of the type while sorting through my digital images.  This MiG is on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington:

Chinese MiG-15

This particular MiG-15 was purchased from China in 1990, and donated to the museum in 2003.  It’s still painted in the colors of the Chinese air forces.

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The scientific tourist #341 — the Concorde

Here, you’ve got an excellent example of the Concorde, on display with some friends at the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia:

Concorde and friends

The Concorde began life as parallel supersonic transport (SST) studies in the United Kingdom and France in the mid- and late-1950s, respectively. By 1960, both teams were looking for a partnership as a way to share costs, and as no U.S. company was interested in such an arrangement, they formed a joint venture (with the backing of government subsidies and an international treaty) in 1962. Continue reading

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Carnivalia — 11/12 – 11/18/2014

The past week’s selection of science-related blog carnivals for you:

Carnival of Space #380

Friday Ark #497

Morsels for the Mind — 14/11/2014

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The scientific tourist #340 — Short-Necked Plesiosaur

On display at Kansas’ Sternberg Museum of Natural History, it’s a Short-Necked Plesiosaur (a.k.a., Dolichorhynchops):

Short-Necked Plesiosaur (Dolichorhynchops)

Dolichorhynchops was a genus of plesiosaur in the Late Cretaceous (93 – 70 million years ago), back when modern-day Kansas was a bit of sea bottom. This is a reconstruction of a Dolichorhynchops osborni, one of the three species in the genus, and pair to a fossilized skeleton of the same creature on display at the museum.  In their day, they grew to about 3 meters / 10 feet in length.

D. osborni is an appropriate match for the museum, particularly since the holotype specimen of the species was discovered in Logan County, Kansas by George Sternberg as a teenager, circa 1900.

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