Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What if? low-earth orbit & 8km/s

So. Cool. Getting into low-earth as explained in xkcd's What If? presents such unexpected size comparisions. For example,
Space is about 100 kilometers away. That's far away—I wouldn't want to climb a ladder to get there—but it isn't that far away. If you're in Sacramento, Seattle, Canberra, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Phnom Penh, Cairo, Beijing, central Japan, central Sri Lanka, or Portland, space is closer than the sea.
And these are places I think of as practically coastal cities!

Also, just how fast is a satellite going? 8km/s. 8 is a pretty small number all said (Although "8 is a lot of legs, David."), but units! Kilometers per second? Not used to thinking in those terms. Being American but only geeky up to a point, I am calling to mind that a kilometer is approximately 0.6 mi.

The best part of these What If? bits, though, are the illustrations. And without spoiling your read of the source, may I just mention that there's no bad time for The Proclaimers to show up in space. Go read it here, if you haven't already.
Some other What If posts that Big Frog and I particularly enjoy are Bouncy Balls and Random Sneeze Call.

Yay for making science fun!
Completely tangentially, but still really cool:
  • Did you know? Mayim Bialik, who plays Amy on The Big Bang Theory, actually has a PhD in Neuroscience! That makes her uniquely able to not only act on the show, but also to consult for it. Blossom, all grown up. And, looking back farther, way to go CC! Bet you didn't know she played the girl in Beaches who grew up to be Bette Midler.
  • Another "grew up to be": River Phoenix grew up to be Harrison Ford, right? Except River Phoenix never really got to grow up. Drew McWeeney, of Motion Captured on HitFix, wrote on What if River Phoenix had lived? in a study of turning points in the history of film. I'm intrigued by the idea of him running a Sneakers unit. Love that movie. From a different perspective, that of friendship and shared experience, Wil Wheaton wrote We only got five years and Missing River.
  • And hopping back to smart women with TV in their past, I love that Danica McKellar, Winnie from The Wonder Years, has not only a Bacon number but also an Erdös-Bacon number. She has written four math books encouraging girls to have confidence and succeed in mathematics.
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