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Here’s What It’s Like to Fly Into Hurricanes to Get Forecast Data For Science

Before he heads to work, Jon Zawislak sometimes pops a ginger pill in his mouth to settle his stomach. He also prefers to stick to bland foods like pretzels and crackers before he gets to the office, because he wouldn’t want to hurl all over his desk.

Zawislak is a Hurricane Hunter.

He spends 8-hour long days soaring 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometres) in the air, collecting data on the wind, temperature, pressure, humidity, and rain falling inside big storms, where hurricane-force winds top 75 miles per hour (120 kilometres per hour).

While others on the ground are figuring out the best ways to avoid the eyes of these dangerous storms, he flies right into them.

“Aircraft are still the single best platform that we have to measure the state of a storm,” Zawislak told Business Insider.

“When it comes to the windfield, or the central pressure of the storm, that kind of data can only really come from an aircraft, and the instruments on the aeroplane.”

In the past week, he’s travelled through both Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Florence, collecting vital data that the National Hurricane Center uses to upgrade a storm’s category, or better track where it’s headed next.

What an 8 hour workday in the air is like

Hurricane hunting flights have been around for 75 years, ever since British fighter pilots essentially dared a US Colonel to fly directly into a storm during WWII.

Today, Zawislak says there are two critical devices on the Lockheed Martin WP-3D he flies in for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that help inform our National Hurricane Center forcasts.

First, there’s the plane’s on-board radar that measures wind and rain, and then there’s a little device that’s essentially a paper towel roll with a parachute on its back, called a dropsonde.

The dropsonde is a disposable instrument outfitted with a GPS receiver, as well as pressure, temperature and humidity sensors. The throw-away package gets stuffed out a window, and then sucked away from the plane.

Over the course of a typical 8 hour flight, a dropsonde operator might plop 20 of them down into a storm, everywhere from the eye to the very outer rim, to examine how the windfield changes at different locations and heights in the storm.

“It really allows us to profile the atmosphere, which is one of the most important things,” Zawislak said. “So we can see how the wind speed changes with height.”

All this information can dramatically shift how forecasters characterise a storm.

Take Zawislak’s Monday flight into Hurricane Florence, for instance. “It went from what looked like a category 2 hurricane, all the way to a category 4 hurricane, just because we had the aircraft,” he said.

Getting a job as a flying scientist

Zawislak, who holds a PhD in atmospheric science, has been working on both planes and unmanned drones that fly through hurricanes for roughly a decade.

As a Hurricane Field Program Director for NOAA, he is essentially in charge of a plane-sized research lab in the sky. He decides where the flight path will head to collect its best data, and makes sure the instruments on board are getting all the information they will need to answer key research questions in flight.

One of the biggest unanswered questions Zawislak still has about hurricanes is how they get so fierce, so fast. It’s still not well understood how storms organise and gather strength, developing from uneven messes of rain and light wind to powerful, swirling hurricanes that can rip through homes and pummel the shore with water.

It’s an important research question for Zawislak, because if he can better understand why and how the storms are intensifying, forcasts will improve.

Zawislak says he’s “not crazy,” he just wants to learn more about big storms

Zawislak tries to steer clear of greasy foods before he boards the plane, but he says that flying into a storm isn’t always a bumpy ride. In fact, inside the storm it can feel just like a commercial flight, with the seatbelt sign off and all.

The pilots Zawislak flies with (there are three of them in the cockpit) typically try to keep the plane level, for the sake of the instruments, and maintain a height of about 10,000 feet (3,000 metres).

“We have the best pilots, the best engineers, the best mechanics, this is the best-maintained aeroplane you can find,” he said.

Still, the turbulence inside the plane can be unnerving at times, even with a harness on.

“You have flights where you’re in moderate to severe turbulence for two to three hours,” Zawislak said.

Inside the eye of a big storm like Florence, things clear up. At its very inner core, a hurricane is a place of peace, surrounded by violent chaos. Hurricane hunters say it looks like a big stadium, clear and serene.

“It’s much bigger than any stadium you’ve been in,” Zawislak said. When he flew through the eye of Florence, as a category 4 storm, the center was more than 15 miles (24 kilometres) wide, and took four minutes to fly through.

Despite the fact that Zawislak has to muscle his stomach through several long and bumpy rainy joy rides every hurricane season, he still wants you to know that he’s not completely out of his mind for taking this job.

“We’re not crazy” he said, before boarding another flight into tropical storm Isaac.

“We are playing a humongous role in getting the information to the National Hurricane Center, so that they can tell the public how strong the storm is.”

This article was originally published by Business Insider.


Science & Technology

Japan has developed an inflatable scooter that weighs practically nothing

The University of Tokyo engineers have developed the Poimo inflatable electric scooter, which is created individually for each owner. It is enough to send your photo to the manufacturers – and a personal optimized model will be assembled for you.

The scooter is designed with a special program for the body size of a particular user and his specific fit. Moreover, each owner is free to make any changes to this model. If he makes any changes to the drawing, the program will automatically redesign the electric bike to maintain its strength, stability and controllability. When the model is finished and approved, it is handed over to the manufacturer.

Scooter Poimo

The scooter consists of seven separate inflatable sections that are constructed from durable fabric and sewn with straight stitch. It remains to add electronic components – in particular, a brushless motor and a lithium-ion battery. 

The finished electric scooter weighs about 9 kg and can travel at speeds up to 6 km / h (that is, slightly faster than a pedestrian). It can work for an hour on one charge.

This is how the current version of Poimo looks like in action:

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Science & Technology

Excerpts from Elon Musk’s speech at the Martian Society convention

Elon Musk’s comments with questions relayed from the Mars Society Membership by Dr. Robert Zubrin, James L. Burk, and Carie Fay. Following Elon’s 30 min time, Dr. Zubrin took additional questions. This special event was part of the 2020 Mars Society Virtual Convention from October 14-18, 2020.

About Starship Test Schedule:

– entering orbit – with a probability of 80% -90% will take place in 2021

– the probability of the return of the ship and the 1st stage in this flight is 50%

– test of refueling in orbit – 2022

– Starship lunar version – 2022 or 2023

– Starship flight to Mars – around 2024

The goal of the Starship is to build a self-sufficient settlement on Mars as quickly as possible. Musk does not rule out the possibility that this will not be achieved during his lifetime. According to his rough estimates, to create a self-sufficient city, it will be necessary to deliver 1 million tons of cargo, which corresponds to 4-5 million tons in a low Earth orbit. Modern single-use launch vehicles are capable of removing less than 1% of this value.

“Disposable launch vehicles are completely stupid. They are a waste of time. I think people need to stop wasting time on this. If you try to sell a disposable plane, you will be thrown out of the office. If you try to sell a disposable car, you will also be thrown out of the office. “

A series of questions and answers followed:

What is the best landing site on Mars?

– I’m not sure about that. But I can name the criteria. The first of these is latitude: most likely it will be in the northern hemisphere, far enough to the north to have water ice, but to still have enough sunlight.It also needs to be low to get the most benefit from atmospheric braking.

How do you prioritize mission priorities: research, infrastructure construction, and science?

– The first will be the construction of a fuel plant.

A question from a teenager who wants to become an engineer and robot maker with a dream to work at SpaceX: what is the most important education in order to become an engineer?

– There are many varieties of this profession: you can be an aerospace engineer, in the field of electronics, software, or a chemical engineer involved in creating safe production of fuels. I think physics is a good foundation for critical thinking.

Boring Company was originally conceived as a tunnel manufacturing firm on Mars?

– No. It was originally something of a joke. I thought tunnels were a good solution to reduce the traffic problem in cities and improve the quality of life by turning parking lots into green parks. To do this, you need to go to 3d [get away from the “flat” infrastructure – approx. per.]. I think tunnels are good for Mars too. But there you need a lot lighter equipment: you don’t care about mass on Earth, but you will have to take care of it a lot when going to Mars.

At Boring Company, have you learned a lot of technology that might come in handy on Mars?

– I think, yes.

Do you have any tips for young people who love Mars but don’t know how to participate in its settlement?

– I think any strong advocate of the need to conquer Mars matters. People often don’t even think about it. I often talk to people who don’t even know about it. Therefore, I consider it important for humanity and consciousness in general to bring a discussion about this to society. Talking about it with friends and acquaintances – I think this is what we should do. In my estimate, we will spend less than 1% of our efforts on Mars exploration, exactly less than healthcare, perhaps even less than cosmetics – this will be enough to make life multi-planetary. But this requires people to start talking about it 100 times more often. I think this is what really matters. [the entire cosmonautics of the world is $ 424 billion a year, while cosmetics is $ 532 billion, and tobacco production is $ 849 billion – approx. per.]

What’s the coolest part about Starship development?

– I think the coolest detail is the ability to work with a great group of engineers and come up with interesting solutions. I think the best thing is the opportunity to work with smart and creative people who come up with solutions that were not available before. This is a great reward.

What do you focus on when hiring, especially with regard to engineers?

“We’re looking for signs of exceptional ability. Or at the very least, striving to do exceptional things at SpaceX.

Are you planning to make a Mars-Earth communication system like Starlink?

– Yes, I think we will use a laser, probably launched into orbit, to avoid atmospheric diffraction. Thus, it will be a laser beam going from the orbit of the Earth to the orbit of Mars. And also relay satellites in solar orbit, since the laser beam cannot be sent through the Sun [when it is between Mars and Earth – approx. per.].

Can Starship be used for other destinations like Venus and other planets?

– Starship will be able to travel to any target in the solar system that has a solid surface when fuel depots appear. It is not the kind of transport that will take us to other stars, but when we become a multi-planetary species, we will create a demand for innovation in space travel that will ultimately lead us to interstellar travel.

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Science & Technology

Cern Scientists Plan an Impressive Experiment – They Will Come Into A Parallel Universe

Cern scientists are once again preparing to impress the entire planet and become the focus of discussions with the new experiment they are planning.

An experiment that, if it brings the fascinating result that scientists have in mind,  will change the way we think about the world , will take place in the next few days at the Large Hadron Collider, the European nuclear center, Geneva CERN Research.

The astonishingly LHC complex, the largest, most energetic elemental accelerator in the world,  will be “fired” for the first time to its highest energy levels, in an effort to detect – or even create – tiny black holes. 

If it succeeds, then, a completely new universe will be revealed – rewriting not only the books of physics, but also the books of philosophy! 

It is possible, however,  that gravity from our universe will “leak” into this parallel universe, as LHC scientists say. 

From the Higgs boson to dark matter and the parallel universe

According to the British Express, the experiment is sure to “trigger” the critics, who are worried about the LHC, many of whom warn that the elementary particle accelerator will mark the end of our universe, creating a of the black hole.

Nevertheless,  Geneva has remained … intact since 2008, when the LHC began its spectacular “work”.

The first scientists at the Large Hadron Collider proved the existence of the Higgs boson – a key building block of the universe – and the LHC appears to be on track to locate “dark matter” – a previously undetectable force now considered that it constitutes the majority of matter in the universe, being, in fact, the reason why the latter is constantly expanding and moving away. 

So next week’s experiment is considered to change the game. 

The truth is out there

Mir Faizal, one of three heads of the three natural groups behind the experiment, said: 

“Like many parallel sheets, which are two-dimensional objects (width and length) can exist in a third dimension (height) , so parallel universes can also exist in higher dimensions. We anticipate that gravity can leak into extra dimensions, and if that happens, then tiny black holes can be produced in the LHC. 

Normally, when people think of the multiverse, they think of the interpretation of quantum mechanics by many worlds, where every possibility is realized. This cannot be tested and so it is a philosophy and not a science. We do not mean this with parallel universes. What we mean is real universes, in extra dimensions. The truth is out there.”

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