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Tag Archives: gravity

Note to self: Don’t age whiskey in microgravity

After three years in space – aboard the international space station, to be exact – a vial of whiskey from the Ardbeg Distillery has returned to Earth for a taste test.

Here, I have to quote directly from the taster’s notes, because anything shy of them would entirely miss the point:

Ardbeg tasting notes from experiment:

Earth sample: “The sample had a woody aroma, reminiscent of an aged Ardbeg style, with hints of cedar, sweet smoke and aged balsamic vinegar, as well as raisins, treacle toffee, vanilla and burnt oranges.

“On the palate, its woody, balsamic flavours shone through, along with a distant fruitiness, some charcoal and antiseptic notes, leading to a long, lingering aftertaste, with flavours of gentle smoke, tar and creamy fudge.”

Space sample: “Its intense aroma had hints of antiseptic smoke, rubber and smoked fish, along with a curious, perfumed note, like violet or cassis, and powerful woody tones, leading to a meaty aroma.

“The taste was very focused, with smoked fruits such as prunes, raisins, sugared plums and cherries, earthy peat smoke, peppermint, aniseed, cinnamon and smoked bacon or hickory-smoked ham. The aftertaste is intense and long, with hints of wood, antiseptic lozenges and rubbery smoke.”

Personally, I find taste-testers to be a curious lot with their off the wall flavor and aroma comparisons, “hints of wood [and] antiseptic lozenges” and with an n=1, and the fact that the taste-test was almost certainly not blinded, there seems to be little science actually happening here.

But, who am I to complain. There is at least some data. This is not a good place to age your whiskey:

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Posted by on September 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Release of ‘The Curse of Sisyphus’

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The Curse of Sisyphus

The Curse of Sisyphus has been released and is available on the iTunes iBookstore. To celebrate the release, this, and its companion volume, The Thirteenth Labor of Heracles are both free until Sunday.

Zeus is not one to be trifled with. And Sisyphus has been a thorn in his side, defying him at every turn, yet escaping every punishment with uncanny cunning. But this time, the mortal has gone too far and Zeus has a special punishment befitting Sisyphus’ persistence.

The Curse of Sisyphus is the tale unlike others you may have heard about him before. Here you can find out exactly how Sisyphus defied Zeus yet again – and learn about the physics of motion, gravitation and orbit at the same time.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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RadioLab’s ‘What the Slinky knows’

My son and I were listening to RadioLab in the car – as we often do -and heard an interesting short on ‘What the Slinky knows‘. What an interesting podcast. Check out the attached video of the point in question. Here we see a slinky being held up at the top, but allowed to dangle until it settles and becomes still. At this point, the top is released, but the bottom doesn’t move:

The question posed in the podcast is: Why does the bottom of the slinky seem to levitate until the top reaches it and then the whole things begins to move together. The basic question is relatively simple if you think about the situation and model all the forces in operation (1. gravity – down; 2. 3. hand holding slinky-up; force of the spring’s tension – up.)

When the slinky is released, you eliminate force #2, leaving only #1 and #3 in operation. The interesting thing is that force #3 will continue to operate and pull up until the top of the slinky collapses on itself and then only force #1 remains.

But then Neil DeGrass Tyson was brought into the discussion and said something I didn’t expect. He started with what you might expect him to comment on – an immediate application to space, which seems completely appropriate. His example was about the sun. Given that the sun is several light minutes away from the Earth (just over 8 minutes), if the sun were to somehow disappear, we wouldn’t know for those intervening eight minutes.

During that time, we would be seeing light that had left the sun eight minutes earlier and everything would look fine. Then, at the 8:20 mark (give or take), we would finally see that the sun had gone missing….

…. and here’s the good part: He also said that it wouldn’t be until then that the Earth would be released from its gravitational attraction to the sun and go flying off at a tangent into space. This begs a question that I don’t know the answer to: what is the ‘speed of gravity’? Would it take eight minutes for the Earth to be released and go tumbling into space… or does gravitational attraction operate at a different speed than light?

I’m serious, I don’t know the answer – and even more frustrating, I don’t know how this question could even be asked. I’m all ears for the answer to this one.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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