First Man-made Object in Space – A Manhole Cover?

By Anupum Pant

Edit: The first man-made object to cross the boundary of space (100 km above the sea level, or the karman line) a Nazi German V2 rocket on October 3, 1942. – As mentioned by Scott and Adolf in the comments.

Background

Odd, I know. Teachers would say Sputnik was the first ever man-made object to orbit earth, but there is a slight possibility that Sputnik might not have been it – it could have been a humble manhole cover (not so humble, read on).

Back in the year 1956 (or summer of 1957, but definitely before the launch of Sputnik which happened on 4th October 1957), scientists at Los Alamos were learning to contain a nuclear explosion. To find out, they decided to do a much much larger version of the fire-cracker-in-a-can trick…
I’m not sure if they were doing it out of a desire to loft objects in space using a novel nuclear bomb propulsion, or it was something else, it sure was madness.

The mad experiment

In a 500 feet long and 4 feet wide vertical cylindrical tunnel, they put a nuclear bomb. The top of this tunnel was sealed using a 4 inch thick man hole cover (on steroids). The lid weighed about 2 tons! They were sure that even the 2 ton lid would blow off like feather due to the nuclear explosion. However, they weren’t sure on exactly how fast it’d travel up. To measure the speed, high-speed cameras were placed near the opening.

The bomb was detonated. Some say that the high speed cameras were only able to capture the image of the lid in a single frame. Which by the way could also contribute to an enormous error margin in the speed calculation. Nevertheless, the speed was of the lid at which it flew up in the air was calculated to be 41 miles per second – approximately 6 times the escape velocity! Never before had any man made objects moved at that speed inside the earth’s atmosphere. The lid went. It was never seen again. No one knows where it is now.

It’s highly likely that the lid was burned up and never reached Space. Or, may be it did reach some place and then dropped back. Again, must have got burnt during re-entry. Nothing can be said for sure.

Another thing that could have happened is that the lid went on and started orbiting the earth – highly unlikely, still. It’s probably still floating up there. And if things weren’t worse already, think of this – the first man-made object ever to orbit the earth was a manhole cover? Or, the fastest man-made object ever to travel inside the earth’s atmosphere was a manhole lid? Damn!

[Source 1] [Source 2]

Intelligent Men Look Different – Says Science

By Anupum Pant

Background

I know, I’m not a very big fan of intelligence scores or IQ points measured using the standard IQ tests available today. And even if this study does rely on those scores, I still find it pretty interesting. You will too…

Judging a book by its cover isn’t unwise after all. A recent study published by researchers from the Czech Republic proves that all of us humans have a natural ability to estimate how intelligent a man really is, by just looking at his facial features. That said, the study also mentions that you can’t judge a woman’s intelligence by observing her facial features. It works for only men. However, both men and women have this ability to estimate the intelligence of a man by looking at his face.

The study finds no solid correlation between the features of a woman’s face and their intelligence. That means, to find out about how intelligent a woman is, you’ll have to dig deeper than just the facial features.

People can accurately judge intelligence by looking at faces of men, but not women.

The study did not use a very huge sample – Still pictures of 40 men and 40 women were used. Nevertheless even 80 pictures contribute a significant amount to science. No experiment is a bad one. We’ll probably see more such studies and know more about the phenomenon in the near future.

They also measured the intelligence of these 80 people using standard IQ tests and asked people to rate their intelligence. It was found that people were able to almost accurately tell the IQ of a man by looking at his picture!

How do we do it?

We have an inbuilt ability to spot the shape and features of intelligent men. This could be a pretty logical evolutionary trait.

Faces of intelligent men: According to the researchers, longer faces with greater distance between the eyes, pointy chins, larger noses, slightly smiley lips are the features of highly intelligent men.

Faces of not so intelligent men: Whereas broader and rounded faces with eyes closer to each other, shorter faces, sad lips and bigger chins are the signs which tell us that a man is not so intelligent.

Here see the difference yourself. What do you think? Could you spot it? Which one of these faces is the closest to your face? Tell me in the comments below. Tell me about mine too.

intelligent face

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Nuclear Powered Pacemakers for the Heart

By Anupum Pant

Heart and Pacemakers

Your heart is a complex device. It comes with its own sophisticated electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeats. The electrical system is responsible to make the heart contract and as a result pump blood into your body. It is required to keep a proper rate and rhythm. There is a whole lot to learn about how the human heart works. But that is for some other day. Or, you can read it here – [Link]

As years pass, like any other electrical system, even the heart is prone to electrical faults. Faulty signals can make the rhythmic beating, non-rhythmic. This can make life difficult for a person. Enter pacemaker…

Pacemakers are small devices that are placed in the chest. They use low energy pulses to maintain the rate and rhythm of your heartbeats by overcoming the faulty electrical signals. Sometimes Permanent pacemakers have to be used to control long-term heart problems. For this, they are required to run for a long time without replacement. Who’d want their chest dug every two months to replace the pacemaker battery?!

Nuclear powered

Nuclear batteries work due to a nonstop radioactive decay of certain elements. They can last for incredibly long times. Due to their extremely long lives and high densities they are used in space devices and other underwater systems; basically, in systems where replacement of batteries is not an option. So, scientists from the past thought – why not use them to power pacemakers too!

In the 1960s, scientists at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico began exploring the feasibility of being able to use nuclear power for pacemakers. The idea was to develop a penny sized battery that could be used with a pacemaker and could be implanted in a human body. It was made. And they decided to call it an atomic battery or Radioisotope battery or simply a nuclear battery.

Despite bearing the name “nuclear” battery, they were not really little nuclear reactors as they didn’t use chain reactions to produce energy. So, there was no danger of a meltdown. They were safe devices. No radiation related issues were ever reported.

The Problem

Agreed these batteries were costly and weighed a lot, but that was not the problem. The big problem was that they contained hazardous material which had to be recovered once a patient died. There were several instances when a person had died; the living relative had returned the nuclear battery, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission never received it.

However, later in the year 1988 last of the nuclear batteries were used. Now they were being replaced with long lasting (~10 years) lithium batteries.

Even today Los Alamos National Laboratory has a fact sheet on their website that mentions what to do in case you find a nuclear battery.