Saturday, August 19, 2017

Elegant highway interchange near Dallas, TX

I like the complexity of swooping lines in the Dallas highway interchange.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Uncanny valley carousel, Huntsville, AL

Spotted in an outdoor mall: this carousel was surrounded by faces leering at me out of the uncanny valley, too realistic to interpret symbolically but not realistic enough to feel human.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Enigmatic planet signs at Monte Sano observatory, Huntsville, AL

Atop Monte Sano is a small educational observatory, and in its yard I found this collections of signs: one for each planet, plus the Sun and Pluto. Clearly they are representing (a slightly older version of) the solar system, but why are they arranged in this double-column? If they were just being stored, I would think it would be a tighter arrangement.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Monte Sano trail blazes, near Huntsville, AL

On the other side of Huntsville from the rocket museum, the Monte Sano park rises into craggy woodlands laced with any number of lovely criss-crossing hiking trails.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Offerings to Miss Baker

Standing unobtrusively near the front entrance of the US Space and Rocket Museum is this simple memorial to Miss Baker, the space monkey who had one brief and glorious flight and then spent her remaining 25 years in pampered retirement. Her grave is a quiet site of worship.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Shuttle necklace, Huntsville, AL

Another entry in the space jewelry exhibit: while I doubt this would be comfortable or practical (I keep thinking how the shuttle would snag on things), I strongly appreciate the daring asymmetry of this necklace.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Jeweled planet, US Space & Rocket Museum

There was a special exhibit of space-themed jewelry and artwork when we were visiting the museum, featuring some lovely pieces like this jeweled planet.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Ceiling of a Mars habitat playground, Huntsville, AL

Ceiling in an inventive playground setup as a notional Mars Habitat at the US Space and Rocket Center.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

ISS Training Bay, US Space & Rocket Museum

Mockups of the ISS and the space shuttle, used for Space Camp --- and maybe some real training as well perhaps? In any case, I like the huge blue-lit bay.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Celebrating Operation Paper Clip(?)

Huntsville shows remarkably little shyness around its German cultural heritage, much of which came from the mostly-Nazi scientists and engineers imported to the US at the conclusion of World War II. Perhaps it is a good sign that this history is not buried, but subverted into the grin of a charming little girl.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Von Braun Disapproves

A rather stern and disapproving bust of Wernher von Braun, Nazi weapons engineer and hero of the US space program.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Military hardware grown into the earth, Huntsville, AL

Slowly, the earth grows up around the feet of the missile launchers in the rocket garden. Feels like it should be a heavy-handed metaphor, but I just like the imagery and the reminder of elapsing time.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

SR-71, US Space & Rocket Museum, Huntsville, AL

Another remarkably sleek and sinister piece of military hardware: an SR-71 spy-plane, rusting quietly near the front gate of the museum.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Vietnam-era military helicopter interior, Huntsville, AL

Unlike the NASA exhibitions at Kennedy Space Center, the Huntsville museum is quite comfortable with the military aspects of air and space, and its exhibits also include a number of weapons systems, even some with no particular relationship to rocketry like this Chinook transport helicopter.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Huntsville Rocket Garden

The main rocket garden at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, including a Saturn I (the larger one on the left) and various Mercury and Juno rockets. The biggest of the lot, a Saturn V visible from many miles distant on the highway, is off in its own separate location.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Rocket power, Huntsville, AL

The sheer size of the rocket nozzles on the external shuttle boosters is amazing to me: each of those nozzles is taller than a person.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Shuttle Stack, Huntsville, AL

This collection of genuine NASA artifacts is a bit of a funny mixture. The booster and main tank are real enough, recovered from actual missions, but if you look carefully at the shuttle you may notice that it looks rather fake. That's because it is the Space Shuttle Pathfinder, a genuine NASA wooden mockup, carefully built to the same size, weight, and shape as the actual shuttles and used for testing shuttle-handling and launch facilities. It didn't originally looks this pretty, but has been given cosmetic improvements to fit its afterlife role as celebrity impersonator.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Shuttle stack through the trees, Huntsville, AL

In the rocket garden of the US Space and Rocket Museum in Huntsville, Alabama, a dramatic corridor leads you from to upright Atlas and Mercury rockets to their mounted space shuttle stack.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Siloscrapers in Illinois

One of the realizations that I have come to, living in the Midwest, is that the "rural" landscape here is of an entirely different nature than I have been used to growing up in New England or traveling out West. The rural lands here are not empty or unused, but instead are fully embraced as components of a complex industrial system. The fields of corn and soy are just out-flung biological solar panels, tied into a ubiquitous network of towering complexes of silos the size of skyscrapers: these here, along the side of a highway in Illinois, are at least 10 stories tall, probably closer to 20 for the top of the tallest tower, and embrace volume on the scale of the headquarters of a major corporation.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Colored Circles, Chicago O'Hare Airport

Jauntily colored circles from the side of an exhibit on the life of Butch O'Hare, the World War II fighter pilot after which Chicago O'Hare Airport is named.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Iowa City Public Library Light

A complex flight fixture in the entryway to the Iowa City Public Library, seen from directly below.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cicada shell on fencepost, Iowa City

All around us right now, giant insectoid monsters are erupting from the soil, then climbing to the highest place they can find to shed their skins and take to the air. I never actually saw a cicada before last year: I just heard them shrieking in the trees. Last year, however, Harriet and I discovered some cicada shells underneath leaves on the small lilac in our front yard, and my wonderful field biologist aunt Sally helped us identify the mystery monsters. Now that I've got a good search image for them, I am seeing them everywhere this year, and I am delighted to keep pointing them out to others as well. This one was found at the birthday party of one of Harriet's friends, and a whole group of little kids gathered to "ooh" and "aah" at it before their 5-year old attention spans went elsewhere.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Long-term diffusion of food coloring

And here we have the final state of each of the two experimental conditions after an hour or so, water + detergent above, milk + detergent below. I was quite surprised that in the end the food coloring diffused so little through the water. The chemical motor of the milk / detergent reaction, however, proved to be remarkably effective at mixing: you can even see a point surrounded by circles in the upper middle where an upwelling of milk driven from below was circulating, driving the continued mixing of the fluid.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Food coloring in milk and detergent

Partway through the experiment, we put a drop of detergent in each dish, breaking up the surface tension of the water and destroying the emulsion of the milk. At this point, the milk actually began mixing much faster than the water, in complex streaks as globules of fat began to coalesce, creating forces that actually mixed the food coloring around. This image is mostly the blue food coloring, but the contrasts showed up much more nicely in black and white.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Blue and yellow food coloring in water

In water, of course, food coloring diffuses much more quickly. I was surprised, however, to see how complex and uneven the diffusion can be. Here we see a drop of blue food coloring apparently following a hidden current in the upper layer of the otherwise still water, "dripping" down to the bottom in swirling pattern of turbulence.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Green food coloring drop in milk

Over the weekend, we did some experiments out of a science book that one of Harriet's friends gave her for her birthday. The one on diffusion produced some beautiful images that I just had to capture. Here you see a drop of green food coloring in milk, diffusing only very slowly and slightly since milk is an emulsion of water and fat.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Flag water tank, Kentucky

Another proud local water-tower, this one themed on the American flag, somewhere in Kentucky.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Metropolis, Home of Superman

Many small towns in the Midwest express their identities through their water-towers. Here we see the pride and joy of the little town of Metropolis, a community in far Southern Illinois of about six thousand people that is officially and legally the home of Superman, according to both DC Comics and the Illinois State Legislature.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Schoolbus storage, near Chicago

I love finding places where you see lots of things from above that normally you only see one or two at a time, like this storage yard filled with dozens of school buses.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

High density housing near Chicago

Tight straight townhouses forming a strained approximation of the curves of roads and cul-de-sacs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chicago neighborhood

Back to America now, and the complex suburban sigils of our low-density housing patterns.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Intruding medieval tomb, Rimini, Italy

While the modern discoverers of these ancient Roman homes have done their best to preserve them, this was not the case in other eras. Scattered through the site are intrusions from the medieval era, when a cemetery was located atop the site and the deeper burials smashed right through the mosaics to construct their tombs. Ironically, these acts of vandalism are now also ancient historical sites well worth preserving, being well over a thousand years old themselves.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Roman hypocaust, Rimini, Italy

Roman homes were often heated by a hypocaust (literally "under-burn" in Greek): channels beneath a floor into which hot air was forced. The air then heats the floor, which keeps the rest of the house warm as well. Here we see those channels exposed by the breakages of the floor. Hypocausts are a really nice solution that is both efficient and comfortable, and they're occasionally used in modern construction by people rediscovering this architectural innovations---which is how I know that a hypocaust feels really nice on one's feet on a cold winter morning.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Roman mosaic, Rimini, Italy

Mosaic of overlapping circles, blurred by damage but still overall quite clear.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

Roman mosaic, Rimini, Italy

Detail from the edge of another floor mosaic, with waves and braided cords bordering a more complex geometric pattern in the middle.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Roman mosaic, Rimini, Italy

Some of the mosaics unearthed in the old Roman homes are remarkably well preserved. Their colors have faded, but their contends are clear and sharp.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Roman ruins, Rimini, Italy

A map of the site, showing two Roman homes (one a surgeon's house from the height of the Pax Romana, the other from a wealthy person in the late Empire) and more areas under cover. The site was discovered during the course of ordinary urban renovations, which were then pre-empted by archaeology. I can only think what a mixed blessing it is to build in such ancient lands, where fabulous discoveries and shattered current plans go hand in hand.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Roman ruins, Rimini, Italy

In the middle of Rimini is a wonderful archeological site: the ruins of two old Roman apartment houses, uncovered and preserved in situ in a low half-buried building capping the location where they were discovered beneath a city square. Most of what you see is the floors, but enough low wall bases remain to get a good sense of the shape of these upper-middle-class homes from two thousand years in the past. The size is not unlike that of one of the smaller New York City apartments today.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Roman gate, Rimini, Italy

Closeups on the Arch of Augustus, showing some still-intact portions of its incriptions: part of a "Senatus Populusque Romanus" (The Senate and the People of Rome) and part of the explanation that this is celebrating Augustus' work on the roads. The structures on top, however, are not Roman, but from a later period, when the city actually needed to be defended.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Roman gate, Rimini, Italy

The Arch of Augustus stands at the edge of Roman Rimini, where it once marked the start of a great Roman road spanning from there to the capital.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Ponte di Tiberio, Rimini, Italy

Closer views of the Ponte di Tiberio, showing its long-weathered surfaces and the abundant mosses and other plants that have lodged themselves in its sides.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Ponte di Tiberio, Rimini, Italy

The Ponte di Tiberio is a bridge dating from the time of the Emperor Tiberius, finished around 20 AD. The Romans being the remarkable engineers that they were, it still carries vehicle traffic today.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Roman amphitheater, Rimini, Italy

All of the rest of the touristy stuff in Rimini is fun to see, but the real treat for me is what I have saved for last: a number of Roman artifacts and ruins, scattered about the city, such as this amphitheater.