Saturday, September 8, 2012

What an Easy Race

My cross-country ski training pushed me through my first race since June today. Let me tell you it was not the most pleasant thing I have ever done. The race starts off just a few hundred feet above sea level and climbs the locally infamous Ester Dome whose peak is over 2000 ft. All of that in a 5k race or 3 miles. The first 200 meters are flat, then after that it just gets steeper and steeper. The times on this course speak for themselves. This year a new record was set somewhere around 22:30, I was a whopping 27:57, about my 5k time from 2nd grade.

This is the kind of race where, if I were doing it alone, I probably wouldn't finish most of the time. Today I just had to keep reminding myself all the benefits to my skiing this would bring and how I would feel if I got beaten by a girl. Last year the top two women finished ahead of me, this year I was able to hold them off by 30 seconds or so, what a relief.  

Rocket Failures

I'm starting to feel like NASA when it was desperately trying to launch something to space. The second attempt with the new rocket design was another failure. This launch was a bit more promising. The rocket got a little bit of altitude, granted it was about 6 inches, but it is a start.

With this rocket I did everything like the first with the exception of the rocket fuel, which I made a
much better batch of. As it turned out the propellant was the problem with the last rocket. When I lit this one off it burned in about a thirtieth of the same time. I don't know the math to calculate it, but I can tell you that is a lot more thrust. Unfortunately, with that added power comes some added complications. The quick burn obliterated my makeshift nozzle, completely blowing it out and rendering the rocket useless. The next rocket will sport a much stronger nozzle that will hold up, if everything goes right, which it probably won't. And if I am really lucky the next launch will be a successful one.
                                                                                                            The Determination 2 Rocket

I have decided to call these rockets Determination, because I won't stop until I get a successful launch.


The blown out nozzle

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Making a Model Rocket

I have recently gotten very interested in rocketry. I think it is a super cool science that almost anyone can appreciate, I mean who doesn't like rockets? Now, I could just go out and buy some Estes rockets and launch those, that wouldn't be too hard, but I am a little weird, I want to build my own rockets. I have discovered that this is a much more difficult task, I have yet to actually get a rocket off the launch pad and I have tried several times.

Yesterday I came the closest I ever have to getting a rocket airborne. Unfortunately, I forgot to take any pictures, but the rocket is basically made out of  card stock and a few different types of glue. It is about a foot high and a little less than an inch in diameter. The rocket propellant is a potassium nitrate sugar mix. When I actually get a successful launch I will post more information on the making of the rocket. With this rocket I was able to successfully light the motor, but the propellant burned about 30-40 times too long. I expect this is because I directly melted the sugar and potassium nitrate instead of dissolving them in water first. By doing this I caramelized the sugar, which I have heard can seriously decrease performance. The one thing that is confusing me is the burn test I did before hand that had the fuel burning at about 12s/inch. I looked burn rates up and this is just a little above average, so I don't quite know what went wrong. However, I plan to make up another batch of propellant using the water method and hopefully that will work.

More post will be coming shortly as I continue to work on this project. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cross-Country Skiing-The Healthiest Sport

Cross-country skiing. It's a sport that, unfortunately, many people are unaware of. This is probably due to it taking place on snow. I heard once that a very large portion of the population has never even seen snow.

Even though a lot of people can't ski I believe that it deserves more recognition, especially in the United States. A few of my friends call it a sissy sport, I just laugh at them. Cross-country skiing is the act of propelling yourself over the snow using skis and poles. Instead of trying to describe the look of skis and poles I'll just attach a picture, I think in this case it will be worth 1000 words.

The sport of skiing is comprised of two techniques, classic and skate. I'll attach a link to a video of each of these. This comes to the first reason why I think skiing is such an incredible sport. A good skier must be able to both skate and classic ski. The techniques are so different that it's almost like two different sports. And if that isn't impressive enough there are several sub-techniques in both skate and classic skiing. Finally if you are a competitive skier you have to be good at both sprinting and distance racing, which are two very different beasts.

The second reason skiing is so amazing is the workout you get from it. Since skiing requires the use of both the arms and legs it is a full-body workout. There are other sports that can also be classified as full body, rowing and swimming come to mind first, but I can't think of another sport that you have to also support your body weight. Supporting body weight in a sport strengthens bones and muscles used in everyday life. Skiing uses the entire body and the results are that cross-country skiers are generally the fittest athletes. The highest VO2 max ever recorded was that of the skier Bjorn Daehlie.

The final argument for skiing is that not only do you support your body weight, but it is also very low impact. Because of this it is very hard to get injured skiing, in fact I have had several instances where friends have injured knees and can barely walk, but can ski perfectly fine.

Skiing truly is a remarkable sport and I know for most people who find themselves at this blog this stuff will be pretty basic, but hopefully this will be helpful to people who don't know what skiing is. And if you have never skied before and have the opportunity to do so I would greatly recommend it.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mars Rover Takes First Strides

If you have glanced at the news in the last couple week you will probably know that the Mars rover Curiosity has recently made a successful landing on the Red Planet. Yesterday it took its first steps and made a 4-5 meter test drive at its sizzling speed of 1.5 inches per second. I was curious why this speed was so slow, it's the same speed as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which are significantly smaller. I did a little research and came to the conclusion that the speed is a result of several factors. The rover may encounter some hairy terrain, so the motors are geared for power over speed and there really is no need to go fast. Curiosity can do an extraordinary amount of science in one place with all of its high tech tools, plus it has plenty of time to get where it needs to go.

The rover may have the speed of a small tortoise, but it is still an absolutely astounding engineering feat. It shows how far we have come since the last major Mars missions. This mission was by far the most complicated, especially with the crane landing system, but the people at NASA and JPL have managed to set it down safely. As far as I know the only damage to rover is a broken wind sensor.

I am very excited to see what Curiosity uncovers in the coming years. We all know it is not going to encounter any large green aliens, but it could find evidence of microbial life, which would be almost as big. Curiosity could be a major key in answering the question; are we alone or not? Until that time we can only speculate and root on the car sized rover that is chugging along 40 million miles away.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Starting Blocks for this Blog

Just a quick post to help get this blog up and running. I've been thinking about starting something like this for quite a while. I know, science and cross-country skiing, it seems like an odd combination, you have the athletes and the nerds, the two subjects seem to be on different sides of the social spectrum. However, I know a great many skiers who are also massive geeks, including me. Science and skiing just seem to gravitate towards each other, kind of like a star being pulled into a black hole.

I hope to expand on this relationship here. I plan to post news, opinions, how-tos and anything else I can think of that pertains to either cross-country skiing or science.

If somehow you got here and have no idea what cross-country skiing and/or science is, I hope this isn't the case, but I will be posting definitions shortly.

Hope you enjoy,