Tag Archive for 'current events'

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English Triumphs Again!

The Gods of the Internet, Lords of the Grammar Nazis, have heard my plea. Or, you know, they got an editor to look at the follow-up to that scramjet article.

This makes [a scramjet engine] more efficient than a conventional rocket engine as it does not need to carry its own oxygen supply, meaning that a vehicle using one could potentially carry a larger payload.

I still protest to rockets and air-breathing engines being compared this way, but I guess that’s why I’m an engineer and not a journalist. (No offense, Greg 😉 )

C’mon, People, It’s Just Rocket Science

I am being quickly induced never to look at news coverage of a scientific event ever again. On return from my fluids class this morning, I checked my RSS feeds to find a story on an upcoming scramjet test in Australia, courtesy of the BBC. The first sentence should have warned me that, knowing anything about this subject, I shouldn’t have continued reading:

A new jet engine design able to fly seven times the speed of sound is to be test fired over Australia on Friday.

Well, okay, it’s not totally wrong to say that a Mach 7 engine flies seven times the speed of sound. But it’s the local speed of sound, dammit! But, being an aerospace engineer, something inside me twitches at the thought of being so imprecise. The real pain comes later, when the reporter tries to make a helpful remark about the usefulness of a scramjet engine:

A supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, is mechanically very simple. It has no moving parts and takes all of the oxygen it needs to burn hydrogen fuel from the air. This makes it more efficient than conventional rocket engines as they do not need to carry their own oxygen supply, meaning that any vehicle could potentially carry a larger payload.

First of all, what did they teach you in grade school about pronouns and antecedents? “This makes it more efficient than conventional rocket engines as they do not need to carry their own oxygen supply.” I know that you’re trying to say that scramjet engines don’t carry their own oxygen supply. But, technically, you just told your reader that rocket engines are air-breathing, which, seeing as propulsion devices are classified as either rockets or air-breathing engines, is, well, impossible.

Moreover, when did it become reasonable to compare a rocket to an air-breathing engine in terms of efficiency? They can’t do the same things. Rockets can fly outside of an atmosphere. Air-breathing engines can’t. Rockets tend to be heavier because they have to carry their own oxygen. But, at least in the sense of conventional chemical rockets, they are more powerful. You can lift enormous loads at higher speeds with a chemical rocket than you can even with the most ambitiously imaginative air-breathing engine. In short: you just don’t compare them. They’re apples and oranges. Both are fruit, but you only eat one if you’re wanting Vitamin C.

…And We’re Back

The move to the new server took longer than expected, mostly because I had to rely too much on iPowerWeb to do little things like respond to important e-mails. But the site’s all up on my new host and everyone I’ve asked has been properly redirected, so the change in name servers appears to have propagated. If that made no sense, don’t worry. All of it was basically to say that, after more work and time than expected, the site is back and functioning and ready to grow. I’m sure you’re all very excited. I know I am.

But before I write any more here or add any new features to the domain, I’d like to take a moment to pay my respects.

To London 07.07.2005

It’s inevitable that I’m reminded of 11 September 2001. The politicians can’t stop saying that day, which I feel cheapens it, but one look at the headlines from the BBC and all the feelings of that day flood back to me. I happened to get stuck on the wrong side of the U.S.-Canada border that day, and one of my clearest memories is how welcoming and supportive the Canadians were to us, a host of high school kids separated from our families by a closed border. They were exactly the sort of international neighbors you dream of having and exactly the sort I hope I can be.

As for terrorism in general, like the many people posting at We’re Not Afraid, I am not afraid of terrorists. Having lived in Germany prior to 9/11, I was accustomed to warnings about Osama bin Laden and terrorists. I knew many people in the world did not like Westerners in general and Americans in particular. I met some of those people. They haven’t stopped me before and they won’t stop me now. Tomorrow I plan to start the process for applying for a Marshall scholarship with the hope of getting to spend a couple years living and doing research in central London.