Wednesday, November 2, 2011
A flight instructor once told me that any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. After seeing this video, I would agree.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
What's going on? I'm not an expert, but I know the basics.
The floating disk is made of superconducting materials.
A superconductor is a material that, when cooled to very low temperatures, has no electrical resistance, meaning electricity flows freely. The electricity in a superconductor doesn't decay as it would in a normal conductor (like a copper wire).
Superconductors also expel magnetic fields (for those of you keeping tabs, this is called the Meissner effect). And, when placed above a magnet, a superconductor will appear to float. Why? A loop of wire (or a superconductor) when placed in a magnetic field, creates an electric current which induces a repelling magnetic field. (Think of it as trying to put the same pole of two different magnets together.)
But what causes the device to stay fixed in space?
The clever creators of the quantum locking device built areas into the disk where superconductivity is destroyed. This causes the superconducting wafer to "feel" the effects of the magnet in specific places. So when the magnet moves, the superconductor moves with it, but overall, it appears locked in space.
What's the vapor coming off the disk?
That's nitrogen gas. To activate the superconducting properties of the wafer, it is dipped into liquid nitrogen, which is extremely cold (about -200 C).
Very cool! (Pun intended)
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
It's a crummy day in Chicago. The winds are gusting, the clouds are low, it's cold and raining.
Did I mention it's windy? It's so windy that my office building creaks and groans with each gust of wind.
Of course, my first thought in weather like this "I wonder what it would be like to fly and land in this weather?"
Yup, I think about flying in challenging weather.
Of course, I would never take a small plane up in such extreme conditions. Why? The kinds of aircraft I can afford to fly don't stand a chance against Mother Nature's awesome power.
So instead, I'll download the latest weather on to my desktop flight simulator and I'll launch into the virtual skies in the safety and warmth of my home. It's not the same, but it's safer than real deal.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
It's safe to categorize my political views as liberal. I believe in healthcare for all, quality public education, and reliable public transportation.
I also think everyone should be taxed equally. Rich or poor, everyone should pay the same rate. And close all loopholes! Just because someone is successful, doesn't imply they owe a greater percentage of their income to the government. If everyone paid the same rate, then it's fair. What a concept!
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
All too often I hear talk that outstrips actual ability. Why settle for talker? Do-ers are better. I hear complaints, yet no one dares to call offenders out.
When interviewing potential team members, I have a reputation for being tough. I ask for proof of skill. Words on a resume are not enough.
A team is a unit that shares successes and failures. There's no time for incompetence, backstabbing or finger pointing. Life is not like Mr. Trump's Apprentice. To my dismay, the backstabbing that is so rife on the show is commonplace. I don't want someone like that on my team. Petty squabbles and laziness are unacceptable.
And so I invest time to seek the right person. Yes, it is an investment. Hiring the right person leads to better productivity. And better quality of life at work. Making a good hire is about improving a team, not filling an empty slot.
Friday, July 22, 2011
The safe landing of shuttle Atlantis marked the end of an impressive spacecraft. To think that the shuttle was designed as a follow up to the Apollo missions in the late 1970s is impressive. With modern advances in aerospace technology, I can only imagine what the future will hold. (I hope there is a replacement!)
A Brief History
The Mercury project proved the rockets to safely launch man into orbit, as well as the systems to track and safely recover both astronaut and capsule. Project Gemini, with two men aboard, tested man's ability to work and endure long periods in space, and illuminated the complexities of orbital mechanics. These missions paved the way for Project Apollo, which culminated in several successful moon landings.
Having "won" the space race, NASA set its sights on a different goal, a reusable spacecraft. Each Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft was one-use only. This was an expensive approach. Can you imagine buying a new car everytime you need to make a long car trip? The space shuttle concept embraced the reusable philosophy that is commonplace today.
Unlike spacecraft of the era, the space shuttle looked like a conventional aircraft. US and Soviet (now Russia) spacecraft designs that evolved during the space race relied on a capsule to launch astronauts into orbit. And the modern day Chinese space capsule is similar in design to the present Russian Soyuz. But the space shuttle was unique in that it took off like a rocket and landed like a plane.
And over the span of 30 years, many successes were quietly celebrated, but the loss of two craft and crew were loudly mourned. I remember exactly where I was during the Challenger and Colombia disasters. Lessons were learned the hard way. It was a wake up call and a reminder that there's nothing routine about spaceflight. Mistakes were made, lessons were learned, but we moved forward. We're Americans, it's what we do.
Watching a Magical Shuttle Launch
On an early April morning morning in 2010, my new bride and I were taking portraits at Disney's Magic Kingdom Park. (We were married a few days earlier. It was awesome!) While standing atop the castle, I turned around to see the shuttle ascending into the dark morning sky. Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera, but I'll never forget the image. And my new wife held my hand, knowing how important it was for me to see it. What a great way to start a marriage!
I checked off two items on my bucket list that weekend (wife and shuttle).
Monday, July 18, 2011
Aside from flying planes, the next best thing about being a pilot is having an understanding of weather. And after living in Chicago for almost a decade, I’ve come to appreciate the variety and speed at which the weather changes. Chicago’s weather is predictable in its unpredictability. In terms of aviation, it can be challenging, but having this knowledge simply makes me a pilot with variety of experience. I'm not just a fair-weather weekend warrior.
Predictable Weather Patterns
The past several days have been hot and humid. This is a cause for concern to a pilot as a plane’s flight performance will suffer (hot, humid air is less dense than cold, dry air so engines and wings don’t perform optimally). If that weren’t enough, the likelihood of clouds that can grow into thunderstorms increase, and, under the right conditions, fog can form. Yup, fog can form on a hot day in Chicago.
So, how does it form?
Lake Michigan is east of Chicago, and the prevailing winds often come from the northwest or southwest. Winds from the northeast (a lake breeze) is less common.
After several unseasonably hot days, the lake water is warmed and saturates the air with water vapor in a manner similar to steam rising from a boiling pot of water. When winds shifts and a lake breeze is established, the air over lake cools to the dew point and the water vapor condenses to form low clouds or fog.
When conditions are right, the northeast wind will blow fog banks over parts of the city’s lake front. How long the fog lasts is determined by the temperature, humidity, and wind. Sometimes the fog barely lasts an hour, whereas other days (especially in the spring and fall) it can last a whole day.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Chicago weather is synonymous with summer thunderstorms and heavy winter snowfalls. The city is home to 2 major (and very busy) airports, so when the weather takes a turn for the worse, flight delays mount; with prolonged weather challenges, the chances of a flight cancellation rise. The worst days are when the effect spreads across the country. Been there, done that.
Weather, smeather! What's the big deal?
Commercial jets are most vulnerable to the effects of severe weather when flown low and slow, which corresponds to every takeoff and landing. Most people don't know that ice accumulation on a wing can cause a plane to stall and crash at normal takeoff speeds, or that the effects of the winds from a thunderstorm can cause a large jet to fall from sky while attempting to landing.
Ground-based weather effects like rain, snow and wind are familiar, but all bets are off once you take to the air. Yes, it's probable that you could successfully drive a car through torrential rains, heavy snows, or gale-force winds using extreme caution. But a pilot attempting to fly an airplane through the same weather would be lucky to survive. Why?
Gravity keeps a car firmly attached to the ground, but an airborne plane is constantly fighting gravity's pull. With one poorly timed gust of wind, burst of rain, or patch of icy atmosphere, a plane can instantly lose the ability to fly (called a stall) and gravity wins. Yes, in most cases stall recovery is possible, but sufficient speed and altitude are required, both which are lacking when a plane flies low and slow.
So when I'm traveling for work or pleasure, I always remind myself that weather delays are implemented for safety reasons. Instead, I read a book or walk around the terminal. Yes, I will arrive late, but in this case it is better to be late than to risk never arriving at all.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Bird songs are complex, but when songs were replayed at a slower speeds, many sounded like classical music. One bird song example sounded like the main theme Beethoven's Fifth Symphony!
What this episode implied is that Beethoven was inspired by a bird (Nature) and ran with the idea to compose his Fifth Symphony. The bird existed long before Beethoven, so it's very likely he sought inspiration from Nature. For this we call him a musical genius.
OK, so what does this have to do with chemistry?
Nature is the largest chemical factory in existence. Over eons, Nature made a fascinating array of molecules rich in structural diversity and biological activity. Some molecules may even cure the most insidious diseases know to man and it is the role of a synthetic organic chemist to make these molecules.
It takes a lot of knowledge, skill, planning, and some luck to assemble a complex molecule. A synthetic organic chemist must sort through thousands of reactions to determine the correct order of assembly. Most reactions don't apply and those that do are often frought with limitiations. It's science and art, and it's not an easy task.
Oftentimes, an organic chemist will enlist the help of Nature. Through bioanalytical chemistry, we can understand Nature's approach to complex molecule construction and substitute our own laboratory surrogates for each reaction. In many cases, laboratory surrogates for Nature's reactions do not exist. Rather than seeing this as a limitation, it serves as inspiration to create new chemistry.
So just like Beethoven, chemists are also inspired by Nature!
Indeed, Nature's approach to chemistry has inspired the creation of several amazing chemical reactions that makes the rapid construction of interesting molecules possible. Ultimately this translates into improved efficiency for the synthesis of modern medicines.
Nature continues to perform reactions that amazes and inspires even the most experienced chemists. It makes sense, Nature has a several hundred million years head start!
Friday, June 10, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
After all the studying is done and the books and notes are set aside, the only thing that's left is to rock the exam. Ithe sciences, a killer strategy makes your studying count. Having been a chemistry instructor at the university level (which means I have written exams), I recommend ploughing through each page and pick off the questions you know how to answer. Not only will you knock a lot of questions out of the way, but you will also get a feel-good mental boost. Pay attention to problems throughout the exam because little clues may trigger your studying memory. Numerous times during chemistry and physics exams, I often found clues in later problems that help solve the ones I could not. My last bit of advice works best for people who trust themselves: once you are certain of your response, don't second guess yourself. I knew many students who changed a correct answer to a wrong one. Trust your instincts. Unless you are 100% certain an answer is wrong, don't change it. Happy studying! Dr. Dave
Friday, March 11, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Where Did They Come From?
I don't recall seeing as many overweight people 10 or 15 years ago as I do now. I am puzzled. Seriously, why the sudden increase in the obesity rate? I only ask because being overweight or obese is associated with a host of significant secondary health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Both require medication to maintain a patient's health, but for most overweight people, a proper diet and exercise (eat less, move more) could help them to reduce their amount of medication. In fact, some folks may no longer require medication once they reach a healthy weight. Common sense tells me a healthy diet and exercise could reduce the cost of health care!
A Food Philosophy That Works
I have been able to maintain a healthy weight for 10+ years through proper diet and exercise. My philosophy is to eat less and move more. When I dine, I eat until I am no longer hungry rather than eating until I feel full. It was difficult at first, but after a few weeks I adapted. After each meal my hunger is satisfied and I don't feel stuffed. Yes, I eat frequently (mainly snacks), but I see it as a bonus since I get to sample many flavors throughout the day. I don't cut junk or fast food from my diet, but I do limit my portions. I guess the bottom line is that a healthy diet does not mean cutting the foods you like. Instead, go ahead and eat the foods you like, but eat less of it.
I ultimately hope the American public attacks the obesity epidemic head-on. There's too much at stake!
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
-Sustained winds of 35 mph
-3 hours or more in duration ...then it's a blizzard!Plus, tonight we might have thundersnow. Wow!Dr. Dave
Monday, January 3, 2011
Happy 2011 everyone! Well, it's that time of year when millions make the promise of self-improvement. Unfortunately, most of these promises are broken by the time February rolls around.
I think New Year's resolutions are good in principle. The desire to better oneself is noble, but why wait for a specific date to implement it? If change is truly important, start immediately.
Finally, always remember that anything worth doing will be difficult to achieve, so expect failure. Experience tells me life's most important lessons are born from failure than success. When you fail (not if), acknowledge it and try again. Let willpower maintain your momentum and keep moving forward. Every little step counts!
Of course, once your goal is met, you will have achieved much more than a target. Positive changes instills positive traits, so embrace change and become the best version of yourself for 2011 and beyond!