Dropping Science: 1 Bin, 1 Bottle of Liquid Nitrogen, 1500 Ping Pong Balls!


You know those really great science lessons at school? The ones where the teacher would bust out the glass cupboard and pour funny coloured liquids into each other that would either catch fire, explode or catch fire and explode? Well Plymouth University decided to conduct a similar experiment. Given that they are a higher education institution however, they took it one step further and added a bin full of hapless ping pong balls into the mix.

The lessons you can learn from this are a) if you stumble across a canister of liquid nitrogen, don’t try and store it in a coke bottle and b) if you get turned into a ping pong ball, fear scientists.


Dropping Science: What Would Happen if You Fired a Gun in Space?


Two of our favourite youtube channels are vsauce and minutephysics so when those two channels team up to give us a pair of videos about shooting guns at space and digging holes through the earth, we take notice. I’ve only thrown up the first video because you can jump directly to the next one by clicking the link at the end unless of course you’re viewing on an ipad in which case the second video is here. Either way you’re about to get enough physics trivia to keep your drinking buddies enthralled for the rest of the month. You’ll also learn how to go about destroying the sun and ending all life on earth so if you’re a super villain or trouble youth with access to several solar masses of water, please don’t watch it.


Dropping Science: The Science of Spider-man

Spidy fans are enjoying the brief window of press time for their favourite wall crawler before everything goes a bit Gotham and science is never one to miss out on a good party. In their latest video ASAP Science are looking at the actual science behind Peter Parker’s crazy powers.

Amazing stuff.


Dropping Science: 121-Megapixel Earth


I just got back from the Eagle Awards. I’ll write a proper report up about it at a later date but for now it should suffice to say that they were a lot of fun and there was a lot of free beer. With that in mind, I’ll refrain from going into anything too complex on this week’s DS.

Here is a super high res image of our planet looking all sexy and stuff. That’s pretty much all you need to know about it other than it’s Russian.

Yeah, science.


Dropping Science: What Would Happen If You Put Your Hand Into The Large Hadron Collider?

Scientists generally don’t like being asked silly questions, so when the guys from Sixty Symbols asked several scientists what would happen if you stuck your hand into the beam of the Large Hadron Collider, they were given pretty short shrift. Most of us would have simply left it there, however the Sixty Symbols guys are not most of us and so they travelled to CERN to ask the people behind the LHC what they thought would happen. Turns out that the CERN scientists were more than happy to chat about crazy theoreticals. I imagine that’s why they work at a giant super collider beneath Switzerland.

In case you’re wondering, putting your hand in the LHC would be a bad idea.


Dropping Science: Last Flight Of Space Shuttle Discovery

On Tuesday of this week The Space Shuttle Discovery took its final flight, piggybacking on top of a specially modified Boeing 747, en route to its final resting place at The National Air & Space Museum near Washington DC.

Since 1969, NASA has maintained two specially modified 747s (known as NASA 911 and 905 respectively) for the specific purpose of transporting the shuttles within Earth’s atmosphere. The planes were originally built as commercial airliners, but have since had almost all of their internal fittings stripped out and been modified for their very specific new job. Over the years the two workhorses have ferried spacecraft all over the globe but the end of the shuttle program means the end for these two workhorses as well. NASA 911 flew it’s final mission earlier this year, but NASA 905 still has a few very important final errands to run as it ferries the retired shuttles to their new homes around the US.

NASA was kind enough to publish several pictures of Discovery and NASA 905 getting ready for their final flight together, so I thought I’d share a few of them here.

Discovery is prepped for its final flight.

Discovery approaches the rig that will lift it onto the back of the Boeing 747.

In position.

NASA 905 and Discovery together.

Crews work long into the night to lift Discovery safely into the air.

The interior of NASA 905. All non-essential fittings have been stripped out to reduce the weight of the craft but even with this, 905 still requires twice as much fuel as a normal 747 just to stay airborne.

Manoeuvring NASA 905 into position.

Preparing to "mate" the two craft.

Both craft in position.

Notice the pointed cap that has been fitted over the shuttle's rear end. This is to reduce drag while in flight and prevent damage to the engines.

After hours of painstaking work, the 747 and shuttle are finally joined.

Godspeed, Discovery. Enjoy your retirement!

I was lucky enough to catch the take off of NASA 905 and Discovery on the NASA live feed earlier this week. It was genuinely breathtaking.

If you’d like more images of the operation, you can get them from the NASA website.


Top 5: Dropping Science

I started Dropping Science back in April as a way of sharing science & space stories that were of interest to me. As you might imagine for someone who writes a comic about the Moon, science is a pretty big part of my writing process and it seemed like it would be cool to share some of that stuff with fans of the book. 8 months on and it’s become one of my favourite parts of the whole site. I spend hours some weeks, scouring the net for interesting stuff to post here and in doing so I’ve discovered some amazing vidoes. Some are crazy, some are inspiring but they’re all a tonne of fun to watch. So without further delay, on to my top 5 Dropping Science posts of 2011:

5. The Ghost Rocket

This video is a short documentary by Coffee and Celluloid Productions which tells the story of Florida’s short lived space program. During the space race a company called Aerojet-General built the world’s largest solid fuel rocket at a facility deep in the Everglades. The rocket was intended for the Apollo program but Aerojet lost the contract and the base has just sat quietly rusting away in the swap ever since.

4. How Much Does The Internet Weigh?

 has fast become one of my favourite stops for zaney science facts. In this video, Michael walks us through one of the great questions of humanity…just how much do all those cat videos weigh?

3. The Physics Of My Little Pony

While a lot of the science covered on DS is about astronomy, we do occasionally like to branch out into other fields of science such as magical flying ponies. Physics student, Stephen Magnet put together this presentation for his class, in which he examines just how faithful to the laws of physics those damn ponies are. He became my new hero overnight.

2. Time Lapse Video of the Milky Way

I have a bit of a habit on Dropping Science of being sidetracked by pretty timelapse videos of the night sky. These films don’t necessarily teach us anything new about our galaxy but as an inspirational tool I think they more than earn their place among the other offerings. This video by the incredibly talented Terje Sorgjerd was the first such film that I came across and it remains my favourite.

1. The Pale Blue Dot

This is the video that made me want to start Dropping Science in the first place, so I think it’s only fair that it takes then number 1 spot here. Adam Winnik‘s gorgeous animation accompanying the timeless words of Carl Sagan. I still get goosebumps when I watch it.

Dropping Science runs every Saturday here at Beyond The Bunker. You can find the full archive by clicking here