Although I was born several years after the first Apollo Moon landing, the excitement surrounding the Apollo Moon landings and the space exploration enthusiasm it fostered drastically affected my childhood and shaped the direction my later life would follow. The space race, arguably peaking with the Apollo Moon landings, generated a funding explosion for science education that allowed many planetariums to be built and a phase of education encouragement that affected many of my generation. If we could land on the Moon, imagine what else we might achieve if we worked hard enough.
On July 20, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. This landing began a sequence of Moon landings that ended with Apollo 17. We can leverage Wolfram|Alpha and the recently released Mathematica 10 to help us celebrate and continue exploring (data, in this case). The available data includes dates, crew information, and landing coordinates.
Let’s explore the crew information first. As with many famous people, Wolfram|Alpha gives a fair amount of information like birth dates and locations, pictures, time lines, height information, and familial information. More »
“At breakfast time I was sitting by the house at Vanavara Trading Post, facing north…. I suddenly saw that directly to the north, over Onkoul’s Tunguska Road, the sky split in two and fire appeared high and wide over the forest. The split in the sky grew larger, and the entire northern side was covered with fire. At that moment I became so hot that I couldn’t bear it, as if my shirt was on fire; from the northern side, where the fire was, came strong heat. More »
I just got a flat tire and I need to replace it with a new one. What size tire do I need to get? This can be a tricky question, and many of us would just take our cars into a dealership or repair shop and let them deal with it. But it’s not as hard as you might think, and now Wolfram|Alpha provides tools to help you understand tire sizes. More »
So, you forgot your anniversary was coming up, and now you have to decide what you’re going to get your loved one. Wolfram|Alpha can now help point you in the right direction. The stereotypical anniversary gift for a man to give his wife is often thought to be jewelry, but you would be surprised to know that many traditional and modern wedding gifts have nothing to do with jewelry.
On November 28, 1964, the Mariner 4 spacecraft was launched. It continued on toward Mars and was the first probe to return close range images of that planet. As a result of this successful mission, November 28 is known as Red Planet Day. So let’s take a few minutes to learn a bit about Mars.
The planet Mars has been known since antiquity, and its rusty color gave our ancestors the idea that it was associated with blood and, by extension, the god of war.
In more modern times, the telescope was used to try to study Mars. One notable scientist was Giovanni Schiaparelli. Because Mars, even when at its closest to Earth, appears much smaller than the Moon (about 1.3% the apparent size of the Moon), it is difficult to see detail on Mars from Earth. When humans look at something near its resolution limit, the brain tends to “fill in the gaps” and create optical illusions of lines and features that aren’t really there. Schiaparelli used the word “canali” to describe some of the lines he thought he saw. The word “canali” means “channel,” and due to a mistranslation, was translated as “canals.” Suddenly Mars had canals and the speculation about life on Mars began. Intelligent lifeforms were struggling to survive on the dry desert world and must have built canals to funnel water from the polar caps to survive. More »