Celebrating nerds

gray and white robot Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Almost everyone has at least seen clips of Perseverance land on Mars.  It’s incredible.  It’s fantastic.  It’s miraculous.  It’s almost beyond belief.

The part about the whole story I like the most is the childlike glee of the scientist.  

I revel in their stories about how they worked together to accomplish it.  I love hearing how they think about things.

Like the scientist who got his gymnast daughter a Go-Pro (or similar camera, he purposely kept the brand to himself.) A father’s indulgence turned into a goal once he experienced, through her video, what it was like for to do a back flip. Perseverance has cameras that can make us feel like we are on Mars.

 How about the model Perseverance scientists use here on Earth to test things out?  It’s the same, except scaled lighter to mimic the gravity on Mars.

And the little cylinders the Perseverance will use to collect samples?  White, to reflect the sun so they don’t overheat.  But not paint because that’s organic and will interfere with the tests scientists will do once the samples are retrieved.  Scientists thought five years into the future, designing the cylinder in harmony with how the next mission will retrieve the samples.

So much thinking. So much planning.  So much designing. So much dreaming.

My awe of Perseverance got me thinking about other scientific discoveries and the engineers that put them to practical use.

Did you ever wonder how penguins keep their feet warm?  

Oh yeah! If we stood on ice, we’d get frostbite.  Or worse, our hot feet would melt a little puddle and the cold would freeze us in place.  Well, scientists figured it out. 

the blood vessels running to and from the feet of penguins are organized to facilitate countercurrent heat exchange.

Arteries carrying warm blood toward the feet run alongside veins carrying cool blood up from the feet. Some of the heat from the blood in the arteries is transferred to the blood in the veins. Thus, cool blood moving toward the heart is warmed, which is important for maintaining core body temperature.

Warm blood moving toward the feet is cooled, which helps penguins keep their feet at temperatures just above freezing. This strategy minimizes the amount of energy needed for keeping their feet warm while also preventing frostbite.

Read more at Britanica.

That’s amazing biology that got put to practical use by engineers.

Engineers put the discovery to practical use by devising a HTST pasteurization method based on the same principal (High Temperature Short Time.) Thin layers of stainless steel layered together. Hot water flows in one direction (like the blood in penguins’ arteries) heating the cold milk which flows in the other direction (like the blood in the veins coming back from the penguins’ feet.) It takes just 15 seconds through the HTST to pasteurize our milk. Because HTST is designed based on the same countercurrent system as the penguins’, the water is rewarmed and the milk is recooled as it passes back to through the second stage.

Archeologists dig up poop, too.

Yesterday I read how scientists discovered that the Neanderthals’ had a complex diet of plants, as well as meat.  They did this by analyzing fossilized Neanderthal poop and figuring out what their gut microbes were. 

From Inverse.com

Amazing on so many levels.  Someone recognized some rock was actually a poop fossil and it belonged to a Neanderthal. Technology allowed scientists to determine what kind of microbes were there. We know what kind of food would support those microbes.  

I smell a new Paleo cookbook coming that includes a wider variety of foods. I wonder what other practical applications will be unearthed.

Cats and dogs drink differently

I’m sure you’ve noticed that cats sip, sip, sip, like the gentile creatures they are. And dogs, lap about happily sloshing water about without a care. It’s all about physics.

I’m waiting to see how engineers put this information to practical use. Maybe they already have and I just don’t know about it.

Full circle with the Discrete Cosine Transform

Nasir Ahmed was the leader of the team that made it possible for us to send pictures and videos to each other without a thought. His Discrete Cosine Transform compresses digital information so it can be sent electronically.

I learned about Nasir while I watched This is Us last week. The entire show weaves in bits of Nasir’s passion for making it happen. This clip shows just how he’s impacted our lives.

Watching this made me think about all the ways that Nasir’s work has changed my ordinary life.

Plus, without Nasir Ahmed’s work diligence we would not be able to see and hear what’s happening on Mars.