...is now available. Don't worry, you haven't missed anything.
Paul Allen has funded development of an airplane designed to launch satellites into space. It's...huge:
Called Stratolaunch, the plane has some impressive stats: a wingspan of 117 m, or longer than a football field, and a height of 15.24 m. Unfueled, it weighs 226,800 kg. But it can carry 113,400 kg of fuel, and its total weight can reach 590 tonnes.
But, really ... how big is it? It’s so big that it has 28 wheels and six 747 jet engines. It’s so big that it has 96 km of wire coursing through it. It’s so big that the county had to issue special construction permits just for the construction scaffolding.
But why is Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks, building such a massive plane?
It’s not to carry passengers, but rather rockets. The bigger the plane, the larger the rockets, or the greater the number.
The Post has video. That is a very large airplane indeed:
By Giant_planes_comparison.svg: Clem Tillier (clem AT tillier.net) White_Knight_Two_planform.png: Mwarren us derivative work: Mwarren us (talk) - White_Knight_Two_planform.pngGiant_planes_comparison.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
The Atlantic has a collection of portraits of the Earth-Luna system you simply have to see.
A little busy today, so I'm putting these down for later consumption:
Now, I must prepare...for Whisky Fest!
Author Tim Harford, who wrote The Logic of Life and a few other books I've liked, yesterday published an explanation of what telling time is all about:
Water clocks appear in civilisations from ancient Egypt to medieval Persia. Others kept time from marks on candles. But even the most accurate devices might wander by 15 minutes a day. This didn't matter to a monk wanting to know when to pray.
But there was one increasingly important area of life where the inability to keep accurate time was of huge economic significance: sailing.
By observing the angle of the Sun, sailors could calculate their latitude - where they were from north to south. But their longitude - where they were from east to west - had to be guessed.
Mistakes could - and frequently did - lead to ships hitting land hundreds of miles away from where navigators thought they were, sometimes disastrously.
How could accurate timekeeping help? If you knew when it was midday at Greenwich Observatory - or any other reference point - you could observe the Sun, calculate the time difference, and work out the distance.
But does anybody really know what time it is?
I hope to read these articles sometime this year.
Not exactly a slow news day:
- Former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions won confirmation as Attorney General of the U.S. on a 52-47 party-line vote.
- Meanwhile, the Senate told Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to sit down and shut up, but "she persisted," thus beginning her 2020 presidential campaign.
- And though the event was almost 26 full hours ago, yesterday's appeals court hearing in California resulted in a Trump tweet being rebuked by the President's own nominee for the Supreme Court. (The BBC has a really good primer on the U.S. constitutional system of checks and balances, for those overseas.)
- Speaking of the president, it's becoming clear as day that his motivations are very simple, and amount to a total integration of his businesses with the office. Just like we told you.
- Also, we should expect more crises, real and imagined, to scare people into supporting his consolidation of power.
- Closer to home, the building I work in, Willis Tower, has secured a $1bn refinancing that will free up funds for a $500m upgrade. Too bad the company that built it will be dead within two years, according to the bond markets.
And finally, for those of you living in the new, evidence-free world of today, you'll be happy to know that all of these things may have come about because of the lunar eclipse and comet happening Friday night.
Stuff I'll read before rehearsal today:
Back to the mines...
January 3rd is one of my favorite days of the year in astronomy, because it's the day that the northern hemisphere has its latest sunrise of the winter. This morning in Chicago, the sun rose at 7:19 (though it rose behind a thick rainy overcast), just a few seconds later than it rose yesterday. But tomorrow it will rise just a few seconds earlier, then a few more, until by the end of January it'll rise more than a minute earlier each day.
Meanwhile, thanks to the eccentricity of our orbit around the sun, sunsets have gotten later since the first week of December. It's noticeable now; today's sunset at 16:33 is 14 minutes later than the earliest sunset on December 7th. A week from now sunset is at 16:40; a week later, at 16:48.
By January 31st we will see more clearly that the dark days of northern hemisphere winter are ending. Sunrise at 7:04 and sunset at 17:04 gives us 10 full hours of sunlight, 47 minutes more than we'll get today.
So even though the 115th Congress opened today in Washington, with the House Republicans proposing to geld their own ethics watchdog (and why would they want to do that, hmmm?), at least things will literally get more sunny throughout the country every day for the next six months.
The 2017 Chicago sunrise chart is now available. Share and enjoy.