Sunday, May 6, 2012

Acceleration phase

Some things are just too big to be indoors. Take the 363 foot (that's 30 stories or so, if you're counting) Saturn V rocket, which weighed in at over six and a half million pounds when ready to shoot people to the fucking moon.* Because it weighed like 10 percent as much as the Titanic, and got mileage of around 5 inches per gallon, the rocket was designed to barely lift its own initial weight. As the weight of the fuel diminished, the acceleration would increase.

Each of the engine nozzles is about six feet across. 
Looking at this picture still makes me sleepy.

This made a Saturn V launch quite a dramatic thing to watch. The big engines would light, the tower would fall away, the big locky things at the bottom would unlock, and the rocket would ... mostly just sit there. It only moved a few feet in the first several seconds.

Super slow-mo video of Apollo 11. If you haven't seen this, it's worth the four minutes.

This latest career has started much the same for me. The first year or so I read a lot, wrote some papers that mostly didn't get published, cleaned the lab, and surfed the Web. My phone never rang, I received very little e-mail, and only occasionally did anyone seem to be looking for me.

The next couple of years picked up a bit. I wrote a few papers that mostly did get published, got invited to a few meetings, and found myself with nothing to do much less often. I was starting to get busy, but mostly my job fit comfortably within forty hours or so per week. I had plenty of time to indulge hobbies and work around the house.

Now I find myself struggling to make time to write papers, it seems like someone is always looking for me, and I'm starting to spend significant time managing e-mail. My to-do list is getting longer every day, and I spend more nights and weekends working. I would like to think I'm approaching Max Q,** but  I suspect there is more to come.

I'm definitely not complaining. I love the work I'm doing, and the acceleration means that things are moving forward. I'm far from being a Person of Significance, but I am feeling less like an impostor every day. As long as I don't suffer some catastrophic failure, I think this thing might just take off.

* What happened to us? We used to send people to the moon. I was sure my flying car and robot servants were just around the corner. Now we can't even keep our schools and bridges from falling down.

** The point during a rocket's flight when aerodynamic stress is maximized. The "go for throttle up" that was the last thing we heard on the final Challenger flight was an indication that this point had been passed.


  1. that video is delicious! hadn't seen it before...

    funny you should mention the ol' "Imposter Syndrome". i haz it. And yet they keep paying me, letting me go out in public unescorted (without a ball gag), and most amazing - letting me mentor the young 'uns.

    maybe we're not hippie doofus scientists after all?

    congrats on getting off the launch pad. if you time it right, Max Q is about 5 years pre-retirement...

  2. Very very curious about your scientific career, papers; etc. AND grateful for the intro to Trailer Park Refugee!

  3. I bet even presidents suffer from that "imposter syndrome" from time to time. I've found that the most realistic and hardest-working people are also their own worst critics.

  4. SPACE is hard for me to fathom sometimes. And to go there...Like WAY UP amazing.
    Anyone who has a grip on Science has my respect. I don't get it at all.
    But, I am totally in awe of it.