Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Must-See Photos Of The Month Sun Burn

Solar storms can knock out power on Earth. New satellites will help us predict where and when

Spewing billions of tons of plasma millions of miles into space, the sun's eruptions, like this explosion captured by NASA's SOHO probe, can be strikingly beautiful. But when they result in what scientists call coronal mass ejections-think seething bubbles of flung-off plasma-they can short-circuit satellites and trigger powerful magnetic shock waves that result in electrical power failures on Earth. NASA's $540-million STEREO mission, whose two satellites were scheduled to launch in late August, is designed to capture 3-D images that identify Earth-bound solar storms days before their effects reach us. Positioned at points ahead of and behind the Earth in its orbit, the satellites will work like a pair of eyes to more precisely measure a storm's size and location-and let us identify it in time to take action and prevent damage.

--Rachel Horn


One day. One bullet-shaped bike. One crazy world record

In late July, Canadian triathlete Greg Kolodziejzyk pedaled his recumbent bicycle 650 miles around a California track to break the human-powered 24-hour distance record. Equipped with food, water and waste bags, the 70-pound carbon-fiber machine is capable of hitting 60 mph on a flat straightaway. "Once you get over 12 or 15 mph, 90 percent of your pedaling effort goes to pushing air," Kolodziejzyk says. "The key to going fast under human power is to minimize the hole you punch" in the atmosphere. To build a bike that did just that, Kolodziejzyk teamed up with fairing designer Ben Eadie, who used flow-dynamics software to test dozens of designs in a virtual wind tunnel. See more details at

--Tom Clynes


In a disastrous year, the mining industry looks more closely at its survival gear

This picture was taken outside Pennsylvania's Twin Rocks coal mine last spring. But it could easily have been taken 25 years ago, mining technology has evolved so little since then. Miner Joe Tenerowicz is demonstrating a self-rescuer, a chemical-based oxygen-production system that provides an hour of backup air. The device, which has been the standard emergency breather for a quarter century, was the only technology available to coal workers in West Virginia's Sago Mine tragedy, which left 13 dead last January. This year has proved particularly fatal for U.S. miners; to date, 37 have died in 21 incidents, a 30 percent higher rate than in recent years. For the industry, it's been a wake-up call. Under the federal Miner Act, which went into effect in June, better devices-including replacement cartridges that increase the breathing time of existing self-rescuers and new "hybrid" units that rely on filters to deal with poor air quality-will be developed in the next two years.

--Nicole Price Fasig

By: Horn, Rachel, Clynes, Tom, Fasig, Nicole Price, Popular Science, Oct2006

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