Powered Flight - 111th Anniversary

A hundred and eleven years ago today, Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first flights from Kill Devil Hill, close to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Their history-making effort sparked the greatest period of technology in the United States and abroad.

I took my first flying lesson on December 16th, 1961, just a day short of their 58th anniversary. By then, the sound barrier had been broken, satellites were in orbit, the Russian, Yuri Gagarin had already orbited the Earth, and John Glenn would be in orbit within a couple of months. It was a great time to get into a career in aviation or aerospace.

First Flight

What makes Wilbur and Orville Wright’s achievement so significant is not only that it was the first time in history that a manned, powered aircraft completed a fully-controlled, sustained flight, but it proved to naysayers around the world that heavier-than-air flight was practical. After the Wrights proved their critics wrong, the field of aeronautical engineering was born. Governments, universities, and inventors soon began dedicating vast resources to understanding the science of flight and methods of building improved flying machines. In essence, every event and discovery in aviation either led up to or followed from the flight of the Wright Flyer, and it changed the way we live forever.

Image and text courtesy of AeroSpaceWeb.org.

Note: This article originally appeared here on December 17, 2007, and has been modified for the 111th anniversary of powered flight.


Infrared Portrait

Infrared Portrait

While going through some stuff we brought from the old house, I ran across an old Polaroid photo of myself as seen through a Forward Looking Infrared Receiver (FLIR). The FLIR was part of the optical suite of instruments destined to be the night vision system on the Abrams M1 Army Tank. At that time, I was a Member of the Technical Staff at Hughes Aircraft Company in charge of the design of display symbology for the system.

The imaging quality of the FLIR is not as bad as the photo makes it look. Bear in mind that the photo is over forty years old and is one of those old Polaroids that required a coating of “fixer” to keep the image from fading. The coating made the image look blotchy.

That is my infrared signature as I posed, arms folded, in front of the FLIR for the photo. The image is “white hot” which means that the warmer temperatures are brighter. You can see the lenses on my glasses are a little darker than my face because they are somewhat opaque to FLIR detectors. The three horizontal lines are due to three dead channels in the IR detector array. The targeting reticule (my design) in the lower right is one of several symbols displayed in the image and is computer controlled to position itself at a point in the image where a fired round from the big gun would hit.

The Abrams tank saw action in Operation Desert Storm. The targeting FLIR easily found and knocked out several of Saddam Hussein’s Russian tanks of the so-called “Republican Guard” long before they saw our forces approaching in Kuwait. I take pride to know that between the Abrams and Hellfire Missiles, both systems of which I had designed in part, some of the Iraqis were forced to retreat back across the border and out of Kuwait.

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Pre-Christmas Greeting

Damsel found this interesting Christmas Greeting on the face bark thing . . .


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Ninety Million “Never Forget” Tribute Hits

ninetymillion.jpgThis morning, the hit counter for the Never Forget Tribute rolled past ninety million. The hit counter displays an approximation of the number of times that the Tribute has been accessed since August of 2005, the date when it was made available to other websites. Knowing the exact count is virtually impossible, since we only began tracking it after it had been deployed for a couple of years. We used an extrapolation algorithm to establish the approximate count back then, and have incorporated a real-time hit counter since.

The Hits per hour and Hits per day readouts are also approximations. One thing for sure, though, is that the HPD and HPH have diminished from their peak values from about 2009; at that time there were more than 1000 hits per hour. I suppose that a lot of bloggers who previously displayed the Tribute have dropped out of the game. I also suspect that the paradigm shift towards social media had an effect of reducing hits to blogging sites.

At the current rate of hit accumulation, the counter would pass the One Hundred Million mark sometime in the spring of 2017. That is optimistic, however, given the trend toward fewer hits per day.

We thank those sites that continue to display the Never Forget Tribute. Given the current continued Islamic terrorist movements in the World, none of us will ever be able to forget.

UPDATE: (12/09/2014) I revised the hits per hour and hits per day algorithm to estimate the current rates. With the fall-off since the last benchmark of 75 Million hits, the new estimates are closer to reality and seem to be less than half of those reported prior (compare the graphic above to the sidebar counter). The algorithm I use is faulty in that it averages over the longer term rather than doing a running average. I will think about ways to implement a better algorithm if I have the inclination. ;)

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Gentle Desert Rain

Droplets on Palo Verde

We have been getting delightful rain showers for the last two days. The forecast says it is just about over, though. We welcome the rain anytime in the desert as long as it isn’t one of those destructive microbursts like we had last summer.

This picture was taken during a lull in the shower activity. I noticed the water droplets clinging to the Palo Verde out front and thought they looked very pretty. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Tesla Fail

Tesla Fail

Early this year, the Town of Wickenburg authorized a lease of several parking spots at the Downtown Courthouse to Tesla Motors for the purpose of installing several Supercharger Stations for the Tesla electric cart (not an actual automobile IMHO). Tesla did install six of the stations within walking distance to all of the downtown attractions and businesses, but the chargers seem to seldom be in use.

I think Tesla sold the Town on the “Field of Dreams” concept that if they built it, Greenbat Tesla owners would flock to Wickenburg to spend money while charging their glorified golf carts for free. It isn’t happening. Six stalls? Really?

I asked one of the town public works people who pays for the electricity. Tesla pays, was the answer and not the town. Now, I’m a bit skeptical that Tesla foots the cost of the stations and bills associated with them. I’m sure that the US Government (read TAXPAYERS) heavily subsidize Tesla and the other hydraulic hallucination* electric car companies such that there is the usual waste of revenue going toward these projects and thus down the economic drain hole.

* a paraphrase for “Wet Dream.”

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Winter Cactus Flower

Winter Cactus Flower

I bought a potted seasonal cactus at the supermarket earlier this month. The flowers have been opening on it ever since then.

This variety is frequently called Thanksgiving or Christmas Cactus since the plant flowers bloom during our year-end holidays. See the Wikipedia reference to Schlumbergera.

I took this photo yesterday in our outdoor patio. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to you and to yours!


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Thanksgiving Snark

I like the way Ramirez thinks . . .


Regardless of the riots, illegal alien infestation and other things wrong in our country and on the planet, may the Thanksgiving holiday find you all grateful for the good things. Happy Thanksgiving from both of us!

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Real Time Lightning Monitor

Lightning Monitor

I ran across this interesting site last week while surfing. Blitzortung is a near real-time display of recent lightning strikes worldwide. The image above was from yesterday, but I just checked the site a few minutes ago and there is a line of strikes across the southeast US as I write this.

The color of the individual strike pixels is time-dependent; white indicates very recent strikes (less than 20 minutes), while dark red indicates oldest (up to two hours old). As you watch the display, each strike is surrounded by an expanding circle for a second or two. The green radial lines each extend to the location of a detector in the network reporting the recent strike and are also only displayed a short time.

I recall from my piloting days a device called a “storm scope” which also reported azimuth and distance information for lightning strikes. It was much less expensive than airborne radar and was effective for guiding aircraft around the more intense storms. Blitzortung is the first on-line display of this nature that I have found.

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