Ever since the Hindenburg disaster, airships have been seen as dangerous by the majority of people. Airships are are large machines made of several components attached to an envelope, a hollow structure containing a lighter-than-air gas. There are several different forms of airship, such as rigid, semi-rigid, and non-rigid body aircraft. A non-rigid-body airship’s envelope has no solid structure inside of it, like struts or ribs. Essentially, it’s just a giant balloon. Semi-rigid airships have a metal keel running along the bottom of the envelope, like a spine. This lets the airship’s gondola carry a heavier load, but is lighter than a rigid-body. The envelope of a rigid-body airship is fully supported by an interior network of metal struts, forming a grid that creates the shape of the envelope. This means that the airship can carry very heavy loads, but must be filled with more lifting gas than other types.
Although they are rarely used today, airships do have several advantages that made them a worthwhile form of transport during their heyday. First of all, they consume less fuel than either planes or helicopters, and can hover in place without using any fuel at all, thanks to their lift being passively generated by lighter-than-air gas. This means that they can stay in air far longer than any other means of air travel. This also used to let them travel over a longer distance than airplanes, making them the only way to travel over an ocean by air. However, modern planes can travel farther and faster than airships, making their range obsolete. Their fuel efficiency can still be an asset, however, in situations where an aircraft needs to be able to stay in the air for a long time without covering a large distance. For instance, airships have found use in advertising, surveillance, and search-and-rescue. Finally, contrary to popular belief, airships are actually rather resistant to damage. Their envelopes are usually divided into separate cells, and their lifting gas isn’t under high pressure, meaning that if an airship is punctured it will lose buoyancy gradually, and can stay in the air if it has only one puncture. This means that it is very difficult for an airship to crash.
Of course, there are reasons why airships are no longer widely used. Firstly, the most well known reason is their flammability. However, most modern airships are not actually at risk of catching fire. This is because there are two gasses commonly used to fill airships’ envelopes: hydrogen and helium. Hydrogen is both widely available and the lightest element on earth. However, it is also extremely flammable; the Hindenburg, as well as many other dirigibles, was filled with hydrogen. In comparison, helium is only slightly less buoyant than hydrogen, and is not flammable, but it is also extremely rare on earth and is light enough to escape the atmosphere, making it a non-renewable resource. Currently, all airships are filled with helium, making fires a non-issue. The other two major downsides, however, are real, and stem from other forms of transport simply being better than airships in certain respects. Firstly, as mentioned above, modern airplanes can cover the same distance as airships in a fraction of the time. Secondly, helicopters are just as maneuverable as airships, while being much smaller and able to operate in rough weather, which is simply impossible for airships, due to their size.
In conclusion, while they are often viewed as dangerous, airships are actually far safer than most people assume. In particular, they are not usually flammable, and are very resistant to crashing. However, although they are fairly safe, they are outclassed by other forms of air travel in almost all respects. Because of this, I believe that they should generally not be used when other types of aircraft are available, except in a few niche situations (like advertising).
Our tent, with the ruin behind it and the ditch in front of it.
The ditch-turned-stream we had to cross.
About a year ago, we were staying at a hostel in the Hebrides, a small island chain to the west of Scotland. There was a large communal building with a single large room; it was a kitchen and dining area, mostly. There was a separate building only a few metres away that had a few rooms to stay in, as well as the restrooms. Apart from those rooms, people stayed in tents pitched haphazardly around the site. A little ways away from the kitchen, over a small ditch in the land, there was the ruin of an old stone house. There was a small trickle of water running along the bottom of the ditch. We were camped next to the ruin, hoping it would shelter us from some of the wind or rain (you’ll see how well that turned out).
On the second night we were there I was woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of rain outside the tent. It wasn’t a gentle, pat-pat-pat sort of rain; it was loud enough to drown out everything outside of the tent. It turns out that we had been caught in a massive rainstorm, and water had started to soak through the floor of the tent. My mother was trying to hold up the corner of the tent that had gotten soaked through. After a little while, however, it was clear that the rain wasn’t going to stop anytime soon, so we decided to take all our valuables and move over to the main building.
We started by making sure we had everything we needed in our backpacks. This was harder than it sounds, since we were sharing a fairly small tent, and had to use a flashlight to see. After that, we finally unzipped our tent’s door to start to move out. As soon as we opened the fly, rain started flooding into the tent. I was the second one out, and I tried to hide from the rain underneath the doorframe of the ruined house After we had all gotten out of the tent, we started to move to the kitchen. the rain was so thick, we could only see a few feet away from us, so when we came to the ditch we found that it had flooded completely. The ditch ran all the way to a field outside of the hostel’s property, so there was no way to get around it. By this point, though, we were soaked to our bones and had no intention of going back into our tent, so we risked jumping over it, and made it across without trouble. From there it was only a short walk to the kitchen.
Inside the kitchen was a large room with a long line of tables and benches running down its centre, stoves and ovens along part of one wall, a communal fridge, and a shelf for leaving anything you want to get rid of for others to take. When we made it inside it was a little chilly, but we were still able to dry ourselves of for a little bit. After that we loitered around for a bit. It was late, but we were too riled up to get to sleep right away. Some people had left books there, and an eclectic collection had piled up over the years. I tried to read for a bit, but got tired much faster than I expected. I ended up curling up on one of the benches, using my newly-dry coat as a pillow, and finally fell asleep.
The Openworm ProjectRead Now
In 2011 an international collaboration of scientists started a project named Openworm that is attempting to digitally model and simulate a member of the worm species C. Elegans. In doing so they hope to develop tools that will allow more and more complex creatures to be simulated, possibly even human beings.
Cainorhabditis Elegans is an extremely simple roundworm species that has been studied extensively. They have only 959 cells compared to the approximately 37.2 trillion cells humans have. They are around 1 mm long. They are the model roundworm species: the creature all other roundworms are compared to. because of this, their anatomy is well known; we know the location and function of every one of their cells. Because of their simplicity and the way we’ve mapped their cells, they are the perfect subject for the Openworm project.
Unsurprisingly, simulating a living creature is difficult, even one as simple as C. Elegans. This isn’t helped by the fact that Openworm is the first project of its kind to last for a significant length of time, so many of the tools the project needs simply don’t exist. Openworm has created a program called Geppetto (named after Pinocchio’s father) that can simulate the interactions between nerve and muscle cells, and could be used to simulate different functions in the future (like sensory cells). Geppetto can also simulate the movement of the worm’s body, and how it moves around its environment. The Openworm project has also created NeuroConstruct, a program that builds models of a creature’s brain.
Openworm still has a long way to go to build a complete model of C. Elegans. So far, they have finished simulating its nervous system and musculature, and have managed to make the worm crawl around a flat environment. They still need to model the worm’s other systems, like its digestive track, and give it more complex behaviours, like searching for food and navigating through difficult terrain. They have years to go before the simulation is complete, and C. Elegans is the simplest animal they could have chosen to simulate. Still, if the openworm project continues, and we keep developing more advanced tools, we could eventually be able to create more accurate models of more complex creatures. We could even use these simulations to replace lab animals in tests, though we’re still decades away from even considering that possibility.
The Musée des Arts et Métiers (Museum of arts and trades) is a museum in Paris dedicated to the history of engineering. It was founded in 1794. A wide variety of prototypes, instruments and models from across history, from the first (failed) attempt to build a car to a CRAY supercomputer, are housed within it. Some of the best-known objects in its collection include the original Foucault Pendulum, the model used to design the Statue of Liberty, and the Pascaline, the first mechanical calculator.
The Foucault Pendulum was used to prove that the Earth rotates during the year 1851 by Léon Foucault, a French physicist. It had a small spike attached to its underside and was hung over a floor covered with sand. As it swung back and forth the spike would make a line in the sand. Because of the Earth’s rotation, as time went on the angle of the pendulum’s swing would slowly shift. This rotation could be clearly seen in the tracks left in the sand.
The Statue of Liberty (technically named “Liberty Enlightening the World”) was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a french sculptor, and built by Gustav Eiffel. It depicts the Roman goddess of freedom Libertas. The model Bartholdi used to design it is on display at the Musée des Arts et Métiers.
Pascaline (also known as Pascal’s Calculator, the Arithmetic Machine) is a mechanical calculator invented by the French mathematician Blaise Pascal in 1642. He was 19 when he started designing Pascaline, and originally meant for it to help his father, who worked as a tax commissioner. In 1649 he was granted a royal privilege which gave him a monopoly on calculating machines in France. He ended up building 20 Pascalines.
The Pantheon's OculusRead Now
The Pantheons’s best known feature is probably its Oculus, a large circular hole in the center of its roof. The Oculus challenged the Pantheon’s builders by making its large, domed roof unstable. As a result, there are several features of the Pantheon’s design that are meant to reduce the roof’s strain on the rest of the building. The rim of the Oculus is surrounded by a thicker layer of concrete than the rest of the roof, reinforcing it in the absence of a capstone. A circular grid of square panels is sunken into the inside of the roof. The panels are deeper near the top of the roof, reducing its weight.
The Oculus, along with the massive entrance, are the only sources of light in the Pantheon. During the day, the circle of light cast by the Oculus circles the Pantheon’s floor. It is believed that on certain significant dates the light from the Oculus would shine directly on the entrance.
Of course, the Oculus does let rain in during storms. To compensate for this, the floor of the Pantheon is slightly concave, and there are several small drains in its center. In the present day, whenever rain is forecasted the space beneath the Oculus is simply roped off.
The Pantheon’s dome, built in 125 AD, was the last unsupported dome built in Europe until the Florence cathedral’s dome, which was completed in 1436.
The Movember Foundation is a charity dedicated to promoting men’s health and raising awareness of conditions like prostate cancer and testicular cancer. It was founded in 2003 in Australia and since then has grown worldwide. In 2018 it raised over $85,800,000.
The Movember Foundation gets most of its funds from its annual “movember” donation drives. In these drives volunteers are sponsored to grow moustaches, which are usually large and elaborate, during the month of November. It is also possible for volunteers to organize fundraisers on their own and donate the proceeds directly to the Movember Foundation.
Stuck on a VaporettoRead Now
One night, while we were in Venice, we ended up on a vaperetto that had finished its shift for the night. The Vaperetto is Venice’s equivalent of a taxi service; a fleet of small boats that sail up and down Venice’s canals. We took the vaperetto and stayed on after it reached its last stop for the night. Somehow the crew didn’t notice us and we ended up on the opposite side of Venice from our Airbnb. So we had to spend the next hour walking straight across Venice to get back (aw shucks).
Hadrian's PantheonRead Now
The Pantheon is a Roman temple built by Emperor Hadrian in the year 126 AD. It was not dedicated to any single god, instead it was used to worship the entire Roman Pantheon. It has a circular body with a high domed roof as well as a portico underneath a pediment.
The original Pantheon was built on the site of another temple which was originally built by Marcus Agrippa in 31 BC. It was destroyed in a fire in 80 AD. It was then rebuilt by Emperor Domitian and burnt down again in 110 AD. The current Pantheon was begun in 113 AD and finished in 126 AD. In 609 AD the Byzantine Emperor Phocas gifted it to Pope Boniface the 4th, who converted it to a Catholic church. Mass is still held in it today.
The portico’s ceiling was originally coated in bronze and the niches in the Pantheon’s exterior walls used to hold statues. During the Renaissance, Pope Urban the 8th had the bronze melted down, with most of it being used to make bombards for the Castel Sant'Angelo and the rest going to the Papal Treasury.
Rome Graffiti by BluRead Now
This mural, located across the street from our apartment in Rome, was painted by the Italian street artist Blu on the facade of an abandoned aeronautical barracks. The building was home to 400 residents only 8 years ago. Most of the residents were families from South America and North Africa. The mural was finished in 2014. The mural incorporates the windows of the building into its design, usually as the eyes of its characters.
Wicklow WayRead Now
The Wicklow Way is a long-distance waymarked trail in County Wicklow, Ireland which We walked through during the spring. It covers 131 kilometres and passes through several towns along the way. It has recently celebrated its 35th anniversary.
It was officially opened to the public in 1982, but was conceived much earlier. In 1966 J.B Malone proposed a circular trail for Wicklow in a series of newspaper articles, naming the trail "twelve days of Wicklow". In 1977, Malone joined the Long distance walking routes committee of Cospoir, Ireland's national sports council and began lobbying for the creation of the Wicklow Way. Malone's plan for a circular route was replaced by the present linear path due to the Irish government's wish to have the Wicklow Way form part of a proposed web of country hiking trails. The first section of the trail was opened by Jim Tunney (Minister of State for Education) on 15 August 1980, and the the final section was opened to the public two years later.
We started the Trail in Dublin in Marley Park on March 21, 2017 and walked until we reached the foot of Klimashogue Mountain, where we stopped to have lunch before continuing to Glencullen. We checked into an Airbnb in Glencullen and had supper at Fox's pub (the highest pub in Ireland) before turning in for the night. The next few days we walked in pouring rain, staying in various Airbnbs and hostels until we reached the first Adirondack shelter. After spending a cold night in the shelter, we walked for three days before arriving at Rathdrum and finishing the walk.