Daily Archives: April 13, 2012

NASA Memory Lane (9)



On Apr 11, 1970.

Apollo 13
NASA – NASA’s Apollo 13 was slated to be the United States’ third lunar landing mission. It launched April 11, 1970, at 2:13 p.m. EST from Launch Pad 39A in Florida. From left to right are mission commander Jim Lovell, command module pilot John Swigert and lunar module pilot Fred W. Haise.

The mission was aborted after the service module oxygen tank ruptured. Still, the mission was classified as a “successful failure” because of the experience gained in rescuing the crew.

As the crew finished a 49-minute TV broadcast showing how comfortably they lived and worked in weightlessness on the evening of April 13, Lovell finished the interview stating, “This is the crew of Apollo 13 wishing everybody there a nice evening, and we’re just about ready to close out our inspection of Aquarius and get back for a pleasant evening in Odyssey. Good night.”

Nine minutes later, oxygen tank No. 2 blew up, causing the No. 1 tank to also fail. The command module’s normal supply of electricity, light and water was lost. The crew was about 200,000 miles from Earth.

After an intensive investigation, the Apollo 13 Accident Review Board identified the cause of the explosion. In 1965, the command mudule had undergone many improvements that included raising the permissible voltage to the heaters in the oxygen tanks from 28 to 65 volts DC. Unfortunately, the thermostatic switches on these heaters weren’t modified to suit the change. During one final test on the launch pad, the heaters were on for a long period of time. This subjected the wiring in the vicinity of the heaters to very high temperatures (1,000 degrees F), which were subsequently shown to have severely degraded the Teflon insulation. The thermostatic switches started to open while powered by 65 volts DC and were probably welded shut. Furthermore, other warning signs during testing went unheeded and the tank, damaged from eight hours of overheating, was a potential bomb the next time it was filled with oxygen. That bomb exploded on April 13, 1970 — 200,000 miles from Earth.

The Apollo 13 crew safely landed in the Pacific on April 17, 1970.

IBM Sets the Stage for the Next Era of Computing



IBM – IBM (NYSE:IBM) today (Apr 11, 2012) announced a major step forward in a new, simpler era of computing with the introduction of a new category of “expert integrated systems.” This new family is the first with built-in expertise based on IBM’s decades of experience running IT operations for tens of thousands of clients in 170 countries.

IBM’s expert integrated systems family – PureSystems – is the result of $2 billion in R&D and acquisitions over four years, an unprecedented move by IBM to integrate all IT elements, both physical and virtual.

The prime challenge facing companies worldwide is the need to spend 70 percent or more of IT budgets on simple operations and maintenance, leaving little to invest in innovation.

With the introduction of the new PureSystems family, IBM is unveiling three major advances that point to a new era of computing technology that is designed to allow businesses to slash the high costs and nagging complexity associated with managing information technology.

  • Scale-In” System Design: With PureSystems, IBM is introducing a new concept in system design that integrates the server, storage, and networking into a highly automated, simple-to-manage machine. Scale-in design provides for increased density – PureSystems can handle twice as many applications compared to some IBM systems, doubling the computing power per square foot of data center space.
  • Patterns of Expertise:  For the first time, IBM is embedding technology and industry expertise through first-of-a-kind software that allows the systems to automatically handle basic, time-consuming tasks such as configuration, upgrades, and application requirements.
  • Cloud Ready integration: Out of the box, all PureSystems family members are built for the cloud, enabling corporations to quickly create private, self-service cloud offerings that can scale up and down automatically.

“With its new scale-in design and built-in expertise, PureSystems represents an important advance in the evolution of computing,” said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive, software and systems, IBM. “By tightening the connections between hardware and software, and adding incomparable software know-how, PureSystems is designed to help clients to free up time and money to focus on innovation that many businesses cannot address due to ever rising costs and staffing needs in the traditional data center.” more> http://tinyurl.com/c4o99vy

Royal Canadian Mint to create digital currency


By Emily Jackson – Less than a week after the government announced the penny’s impending death, the Mint quietly unveiled its digital currency called MintChip.

Still in the research and development phase, MintChip will ultimately let people pay each other directly using smartphones, USB sticks, computers, tablets and clouds. The digital currency will be anonymous and good for small transactions — just like cash, the Mint says.

To make sure its technology meets the gold standard in a world where digital transactions are gaining steam, the Mint is holding a contest for software developers to create applications using the MintChip. more> http://tinyurl.com/7bowjxt

Researchers increase speed of single-molecule measurements


R&D Mag – As nanotechnology becomes ever more ubiquitous, researchers are using it to make medical diagnostics smaller, faster, and cheaper, in order to better diagnose diseases, learn more about inherited traits, and more. But as sensors get smaller, measuring them becomes more difficult—there is always a tradeoff between how long any measurement takes to make and how precise it is. And when a signal is very weak, the tradeoff is especially big.

A team of researchers at Columbia Engineering, led by Electrical Engineering Professor Ken Shepard, together with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, has figured out a way to measure nanopores—tiny holes in a thin membrane that can detect single biological molecules such as DNA and proteins—with less error than can be achieved with commercial instruments. They have miniaturized the measurement by designing a custom integrated circuit using commercial semiconductor technology, building the nanopore measurement around the new amplifier chip. Their research is published in the advance online publication on Nature Methods‘ website on March 18, 2012. more> http://tinyurl.com/6o6l9gx

Spanish bailout ‘impossible’ for eurozone, says prime minister Mariano Rajoy


By Louise Armitstead – “To talk about a bail-out for Spain at the moment makes no sense,” Mr Rajoy told reporters. “Spain is not going to be rescued; it’s not possible to rescue Spain, there’s no intention to, it’s not necessary and therefore it’s not going to be rescued.”

Italy managed to raise €4.88bn (£4.03bn) at a bond auction but only by paying a markedly higher price. The bulk of the bonds – €2.88bn – were sold at a yield of 3.89pc, up from 2.76pc at an auction on March 14.

Meanwhile, the Greek unemployment rate rose to 21.8pc, according to fresh figures from the national statistics office. During 2011, the average annual jobless rate soared to 17.7pc from 12.5pc the year before, revealing the toll of the crisis and resulting austerity measures that have seen one-in-10 jobs destroyed. more> http://tinyurl.com/bwqcpmq

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