Saturday, November 22, 2014

Wiley Post and the Jetstream

Wiley Hardeman Post (1898-1935)
On November 22, 1898, US-american aviator Wiley Hardeman Post was born. Post was the first pilot to fly solo around the world and is also known for his work in high-altitude flying, where helped develop one of the first pressure suits and discovered the jet stream.

Wiley Post was born in Grand Saline, Texas, to cotton farmer parents William Francis and Mae Quinlan Post. His family moved to Oklahoma when he was five. He was an indifferent student, but managed to complete the sixth grade. Nevertheless, he was a mechanical genius who fixed things around the farm growing up. Wiley's first view of an aircraft in flight came in 1913 at the county fair in Lawton, Oklahoma. The event so inspired him that he immediately enrolled in the Sweeney Automobile and Aviation School in Kansas City. During World War I, Post wanted to become a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Service. Joining the training camp at the University of Oklahoma, he learned radio technology, but Germany already surrendered before he completed his training and the war ended. He went to work as a "roughneck" in the Oklahoma oilfields. The work was unsteady and he turned briefly to car jacking. He was arrested in 1921 and sent to the Oklahoma State Reformatory where he served 14 months of a ten-year sentence, before being paroled.

Post returned to the oil fields. An oil field accident in 1926 cost him his left eye, but the partial loss of vision did not prevent him from flying. Thus, he used part of the $1,800 settlement to buy his first airplane, a Canadian-built JN-4 "Canuck." Wiley Post's rise to fame began in 1930 when he won an air race between Chicago and Los Angeles. In 1931 he and navigator Harold Gatty flew around the top of the world in the Lockheed Vega 5-C aircraft named Winnie Mae from New York City to New York City in less than nine days. Actually, they arrived back after traveling 15,474 miles (24,903 km) in the record time of 8 days and 15 hours and 51 minutes. His first trip was chronicled in the book Around the World in Eight Days: The Flight of the Winnie Mae (1931).[1]

In 1933, Post repeated his round-the-world flight, but this time did it solo, with the aid of the auto-pilot and radio compass and shattered his previous around-the-world record with a time of seven days, eighteen hours, and forty-nine minutes. After his record-breaking flights he experimented with high-altitude flying. Because the Winnie Mae was not pressurized, he designed a pressure suit, with technical assistance from B.F. Goodrich Company. The first suit ruptured during a pressure test. The redesigned second suit used the same helmet as the first but when tested was too tight and they were unable to remove it from Post, so they had to cut him out thus destroying the suit. The third suit was redesigned from the previous two. The suit was constructed of double-ply rubberized parachute cloth glued to a frame with pigskin gloves, rubber boots and an aluminum & plastic diver's helmet. It had arm and leg joints that permitted easy operation of the flight controls and also enabled walking to and from the aircraft. The helmet had a removable faceplate that Post could seal when he reached a height of 6,000 meter, a liquid oxygen source breathing system, and could accommodate earphones and a throat microphone.[2]

Ultimately, his experimental flights proved the value of using the east-to-west jet stream. Post's pressure suit was a predecessor for the test pilots' and astronauts' pressure suits used in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1935 Wiley Post constructed a hybrid floatplane from a Lockheed Orion. He wanted to test the operational capabilities of the aircraft with a long-distance flight. He asked friend and humorist Will Rogers to join him on a junket to Alaska and Siberia. Unfortunately, the hybrid Orion proved to be aerodynamically unstable. Shortly after takeoff in the fog on August 15, 1935, Post lost control of the aircraft. It crashed into the Walakpa Lagoon near Point Barrow, Alaska killing both Post and Rogers. Wiley Post's remains were transported to Oklahoma for burial.[1] Shortly after Post's death his widow sold the famed Winnie Mae to the Smithsonian.

At yovisto you can learn more about the future of aviation and space flight in the presentation from Marc Millis on 'Space Flight Predictions: After AI & Transhumanism'

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Friday, November 21, 2014

William Beaumont and the human digestion

Physiology of digestion, William Beaumont
Image Source
On November 21, 1785, US-american surgeon William Beaumont was born. He became best known as "Father of Gastric Physiology" following his research on human digestion.

William Beaumont was born in Lebanon, Connecticut and became a physician. He served as a surgeon's mate in the Army during the War of 1812. He opened a private practice in Plattsburgh, New York, but rejoined the Army as a surgeon in 1819. Beaumont was stationed at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island in Michigan in the early 1820s when it existed to protect the interests of the American Fur Company. The fort became the refuge for a wounded 19-year-old French-Canadian fur trader named Alexis St. Martin when a shotgun went off by accident in the American Fur Company store and duck shot tore into his abdomen at close range June 6th, 1822. St. Martin's wound was quite serious because he stomach was perforated and several ribs were broken. Nobody really expected that the young man would survive but he really did. The skin around St. Martin's wound fused to the hole in his stomach, leaving a permanent opening - a gastric fistula. [1]

Beaumont quickly noticed that there was much research potential. Back then, not too much was known about the digestive system. In order to gain more information, Beaumont performed numerous experiments on St. Martin over a period of eight years. The experiments must have been really uncomfortable for the man, who was inserted bits of different foods tied to strings through the hole in his stomach, pulling them out periodically to observe digestion. Beaumont also removed gastric juice, examining it to better understand its nature. Beaumont became the "Father of Gastric Physiology" and his findings were published in the book "Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion" in 1833. The work is now considered as the basis of much of the early knowledge on digestion.

William Beaumont discovered that hydrochloric acid is the main chemical responsible for breaking down food and he suggested that another important digestive chemical, which is now known as pepsin. He suggested that digestion is a chemical process, not merely a mechanical one caused by stomach muscle movement. Also, Beaumont gave insights on how emotions, temperature, and physical activity can affect digestion. Beaumont's famous patient, St. Martin, outlived the scientist even though his wound never completely healed. He had several children and died at the age of 83. [2]

At yovisto, you may be interested in a video lecture on The Digestive System.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Selma Lagerlöf and the wonderful Adventures of Niels Holgersson

Cover of The Wonderful Adventures of Nils
On November 20, 1858, Swedish author and Nobel Laureate Selma Lagerlöf was born. She is best known for her children's book 'The Wonderful Adventures of Nils'. Moreover, she was the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature.

Selma Lagerlöf attended a teachers college in Stockholm and became a teacher at the girls' secondary school in Landskrona. Lagerlöf had been writing poetry for a long time, but never published anything until 1890. She received the first prize in a literary competition and began publishing excerpts from the book which was to be her first, best, and most popular work. Gösta Berlings Saga was published in 1891, but went unnoticed until its Danish translation received wide critical acclaim and paved the way for the book's lasting success in Sweden and elsewhere. She received financial support from the royal family and the Swedish Academy, which enabled her to give up teaching completely and focus on writing. Lagerlöf traveled to Italy and published 'The Miracles of Antichrist' in 1897, followed by 'Jerusalem' in 1900. However, to her most famous books belongs the book 'Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige', published in 1906. [1]

The book starts out with the young Nils Holgersson, who takes delight in hurting the animals at his family's farm. The boy catches a tomte while his family is out at church and Nils, who refuses to let the tomte free is turned into a tomte as well. The shrunken boy is now able to talk to the farm animals, who are delighted to see Nils being so tiny and they seek revenge. Meanwhile, wild geese are flying over the farm and a white farm goose attempts to join them. Nils holds on to the bird's neck as it successfully takes off and joins the wild birds. Those are not too pleased to be joined by a boy and a domestic goose, but they take both on several adventures across Sweden. The goose and Nils have to accomplish several tasks in order to be accepted by the group. Also, Nils learns that the tomte might change him back to regular size, if he did good. [2]

The story around Nils' adventures became so well known in Sweden, that a picture of Nils Holgersson, on the back of a goose flying over the plains of Scania, was printed on the reverse side of the Swedish 20 krona banknote. Several film adaptations have been produced all over the world and even a very successful anime series was produced.

At yovisto, you may be interested in the video 'Pixar - a Human Story of Computer Animation'

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