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Quantumaniac is where it’s at - and by ‘it’ I mean awesome.

Over here, I post a ton of astronomy / math / general science in an attempt to make your brain feel good. My aim is to be as informative as possible, while posting fascinating things that hopefully enlighten us both a little to the mysteries of our truly wondrous universe(s?). Plus, how would you know if the blog exists or not unless you observe it?

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How Did We Not See the Russian Asteroid Coming? 

Over a hundred people are injured after a meteor or meteors reportedly exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia this morning. Although there are no confirmed deaths, the full extent of the situation is still being assessed.

Chelyabinsk is a city of about a million people, located just to the east of the Ural Mountains. This morning, several people captured video of a bright trail streaking across the sky, followed by a saturatingly bright light. Although some people say that the lights were caused by a meteor shower, others believe that it was a single meteor that cut across the sky and exploded in the atmosphere.

Accounts of injuries vary, but it appears that anywhere between one hundred and four hundred people were injured, most of them by glass from shattering windows. (Reuters is saying 400.) The explosion shook the buildings, and it seems as though the 6000-square-foot roof of a Zinc Plant collapsed. Some people say that fragments of the meteor rained down on the town. Given that it was one of the biggest meteors to hit Earth in possibly a century, why didn’t we see it coming?

For answers, we turned to NASA’s Amy Mainzer, a scientist who works with the space agency’s Near Earth Objects (NEO) program, and one of the main researchers on the NEOWISE satellite project to map NEOs in the sky.

We are quickly learning a lot about the Russian fireball. It was pretty small - only about 15 m and about 7000 tonnes - and that’s why it wasn’t detected. This object wasn’t seen earlier because it was really faint, and it might not have been visible to observers in the night sky. Most of the survey efforts have been very successful in finding the largest asteroids (about 90% of the near-Earth objects larger than 1 km in diameter have been found), but there is still a lot of work to be done with finding and tracking the smaller objects.

Though it seemed enormous, the meteorite that struck Russia was relatively small. It’s likely that objects like this could hit again without warning, simply because right now our satellite systems are combing the skies for truly deadly objects that could wipe out a country or even a continent.

Still, added, Mainzer:

NASA is studying ways to improve the survey capabilities; an example of a prototype new system is the NEOWISE project that I worked on, which used an infrared telescope to discover and characterize NEOs. But the program has been expanded in budget by about a factor of 3 in the last couple of years, so that’s good.

One way that NEOWISE was helpful was that it could measure objects that appear dark to other telescopes. Often we judge the size of asteroids and meteors by measuring how bright and reflective they are. The problem is that some large objects are actually quite dark and very little light bounces off them. Using an infrared telescope like the one on NEOWISE helps us identify even these cloaked objects that might be invisible to other devices.

Images via AP

Source: io9

Rocky Balboa Physics - Ivan Drago
In the movie Rocky IV , Ivan Drago registers a 2,150-psi punch. That seems unrealistic to me, and yet I’m hearing Internet rumors about mixed martial arts fighters and boxers coming close to that number. Is it possible to throw a punch that hard? What would that sort of power do to someone’s face?  —Dave
The Rocky movies are fiction, Dave. That tells you pretty much all you need to know. But let me add some details.
First we need to clear up the difference between force and pressure. Force is what causes something to accelerate, e.g., a fighter’s head in the direction of a thrown punch. In the U.S., force is normally measured in pounds. Pressure is force per unit of contact area, commonly expressed in pounds per square inch (psi). When researchers study punching ability they usually focus on force rather than pressure, since the pressure varies as the contact area expands on impact.
With that in mind, let’s look at the research:
• A study of seven Olympic boxers in weight classes ranging from flyweight to super heavyweight showed a range of 447 to 1,066 pounds of peak punching force. Energy transferred from punch to target varied widely depending on how heavy the boxers’ hands and gloves were, how fast they punched, and how rigidly they held their wrists. The three flyweights, interestingly, delivered more oomph than all but the two super heavyweights.
• A study of 70 boxers found elite-level fighters could punch with an average of 776 pounds of force. Another study of 23 boxers showed elite fighters were able to punch more than twice as hard as novices, the hardest hitter generating almost 1,300 pounds of force.
• An oft-cited 1985 study of Frank Bruno, who’d go on to be World Boxing Council heavyweight champ, showed he could punch with a force of 920 pounds in the lab. Researchers extrapolated that to a real-life blow of 1,420 pounds, enough to accelerate his opponent’s head at a rate of 53 g—that is, 53 times the force of gravity.
• Martial arts punches generally involve much less force than those in boxing. A study of 12 karate black belts showed so-called reverse punches delivered an average force of 325 pounds, with the strongest measuring 412 pounds. Short-range power punches averaged 178 pounds. 
If a punch thrown by Rocky IV villain Ivan Drago is supposed to measure 2,150 psi and his glove’s impact area is something like four square inches, he’d be exerting a force of 8,600 pounds, or more than four tons. Based on the professional literature, no boxer in real life comes anywhere close to that. I did find a 2007 news account about World Boxing Organization cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli, whose punches supposedly packed a wallop of around 3.85 tons. However, the researchers making this claim have yet to publish their findings in a scientific journal.
Even without Drago in the ring, boxing is a punishing sport, especially where the head is involved. Damage comes from three things: (1) the impact itself, which may be manifested in, say, a broken jaw; (2) acceleration to the brain leading to abrupt contact with the skull, possibly resulting in concussion; and (3) the rotational force that twists the brain within the skull, increasing the severity of injury and the likelihood of a knockout.
One metric for gauging the risk and seriousness of a brain injury is the Wayne State Tolerance Curve, which looks at both the g-force imparted to the head and the span of time involved. Generally speaking you don’t want to take a shot of more than 50 g, although you can stand more if the impact is really brief—say, a couple thousandths of a second. If you’re on the receiving end of a Bruno-class impact, my guess is you won’t soon get up.
Head punches can cause detached retinas, brain hemorrhage, fractured bones, and permanent neurological disorders. As I’ve mentioned before, something like a fifth of boxers suffer from dementia pugilistica, the consequence of repeated blows to the skull. Worse can happen. According to one estimate, boxing killed at least 650 fighters from 1918 through 1997.  
Source - Cecil Adams

Rocky Balboa Physics - Ivan Drago

In the movie Rocky IV , Ivan Drago registers a 2,150-psi punch. That seems unrealistic to me, and yet I’m hearing Internet rumors about mixed martial arts fighters and boxers coming close to that number. Is it possible to throw a punch that hard? What would that sort of power do to someone’s face?  —Dave

The Rocky movies are fiction, Dave. That tells you pretty much all you need to know. But let me add some details.

First we need to clear up the difference between force and pressure. Force is what causes something to accelerate, e.g., a fighter’s head in the direction of a thrown punch. In the U.S., force is normally measured in pounds. Pressure is force per unit of contact area, commonly expressed in pounds per square inch (psi). When researchers study punching ability they usually focus on force rather than pressure, since the pressure varies as the contact area expands on impact.

With that in mind, let’s look at the research:

• A study of seven Olympic boxers in weight classes ranging from flyweight to super heavyweight showed a range of 447 to 1,066 pounds of peak punching force. Energy transferred from punch to target varied widely depending on how heavy the boxers’ hands and gloves were, how fast they punched, and how rigidly they held their wrists. The three flyweights, interestingly, delivered more oomph than all but the two super heavyweights.

• A study of 70 boxers found elite-level fighters could punch with an average of 776 pounds of force. Another study of 23 boxers showed elite fighters were able to punch more than twice as hard as novices, the hardest hitter generating almost 1,300 pounds of force.

• An oft-cited 1985 study of Frank Bruno, who’d go on to be World Boxing Council heavyweight champ, showed he could punch with a force of 920 pounds in the lab. Researchers extrapolated that to a real-life blow of 1,420 pounds, enough to accelerate his opponent’s head at a rate of 53 g—that is, 53 times the force of gravity.

• Martial arts punches generally involve much less force than those in boxing. A study of 12 karate black belts showed so-called reverse punches delivered an average force of 325 pounds, with the strongest measuring 412 pounds. Short-range power punches averaged 178 pounds. 

If a punch thrown by Rocky IV villain Ivan Drago is supposed to measure 2,150 psi and his glove’s impact area is something like four square inches, he’d be exerting a force of 8,600 pounds, or more than four tons. Based on the professional literature, no boxer in real life comes anywhere close to that. I did find a 2007 news account about World Boxing Organization cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli, whose punches supposedly packed a wallop of around 3.85 tons. However, the researchers making this claim have yet to publish their findings in a scientific journal.

Even without Drago in the ring, boxing is a punishing sport, especially where the head is involved. Damage comes from three things: (1) the impact itself, which may be manifested in, say, a broken jaw; (2) acceleration to the brain leading to abrupt contact with the skull, possibly resulting in concussion; and (3) the rotational force that twists the brain within the skull, increasing the severity of injury and the likelihood of a knockout.

One metric for gauging the risk and seriousness of a brain injury is the Wayne State Tolerance Curve, which looks at both the g-force imparted to the head and the span of time involved. Generally speaking you don’t want to take a shot of more than 50 g, although you can stand more if the impact is really brief—say, a couple thousandths of a second. If you’re on the receiving end of a Bruno-class impact, my guess is you won’t soon get up.

Head punches can cause detached retinas, brain hemorrhage, fractured bones, and permanent neurological disorders. As I’ve mentioned before, something like a fifth of boxers suffer from dementia pugilistica, the consequence of repeated blows to the skull. Worse can happen. According to one estimate, boxing killed at least 650 fighters from 1918 through 1997.  

Source - Cecil Adams

Soviet Science Propaganda Posters

Science and communism are inseparable! That is the basic message of this amazing collection of Soviet space propaganda posters that will be auctioned off on Apr. 22.

Featuring Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov, the first and second humans to reach space, along with Krushchev, and of course Lenin, these posters glorify the the Soviet Union’s technological prowess and importance in the world, and in the universe. Many of the posters focus on the role the workers played in the space race, and the ordinary citizen’s duty to feel immensely proud of Mother Russia’s accomplishments.

The posters have messages such as “Comrades! Soviet Land Has From Now On Become the Shore of the Universe!” or “The Tenth Planet Symbolizes the Victory of Communism!” and “Be Proud, Soviet, You Opened a Path from the Earth to the Stars!” One of my favorites is “Lenin Is With Us, Immortal and Majestic, the Thoughts, Words and Deeds of Ilyich Are Propagating Through the Universe.”

(Source: Wired)

Buried Alive
In June 2011, 49-year-old Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov of Russia woke up in a coffin surrounded by weeping relatives. Realizing she was at her own funeral, she began screaming and was rushed back to the hospital, which declared her dead of a heart attack. “I am very angry and want answers,” her husband, Fagili, told theSun. “She wasn’t dead when they said she was, and they could have saved her.”

Buried Alive

In June 2011, 49-year-old Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov of Russia woke up in a coffin surrounded by weeping relatives. Realizing she was at her own funeral, she began screaming and was rushed back to the hospital, which declared her dead of a heart attack. “I am very angry and want answers,” her husband, Fagili, told theSun. “She wasn’t dead when they said she was, and they could have saved her.”