Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Road Cones, Canceled Lectures, and Nuclear Electric Propulsion

Last night, my roommate Tyler and his friend Mike apparently decided they wanted to join a fraternity, and went off to some pledge initiation thing. I guess that afterwards, the frat guys took them out to a bar, and they got piss drunk. I had just gone to bed when they came in at around 2:00. With them, they brought a road cone. Not one of those small ones though; this was one of those monstrous cylindrical things. Here is a picture of it beside Tyler's bed.

Anyways, they were pretty drunk, and they wanted to watch a movie, and Mike apparently couldn't figure out how to work Tyler's computer. When he couldn't find the file, Tyler attempted to call Mike a "dipshit", but what came out was "You're a shitdip." Yes, he actually called him a "shitdip." Absolutely hilarious.

Tuesdays are bad days for me. I have seven hours of classes; I start at 9 and end at 6, with two hour-long breaks at odd times. So it's 3 in the afternoon, and I am sitting in my computer science lecture room waiting for the dude to get there. I call him a dude because it's a graduate student that is teaching us, not a professor. He finally runs in just before the class is about to start, and goes to the board and writes in big letters: "LECTURE CANCELLED TODAY." Then he proceeds to run out. He looked like he was in a hurry. So I got an extra hour of break time before my computer science practical, which was nice. The practical, or "lab", or whatever you want to call it, was relatively pointless. There were two parts to the lab, with the instructions on the internet for us to download. Get this: by the time you download them, you are already finished part one, which consisted of "Figuring out your login name and password", "How to get to the internet in linux", and "where to find the instructions for the lab." That's it. So then, naturally, I moved on to part 2. In this part, we had to complete the incredibly hard task of writing a "Hello, world" program in C. And we were given the code for the program. Not much difficulty here. Although, truthfully enough, the UNIX terminal takes some getting used to. The worst part, however, is that the keyboard is SO DAMNED CLOSE to the edge of the desk, and the computer is bolted down right behind it so it can't be moved. So after a session of using those computers, everyone has painful red lines across their wrists.

Later on, I was browsing the net, and I came across some interesting news stories. First off, there's the strange story about how Microsoft is helping to sell Macintosh video games in Japan. Read more here.

Another news item that caught my eye was the one about how NASA has chosen a contractor for the 2011 Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) probe. Read more here. This bad boy will be the largest space probe ever, and it is going to be using Nuclear Electric Propulsion. Why is this significant? Well, the efficiency of rocket engines is measured in specific impulse (Isp), which is the number of seconds that a pound of fuel can create a pound of thrust. The best liquid hydrogen/ liquid oxygen engines available have an Isp of about 450 seconds. Nuclear Electric Propulsion can have an Isp of up to 5,000 seconds. And this is the first mission to ever use this type of propulsion.


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