They warned me this would happen: it got really hot down here in New Mexico. High eighties in early May? A sunburn before the summer solstice? Six months in, this cold-weather northerner continues to adjust to her new home.
The latest step: flipping the switch on my apartment’s swamp cooler.
My apartment’s swamp cooler. That’s right: I moved to a city whose summer highs average in the mid-nineties only to discover that my new place doesn’t have air conditioning. Instead it has a contraption on the roof whose name makes it sound like it’ll seep muggy vapors to the sound of frogs’ chirrups. Suffice it to say I was skeptical...
Something big is about to happen down in the desert of southern New Mexico: a billion dollars’ worth of construction. That’s how much Pegasus Global Holdings expects to spend building a new city from scratch in the dry expanse between White Sands National Monument and the Mexican border.
But while it will sprawl over 15 square miles and have all the infrastructure to support a population of 35,000, this city won’t become home to humans. Instead it will serve as the world’s largest laboratory, a life-size model of urban, suburban, and rural living where researchers can test cutting-edge technology without disrupting anyone’s daily life.
This is CITE, the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation, and if all goes well it could break ground this year and go to work in 2018...
Seventy-one years ago the night sky of southern New Mexico was suddenly illuminated by a blast the likes of which the world had never witnessed. In just a few microseconds, a 13.6-pound sphere of plutonium went critical, unleashing the energy of 19 kilotons of TNT.
The shockwave rippled outward at the speed of sound, blowing out windows over a hundred miles away; observers ten miles from ground zero described being bathed in an oven-like heat. Soon a mushroom cloud seven miles tall began drifting eastward with the wind. Months later, fallout would be discovered in Indiana rivers 1,300 miles away when the Kodak Company observed that their cardboard packaging was emitting radiation that fogged the pristine film it was supposed to protect.
This was Trinity, the code-name for the culmination of the Manhattan Project...
Hobbyists, conspiracy theorists, and a handful of earnest scientists have studied the phenomenon of Unidentified Flying Objects since the end of World War II, but it wasn’t until about 1980 that they began to fixate on a mysterious crash outside the small town of Roswell, New Mexico, back in the summer of 1947. Somesay a flying saucer or two was taken down by a lightning storm; half a dozen aliens aboard were killed, leaving two little gray men alive to be secreted away for government studies.Others offer a slightly more plausible explanation: a high-tech hovering Soviet spycraft crashed while conducting Cold War military reconnaissance around White Sands Missile Range and Sandia Base.
Those who take the alien-based explanations seriously and commit themselves to studying extraterrestrial sightings call their field ufology (pronounced—yep—/yo͞oˈfäləjē/). But, as this blog proves, adding the suffix “-ology” does not render one’s area of interest a legitimate science.What really happened out near Roswell all those years ago?
Ready to soak up some more solar energy? Last week we looked at Sandia Labs’ 8-acre heliostat field, in which hundreds of huge mirrors bounce the desert light onto a single tower. Their cumulative reflected light adds up to 400 suns’ worth of radiation, enough to produce 1 megawatt of electricity via an industrial thermal generator. Whew!
Today we’re shifting scales from the massive to the subatomic: instead of measuring energy in suns, we’ll measure it in photons. This is the level on which photovoltaic cells operate, one photon at a time energizing one electron at a time. How do solar panels convert rays of sunlight into a usable electrical current?
As a transplant from gray-skied Seattle, I might never get over how sun-drenched things are here in Albuquerque. With over 320 days of clear sunshine every year, New Mexico is officially one of the sunniest states in the union, a distinction it owes both to its southerly latitude and its dry desert atmosphere.
That’s pure gold streaming in from above, not just for our moods but for the state’s energy sector. While I’m slipping on sunglasses to block out the glare, many New Mexicans are installing solar panels to soak in all the rays they can get. How are they capturing all that sunlight and harnessing its powers for good?
You may have heard the maxim that “warm air rises.” False: no matter its temperature, air is drawn downward by Earth’s gravity. There’s no force sending it toward the sky—unless something heavier pushes in with a force greater than its weight, displacing it upward.
So what’s heavier than warm air? What gives those beautiful balloons their lift?
Still debating which branch of science is best? Maybe Randall Munroe’s “purity” ordering will help you consider their merits. Or you can wait another week and start judging based on our discussions of science in New Mexico!