Your life is full of what NASA calls "spinoffs": ideas or products initially designed for NASA's particular (and particularly challenging) uses, but which trickled down to become commercial products. Of course, you may not recognize these items--there's no "made for NASA" sticker, and many of the iconic NASA products (Tang, Teflon, Velcro) weren't actually designed for or by NASA at all. But NASA-developed stuff is everywhere, from insulation to infant formula, from prostheses to fishing nets. Here are ten of our favorites that originated in the Shuttle program--the very program that just saw its last launch ever.
Click here to see 10 ways Shuttle tech can be found right here on Earth.
The spongy bones and tough-as-nails beaks of woodpeckers are inspiring a new generation of shock absorbers, potentially shielding airplane black boxes, football players and other valuable materials from the forces of impact.
How much is 0.17 cubic inches worth to you? If your name is Carl Long, the answer is: much more than $200,000. That's the monetary fine (the largest in NASCAR history) that Long received last week for running with an engine that was 358.17 cubic inches in volume, just 0.17 inches above the NASCAR limit. For Long, who was in 63rd place before the suspension, the fine is just the beginning.
The National Science Foundation and NASCAR have teamed up for a new video series that explains the science of car racing in depth (trailer above). "The Science of Speed" videos go straight to the track to show all the tricks racers use to get the most velocity out of a hunk of metal on four wheels.
Does the "N" in NASCAR stand for nepotism? Research published earlier this year in the Journal of Sports Economics investigates the last 30 years of racing to determine whether a family name has provided a free ride. The data shows that sons of NASCAR drivers do not have significantly longer careers than competitors without a family link, given the same level of performance (so Dale Jr. haters, pipe down).
So the answer is that there's no nepotism? Not so fast. Second brothers do have a significantly longer career than their performance warrants. Fathers also perform better than sons (Dale Jr. haters, we hear you). While first brothers perform better than second brothers. But don't think having a son doesn't affect the father. Fathers with a son competing have a significantly shorter career than their performance would warrant. Tell that to Richard Petty.
When a race comes down to fractions of a second, you better believe the time it takes to change a tire matters
By Mike SpinelliPosted 05.14.2008 at 5:17 pm 2 Comments
The Crew at Work
The race may not always be to the swift, but, like Damon Runyon said, "that's the way to bet." With auto races often decided in the space between seconds, every fraction saved during pit stops is time in the bank. That means race teams' pit crews are as much a component to winning as is a set of tires, an engine or the driver. Tomorrow, the best crews in Nascar's Sprint Cup series will square off at the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge in Charlotte, NC. Twenty-four teams will compete over the whine of air wrenches for the title of fastest pit crew in the business.
NASCAR drivers and others may soon be sporting the same cheap timing technology as marathoners
By Brett ZardaPosted 04.24.2008 at 12:40 pm 0 Comments
Everybody loves a photo-finish. But, what if you cant afford the camera? At prices that start around $25 thousand, high-speed cameras aren't practical for lower levels of racing. Now Hardcard Systems, in cooperation with Alien Technology, thinks they can lower the cost of electronic timing to just a few dollars per competitor—not with cheaper camera technology, but by shattering the speed limits on radio-frequency identification.
More forgiving raceway barriers are a great idea—but Jeff Gordon's recent crash revealed that not all tracks are properly using them
By Brett ZardaPosted 03.07.2008 at 2:10 pm 1 Comment
Its likely that the death of Dale Earnhardt has saved lives. From head restraints to stronger frames, significant action has been taken since the NASCAR stars passing to protect other drivers barreling around walled-in tracks at 200 mph. At the top of the list of developments was the SAFER Wall (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction), developed at the University of Nebraska.
In her new book, Diandra Leslie-Pelecky covers the science—and the humans—behind America's most popular racing series
By Gregory MonePosted 02.22.2008 at 10:59 am 4 Comments
Given that 75 million people are fans of the racing circuit, physicist Diandra Leslie-Pelecky probably doesnt have to worry too much about finding an audience for her book on the intricacies of stock-car racing, The Physics of Nascar. But this is hardly just a story for race fans. Its a crash course in chemistry, physics and more. In the first few chapters, she gets down to the molecular levelat some points literallyin describing the stock car chassis, diagrams how welding works, and even takes a few paragraphs to explain why the white paint on a car appears white to our eyes.
But its when she moves out of the shop and onto the track that the book really takes off, as she breaks down engines, brakes, tires, drag and lift; the dynamics of racing itself.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., kicks off the Nascar season with the first racing suit to repel fire and keep him cool
By Joel WeberPosted 02.12.2008 at 5:03 pm 0 Comments
For the sake of fairness, all Nascar vehicles must conform to strict mechanical and structural regulations. But when Dale Earnhardt, Jr., opens the season at the Daytona 500, hell have one advantage over the rest of the field: the most advanced racing suit the sport has ever seen.