Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Boston, Babies and Explosive Gases

I know I have been a slacker and have not updated the blog, so I will just throw out a little synopsis of my Labor day weekend in Boston.

I went to visit my friend Chris. He is a smart ass(double masters from MIT), but we went to school from 1st grade through our senior year in college. This was my first time in the Boston/New England area. The weather was great: low 70s, sunny, and a nice breeze.

The house where I stayed was pretty crazy. 7 adults, 2 18-month olds, and 2 babies under 3 months. A solid night's sleep was nonexistent(not that I am complaining :P). I also got stuck in Philly for 2 extra hours because I missed my connecting flight by 10 minutes, but that allowed me to see some of the South Carolina/NC State game.

Spending time with "Frankie-stein" (Chris's 1.5 year old daughter), I was encouraged that I was not clueless about children and felt like I was somewhat competent. (I did not have to do any of the hard stuff, though, hahaha.) But all the other crazy stuff (everything having to do with have a child) is very intimidating. Who knows where that puts me.

Overall, the weekend was great. I got to go to the Children's Science museum, MIT campus, and to Rockport, Mass (a small town on the coast).

One of the things that Chris and I wanted to do was to figure out if my compressed gas cannon idea was even feasible.

I have messed around with the physics but was never able to get a definitive answer with the math. We used an interesting selection of resources from plain old Thermodynamics text books to Wikipedia.

We calculated that to get 1 kg object to LEO, you would need about 2 kg of Oxygen and 0.5 kg of hydrogen. This is a good thing because it is not a ridiculous amount of gas that it would not even be possible. The next hurdle was the conversion of the energy from that explosion into heat or delta T (difference in temperature).

This is where we hit a roadblock. After doing some calculations using the specific heat formula, we come up with the delta T of 6000 degrees C, which just happens to be the temperature of the sun's surface. So that made us think delta T is incorrect.

After consulting the text books and searching online, the only real way we found to get this information was to actually blow up some gas in a bomb calorimeter. We don't have one, so basically we said we would just start to do some experiments with H2 and 02 and see what we might get.

Furture steps:
1. Create a setup for producing and capturing 02 and H2 through electrolysis.
2. Design/build/make up a fixture for exploding the gas- Chris's idea is an old engine block.
3. If results are above average, convert fixture into a cannon.


Jenny McFadden said...

Ha! My first reaction when I saw the title was that the explosive gases also had to do with the babies in Boston. There er, was some of that during the weekend as well...

You were an excellent sport, and a wonderful uncle to Frankie and Dex for the weekend. I really appreciated how sweet you were to my children. And Noelle, he did dishes! You have him well trained, you should be quite proud. :)

Jeff Derrick said...

It was great to see you Seth!