Pi Day: How 3.14 helps find other planets, and more
iReporter Zeynep Rice made this pie to celebrate Pi Day.
March 13th, 2012
05:40 PM ET

Pi Day: How 3.14 helps find other planets, and more

Happy Pi Day! A favorite holiday among geeks, March 14 commemorates one of the most fundamental and strange numbers in mathematics. It's also Albert Einstein's birthday.

This is a great excuse to bake pies, as many iReporters have (send us your pie-report!). But there are also lots of reasons to celebrate this number: Pi  appears in the search for other planets, in the way that DNA folds, in science at the world's most powerful particle collider, and in many other fields of science.

Here's a refresher: Pi is the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle. No matter how big or small the circle is, if you calculate the distance around it, divided by the distance across it, you will get pi, which is approximately 3.14.  That's why Pi Day is 3/14!

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Filed under: In Space • Math • On Earth
Grenade-throwing robot to fight fires on ships
The Navy is developing a Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) to help fight ship fires.
March 13th, 2012
03:17 PM ET

Grenade-throwing robot to fight fires on ships

It might look like science fiction but the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) hopes to turn this humanoid robot into a seafaring fact in an effort to improve firefighting capabilities on board military vessels.

Currently at the development stage, the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (or SAFFiR for short) is intended to combat fires in the cramped conditions of a ship, saving lives and costly equipment.

Armed with cameras and a gas sensor, the battery-powered SAFFiR will be "capable of activating fire suppressors" and throwing "propelled extinguishing agent technology (PEAT) grenades," says the NRL.

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Filed under: On Earth • Robots
March 13th, 2012
11:41 AM ET

New Challenger explosion video surfaces

Rummaging through old storage boxes, Jeffrey Ault uncovered a Super 8 film he hadn't seen in more than 25 years. Just weeks after the release of a rare home video of the Challenger explosion from a nearby airport, Ault unveiled his own film from that day.

An avid space enthusiast, the then-19-year-old recorded the horrific event from the Kennedy Space Center viewing site. Unlike the two other known home videos, his view was very close, less than 10 miles from the launch site.

"The anticipation was building - everything leading up to the launch was just an incredible feeling," Ault told CNN affiliate WESH. But as for many who witnessed that day, his excitement soon turned to heartbreak. "As the seconds went on, and you realized these two trails were going off and you saw debris falling, and you just knew something was wrong."

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Filed under: In Space
Schirra and Stafford Suit Up
March 13th, 2012
11:13 AM ET

Schirra and Stafford Suit Up

"Gemini VI astronauts Walter Schirra (seated), command pilot, and Thomas Stafford, pilot, go through suiting up exercises in preparation for their forthcoming flight in this image from October 1965. The suit technicians are James Garrepy (left) and Joe Schmitt.

On the third attempt, Gemini VI successfully launched on Dec. 15, 1965. Once in orbit, Schirra and Stafford spent the next six hours catching up to the Gemini VII crew, consisting of commander Frank Borman and pilot James Lovell. Through careful maneuvering, Gemini VI and VII achieved their rendezvous with no relative motion between them. For the next three Earth revolutions, the two craft got as close as 0.30 meters, or about 1 foot apart."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
March 13th, 2012
10:21 AM ET

Why exploring the ocean is mankind's next giant leap

Editor's Note: Philippe Cousteau, a special correspondent for CNN,  continues the legacy of his ocean-exploring family -  including his late grandfather Jacques Cousteau - through his work with EarthEcho International. The non-profit organization, which he co-founded with his sister and mother, empowers youth to become involved with environmental causes.

By Philippe Cousteau, Special to CNN

“Space…the final frontier.” Not only has this classic phrase dazzled the many millions of fans of the Star Trek franchise, some could argue it has defined a big part of the American ideal for the last 50 years.  The 1960s were dominated by the race to the moon and Americans were rightfully proud to be the first nation to make it there.

However, another incredible feat happened in 1960 that is largely forgotten today.  For the first time in history, on January 23, 1960, two men, Lt. Don Walsh and Jacques Picard, descended to the deepest part of the ocean, the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench located in the western Pacific Ocean.  While this feat made international news,  the race to the depths of this planet was quickly overshadowed by the race to the moon - and no one has ever gone that deep since.

And for the last 50  years, we have largely continued to look up. But that trend may be changing.

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