Sunday, January 31, 2016

Challenging The Challenger

     
     This week marked the 30th anniversary of the tragic Challenger space shuttle disaster. On January 28, 1986, 73 seconds after liftoff, the Challenger shuttle disintegrated 9 miles above the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 7 crew members: Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Judith Resnik, Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, and Francis Scobee. The Challenger disaster is one of those infamous events where most anyone who was alive can tell you where they were and what they were doing when they heard and saw that it all went wrong.
     The Challenger disaster was not the last time Americans were put into space, but it was the last time NASA ever let a civilian tag along. Keep in mind when I say "civilian", I mean someone who wasn't already a part of NASA.
     As amazing as they were, most people didn't watch space shuttle launches, but this launch was particularly special and buzz worthy because it was going to be the first time ever that NASA was going to launch a "civilian" into space. Christa McAuliffe was a teacher from New Hampshire who won NASA's "Teacher in Space Project" contest, beating out over 11,000 teachers nationwide. While millions were watching live as it was history in the making, many of them children at school, most people learned of the event through tape-delays and news alerts (it was 11:39 am on a Tuesday, and there was no instant Twitter, obviously). When Challenger's journey was cut short 73 seconds after the T-minus, time stopped. No one knew what to think or do.
     After the mission suffered multiple launch delays, an impatience brewed. The launched was finally scheduled for the morning of January 28th, but forecasters were calling for unusually cold weather conditions that morning. Some engineers at Thiokol, a contractor for NASA, expressed concerns about the integrity of the O-rings at that temperature. O-rings were used to create seals in the solid rocket boosters. After tense debate, it was ultimately decided the launch would finally go on. If the main O-ring failed, the second one would pick up the slack, which was the prognosis. Members of NASA and Thiokol were torn. Regrettably, Bob Ebeling, an engineer at Thiokol, told his wife that Challenger would blow up the next day. It happened. To this day, he still blames himself (though he shouldn't, he tried his hardest to get the launch stopped). Roger Boisjoly was the most vocal, but there was no luck.
     The morning of launch, temperatures were between 28 to 29 degrees (-2 to -1.6 C), well below ideal. The previous coldest launch ever had been 53 degrees (11.6 C). Either way, the launch went on as planned. It is important to remember that space shuttles themselves cannot launch into the sky. The two tall white rockets you always saw were "solid rocket boosters", which provided the thrust to push the shuttle up into space. The large orange tank that the shuttle piggybacked on held liquid hydrogen and oxygen (fuel), which was fed into the SRB's, which in turn allowed thrust.
     At T-minus 6.6 seconds, the shuttle engines were ignited, and the SRB's were ignited at T-minus 0. Less than a second later came this eerie sign which shows a puff of smoke coming from the solid rocket booster, where the O-ring was. It was not seen initially, but even if it was, once the SRB's were ignited, they could not be switched off like other engines, other than blowing them up manually (for the safety of people on the ground in case a rocket goes rogue). Because of stress, hot gases began to leak out. Thanks to the cold weather, the O-rings that were supposed to create a seal could not do so. It is believed that if it wasn't for aluminum oxide temporarily sealing the leak, Challenger would've been doomed before it cleared the launch pad.
     58 seconds after launch, a plume of smoke became visible on a tracking camera, but not to the naked eye, anyone on Challenger, at Mission Control, or anyone watching live on CNN. Wind shear eliminated the temporary Al2O3 seal, causing pressure in the SRB to drop. 64 seconds after liftoff, a leak then began in the orange external tank, meaning something had ruptured it. At 73 seconds,  the liquid hydrogen tank was forced into the liquid oxygen tank (both inside the big orange one), and the right SRB ruptured the intertank. The external tank began to disintegrate and milliseconds later, aerodynamic forces and a fireball ripped it all apart. The Challenger technically did not "blow up", but rather disintegrated. The SRB's though did have to be blown up manually afterwards. Momentum carried the crew compartment for another few miles until it gave into gravity and came tumbling back down to Earth. Those who thought the shuttle would fail at launch were initially cheering seeing that they were wrong as the shuttle shot towards the edge of Earth, but they soon realized their celebrations were premature.
     The mood went from cheerful to mournful in minutes. Recovery efforts swiftly began and so did a demand for answers. Ronald Reagan was supposed to give his SOTU that night, but instead devoted the broadcast to Challenger. It is still not understood what exactly happened to the crew immediately after. The originally accepted theory is that the forces caused the crew compartment to detach and depressurize, knocking the crew unconscious within seconds. Today, many see that as a story NASA told as a cover-up to make the country feel better. While no one can say for sure that that theory is wrong, others now believe at least some of the astronauts were awake for much longer, after much analysis and investigation of the wreckage and data. And there are theories today that believe the crew may have unfortunately been alive for the entire descent down until the 200-plus mile per hour and 200-plus g-force collision with the ocean. The remains of the crew and the crew cabin were ultimately found on March 8, 1986 in the Atlantic, 100 feet below the surface, but by then, autopsies were impossible and not every astronaut was able to be identified.
     So why? People still wonder why did NASA decide to launch when optimism wasn't high? First off you have to realize you cannot blame all of NASA. There are certain people to blame, but criticizing the entire organization is too broad. You'd be blaming the astronauts as well in that case. Some people feel the launch went on because the delays were going to throw off time efficiency goals and other crucial satellite launches that NASA had set. Some also feel there was a pride issue: the organization wanted to show that all that brainiac power had no flaws; the shuttle would make it, proving doubters wrong (there was skepticism of the Shuttle program long before Challenger). There is also some who feel the launch went on because President Reagan was supposed to give his SOTU that night, and NASA and the White House wanted to have the launch ahead of the broadcast so Reagan could boast about it. There had also been O-ring issues in the past, but since those missions performed with no issues, some at NASA wrongly assumed that would work all of the time, instead of some of the time.
     And because of that, NASA received major blowback. From the decision to allow a civilian on board, to the decision to not have any type of emergency ejection for the crew, to the decision to allow the launch after warning, jabs came at the organization back and forth, left and right, Rousey and Mayweather. After the tragedy, the state of the shuttle program was put in limbo. The Rogers Commission was founded to investigate the disaster. The O-rings were indeed found as the cause of the disaster by the Rogers Commission and the US House Committee. Afterwards, NASA underwent a major process. Much technical, redesign, management, and testing work was done to keep tragedies like this from ever happening again. After sustaining criticism from just about everyone for the next 2 years and 8 months, the shuttle program was revived and continued with success until 2003. The Space Shuttle was ultimately retired in 2011, but not because of Columbia.
     The Challenger left a lasting legacy that still makes an impact to this day. Schools, buildings,  highways, bridges, and even craters on the moon and mountain ranges on Pluto were named after the astronauts and the shuttle. The 2013 Beyonce song "XO" included a sample of the post-disaster broadcast, causing some controversy of course. Multiple books, TV-movies, and songs are about or make reference to Challenger. The disaster has even become a focus for many case studies ranging from engineering safety to groupthink. Half of the shuttle is still missing, and debris washed ashore in Florida as late as 1996.
     Many obvious lessons have been learned from Challenger, and the disaster changed NASA for the better, but there is still one lesson that seems to not stick in general: if there isn't full optimism, there needs to be action. From Challenger, to Titanic being warned of icebergs, to Louisiana being warned of New Orleans' poor levees, to California being warned of San Francisco's inadequate bridges and overpasses, there is always voices pleading for something to be done. Challenger, and other avoidable tragedies, should serve as a constant reminder that when it comes to large scale, no one cries wolf and it is okay to challenge. The ones that challenge, often end up being right.

*photo credit from Extreme Tech, Wikipedia, CBS News. *Citations: Extreme Tech, Wikipedia, NPR, Gawker, History, Washington Post, NBC News, Forbes.

Down In The Valley

   
     Have you ever seen anything creepy or felt creeped out? And I'm not talking about when you're at the bar with your friends and some greasy guy keeps leaning over trying to smooth talk you with 90's pick up lines. No, I am talking about things such as robots, dolls, toys, and animations? If so, there is an actual term for that: uncanny valley.
     Uncanny valley was identified by Masahiro Mori in 1970. His hypothesis basically stated that as a robot became more human, it became easier for humans to react positively and with emotion, but once the robot became too human looking, we lost that emotional connection and became revolted. It is a literal valley that looks like this. Or this. And this.
     Have you even seen The Polar Express and thought the characters looked super creepy? Of course you have, and you're not alone: it's uncanny valley. See, the characters in Polar Express were animated with motion capture technology instead of traditional "build models in the computer" technology. The results made the characters look more life like. This scares us because we know they aren't real, but yet they look real, making us uncomfortable. Violet from The Incredibles doesn't necessarily look creepy because even though shes humanlike, she's more obvious to be a cartoon. Take a look at Hero Girl from Polar Express though. Yikes. Or Lonely Billy. Double yikes. Or that hobo on top of the train. I'm going to need to order more "yikes" from Amazon. They make you feel uncomfortable because we know they aren't real, but they just look too real. The movie Mars Needs Moms had the same issue. And so did Beowulf and Christmas Carol. Motion capture for animation has pretty much died, and for good reason.
     Movies are not the only ones with this problem though. Video games are starting to encounter this problem with their ultra-realistic graphics. Uncanny valley is a major reason why humanoid robots still haven't made a breakthrough. We're 100 percent fine with having this at home, but who in the world is ready to come home with this sitting on the couch!?!? Or this, or this? I don't know about you, but I'd feel like they'd be ready to eat me as soon as I lock the door (okay not really, but it's just soo creepy). Getting internet ads tailored to your location and what types of sites you've been on is already creepy enough.
     Now obviously personal robots have potential to be a huge industry; this is 2016 after all. It's the future. Because of that, many robotics experts want to get rid of the "uncanny valley" term. They say we shouldn't be afraid of personal robots just because they look human. Okay, but why do they need to look human is my question? Why not Sonny from I Robot? While he may give off a slight uncomfort, I would be totally okay with Sonny sitting on the couch when I got home. Uncanny valley isn't something we can just drop and forget. It's unconscious; that's how we're wired. Uncanny valley can get broad. Vsauce offers a great explanation. Masks, moods, and an inability to see and read faces all plays into uncanny valley.
     Remember the climax scene in Toy Story where the toys revealed themselves to Sid and pretty much scarred him for life? You have uncanny valley and an unapologetic Pixar to thank (seriously, poor, young Sid could've went insane after that experience). PS. Looking back at it, geez that movie was one 90-minute uncanny valley itself...still one best animated movies ever though.


*Disney's Toy Story, Vsauce, Columbia's I Robot, Buzzfeed, MTB Europe, ECN Mag, Disney's A Christmas Carol, Paramount's Beowulf, Pixar's The Incredibles, Warner Brother's The Polar Express, Mass Effect, The Punchline is Maschismo

Monday, January 25, 2016

I Cant Hear You, Space!


     Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now the highest attended movie in 18 years. Within days, Force Awakens will be the first movie to cross $900 domestic (not adjusted for inflation) and only the third movie ever to make $2 billion worldwide. So clearly, there's a fanbase. The Star Wars movies are considered science-fiction. Because of the "fiction" part, there will definitely be some implausibilities in the series, such as star-destroying planets (is this an oxymoron?), vehicles being able to travel at the speed of light, and everyone in the galaxy having a British accent, but one thing that Star Wars has possibly made people forget is that there is no sound in space.
     Space movies have been flooding cinemas and our HBO Go accounts lately. Movies such as Gravity, The Martian, Interstellar, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jupiter Ascending, Star Trek, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens have all been released in the last three years, and all, minus Jupiter Ascending, have been financial and critical successes. That's great news for the genre and for fans. Hollywood is all about making films fun and exciting, and having sound, or foley as it's called in film making, adds a crucial element to the experience. Sound even gets its own category at the Academy Awards. 
     Of all these recent movies, Gravity was the only one to take the no-sound-in-space to scientific heart, but even then they cheated by allowing us to hear the terror and mayhem through Bullock's suit. While these movies are great cinema, it's important to remember it's all for drama.
     There is no sound in space. There is no air in space. There is no vibrations. There is no noise. Space is a vacuum. A supernova is when a giant, dying star explodes. Supernovas are the most violent events in the entire universe, and I mean violent, but if you were able to stand next to one, you wouldn't hear it. If you were able to drive over to the Sun and park right next to it, you would expect to hear something close to a roaring and crackling furnace, right? Well, because there is no sound in space, you wouldn't hear a thing. Oh, you'd definitely feel it, but hear it? Nope. Technically you wouldn't be a thing either at that point, but we'll save that for another day.
     Well why isn't their sound in space? It's because space is a vacuum, making it void of air. Sound travels in vibrating waves, and the reason we can hear everything on Earth is because those waves are able to travel through air and water. With no air in space, there is nothing for them to vibrate or use to travel. That in turn means no noise. If you and a friend stood two feet from each in space and tried to have a conversation, it'd be useless. Lack of air and freezing temperatures aside, the sound waves coming out of each of your mouths would go nowhere, because there's nothing between you and your friend to carry the waves from your mouth to their ear. You may ask "but radio waves travel in space and they're sound." This is true and false. Radio waves are just another form of light. You can't hear them (or see them) without special equipment. If you stand next to a radio tower, you wouldn't be able hear Kiss 95FM or Power 103 All Tha Hitz. In order to hear those waves, you have to have some kind of radio.
     Light does not have this handicap; photos are free to zoom and zip around, vacuum or not. This is why we can still see in space - the photos give our eyes something to pick up. Our ears though, are unfortunately out of luck. As with electricity, sound needs a conductor. If there's something for the sound waves to travel on, then they'll travel, otherwise it's a hopeless journey. 
     Next time you watch a space movie, don't penalize it in your review because there's sound in the space scenes, but just remember it's zero percent accurate. I mean could you imagine Star Wars without sound? Some things you just have to let go. Though this is all just another reason why you're better off visiting New Zealand than space.

   

Nacho Cheese Non-Stop

     
     Ever eaten a bag of Doritos? Of course you have, why am I asking. Okay, here's a better question: have you ever been able to eat just one Dorito? 9.99... out 10 people will say no. There's a reason why: Doritos are addictive, and it's not because the nacho cheese and cool ranch is so tasty.
     While Doritos are delicious and I'm not in any way advocating you stop eating them, you do have to understand that Doritos are processed. They come from a lab. A food lab. And they're engineered to make you want to come back for more. Doritos are neither sour nor sweet. They aren't bitter or salty either. It's "umami."
     Umami was generally skipped when I was in elementary school, but it is now classified as an official basic taste, along with sour, sweet, bitter, and salty. Umami is a savory flavor, and according to the experts, Doritos fall into that category. Foods with umami tend to have flavors that hang around for a while. That helps explain the taste of Doritos tend to stay in your mouth so long after you finish the bag.
     One interesting thing about Doritos is that they are made where no one flavor overpowers the other. This is done to create a flavor sensation, and it keeps you from feeling full. This is also done to keep you from getting sick of the snack. Cake is delicious, but after a while all that sweet icing starts to get to you, and you gotta stop. Pretzels become a bore and a chore after a while because of the dominant salt. Also how many lemons could you really eat once? By balancing all the flavors,  they're less likely to overpower, and you're less likely to notice.
     When it comes to the addictiveness of Doritos, you also have two acids to thank: citric acid and lactic acid. These acids make your mouth salivate. You think you can stop the salivation with more snack, so you eat more, but then you salivate more, which causes you to eat more, and so on. Another important quality to Doritos is how the nacho and ranch powder always sticks to your fingers, tongue, and lips. When you finger around a bag of Doritos then lick off all the powder, you end up keeping that flavor in your mouth, which starts the salivate/eat process all over again. This trait gives Doritos an edge that many other chips, such as original Ruffles and Lays do not have. Garlic powder is also added to Doritos, which gives a kick, and three different types of salts are used to help bring out all of this flavor. It really is a flavor festival. A diverse flavor festival. Doritos are the New York City of chips.
     Calories never go unnoticed, but what is contributing these calories tends to. Half of the calories in Doritos come from fat. This gives the flavor in the chips a boost, tricking your brain into thinking you've eating more than you actually have. Ever heard of chips being "empty calories?" There's an actual scientific term for this: vanishing caloric density. Chips are heavily scrutinized mainly for this reason. They truly are bags of empty junk food. Most chips provide no real nutritional value, and because of the vanishing caloric density, you just keep eating more and more of them, and you never really feel full, which doesn't help matters. If the chips' defense, ice cream, candy, and popcorn are guilty of this as well. How else could you eat that entire tub of ice cream while you watch The Bachelorette?
     So you may be asking at this point "is anything in Doritos real?" Well yes, they use real Romano cheese in the chips, and they are made out of real corn. Sure, the nutritional value may be gone, but hey at least it's still real corn. That's all we can ask for is pure, real corn.
     It's hard to put a bag of Doritos down, it really is. You pour just a handful on a napkin because you're health conscious, but fifteen minutes later you're back in the kitchen. Now you know why. It's science. Don't feel ashamed, you're not the only one. If someone says that they can eat one Dorito and not crave anymore, don't trust that person. Whether it's a secret or nuclear launch codes, don't trust that person. It is possible to limit yourself, you just have to have the willpower to say "no." While there's no problem with enjoying these snacks, remember moderation is key. Don't give up Doritos, but don't go to Target and grab six bags unless you're throwing a cookout tomorrow.
     As a bonus, did you know there are clam chowder and shrimp-mayonnaise flavored Doritos? Well now you have another reason to visit Japan. And here's a bonus bonus...courtesy of, you guessed it, Japan.

*How Stuff Works, Thrillist

Amber Alert for Planet Nine

   
     Researchers at Caltech (a very smart place) say they may have discovered a ninth planet. It would be planet ten, but remember Pluto got downgraded a decade ago. Poor Pluto.
     The same way you can't just catch a weird looking fish and say you discovered a new species, scientists can't either. The researchers at California Institute of Technology, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown (much easier name, thanks Mike), still need more evidence, and Planet Nine will have to go through a process before it is officially declared a planet (yes, there is an organization for designating planets), but there's still some optimism.
     First off, Batygin and Brown have not seen Planet Nine. The picture above is an artist's interpretation of what Planet Nine could possible look like. To be fair, most things in astronomy you can't see, touch, or hear. Scientists, like Batygin and Brown, use various other methods to help figure out hard astronomic questions. Batygin and Brown studied the orbit of other deep space objects and have noticed something seems off. They hypothesize that the gravity of a large object is effecting the orbits of these objects, and since we know for sure there is no star there, why not a planet? In order for this to be true, Planet Nine would have to be bigger than Earth, but smaller than Neptune.
     While having a ninth planet added to the roster would be exciting, there's some things we have to consider. If Planet Nine is forreal, it could be a while before we're able to see it. Researchers estimate Planet Nine is between 20 to 100 billion miles away. Pluto is over 4 billion miles away and we just got our first clear images of it last year. That's so far away, one orbit for Planet Nine could take 10,000 to 20,000 years. In case you forgot, it only takes us Earth folks 365 days. Batygin and Brown also don't know where in it's orbit Planet Nine currently is, so they currently don't know exactly where to look.
     While there is no time table on when astronomers may find this planet, they are confident that once discovered, it will indeed be designated as a "planet" and not a "drawf planet", which poor Pluto has to live with. Planet Nine is an exciting discovering for astronomers, and while there's no chance you'll' be able to see it in your backyard telescope, you should be excited too.

The Lighter Side

     Light. It is the head cheerleader, class president, valedictorian, and Academy Award winner of the Universe, and yet we don't even get to appreciate all of it. If you didn't pay attention in middle school science then you must not remember that light consists of photons. Those photons beam to us as waves. And those waves belong to a a club known as the "electromagnetic spectrum." The electromagnetic spectrum consists of radio, microwave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, X, and gamma rays. Human eyes are only capable of seeing visible light, or the part of the spectrum that ranges from 400-700 nanometers.
     All the galaxies, stars, planets, your desk lamp, warm food, and even you give off other, non-visible forms of light. So why can't we see outside of visible light? Why are we "blind" to microwaves and ultraviolet? It's because of cones. Cone-shaped cells in our eyes are tuned to the wavelengths of the visible spectrum. Think about FM radio. Most world FM radios are tuned to pick up frequencies of 88 to 108 megahertz. Any hertz above and below and your radio can't pick it up, and you can't jam out. That's how cones work for our eyes.
     Just below visible red light you have infrared. Infrared is light in the form of heat radiation. Your body gives off heat, meaning you glow infrared. Non living things give off infrared as well. Any object that can heat up, gives off infrared, including the ground.
     Stars give off ultraviolet, or UV. UV is what turns you into a peeling lobster in the summer. It's also why tanning beds glow purple, and is the cause of 90 percent of all skin cancer cases, the most common kind of cancer. So what does Banana Boat mean on the back of the bottle when they say their product protects from "UVA and UVB" rays? Well UV rays can broken down into nine ranges, but the two that have the most effect on humans are UVA and UVB. UVC rays are completely absorbed by the ozone layer, while some UVB rays are still able to get through. The ozone layer has a very minimal effect on UVA rays, if at all. While UV light does contain some harmful qualities, it also has it's benefits. Ultraviolet radiation pushes along the production of vitamin D in the skin, which is essential. So while we definitely need to bathe our skin in sunlight, don't overdue it, especially when the UV index is high. Tan skin may be all the rage, but melanoma is not.
     A microwave oven cooks your food and it cooks it with light. The constant bombardment from the microwaves into your food cause molecules to vibrate, which heats them up, which heats your food, which cooks it.
     X rays and gamma rays are the toughest forms of light. X and gamma rays have the shortest wavelengths and the highest frequencies. X and gamma rays allow us to peer deeper into the cosmos and discover objects that we can't see with our own eyes, including black holes, gamma ray busts, neutron stars, solar flares, and galaxies.
     So why can we cook with microwaves, but not X-rays or ultraviolet rays? While you are radiating your food with a microwave, the wavelengths for microwaves are longer, meaning your food doesn't get hit with enough radiation to make it harmful, though I still wouldn't stand next to one while it cooked your Stouffers. The length of X and gamma rays are much much shorter, meaning your food would get hit with them more and more, causing more damage to your food, your gamma microwave, and you. Think of it this way: if you stepped in the cage with Ronda Rousey and she punched and kicked you every now and then, you'd (probably) be alright in the end, but conversely if you ended up being punched and kicked repeatedly by Ronda's furious fists, you'd likely be KO'ed less than 30 seconds into round one. Same concept applies here. This is why you have to wear special equipment when getting X-rays, and why radiographers can only give you so much at a time. Radiation therapy fits this as well.
     So I know it's 2016, but you still listen to the radio, right? It's commonly known that your favorite [insert "your number one station for all the hits!!" here] station broadcasts songs and annoying car dealership ads to your car through radio waves that come from radio towers, but did you know those aren't sound waves? Nope. It's light. You can hear sound waves, but if you stood next to that radio tower or next to your car antennae, would you hear any music? No. Be glad you can't see radio waves, as they would look pretty frightening
     So to sum it up: light is everywhere. Our Sun, distant galaxies, your smartphone, and you give it off. If you sit in a dark room, there will be no visible light, but switch your eyes to infrared and you'll appear as a human glow stick. Next time you listen to the radio, cook your food (with or without a microwave), connect to Wi-Fi, go outside, or do much of anything, remember there's always a light.

*Rochester Institute of Technology, Wikimedia, EPA, Creators

Controlling the Cloud

   
     Weather occurs everywhere on Earth and effects every single person. Whether (no pun intended) it's rain, snow, storms, wind, or heat waves, weather can and does have a dramatic effect on all of us. We see with the destruction and devastation that tornadoes, hurricanes, and typhoons leave behind. We also see it with droughts: vegetation dies, resources become scarce, it's a full on panic mode. Even something as light and fluffy as snow can have damaging effects. Snow and ice have shut down metropolitan areas (hi, Atlanta), collapsed roofs of sports arenas, and have caused stress for millions of people every winter. Did you know that shoveling snow can actually increase your chances of a heart attack? Because of the weather mayhem, some people tend to ask "why haven't we made weather machines yet!?" It's a legitimate question. It's 2016. We have green buildings, printable organs, and butter that you can't believe, so why not a weather machine?
     While having weather machines could stop us from having to stress about weather, it may be more risk than reward. As you can tell, Earth's weather is not uniform. December 15, 2014 may be sunny and 65 (18 C), but then December 15, 2015 could be 35 (1 C) degrees with snowfall. It may rain non-stop one July, but the next July your area could be in a drought. This is the way it has been and the way it will always be. And while conditions may not be "uniform", there is some consistency. It's always frigid cold in Minnesota in the winter, and the fall is always a threatening time for the East and Gulf coasts thanks to hurricanes. It's never snows in Houston, Texas in June, nor do you ever see a day with a high of 50 degrees (10 C) in Phoenix in August. India always has a rainy season, and if you plan on visiting Singapore, you don't have to worry about bringing a winter jacket on the trip with you, even if you visit in winter. You remember that epic snow in Dubai? Me neither.
     Weather machines have actually been attempted. The scientific term is "weather modification." One of the biggest attempts is "cloud seeding" where airplanes fly into clouds and "seed" them with chemicals such as silver iodide to attempt to alter them. Seeding still takes place today, but it hasn't proven to be much of a success. There have been other ideas presented, such as pouring a large batch of liquid nitrogen onto the ocean to cool it off so hurricanes wouldn't form, shoot lasers at hurricanes to break them up, and polluting the air on purpose to block out the Sun from cooking up storms (such a great idea!). Weather modification has also hit road blocks over fear that weather machines could be used for militarization and war.
     So while being able to dictate the forecast would be helpful, it's best to leave the sky to be. Each day is different. There is a natural consistency, and if we went in and started stirring up our own conditions, we could disrupt that imbalance and throw conditions out of shape.
     Put it this way: do you feel out of shape and want to give up sugar? No problem! You can stop eating sugar, but the first few weeks, and maybe later could be brutal. Migraines, withdrawals, mood swings, nausea, etc, but why would you feel this way after giving up something bad for you? Well because your body has been used to sugar all this time. Since you stopped consuming sugar, your body now thinks something is wrong and has to learn to adapt. Phoenix may get sweltering hot in the summer, but if we were to use a machine to give the city some "Christmas" in July, then the Phoenix climate gets thrown off of its usual balance, and this could end up spreading and affecting a larger area.
     While having weather machines would be a great asset and could lower your insurance premiums, it's best to just let Mother Nature run her course, even if we don't like everything she has prepared. I'm sorry Miami doesn't get snow, but hey, that's what we have ski resorts for! (And you still have South Beach).

*photo by Michael Hyatt