One of the NASA “computers” sending astronauts to the moon: Katherine Johnson (1918 August 26th)

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Katherine Johnson, (born August 26, 1918, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, U.S.), American mathematician who calculated and interpreted the flight paths of several spacecraft during her more than three decades with the U.S. space program. Her industry helped convey astronauts to the Moon.

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KATHERINE JOHNSON ON KRNN, 8/26:  One of NASA’s human ‘computers,’ performing the complex calculations that enabled humans to successfully achieve space flight, Katherine Johnson was born on this date in 1918.  You can count on a 1-2-3-4 playlist on Crosscurrents, 8/26 at 8 am.

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In 1939 Johnson was chosen to be one of the first three African American students to enroll in a graduate program at West Virginia University. Later she was a member of a group of NASA employees called “computers,” made up of African American women who exceptional in mathematics and problem-solving.

Johnson also played an significant role in NASA’s Mercury program (1961–63) of manned spaceflights. In 1961 she calculated the path for Freedom 7, the spacecraft that put the first U.S astronaut in space, Alan B. Shepard, Jr. The following year, at the application of John Glenn, Johnson verified that the electronic computer had planned his flight correctly. Glenn subsequently made history aboard Friendship 7, becoming the first U.S. astronaut to orbit Earth. Johnson was also part of the team that calculated where and when to launch the rocket for the Apollo 11 mission of 1969, which sent the first three men to the Moon.

When asked to name her memorable contribution to space exploration, Katherine Johnson talks about the calculations that helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander with the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module. She also worked on the Space Shuttle and the Earth Resources Satellite, and authored or coauthored 26 research reports. She retired in 1986, after thirty-three years at Langley. “I loved going to work every single day,” she says. In 2015, at age 97, Katherine Johnson added another extraordinary achievement to her long list: President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

Blue Hound Suede Dog Shoes: Old School Rock and Roll Show (KRNN, Aug.24th)

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BLUE HOUND SUEDE DOG SHOES

You ain’t nothing but a hound dog

Been snoopin’ round my door

Do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh

Honey, lay off of my shoes

You can wag your tail

But I ain’t gonna feed you no more

Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes

You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes

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HOUND DOGS AND BLUE SHOES, KRNN 8/24:  Do not step (or chew) on my blue suede shoes.  We invite you to commemorate a new school year with “old school” rock and roll on Sticks And Stones, 8/24 at 10 am.’

 

Quantum Physics, A Cat, and Erwin Schrödinger (1887 August 12th)

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Erwin Schrödinger born on August 12, 1887, in Vienna, was a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist whose revolutionary wave equation changed the face of quantum theory.  He was awarded the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with British physicist P.A.M. Dirac, and later became a director at Ireland’s Institute for Advanced Studies. A published author with works like What Is Life?

In 1927, Schrödinger left his position at Zurich for a new, admired opportunity at the University of Berlin, where he met Albert Einstein. He held this position until 1933, opting to leave upon the rise of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party and the related persecution of Jewish citizens. Shortly after joining the faculty of Oxford University in England, Schrödinger learned that he had won the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics, sharing the award with another quantum theorist, Paul A.M. Dirac. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Schrödinger stated that his mentor, Hasenöhrl, would be accepting the award if he hadn’t died during World War I.

Following a three-year stay at Oxford, Schrödinger traveled and worked in different countries, including in Austria at the University of Graz. In 1939, he was invited by Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera to work at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Dublin, Ireland, heading its School for Theoretical Physics. He remained in Dublin until the mid-1950s, returning in 1956 to Vienna, where he continued his career at his alma mater.

In terms of his writing, Schrödinger published the influential book What Is Life?, his attempt to link quantum physics and genetics, in 1944. He was also versed in philosophy and metaphysics, as evidenced in Nature and the Greeks (1954), which looked at ancient belief systems and inquiries; and his final book, My View of the World (1961), inspired by the Vedanta and exploring belief in a unified consciousness

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SCHRODINGER ON KRNN:   A Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist in the field of quantum theory, Erwin Schrödinger was born on this date in 1887.  His thought experiment known as “Schrödinger’s cat” provides us with a feline playlist to which you are invited on Crosscurrents, 8/12 at 8 am.

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Schrödinger’s Equation  : One of the keystones of the universe

The Schrödinger Equation is used to pinpoint the location of the electron. The discovery of this led to the extremely accurate model of the atom called the Cloud Model. We still use the Cloud Model today to show what an atom looks like.

Schrödinger’s equation mathematically described the “wavelike” nature of systems governed by quantum mechanics. With this equation, Schrödinger provided a way to not only study the behaviors of these systems, but also to predict how they behave. Though there was much initial debate about what Schrödinger’s equation meant, scientists eventually interpreted it as the probability of finding an electron somewhere in space.

Schrödinger’s Cat: Wanted Dead or Alive?

Schrödinger’s cat is a famous thought experiment. Essentially, you lock a cat inside a bunker with poisonous gas. The cat has a 50% chance of living, and a 50% chance of dying. But, until you actually look inside the bunker, nobody knows if the cat is dead or alive. Your act of looking at the cat forces nature’s decision to either kill the cat or let it live. So, your curiosity could actually kill the cat. This is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in physics today.

Schrödinger formulated this thought experiment in response to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, which states that a particle described by quantum mechanics exists in all possible states at the same time, until it is observed and is forced to choose one state. Here’s an example: consider a light that can light up either red or green. When we are not looking at the light, we assume that it is both red and green. However, when we look at it, the light must force itself to be either red or green, and that is the color we see.

Schrödinger did not agree with this interpretation. He created a different thought experiment, called Schrödinger’s Cat, to illustrate his concerns. In the Schrödinger’s Cat experiment, a cat is placed inside a sealed box with a radioactive substance and a poisonous gas. If the radioactive substance decayed, it would release the gas and kill the cat. If not, the cat would be alive.

Because we do not know whether the cat is alive or dead, it is considered both alive and dead until someone opens the box and sees for themselves what the state of the cat is. Thus, simply by looking into the box, someone has magically made the cat alive or dead even though that is impossible.