Saturday, 22 November 2014

Finding out things

Y'know, all this recent hoopla about the Rosetta mission got me thinking. Over the past fortnight I've encountered a very strange version of conspiracy theorist, who insists that the current models of the Universe are deeply flawed. Let me first say that there are indeed a good number of challenges and inconsistencies with our current understanding of how things work.
But a broken window does not mean that the house must be razed.

Many of the points raised by these unconventialists I could counter by recourse to specialized knowledge - I've seen water ice sublimating in vacuum chambers I have built - I've poked regolith with 100nm photons - and so on. These are, I fully admit, not common experiences but they were part and parcel of the job of getting instruments to other worlds.

So the arguments I tended to fall back on were those based on personal experience, and then the experience of other workers as published in peer-reviewed journals. And that is the point of this musing: how many folk would know where to look if they wanted to find the underpinnings of modern science? Where would they go to find the original authors, their data, and their techniques?

Well, I thought it apt to put some links together if one finds oneself having to defend the notion that the Moon is not made of cheese.
<Believe me, this is not as kooky as some ideas I've met>

So here we go with a few of my favourites:

1. First and foremost, the NASA Astrophysical Data Service:

Head to the link for the subject that interests you (say, Physics and Geophysics search) and then you'll see this:

Pump some search terms into the 'Title" or 'Abstract" fields - you can see that I'm interested in lunar dairy products - and tick the box 'Require text for selection', hit the 'Send Query' button and you're done.

And thus I've found one article by L.A. Haskin about the creation of foodstuffs (eventually) from the lunar regolith, given enough added carbon and nitrogen. Wonderful!

2. The NASA Technical Report Server

An utter hoot.
Want to find studies for the economics of mining Europa? Torchship designs to Pluto?
<okay, maybe not those two>
But you will find the effects of thermal cycling on high temperature titanium composites.
And so on.
Ultimate geek-fodder.

3. ArXiv
For when the paywalls around most reputable journals are just too much to bear.

Hope that this helps, and may your experiments always be falsifiable and your hypotheses testable!

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