From the archives…

The 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet

Disaster on the Treasure Coast

All American school children know the rhyme, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two.” They learn, by and by, that Columbus (who was probably not Spanish, even though he sailed under the flag of Spain) was not the first European to land in North America; that he never actually set foot in what is today the United States, that he was severely mistaken about the location of the New World, and that his voyages were largely motivated by greed. None of these facts, however, tends to take the sheen off the popular belief that Columbus discovered America, and that in some way his adventures were altruistic explorations that were really undertaken for the benefit of future generations—namely, us. And when we think of Spain’s role in the development of the western hemisphere, many of us think mainly about the Spanish colonization of Mexico and Central and South America.

The view from Spain in the 15th century, and for quite some time thereafter, was very different. Whatever else could be said about America, it was a gold mine—both figuratively and literally. Spain’s plan was to monopolize trade with the New World, making sure its gold, silver, and treasures of other kinds flowed back to Spain. This money financed, among other things, Spain’s efforts to expand its territory within Europe and around the world. So for nearly 200 years, heavily armed convoys of Spanish ships made regular, twice-annual voyages to deliver manufactured goods to the Americas and carry treasure (some of it from commerce, but much of it from taxes) back to Spain. Unsurprisingly, some of these ships never made it home, due to piracy, bad weather, or other misfortunes. But one particular loss is notable for its size, its location, and its historical significance: the ill-fated treasure fleet of 1715. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Autogyro

Taking the proto-helicopter for a spin

It sounds like a joke: What do you get if you cross an airplane and a helicopter? But the answer isn’t “aircopter” or “heliplane,” it’s “autogyro”—or, sometimes, “gyroplane.” This peculiar type of aircraft, which was the forerunner of the modern helicopter, was once extremely well known. Although it never caught on as a widespread commercial design, the autogyro is beginning to make a comeback, especially among hobbyists and amateur aviators.

An Uplifting Story
First, a word or two of aeronautical review. A conventional, fixed-wing airplane gets thrust from propellers or jet engines and lift from the wings, but that lift can only be generated when the wing is moving fast enough (and, of course, in the right direction). When an airplane is moving too slowly for its wings to provide adequate lift to keep it airborne, it is said to stall, which is perfectly fine if you happen to be landing the plane, but not so good otherwise. Helicopters, on the other hand, get both thrust and lift from one or more narrow, propeller-like rotors turned by an engine. Rotor blades are thus essentially moving wings. The speed and direction of the craft’s movement are determined by the angle at which the rotor is positioned; in most helicopter designs, a vertically mounted tail rotor counteracts the main rotor’s rotation and prevents the helicopter’s body from spinning. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Sedna's Moon

Mysteries of the solar system’s most distant member

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Pont d'Avignon

Miracle bridge to nowhere

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Story of Toilet Paper

What goes around, comes around

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Wet Collodion Process

Developing a better negative

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Biodegradable Plastic

The quest for impermanence

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Space Pens

What to use when your writing lacks gravity

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

House of the Future

Disneyland’s 1957 all-plastic house

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Bakelite

The Plastic Age

Guest Article by Jackie Chappell

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Paperclip

The twisted tale of paper’s best friend

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Crypt of Civilization

Museum in a time capsule

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Leap Seconds

Time keeps on slippin’

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Antikythera Mechanism

Computer from ancient Greece

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Longitude Problem

Finding your way around the world with a watch

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet

Disaster on the Treasure Coast

All American school children know the rhyme, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two.” They learn, by and by, that Columbus (who was probably not Spanish, even though he sailed under the flag of Spain) was not the first European to land in North America; that he never actually set foot in what is today the United States, that he was severely mistaken about the location of the New World, and that his voyages were largely motivated by greed. None of these facts, however, tends to take the sheen off the popular belief that Columbus discovered America, and that in some way his adventures were altruistic explorations that were really undertaken for the benefit of future generations—namely, us. And when we think of Spain’s role in the development of the western hemisphere, many of us think mainly about the Spanish colonization of Mexico and Central and South America.

The view from Spain in the 15th century, and for quite some time thereafter, was very different. Whatever else could be said about America, it was a gold mine—both figuratively and literally. Spain’s plan was to monopolize trade with the New World, making sure its gold, silver, and treasures of other kinds flowed back to Spain. This money financed, among other things, Spain’s efforts to expand its territory within Europe and around the world. So for nearly 200 years, heavily armed convoys of Spanish ships made regular, twice-annual voyages to deliver manufactured goods to the Americas and carry treasure (some of it from commerce, but much of it from taxes) back to Spain. Unsurprisingly, some of these ships never made it home, due to piracy, bad weather, or other misfortunes. But one particular loss is notable for its size, its location, and its historical significance: the ill-fated treasure fleet of 1715. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Autogyro

Taking the proto-helicopter for a spin

It sounds like a joke: What do you get if you cross an airplane and a helicopter? But the answer isn’t “aircopter” or “heliplane,” it’s “autogyro”—or, sometimes, “gyroplane.” This peculiar type of aircraft, which was the forerunner of the modern helicopter, was once extremely well known. Although it never caught on as a widespread commercial design, the autogyro is beginning to make a comeback, especially among hobbyists and amateur aviators.

An Uplifting Story
First, a word or two of aeronautical review. A conventional, fixed-wing airplane gets thrust from propellers or jet engines and lift from the wings, but that lift can only be generated when the wing is moving fast enough (and, of course, in the right direction). When an airplane is moving too slowly for its wings to provide adequate lift to keep it airborne, it is said to stall, which is perfectly fine if you happen to be landing the plane, but not so good otherwise. Helicopters, on the other hand, get both thrust and lift from one or more narrow, propeller-like rotors turned by an engine. Rotor blades are thus essentially moving wings. The speed and direction of the craft’s movement are determined by the angle at which the rotor is positioned; in most helicopter designs, a vertically mounted tail rotor counteracts the main rotor’s rotation and prevents the helicopter’s body from spinning. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Sedna's Moon

Mysteries of the solar system’s most distant member

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Pont d'Avignon

Miracle bridge to nowhere

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Story of Toilet Paper

What goes around, comes around

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Wet Collodion Process

Developing a better negative

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Biodegradable Plastic

The quest for impermanence

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Space Pens

What to use when your writing lacks gravity

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

House of the Future

Disneyland’s 1957 all-plastic house

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Bakelite

The Plastic Age

Guest Article by Jackie Chappell

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Paperclip

The twisted tale of paper’s best friend

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Crypt of Civilization

Museum in a time capsule

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Leap Seconds

Time keeps on slippin’

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Antikythera Mechanism

Computer from ancient Greece

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Longitude Problem

Finding your way around the world with a watch

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet

Disaster on the Treasure Coast

All American school children know the rhyme, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two.” They learn, by and by, that Columbus (who was probably not Spanish, even though he sailed under the flag of Spain) was not the first European to land in North America; that he never actually set foot in what is today the United States, that he was severely mistaken about the location of the New World, and that his voyages were largely motivated by greed. None of these facts, however, tends to take the sheen off the popular belief that Columbus discovered America, and that in some way his adventures were altruistic explorations that were really undertaken for the benefit of future generations—namely, us. And when we think of Spain’s role in the development of the western hemisphere, many of us think mainly about the Spanish colonization of Mexico and Central and South America.

The view from Spain in the 15th century, and for quite some time thereafter, was very different. Whatever else could be said about America, it was a gold mine—both figuratively and literally. Spain’s plan was to monopolize trade with the New World, making sure its gold, silver, and treasures of other kinds flowed back to Spain. This money financed, among other things, Spain’s efforts to expand its territory within Europe and around the world. So for nearly 200 years, heavily armed convoys of Spanish ships made regular, twice-annual voyages to deliver manufactured goods to the Americas and carry treasure (some of it from commerce, but much of it from taxes) back to Spain. Unsurprisingly, some of these ships never made it home, due to piracy, bad weather, or other misfortunes. But one particular loss is notable for its size, its location, and its historical significance: the ill-fated treasure fleet of 1715. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Autogyro

Taking the proto-helicopter for a spin

It sounds like a joke: What do you get if you cross an airplane and a helicopter? But the answer isn’t “aircopter” or “heliplane,” it’s “autogyro”—or, sometimes, “gyroplane.” This peculiar type of aircraft, which was the forerunner of the modern helicopter, was once extremely well known. Although it never caught on as a widespread commercial design, the autogyro is beginning to make a comeback, especially among hobbyists and amateur aviators.

An Uplifting Story
First, a word or two of aeronautical review. A conventional, fixed-wing airplane gets thrust from propellers or jet engines and lift from the wings, but that lift can only be generated when the wing is moving fast enough (and, of course, in the right direction). When an airplane is moving too slowly for its wings to provide adequate lift to keep it airborne, it is said to stall, which is perfectly fine if you happen to be landing the plane, but not so good otherwise. Helicopters, on the other hand, get both thrust and lift from one or more narrow, propeller-like rotors turned by an engine. Rotor blades are thus essentially moving wings. The speed and direction of the craft’s movement are determined by the angle at which the rotor is positioned; in most helicopter designs, a vertically mounted tail rotor counteracts the main rotor’s rotation and prevents the helicopter’s body from spinning. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Sedna's Moon

Mysteries of the solar system’s most distant member

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Pont d'Avignon

Miracle bridge to nowhere

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Story of Toilet Paper

What goes around, comes around

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Wet Collodion Process

Developing a better negative

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Biodegradable Plastic

The quest for impermanence

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Space Pens

What to use when your writing lacks gravity

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

House of the Future

Disneyland’s 1957 all-plastic house

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Bakelite

The Plastic Age

Guest Article by Jackie Chappell

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Paperclip

The twisted tale of paper’s best friend

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Crypt of Civilization

Museum in a time capsule

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Leap Seconds

Time keeps on slippin’

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Antikythera Mechanism

Computer from ancient Greece

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Longitude Problem

Finding your way around the world with a watch

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet

Disaster on the Treasure Coast

All American school children know the rhyme, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two.” They learn, by and by, that Columbus (who was probably not Spanish, even though he sailed under the flag of Spain) was not the first European to land in North America; that he never actually set foot in what is today the United States, that he was severely mistaken about the location of the New World, and that his voyages were largely motivated by greed. None of these facts, however, tends to take the sheen off the popular belief that Columbus discovered America, and that in some way his adventures were altruistic explorations that were really undertaken for the benefit of future generations—namely, us. And when we think of Spain’s role in the development of the western hemisphere, many of us think mainly about the Spanish colonization of Mexico and Central and South America.

The view from Spain in the 15th century, and for quite some time thereafter, was very different. Whatever else could be said about America, it was a gold mine—both figuratively and literally. Spain’s plan was to monopolize trade with the New World, making sure its gold, silver, and treasures of other kinds flowed back to Spain. This money financed, among other things, Spain’s efforts to expand its territory within Europe and around the world. So for nearly 200 years, heavily armed convoys of Spanish ships made regular, twice-annual voyages to deliver manufactured goods to the Americas and carry treasure (some of it from commerce, but much of it from taxes) back to Spain. Unsurprisingly, some of these ships never made it home, due to piracy, bad weather, or other misfortunes. But one particular loss is notable for its size, its location, and its historical significance: the ill-fated treasure fleet of 1715. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Autogyro

Taking the proto-helicopter for a spin

It sounds like a joke: What do you get if you cross an airplane and a helicopter? But the answer isn’t “aircopter” or “heliplane,” it’s “autogyro”—or, sometimes, “gyroplane.” This peculiar type of aircraft, which was the forerunner of the modern helicopter, was once extremely well known. Although it never caught on as a widespread commercial design, the autogyro is beginning to make a comeback, especially among hobbyists and amateur aviators.

An Uplifting Story
First, a word or two of aeronautical review. A conventional, fixed-wing airplane gets thrust from propellers or jet engines and lift from the wings, but that lift can only be generated when the wing is moving fast enough (and, of course, in the right direction). When an airplane is moving too slowly for its wings to provide adequate lift to keep it airborne, it is said to stall, which is perfectly fine if you happen to be landing the plane, but not so good otherwise. Helicopters, on the other hand, get both thrust and lift from one or more narrow, propeller-like rotors turned by an engine. Rotor blades are thus essentially moving wings. The speed and direction of the craft’s movement are determined by the angle at which the rotor is positioned; in most helicopter designs, a vertically mounted tail rotor counteracts the main rotor’s rotation and prevents the helicopter’s body from spinning. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Sedna's Moon

Mysteries of the solar system’s most distant member

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Pont d'Avignon

Miracle bridge to nowhere

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Story of Toilet Paper

What goes around, comes around

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Wet Collodion Process

Developing a better negative

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Biodegradable Plastic

The quest for impermanence

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Space Pens

What to use when your writing lacks gravity

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

House of the Future

Disneyland’s 1957 all-plastic house

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Bakelite

The Plastic Age

Guest Article by Jackie Chappell

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Paperclip

The twisted tale of paper’s best friend

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Crypt of Civilization

Museum in a time capsule

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Leap Seconds

Time keeps on slippin’

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Antikythera Mechanism

Computer from ancient Greece

[Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Longitude Problem

Finding your way around the world with a watch

[Article Continues…]

•••••

Archives

August 2007
December 2006
November 2006
September 2006
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004