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Space Science

Could Ancient Pottery Improve Spacecraft Tiles? 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the blast-from-the-past dept.
astroengine writes "Earlier this year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded nearly $500,000 to scientists from the Getty Conservation Institute, Stanford's National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC) and the Aerospace Corporation to study the chemical and physical properties of ancient Attic pottery. Why? Well, the project will improve our understanding of iron-spinel chemistry, which is critical to the advanced ceramics used for thermal protection in aerospace applications, such as in the heat shield tiles used by spacecraft during atmospheric reentry."
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Could Ancient Pottery Improve Spacecraft Tiles?

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  • Finally... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus@gmaiYEATSl.com minus poet> on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:58AM (#38562854) Homepage Journal
    ... a good reason to tell those kids in high school there IS good reason to occupy their minds with ( Latin and ) Greek antiquity. Which is not to be confounded, as the OP demonstrates, with antiquities at the fair.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by dotancohen (1015143)

      ... a good reason to tell those kids in high school there IS good reason to occupy their minds with ( Latin and ) Greek antiquity. Which is not to be confounded, as the OP demonstrates, with antiquities at the fair.

      Either that, or "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it." Which is advice that I wish that half of our first-world countries' leaders would listen to. Fall of the Roman Empire, anyone?

      • by Anonymous Coward
        No, a good reason to tell them that getting a degree in basket weaving/pottery is no joke...
      • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by vlm (69642) on Monday January 02, 2012 @10:42AM (#38563000)

        Either that, or "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it." Which is advice that I wish that half of our first-world countries' leaders would listen to. Fall of the Roman Empire, anyone?

        The bad news is they've done so, and it's all good for them, so they're not changing course.

        Note that what the general public would call the "decline" was actually for the endless bureaucrat drones their "peak", so from their point of view, let the good times roll! Yes they all got killed in the end, only AFTER the general public bore the brunt, so again they come out ahead. There is really not much downside for them, is there?

        The folks who need to listen are the general public, but bread and circuses numb them.

        • Either that, or "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it." Which is advice that I wish that half of our first-world countries' leaders would listen to. Fall of the Roman Empire, anyone?

          The bad news is they've done so, and it's all good for them, so they're not changing course.

          Which is the basic tenet of Barbara Tuchman's excellent "The March of Folly" [amazon.com] which so much influenced my view of history, as a young man...

        • Re:Finally... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Monday January 02, 2012 @11:49AM (#38563454)

          The folks who need to listen are the general public, but bread and circuses numb them.

          Which is why Plato noted that democracy is generally one of the worst forms of government, generally degenerating into tyranny:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato's_five_regimes [wikipedia.org]

          Of course, we don't actually have a democracy in the U.S. (despite the rhetoric, we've never had more than a representative republic, except occasionally on very local scales). But we do have enough of the bad characteristics of democratic systems influencing our government that Plato's critique probably applies. And one could make an argument that the U.S. has been moving its way through the progression of Plato's theory of government degeneration: "aristocracy" (learned founders, who designed a system that was based on successive levels of disconnect from democratic opinion --who could vote was limited, Senate was elected by legislatures, President was elected by a "college" of electors, etc.), then "timocracy" (expansionist phase in the U.S.), "oligarchy" (concentration of power in the super-rich in the late 19th and early 20th century), and since the various rights movements, closer to true "democracy," with ever-encroaching hints at tyranny as our rights are gradually degraded.

          Note that I don't necessarily agree with Plato completely, and the mapping is not exact. But his prized form of "aristocracy" (which is more like a meritocratic government founded on smart people) has really never been tried, outside of Star Trek perhaps.

          • I agree with Plato, but unfortunately the human being is too flawed to be possible for a government that is truly based on aristocracy.
          • What form of government doesn't degenerate to tyranny? The ones that collapse before they get a chance?

            Those aren't rhetorical questions, and I don't know the answers.
      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        Either that, or "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it." Which is advice that I wish that half of our first-world countries' leaders would listen to. Fall of the Roman Empire, anyone?

        What do you think is going to be learned from studying the Romans? It's not as if they learned anything from their predecessors, the Akkadians, Sumerians, Hittites and Persians, and the way their successive empires fell after over-extending themselves. Useless idiots - if they can't keep their regional hegemonies

  • by rossdee (243626) on Monday January 02, 2012 @10:27AM (#38562946)

    Sure, but you'll probably need Daniel Jackson to translate the writing, and Samantha Carter to work out the technical details...

    • Actually, McKay is the expert on Ancient technology, annoying as he is.

  • . . . ancient pottery technology left by aliens visiting the Earth ages ago proves that they were here. Stuff that they left around was used by ancient humans to build pyramids and monkey-shaped airfield landing patterns in deserts in South America and other stuff.

    Although ancient humans possessed the technology for space travel, their governments kept squabbling about the strategic direction of space projects, so they never got off the ground.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Although ancient humans possessed the technology for space travel, their governments kept squabbling about the strategic direction of space projects, so they never got off the ground.

      The ones that did get off the ground are literally the ones that are not being dug up and studied... think about it...

      If future civilization dug up the "factory seconds" "push pull or drag trade in pile" at the local aerospace factory, they'd probably have a pretty negative view of us too. "why this nozzle found in a dumpster marked "scrap" (whatever that word means) wouldn't even pass magnefluxing for crack detection, I bet the ancients never got a thing off the ground"

  • by arcite (661011) on Monday January 02, 2012 @10:44AM (#38563018)

    "Early in the sixteenth century, Wan decided to take advantage of China's advanced rocket and fireworks technology to launch himself into outer space. He supposedly had a chair built with forty-seven rockets attached. On the day of lift-off, Wan, splendidly attired, climbed into his rocket chair and forty seven servants lit the fuses and then hastily ran for cover. There was a huge explosion. When the smoke cleared, Wan and the chair were gone, and was said never to have been seen again."

    If only poor Wan hu had covered his rocket chair in pottery tiles to act as a heat shield for re-entry maneuver, he may have lived to tell the tale. Legend says he saw no need for a space suit as he could hold his breath for 'a really long time'. The truth is out there!

  • No.

    Long answer .... no, but it's still a cool project.

  • by turgid (580780) on Monday January 02, 2012 @10:55AM (#38563092) Journal

    This is further proof of the existence of ancient alien astronauts. They came to Earth and taught us pottery using the same level of technology employed in the heat shields of their flying saucers.

    You heard it here first: ancient pottery is derived from alien heatshield technology.

    • Yes, and ancient arrowheads are definitive proof of the heat-seeking missile technology the aliens used to conquer their quadrant of the galaxy.

  • I Doubt It (Score:4, Interesting)

    by segedunum (883035) on Monday January 02, 2012 @11:06AM (#38563148)
    Not sure what they are trying to find out here. There was something of an arms race going on in Formula 1 during the past year with such materials and exhaust blown diffusers, the caveat being that you needed heat resistant materials to stop the exhaust gas melting the back of the car. Most specialised heat resistant material these days is a form of carbon fibre reinforced polymer with a coating such as those from Zircotech (extremely specialised and secret in the case of Formula 1 and not for use elsewhere).

    I'm not too sure what they're going to find out that isn't already known. The article was a little bit wishy washy.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Whatever they do find out, it is already covered by at least one patent.

    • by cynyr (703126)

      good thing they changed the rules for next year, and gasses must exit at the back of the car in line with the trailing edge of the diffuser.

      Good info though, I hardly saw anything on how they were keeping the cars from just catching fire, especially the renault with it's crazy forward pointed exhaust.

      • I know this is off-topic, but how a forward pointed exhaust works?
        • by gl4ss (559668)

          like any exhaust, burnt gasses come out. it seems that maybe the point was to route some air under the car.

          apparently there was a mild explosion involving a fire from failed exhaust in last years races so.. maybe it was just renault being renault for the sake of being renault.

        • by turgid (580780)

          I know this is off-topic, but how a forward pointed exhaust works?

          Badly, like everything else that Renault ever made?

          They managed to stop making cars that rust away to nothing in under 12 months in recent years so they have to have something to make up for it. I believe the original Clios used to drown if you drove them through a puddle.

          When I were a lad watching Formula One, my dad always used to say that Renault had to put a turbo charger on Renee Arnoux's car to give it some sort of chance of getting o

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      I'm not too sure what they're going to find out that isn't already known. The article was a little bit wishy washy.

      Ancient civilizations were experts in various crafts because that was all they had to work with.
      Consequently, there is a lot of ancient 'technology' that has been lost because of poor record keeping,
      the knowledge didn't spread far enough to sustain itself, or no one (at the time) understood the science behind their work.

      So our scientists are going to try and rediscover how to cheaply make those black tiles with something other than lasers and cad/cam systems.

      • Heck, just look at how hard it is for the detailed knowledge about how a company's software and systems work after a few people have come and gone. There's all those little details, that may never have seemed important at the time, that make things work. As someone once said, "Every project has at least two programmers - you, the day you wrote it, and you, six months later when you've forgotten how it originally worked."

        And my brother (a beam steering hardware geek) spent most of his career building syste

      • It is not surprising that ceramic artisans of long ago developed unique properties. As much as the patent system has been abused of late, one of the reasons for patents was to publish, preserve and spread technology. For example, Damascus Swards http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damascus_steel [wikipedia.org] had amazing properties that we are just now starting to realize that they were making nano carbon tubules and wires centuries ago and we still do not fully understand how they did it because they did not publish their w
    • by macfunk (1671162)
      Starlite anyone? A remarkable substance invented by Maurice Ward that sounds too good to be true but has in fact been put through its paces by the military and demonstrated on live TV. A paint-thin coating that can withstand remarkable temperatures, even nuclear prompt heat apparently. But I suppose it's easier to throw more tax money at some mainstream institutions than negotiate with a pretty eccentric inventor.
      • Withstanding is not the same as insulating against. No matter how much heat a paint can withstand, it's no good if the material it's painted on melts due to conduction and radiation. Also re-entry is not just heat but erosion - can the paint withstand the battering of all those air molecules bashing into it (at all angles of attack) at speeds that make a blowtorch look like a candle flame? It may be wonderful stuff (I actually read the Wikipedia article on Starlite) but I would not leap instantly to any c

    • by tsotha (720379)
      Yeah. The whole thing looks a lot more like pork to me than any legitimate materials research.
  • Could Ancient Spacecraft Improve Pottery Tiles?
    • I read "Could Ancient Pottery Improve Starcraft Tiles".
      Just install Starcraft2. The new tiles are excellent!
  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Monday January 02, 2012 @12:26PM (#38563820) Homepage Journal
    But how would you convince a museum to "permanently loan" you enough ancient pottery to cover an entire spacecraft in the stuff?
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well.

      during arab spring lots of ancient stuff goes missing.
      and now this research comes up! the governments did it, obviously, to steal egypts space program.

      • An amusing thought—but more seriously I'm pretty sure most of the pottery from Attica (which was the region around golden-age Athens) is either in Greece, Turkey, the US, or western Europe.
  • If there had been no ancient pottery, humanity would never have invented ceramics, ergo there would be NO ceramic spacecraft tiles at all.

Put no trust in cryptic comments.

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