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Eggnauts — Engineers Launch Model Rockets at UBC

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2 · The contest

The contest took place at UBC in 2005. The goal was to launch a rocket at least 150m into the air with a payload of an egg and bottle of maple syrup. And — you guess it — the egg had to be returned back to earth in relative safety.

I was first in line to see the egg carnage, which promised to be the best part of the show.

I mean, who wants to see whole eggs landing in relative safety anyway?

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition
UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition

3 · The first launch — going, going, gone

I was well positioned with my camera for the launch. After a few times being told to step even further back — so that I would not get egg on my face, I'm sure — I settled into a position that was both safe and a good lookout.

Unfortunately, from my vantage point I was shooting right into the sun, so the photos are a little bleached out. I also had the 24-70mm f/2.8L on my 20D so I couldn't get good reach. The photos here are 100% crops.

Shooting at 5 fps, I caught the first sign of the plume developing around the rocket as its engines ignited.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 1

After the second frame, the acceleration was rapid and the rocket lifted off to 2-3 m before my next frame.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 1

And it was on its way!

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 1

And then it just kept going, and going and going. It finally disappeared travelling west. Nobody heard from the egg again.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 1
UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 1
UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 1

4 · The second launch — things that go bump in the day

After the first launch I repositioned myself to face south, with the sun at my back. After the excitement of the egg launched into orbit, I could hardly anticipate what came next. I was in for a show so exciting that all remaining launches were promptly canceled. Read on.

Before the launch, I caught the engineers looking over their rocket. Handling it lovingly, they were making sure that the eggnaut and maple syrup were snuggly nestled into the payload canister.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3

The tension was palpable. Would it launch? Would it reach 150m? Would the eggnaut return to tell the tale without cracking?

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3

Once again, the shutter flapped at 5 fps as the rocket took off. This time, I caught the start of the plume at just the right time and captured the rocket take off in the first few frames.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3

The trip started solidly for our eggnaut. The launch was timely, and more importantly, the rocket was travelling vertically - upwards. Would the egg make a career out of it? Just as our hopes were rising, we realized that something was terribly wrong. Shortly after take off, it became clear that the eggnaut was doomed. We didn't want to believe it at first, but it was obvious that the flight plan was taking a turn for the worse.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3

The rocket began to spin wildly. To add, it began to turn to traveling the directly of the shocked onlookers and the parking lot. It was not longer just about the egg anymore. Fear gripped me, but I kept shooting. The next four frames reveal the horrible events that sealed the eggnaut's doom. In the second of the frames, an unplanned explosion is clearly seen. The rocket is undeterred by this, and continues to fly in the direction of the spectators.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3
UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3
UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3
UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3
UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3

The travel path became more erratic, and only a few seconds later the last booster cut-off. The eggnaut, perhaps still viable, was in free fall. Falling, accelerating - right into the parking lot.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3

I started running towards the extrapolated crash site, as I heard a thud. When I got there, a small crowd already formed around the impact site. Someone called for an eggdoctor. In my first shot of the macabre, only the parachute, never deployed, is seen. The true extent of the disaster is covered by the figure of solemn child.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3

Rapidly, the team of engineers arrived on site. Although the rocket spent about 10 fateful seconds in the air, it only traveled about 30 meters, as the crow flies (which it does much longer).

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3

Of course, all eyes were on the contents. Was the eggnaut safe? Perhaps by some earthly miracle, the impact was not severe enough. Of course, even before the rocket payload canister was opened, we all knew that the sickly thud that placed the rocket less than a meter from a car was a mortal hit to our airborne friend.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3

The next photo captures the human moment of tragedy. The team lead finally realizes that nothing survived. The man behind him and to the right bites his lip in disappointment and shock.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3

The next photo reveals the payload - now turned into an ogrish paste of eggnaut and maple syrup.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 3

5 · The third launch — canceled

The third team stood by - their launch canceled. Their hearts were heavy with the tragedy of the previous team's horrible flame-out. One of the team members is seen here so distraught that he kneals and leans on his rocket for support.

UBC Rocket Competition / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
UBC Rocket Competition — Launch 4

Yet they could not help but imagine - how far would their eggnaut have traveled?

news + thoughts

How Analyzing Cosmic Nothing Might Explain Everything

Thu 18-01-2024

Huge empty areas of the universe called voids could help solve the greatest mysteries in the cosmos.

My graphic accompanying How Analyzing Cosmic Nothing Might Explain Everything in the January 2024 issue of Scientific American depicts the entire Universe in a two-page spread — full of nothing.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
How Analyzing Cosmic Nothing Might Explain Everything. Text by Michael Lemonick (editor), art direction by Jen Christiansen (Senior Graphics Editor), source: SDSS

The graphic uses the latest data from SDSS 12 and is an update to my Superclusters and Voids poster.

Michael Lemonick (editor) explains on the graphic:

“Regions of relatively empty space called cosmic voids are everywhere in the universe, and scientists believe studying their size, shape and spread across the cosmos could help them understand dark matter, dark energy and other big mysteries.

To use voids in this way, astronomers must map these regions in detail—a project that is just beginning.

Shown here are voids discovered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), along with a selection of 16 previously named voids. Scientists expect voids to be evenly distributed throughout space—the lack of voids in some regions on the globe simply reflects SDSS’s sky coverage.”

voids

Sofia Contarini, Alice Pisani, Nico Hamaus, Federico Marulli Lauro Moscardini & Marco Baldi (2023) Cosmological Constraints from the BOSS DR12 Void Size Function Astrophysical Journal 953:46.

Nico Hamaus, Alice Pisani, Jin-Ah Choi, Guilhem Lavaux, Benjamin D. Wandelt & Jochen Weller (2020) Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics 2020:023.

Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 12

constellation figures

Alan MacRobert (Sky & Telescope), Paulina Rowicka/Martin Krzywinski (revisions & Microscopium)

stars

Hoffleit & Warren Jr. (1991) The Bright Star Catalog, 5th Revised Edition (Preliminary Version).

cosmology

H0 = 67.4 km/(Mpc·s), Ωm = 0.315, Ωv = 0.685. Planck collaboration Planck 2018 results. VI. Cosmological parameters (2018).

Error in predictor variables

Tue 02-01-2024

It is the mark of an educated mind to rest satisfied with the degree of precision that the nature of the subject admits and not to seek exactness where only an approximation is possible. —Aristotle

In regression, the predictors are (typically) assumed to have known values that are measured without error.

Practically, however, predictors are often measured with error. This has a profound (but predictable) effect on the estimates of relationships among variables – the so-called “error in variables” problem.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Error in predictor variables. (read)

Error in measuring the predictors is often ignored. In this column, we discuss when ignoring this error is harmless and when it can lead to large bias that can leads us to miss important effects.

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2024) Points of significance: Error in predictor variables. Nat. Methods 20.

Background reading

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2015) Points of significance: Simple linear regression. Nat. Methods 12:999–1000.

Lever, J., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2016) Points of significance: Logistic regression. Nat. Methods 13:541–542 (2016).

Das, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Quantile regression. Nat. Methods 16:451–452.

Convolutional neural networks

Tue 02-01-2024

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry. – Richard Feynman

Following up on our Neural network primer column, this month we explore a different kind of network architecture: a convolutional network.

The convolutional network replaces the hidden layer of a fully connected network (FCN) with one or more filters (a kind of neuron that looks at the input within a narrow window).

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Convolutional neural networks. (read)

Even through convolutional networks have far fewer neurons that an FCN, they can perform substantially better for certain kinds of problems, such as sequence motif detection.

Derry, A., Krzywinski, M & Altman, N. (2023) Points of significance: Convolutional neural networks. Nature Methods 20:1269–1270.

Background reading

Derry, A., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2023) Points of significance: Neural network primer. Nature Methods 20:165–167.

Lever, J., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2016) Points of significance: Logistic regression. Nature Methods 13:541–542.

Neural network primer

Tue 10-01-2023

Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished. —Francis Bacon

In the first of a series of columns about neural networks, we introduce them with an intuitive approach that draws from our discussion about logistic regression.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Neural network primer. (read)

Simple neural networks are just a chain of linear regressions. And, although neural network models can get very complicated, their essence can be understood in terms of relatively basic principles.

We show how neural network components (neurons) can be arranged in the network and discuss the ideas of hidden layers. Using a simple data set we show how even a 3-neuron neural network can already model relatively complicated data patterns.

Derry, A., Krzywinski, M & Altman, N. (2023) Points of significance: Neural network primer. Nature Methods 20:165–167.

Background reading

Lever, J., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2016) Points of significance: Logistic regression. Nature Methods 13:541–542.

Cell Genomics cover

Mon 16-01-2023

Our cover on the 11 January 2023 Cell Genomics issue depicts the process of determining the parent-of-origin using differential methylation of alleles at imprinted regions (iDMRs) is imagined as a circuit.

Designed in collaboration with with Carlos Urzua.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Our Cell Genomics cover depicts parent-of-origin assignment as a circuit (volume 3, issue 1, 11 January 2023). (more)

Akbari, V. et al. Parent-of-origin detection and chromosome-scale haplotyping using long-read DNA methylation sequencing and Strand-seq (2023) Cell Genomics 3(1).

Browse my gallery of cover designs.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A catalogue of my journal and magazine cover designs. (more)

Science Advances cover

Thu 05-01-2023

My cover design on the 6 January 2023 Science Advances issue depicts DNA sequencing read translation in high-dimensional space. The image showss 672 bases of sequencing barcodes generated by three different single-cell RNA sequencing platforms were encoded as oriented triangles on the faces of three 7-dimensional cubes.

More details about the design.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
My Science Advances cover that encodes sequence onto hypercubes (volume 9, issue 1, 6 January 2023). (more)

Kijima, Y. et al. A universal sequencing read interpreter (2023) Science Advances 9.

Browse my gallery of cover designs.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A catalogue of my journal and magazine cover designs. (more)
Martin Krzywinski | contact | Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences CentreBC Cancer Research CenterBC CancerPHSA
Google whack “vicissitudinal corporealization”
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