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Tuesday, January 30, 2001 A Publication of the Newspeak Association Volume No. 66, Issue 3

Front Page
-Cleaning up snow: DPW gets to work
-Students gain new opportunity to stay informed
-Lecture series Engineers the future
-President's IQP Awards given out

-Police Log
-Off Campus News
-When family turns on TV, VCR or computer, AOL Time Warner is there
-Italian doctor says he plans human clone within next year
-Science has gone too far, says manifesto by world-religions expert
-Jokes and poems: E-mail brings more politics into the workplace

-Are you really YOU?: When do you know you are 'gay'?
-WPI students join in protests:"Justice" in DC
-So long WPI, and thanks for all the degrees
-Anger over Ashcroft
-The Little Things
-The Pit

Arts & Entertainment
-Scots on the Rocks
-The Blunder of Anime Editing
-WPI gaming gets due attention
-What's Happening

-Club Corner
-Crimson Clipboard

-Men's swim team deserves more credit
-Score Board
-Upcoming Contests

Lecture series Engineers the future

by Joshua Resnick
Class of 2001

Sponsored in part by the Lowell Institute, WPI and the Boston Museum of Science have teamed up for a lecture series entitled "Engineering the Future." The series aims at sharing what engineers do and how they do it with anyone who is interested. Last week's lecture held at the Boston Museum of Science was given by electrical engineering professor Fred J. Looft. The lecture entitled "It Is Rocket Science" focused on several joint projects between WPI and several major space science centers. Professor Looft discussed the MITRE/WPI GASCAN (Get Away Special Canister) project and then went on to describe several of the projects done through GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center) Project Program.

The GASCAN project was a highly successful project conducted between 1984 and 1990. For a small fortune anyone can loft any payload into space so long as it fits into a group of special compartments that rides in the shuttles payload bay. The payloads must be low maintenance and safe. These criteria imply that the payloads carry with them automatic controls, data acquisition, and hands-off experiments. WPI's payload included experiments to determine fluid volumes in micro-gravity, crystal growth experiments, film fogging experiments, and micro-gravity acceleration experiments. All experiments performed well and generated meaningful data.

In 1996 WPI established a project program with GSFC. The mission of the Goddard center is the observation of Earth's environment from space in addition to solar and astronomical observations. WPI projects have worked with GOES, Chandra, Hubble, NGST, TRMM, MARS, and support missions. Consider for a moment a few of these projects. GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite), besides being just about the finest fleet of geostationary magnetometers anyone could want, the GOES project is also responsible for accurate weather information. The NGST (Next Generation Space Telescope) promises to succeed the Hubble and help understand the fundamental processes of cosmology (read: raise more questions). The TRMM (Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission) measures surfaces moisture levels. Scientists hope to gain insight into how rainfall exchanges heat energy and how deforestation is affecting this climatic process. Finally, Chandra, the first truly high-resolution X-Ray observatory, and the Hubble observatory represent pinnacles of pure science space missions. Taken together, these projects are of great importance for their practical value and theoretical potential.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of engineering Professor Looft described was the CADR (Continuous Adiabatic Demagnetization Refrigerator). Modern X-Ray spectrometers and imagers require very low temperatures to minimize thermal noise from the detector. It is often impractical and always expensive to loft large payloads of liquid coolants such as liquid helium to keep detectors cold. Ultimately these refrigeration systems should be solid state, transferring heat from the detector directly into space as radiant energy. The first step in this direction is the adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator. Certain salts have free paramagnetic ions that can be uniformly aligned by applied magnetic fields. When no field is present, these ions are aligned randomly by thermal energy. Therefore, energy stored within the salt crystal can be transferred into random ion alignment if the ions are aligned by a magnetic field and the field intensity is slowly reduced. It is possible to make a heat pump using these paramagnetic salts, super-conducting magnets, heat switches, and a heat sink. The CADR project successfully built a three stage CADR that delivers heat energy to a heat sink of liquefied gas. The core temperature of such a system is much colder than the coolant, such as liquid neon, in the final heat sink stage. More information about such refrigerators is available at:

The GSFC Project Program exemplifies WPI's long tradition of serious involvement in space science. Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocketry, began this tradition in 1908 when he attended WPI as an undergraduate. It has been continued by numerous projects such as those described in the article. Finally, in 1995, WPI professor Al Sacco flew aboard space shuttle Columbia as a payload specialist for a Microgravity Laboratory mission. For more information about space science visit:

This week's lecture will be held on Wednesday, January 31 at the Boston Museum of Science at 7:00 pm. The speaker will be Kenneth Stafford, and the lecture is entitled: Up Close and Personal With a Robot Named Gompei. Transportation will be provided by WPI, contact Jenn Parissi at 831-6049 or by email at for more information.

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