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"Do we make an omlette?" The Geeks at the Gates on the Radio - 10th September Shownotes

It's a mix of valiant battle and technical difficulties again this week, as Liz, Hat, Alice and Regie (aka The DM, Grit, Nyx and Emanon respectively) continue their battle with the Harpy and the Manticore as their Dungeons and Dragons campaign continues.

We also had some science stories:

Moon Booster test

As a keen rocketeer I do love a big explodey thing, and if NASA is getting people back to the moon, Mars, or anywhere other than Low Earth Orbit ever, they need an FBR (Flippin' Big Rocket) to get them there.

They don't really have the capability to make more Saturn Vs - the rocket that took men to The Moon back in the day, so they're developing something else. The video above is a test of one of the solid rocket boosters (SRBs) that will speed NASA crews on their way.

In service each "Space Launch System" (SLS - NASA does love to use initials...) rocket will have two of these solid rocket boosters to power the spacecraft through the thick lower part of the Earth's atmosphere and build up the speed needed to get out of Low Earth Orbit. The booster burns a solid chemical propellant called polybutadiene acrylonitrile, and it's more environmentally friendly than you'd think.

These boosters are the most powerful solid rocket motors ever built. NASA intends to use them to get back to the Moon by 2024. I think that's optimistic, but then people thought Apollo wouldn't get to the moon by 1969, and it did, so we'll be happy to be wrong.

The test was carried out in Utah at Northrop Grumman's test site near the town of Promentary.

Black turbine blade cuts bird deaths

One of the things that, as geeks, we love about science and engineering is that sometimes the solution to a problem can be not just astonishingly simple, but also astonishingly cheap and astonishingly easy. This is one such example.

Love 'em or hate 'em, we need wind turbines. The electricity they generate is becoming increasingly important. But birds being killed when they strike wind turbines is a more serious problem than you might think. It's bad enough to be showering the land around wind turbines with shredded seagulls, but because on shore wind farms are generally situated in open, rural areas - on moors and dales - there's a good chance that the birds that will be killed are going to be rare.

As an example, around the Smøla wind-power plant in Norway between six and nine White Tailed Eagles like this one, filmed off the Isle of Mull are killed by the

turbines. Strikes like this are a problem for two reasons. White Tailed Eagles are making a comeback, but they're still very rare indeed. They're also huge - and while most of the birds hitting turbines are smaller they can still do considerable damage. This is potentially costly in terms of lost production as well as parts and labour.

Research has found a pretty effective solution. If you paint one blade black you can cut bird strikes by as much as seventy percent.

Simple as that. It appears that this reduces the effect of "motion smear" (the effect where rapidly spinning blades become less visible - think of the propellers on an aircraft* or your desk fan) making danger easier for birds to see. It really is that easy.

The R.S.P.B. has welcomed this development, although it notes that a better solution is to not put turbines where rare birds are likely to fly into them, which would, of course, also be a simple solution.

The Geeks at the Gates is a copyright feature from Venus Rising Media featuring music by Steven G. Saunders. All rights are reserved. NASA rocket booster video shared from the Cnet YouTube channel. White Tailed Eagle video shared from the BrianPWildlife YouTube channel. Copyright is acknowledged remains with the respective owners, no infringement is intended.