Life without flap track fairings
Q: Some aeronautical engineers formed a grunge band called the Flap Track Fairings, and now FTF has become a sensation despite bad reviews from music critics. One of the reviewers writes, “The band is named for a part of an aircraft that is rarely noticed and serves no meaningful purpose. Perfect!” The engineers decide to pen a letter to the editor. What should they say?
Send a response of up to 250 words that someone in any field could understand to email@example.com by noon Eastern May 16 for a chance to have it published in the next issue.
From the April issue: “SEEING” DARK ENERGY
We asked you how Hubble could capture this invisible phenomenon. There was no winner this month, so we asked cosmologist John Mather of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to explain:
“Dark energy is invisible, and even giving it a name suggests more than we really know. It was discovered by measuring the brightness of distant supernovae (exploding stars used as standard candles) with the Hubble Space Telescope; they were about 20% fainter than expected. The geometrical explanation is that they are farther away than we thought based on the expanding universe idea that connects the redshift (apparent expansion velocity) with the distance, if we have the right history of the expansion rate. The next step is to say it would be matched by a universe that is speeding up instead of slowing down. Then we saw that the measurements fit perfectly with Einstein’s lambda constant, which he added to his equations to fit his intuition that the universe must be static, even though it isn’t. Curiously enough, the measurements of spots in the cosmic microwave background radiation gives another way to study this acceleration, since gravity acts on the dense regions and stops the expansion locally, leading to the formation of the galaxies. At first, that method agreed very well with the supernova method. But now, improved measurements of the expansion rate are beginning to disagree a little. Now the question for astronomers is does the real universe still match Einstein’s constant, or is the constant not a constant? Does the acceleration come from one or more physical processes we could understand more deeply, or is it just a mysterious constant of nature?”