5 Comics to Read After You’ve Seen ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

5 Comics to Read After You’ve Seen ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

Thor: Ragnarok has it all: sibling rivalry, superhero battles, the final fate of mythical realms, and the Hulk dressed up like a gladiator. It’s the kind of movie designed to have you exiting the theater wanting more—and that’s where we come in. Or, more accurately, that’s where the following five comic runs come in. Each one of the suggestions below fills in a Thor need you didn’t even know you had, and gives you even more of the grandiose melodrama and unapologetic fun that makes Taika Waititi’s movie a mighty Marvel masterpiece. Get ready to smash your way through these comics at lightning-fast speed. (See what we did there? Oh, you did? OK, cool. Read on.)

The Mighty Thor #337-382

If Ragnarok leaves you suddenly more interested in the god of thunder than you’d ever been before—not to mention wanting to read more about Hela, Skurge, Surtur, or the dysfunctional relationship between Thor and Loki—then this four-year run by comic book legend Walter Simonson is the motherlode. Written and drawn by Simonson (with art in some issues by the equally legendary Sal Buscema), these 1980s comic book classics were the inspiration for almost everything you liked in the movie, on the Thor side at least. And there’s far more to discover here, including Hela’s ultimate revenge on Thor: taking away his ability to die. It’s really not what you think, and it just might be the end of the man with the Mjölnir altogether. Genuinely great stuff, and some of the best superhero comics ever made.

How to read it: Available digitally and in the Thor by Walter Simonson print collections.

The Incredible Hulk Vol. 2 #92-105

In addition to Walter Simonson’s Thor comics, Ragnarok also lifts heavily from the “Planet Hulk” storyline, which was the first time the Hulk crashed on Sakaar and found himself getting into gladiator cosplay. Played far less for laughs than in the movie, this storyline by Greg Pak, Carlo Pagulayan, and other artists is regarded by many as one of the greatest Hulk stories ever—and given that it includes love, death, and the Hulk literally becoming the ruler of an entire planet, it’s not hard to see why. Spoilers: Prepare to come away from it fully believing that Tony Stark is far more of a jerk than you’d ever previously believed.

How to read it: Available digitally and in the Hulk: Planet Hulk Omnibus print edition.

Thor Vol. 3 #1-12, #600-603, Thor Giant-Sized Finale #1

Ignore the confusing numbering above—#600 is actually the thirteenth issue, and it’s best not to think too hard about what was going on there—and dig this glimpse at what might be awaiting the cinematic Asgard. In this run, J. Michael Straczynski, Oliver Coipel, and Marko Djurdjevic tell the story of what happens after Ragnarok (or, at least, a Ragnarok) and detail how Asgard rebuilds itself on Earth, with all the culture shock that follows. The basis for contemporary Thor comics, including the wonderfully fun and highly recommended current run by writer Jason Aaron, is here, and don’t be too surprised if it ends up being the basis for the future direction of Thor’s onscreen adventures, as well.

How to read it: Available digitally and in the Thor by J. Michael Straczynski print collections.

Loki, Agent of Asgard #1-17

While the comic book Loki may not have the charm of Tom Hiddleston, he’s arguably a more interesting and morally ambiguous character—especially in this recent series by Al Ewing and Lee Garbett, in which an attempt to work as a good guy for once is complicated by a world that refuses to believe he’s for real, and a time-displaced self who’s determined to ensure that he stays exactly as bad as everyone expects. A Loki comic might be the last place you’d expect to find meditations on whether or not we can ever escape expectations or our past behaviors and change, but this is the god of tricks. It’s only fitting that this series confounds expectations and ends up being surprisingly affecting in the process.

How to read it: Available digitally and in print collections.

Contest of Champions #1-10

Meanwhile, after getting a chance to see Jeff Goldblum’s hypnotically immoral Grandmaster, it’s almost impossible that you won’t want to read more about him. This 2015 series—again written by Loki‘s Al Ewing with art by Paco Medina—is likely to fulfill your every need. In Contest of Champions the Grandmaster, an evil intelligent Hulk called the Maestro, and a pacifist British version of the Punisher (no, really) get mixed up in a reality-bending game where hero fights hero and villain fights villain—all for the entertainment of cosmic entities with a gambling problem or two. You haven’t lived until you’ve found yourself rooting for the British Punisher to defeat the psychopathic Punisher from the future while wondering if the cat is going to make it out alright.

How to read it: Available digitally and in print collections.

More Thor

  • Angela Watercutter’s review of Thor: Ragnarok
  • Director Taika Waititi talks about suiting up to play Korg in his new movie
  • Using physics to measure how hulky the Hulk is in Thor: Ragnarok

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/thor-ragnarok-comics-reading-list/

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The Astounding Engineering Behind the World’s Largest Optical Telescope

The Astounding Engineering Behind the World’s Largest Optical Telescope

It’s easy to miss the mirror forge at the University of Arizona. While sizable, the Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory sits in the shadow of the university’s much larger 56,000-seat football stadium. Even its most distinctive feature—an octagonal concrete prominence emblazoned with the school’s logo—looks like an architectural feature for the arena next door. But it’s that tower that houses some of the facility’s most critical equipment.

Inside the lab, a narrow, fluorescent-green staircase spirals up five floors to the tower’s entrance. I’m a few steps from the top when lab manager Stuart Weinberger asks, for the third time, whether I have removed everything from my pockets.

“Glasses, keys, pens. Anything that could fall and damage the mirror,” he says. Weinberger has agreed to escort me to the top of the tower and onto a catwalk some 80 feet above a mirror 27.5 feet in diameter. A mirror that has already taken nearly six years—and $20 million—to make. “Most people in the lab aren’t even allowed up here,” he says. That explains Weinberger’s nervousness about the contents of my pockets (which are really, truly empty), and why he has tethered my camera to my wrist with a short line of paracord.

The view of GMT’s second mirror segment from the top of the Mirror Lab’s test tower.

Robbie Gonzalez

The disc of glass below me is one of seven mirrors that will eventually comprise the Giant Magellan Telescope. When it turns on in full force in 2025, at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the GMT will be the largest optical observatory in the world. Its mirrors, each of which weighs roughly 17 tons, will be arranged in a flower-petal configuration, with six asymmetrical mirrors surrounding a central, symmetrical segment. Together, they will span some 80 feet (twice the diameter of existing optical telescopes) and possess a total area of 4,000 square feet (about the area of two singles tennis courts). With a resolving power 10 times that of the Hubble Space Telescope, the GMT is designed to capture and focus photons emanating from galaxies and black holes at the fringes of the universe, study the formation of stars and the worlds that orbit them, and search for traces of life in the atmospheres of habitable-zone planets.

But before GMT can do any of that, the scientists and engineers at the Mirror Lab need to manufacture these colossal slabs of glass. And doing so, as you might expect, is a truly monumental task.

“These are some of the most difficult mirrors ever manufactured. They’re off-axis, they’re aspheric, very large and ultra precise,” Mirror Lab associate director Jeff Kingsley tells me after I descend from the tower. “Our goal is to get to a point where it takes four years, start to finish, for each mirror.” The first mirror, though, took close to a decade to produce. The second segment—the one Weinberger just risked me destroying—started production in January of 2012 and won’t be finished until 2019.

Mirror Lab staff review the glass placed in the mold, checking for space for the last few pieces of glass for GMT mirror 5.

Giant Magellan Telescope /GMTO Corporation

The Mirror Lab currently houses four GMT mirrors in various stages of development, with the latest beginning its arduous production process just this week. The first step is to cast the mirror by loading 20 tons of E6 borosilicate glass blocks into an immense, rotating furnace—by hand. Inside, 1,700 hexagonal pillars form a honeycomb-shaped mold that itself took six months to build. Over the course of several days, the furnace heats to over 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit and revs up to just shy of five rotations per minute. The glass, now liquefied, flows into the negative space of the honeycomb, while the rotation forces the molten sludge to the edges of the mold, giving the mirror its concave shape.

It takes three months for the furnace to return to room temperature. Only then can lab staff remove the mirror, stand it upright, and, with the help of a jury-rigged elevator system, give the thing a high-pressure bath. “We actually blast it with a car-wash wand,” Kingsley says. “We had a grad student from the university’s mining department come and optimize it for cleaning the glass.”

From there, lab members flip the mirror face-down onto a giant, air-powered hovercraft and transfer it to the facility’s central chamber, which houses two mirror-polishing stations. These remove about half a centimeter of glass from the back of the cast. Once it’s smooth, Mirror Lab staff secure 165 load-spreaders to the mirror’s backside—where the actuators will attach when the scope is finally erected in the Atacama Desert.

The Large Optical Generator removes imperfections from the back of the mirror.

Robbie Gonzalez

Then the lab members flip the mirror face-up—and the difficult work begins.

The GMT’s six outer mirror segments—the petals on the flower, if you will—are all irregularly shaped. Their contours are topographically identical to a Pringle potato chip, albeit far more subtle; the curves are impossible to spot with the naked eye, but they make shaping the mirror a royal pain in the ass.

“We want the telescope to be limited by fundamental physics—the wavelength of light and the diameter of the mirror—not the irregularities on the mirror’s surface,” says optical scientist Buddy Martin, who oversees the lab’s grinding and polishing operations. By “irregularities,” he’s talking about defects bigger than 20 nanometers—about the size of a small virus. But when the mirror comes out of the mold, its imperfections can measure a millimeter or more.

An artist’s rendering of the completed Giant Magellan Telescope.

Giant Magellan Telescope/GMTO Corporation

A few passes of coarse machining can whittle those imperfections to a scale of 20 microns—about a quarter of the width of a human hair. But those errors are still 1,000 times larger than they should be.

It’s here that the Mirror Lab’s tower comes into play. At its peak, mounted to the same scaffolding I just stood on, is a suite of lasers and interferometers that act like a tape measure for those sub-micron imperfections. The measuring process is so sensitive, the mirror has to sit on a pneumatic system to decouple it from the building’s movement. “There’s vibrations from the football stadium, traffic on adjacent streets, helicopters on their way to the hospital,” Martin says. “You can’t feel them standing here, but the measurements are very sensitive.”

The sensors in the test tower create a contour map of the mirror’s surface. Feed that map into the polishing machines, and they’ll remove all the mirror’s high spots. But not all at once. For more than a year, the mirror will move back and forth between the test tower and the polishing stations, until it’s been smoothed within a millionth-of-an-inch of its life.

Only then is a mirror permitted to depart the lab. The first of GMT’s segments left the facility in September, to make room for its incoming siblings. Today, it sits in a temporary storage facility near Tucson International Airport, awaiting shipment to the Atacama desert, where a 100-nanometer-thin coating of aluminum will complete its long transformation from a 20-ton heap of glass chunks into a cosmos-combing reflective surface.

“You know, you could argue that we don’t even make mirrors here,” Martin says. “All we make are big pieces of glass.”

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/the-astounding-engineering-behind-the-giant-magellan-telescope/

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You Too Can Fly a Spacecraft Around Mars—With Physics!

You Too Can Fly a Spacecraft Around Mars—With Physics!

Recently, I gave my introductory physics course a fairly standard problem, based on the Matter and Interactions textbook. I’ve modified the question, but it goes something like this:

You have a spacecraft with a mass of 100 kilograms, moving near Mars (the planet, not the candy bar). At one point, it is traveling at a speed of 1,100 m/s, flying 5 x 107 meters from the center of the planet. At a later point, the spacecraft reaches a new altitude, flying 8.6 x 107 meters from the center. What is the speed of the spacecraft at this second position? Oh, the mass of Mars is 6.39 x 1023 kilograms.

Here’s a diagram showing the spacecraft at the two different positions (along with a vector indicating the velocity).

I suppose I should state that the only significant interaction is between the spacecraft and Mars (ignore the sun).

Common Student Solution

So, how do you solve this problem? A common approach goes something like this: First, you can calculate the gravitational force on the spacecraft since you know the mass of Mars, the mass of the spacecraft, and the distance between them. This means that you can use the inverse-square law version of gravity.

With this force, you could possibly use the momentum principle to find the new momentum—the product of mass and velocity—at some later time.

But of course this method has some problems. First off, no one knows how long it took the spacecraft to fly from point 1 to point 2. You don’t have a time interval to plug into the momentum update formula. Oh sure, there are ways you could find it, but it wouldn’t be super easy. That leads to problem number two: The gravitational force isn’t constant. As the spacecraft moves further away from Mars, the gravitational force decreases in magnitude. On top of that, the gravitational force is always directed towards the center of Mars such that this force changes direction too.

Using the momentum principle to solve this problem is mostly just a dead end. It won’t work.

Using the Work-Energy Principle

The simplest way to solve this problem is to use the work-energy principle. This says that if the work done on a system is zero, then the change in energy for that system must also be zero. With a system consisting of both the planet and the spacecraft, there will only be two energy terms. The craft will have kinetic energy and there will be a gravitational potential energy. These two terms are calculated as:

Since the change in energy (change in potential plus change in kinetic) is zero, I can use the change in potential from position 1 to 2 and the kinetic energy at 1 to find the kinetic energy at point 2.

Yes, I know that’s more math than you were expecting. But I wanted to show that the solution to this problem was possible without too much effort. Putting in values for the starting velocity and the two positions, I get a velocity of 707 m/s. But notice that this is just the magnitude of the velocity, not the vector value of the velocity at point 2—but that’s all the work-energy principle gives you. It is just a scalar relationship with no vectors involved.

Now for a follow-up question or two. What if I have the same situation but with one variation? Suppose the spacecraft starts off at point 1 with the same initial speed—but it is traveling at an angle away from the planet instead of straight up? And what if the spacecraft is moving directly away from the planet instead of sort of orbiting it?

Perhaps you already know the answer to these questions—that would be great! However, I will solve the problem in a third way so the solution will be easier to see.

Using the Momentum Principle

Yes, yes—I am going to use the momentum principle, even though I said that would be a bad idea. It was a bad idea because the force changed in both magnitude and direction during the motion of the spacecraft. But what if I only looked at a very short time interval instead of the whole trip?

If this interval was short enough then the change in the gravitational force would also be small. In that case I could approximate this gravitational force as constant—and that makes this a solvable problem. Oh wait, but I only did it for a short time interval. So in order to get the whole motion I will need to do many calculations over many short time intervals. And this is exactly what happens in a numerical calculation.

I won’t go through all the details, but here is a general outline of this numerical solution. For each small time step, I will do the following:

  • Calculate the vector from the planet to the spacecraft (I will call this “r”)
  • Update the momentum of the spacecraft (assuming the planet is stationary)
  • Update the position of the spacecraft
  • Update the time

That’s it. I can just keep doing these steps until the spacecraft ends up at the second position. Here is that code. I’m going to start off with the same situation as the first question just to make sure the answers match up. Reminder—press the “play” to run the code and the “pencil” to look at or edit the code.

You probably can’t see it, but I also printed the final position and velocity. Yup—I get the same value as using the work energy principle.

Now it’s your turn. You need to modify the code so that the spacecraft starts off moving away and to the left from the planet. Try putting an initial angle of 30 degrees (this is in line 24 in the code above). Don’t worry, you won’t break anything. Just to be clear—if you change the starting velocity (vector) of the spacecraft, it will end up at a different location. But what will be the speed when it reaches the same distance of 8 x 107 meters? Oh, you might need to scroll down in the output window to see the print out of the speed.

But wait! Here’s something else that you might find useful. What if I plot the speed (magnitude of velocity) as a function of distance from Mars? This is what it looks like for the first case in which the spacecraft starts off moving perpendicular to the direction towards Mars (the first case). Also, you can see the code for this plot right here.

From this graph, you can see that as the craft gets farther from Mars, it goes at a slower speed. Now for the secret. If you made this graph for the second case (with the spacecraft angled away from Mars), you get the exact same plot. Perhaps you don’t believe me—why should you? In that case you can go to the code and change the initial velocity yourself.

It doesn’t matter which way the spacecraft is traveling. As long as it starts with the same speed at the same distance (not even the same location), you will get the exact same plot. Why? It’s because that plot essentially comes from the work-energy principle, and this is a scalar equation. It doesn’t depend on direction, so you don’t get a direction.

But in the end, a problem like this is much easier to solve with the work-energy principle. Take note, students.

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/you-too-can-fly-a-spacecraft-around-marswith-physics/

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Tesla Misses Model 3 Goals, We Go Inside Waymo’s Self-Driving Car Castle, and More This Week in Car News

Tesla Misses Model 3 Goals, We Go Inside Waymo’s Self-Driving Car Castle, and More This Week in Car News

Late last month, dozens of automotive and tech journalists across the country got the digital equivalent of a golden ticket in their inbox: an invitation from Waymo to go “Behind Castle Walls.” This week, Alex joined that lucky cohort on an oh-so-rare tour of the abandoned Air Force base where engineers at Waymo (formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project) subject their robocars to crafty tests, all in the name of safer driving. Just like Charlie Bucket’s exploration of the chocolate factory, this tour was revealing not just for what he saw—but in what Willy Wonka Waymo wouldn’t tell him.

Meanwhile, Jack took a look into the problems that have kept Tesla from producing as many Model 3 cars as Elon Musk had promised, and I got an exclusive sneak preview of how urban designers think US cities should reshape themselves to welcome self-driving cars as well as people.

It’s been a week of revelations, so let’s get you caught up.


Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • Roundabouts, piles of rocks, sudden volleys of cardboard boxes—such are the obstacles Waymo’s self-driving cars face inside the company’s secretive California testing ground. Alex got a look at the passenger experience Waymo has planned, once it decides to finally let members of the public inside these things. But company still won’t answer questions a bunch of questions: When will that be? Where? And how it Waymo going to make money off these things, anyway?
  • Tesla’s also facing a ton of questions, after missing its quarterly production goals by a cool 80 percent. But on an earnings call this week, CEO Elon Musk pledged to right the semiautonomous ship/car. Jack asks: How patient will shareholders be?
  • OK, so this self-driving bus concept from design studio Teague is a well-researched solution in need of a problem. But it’s also an excellent litmus test for autonomous tech. Once parents are sticking their kids in driverless buses, you’ll know the age of autonomy has arrived.
  • Urban planners worry autonomous vehicles might make life worse, pushing cities to double-down on car travel instead of environmentally friendly, active transportation alternatives, like biking and walking. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Cities are already starting to think about creating streets for self-driving cars—but mostly, for the humans who will use them.
  • Figuring out how AVs will interact with their environments is hard in the US. It’s even harder in developing countries, which have their own driving cultures and conventions. Kaveh Waddell talks to autonomy experts about what will need to happen before driverless cars can tackle a city like Beirut, Lebanon, where he lives.

Spooky Halloween Costume of the Week

This week, transportation nerds gathered at the National Association of City Transportation Officials conference in Chicago, and they did not let Halloween go to waste. Paul Supawanich, a transportation planner with the public transit software startup Remix, costumed himself as the more frightening transportation specter of all: a ticket vending machine that doesn’t give change.

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet.

  • After this week’s terror attack in New York City, CityLab’s Laura Bliss argues vehicular attacks aren’t inevitable. Structures like barricades, speed humps, and narrowed lanes could help protect urban pedestrians and cyclists when the worst happens—and on regular days, too.
  • As the first barrage of autonomous vehicle legislation wends its way through Congress, the National Highway Safety Administration says it’s looking for help tracking down the “unnecessary regulatory barriers” standing in the way of this tech’s development.
  • NHTSA might also nix proposed regulations requiring automakers to equip their vehicles with tech that would help them “talk” to each other. Safety advocates say this will help prevent road deaths, even before self-driving arrives, but others complain it’s too expensive, and that cheaper options are in the pipeline.
  • As China’s electric vehicle market gets a kick in the bumper from the country’s regulators, entrepreneurs are trying to figure out how to recycle batteries. It could be a $4.68 billion market by 2023, assuming these folks can figure out how to keep waste treatment and other costs down.

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canon.

Speaking of touring chocolate factories: Check out this vintage Alex Davies peek behind the scenes at General Motors, and its race to build a mass market electric car. OK, it’s from February 2016. But that feels like an eternity ago, right?

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/tesla-model-3-waymo-castle-roundup/

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