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Felix Baumgartner Makes Record-Breaking Jump From The Edge Of Space

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Felix Baumgartner prepares to make a 96,000 foot test jump. Photo:

After 5 years of preparation, a lawsuit, a 96,000-foot test jump, and wind that twice delayed his attempt, Felix Baumgartner finally made the highest and fastest jump in history yesterday. “I know the whole world is watching, and I wish the whole world could see what I see,” he said as he stood 128,100 feet above the Earth. “Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are.” Then he jumped.

Baumgartner, 43, was delivered to those great heights by 40-acre, ultrathin plastic balloon—the largest ever made for a manned flight—attached to a bell-shaped, pressurized capsule that contained 10 hours of oxygen in the event that he had to ride it back down. The previous record holder, Joe Kittinger (who jumped from 102,800 feet as part of Project Manhigh in 1960) served as CAPCOM, or capsule communicator, and guided Baumgartner through the mission.

When he leapt, Baumgartner—who was already an accomplished BASE jumper—plummeted in a free fall for 4 minutes and 20 seconds. He fell 119,846 feet, reaching 833.9mph (Mach 1.24) and breaking the speed of sound, before deploying his parachute.

Though the jump was a success, it was by no means picture perfect: On the ascent, Baumgartner reported a problem with the device that heated his faceplate, which caused it to fog up. During the freefall, his faceplate fogged, his leg swelled up, and he went into a flat spin and barrel roll. “There was a period of time I thought I was in real trouble,” he said at the press conference after the jump. He had the option to use his emergency drogue chute, which would have stabilized him. “I knew if I pushed that button I would not go supersonic. I somehow have to make that call: Do I push that button and stay alive, or do I push through and break the speed of sound?" The drogue would have deployed automatically if the sensors on his suit registered over 3.5 Gs for more than 6 seconds, but Baumgartner was able to quickly stablize himself and maneuver into position to break the speed of sound.

Baumgartner broke three records on the Red Bull-sponsored mission: fastest free fall, highest manned balloon flight, and highest freefall (Kittinger’s record for longest freefall—4 minutes, 36 seconds—still stands). Scientists will use the data to help future pilots, astronauts and space travelers survive. But Baumgartner said that as he stood on top of the world, he wasn't thinking about any of that. “You become so humble," he said. "You do not think about breaking records anymore. You do not think about gaining scientific data. The only thing you want is you want to come back alive.”

UPDATE: Now you can see part of Baumgartner's jump from his point of view—check out the video from the headcam he wore during the jump:

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Scientists Analyze the Moods of 90,000 Songs Based on Music and Lyrics
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Based on the first few seconds of a song, the part before the vocalist starts singing, you can judge whether the lyrics are more likely to detail a night of partying or a devastating breakup. The fact that musical structures can evoke certain emotions just as strongly as words can isn't a secret. But scientists now have a better idea of which language gets paired with which chords, according to their paper published in Royal Society Open Science.

For their study, researchers from Indiana University downloaded 90,000 songs from Ultimate Guitar, a site that allows users to upload the lyrics and chords from popular songs for musicians to reference. Next, they pulled data from labMT, which crowd-sources the emotional valence (positive and negative connotations) of words. They referred to the music recognition site Gracenote to determine where and when each song was produced.

Their new method for analyzing the relationship between music and lyrics confirmed long-held knowledge: that minor chords are associated with sad feelings and major chords with happy ones. Words with a negative valence, like "pain," "die," and "lost," are all more likely to fall on the minor side of the spectrum.

But outside of major chords, the researchers found that high-valence words tend to show up in a surprising place: seventh chords. These chords contain four notes at a time and can be played in both the major and minor keys. The lyrics associated with these chords are positive all around, but their mood varies slightly depending on the type of seventh. Dominant seventh chords, for example, are often paired with terms of endearment, like "baby", or "sweet." With minor seventh chords, the words "life" and "god" are overrepresented.

Using their data, the researchers also looked at how lyric and chord valence differs between genres, regions, and eras. Sixties rock ranks highest in terms of positivity while punk and metal occupy the bottom slots. As for geography, Scandinavia (think Norwegian death metal) produces the dreariest music while songs from Asia (like K-Pop) are the happiest. So if you're looking for a song to boost your mood, we suggest digging up some Asian rock music from the 1960s, and make sure it's heavy on the seventh chords.

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Space
Watch NASA Test Its New Supersonic Parachute at 1300 Miles Per Hour
NASA/JPL, YouTube
NASA/JPL, YouTube

NASA’s latest Mars rover is headed for the Red Planet in 2020, and the space agency is working hard to make sure its $2.1 billion project will land safely. When the Mars 2020 rover enters the Martian atmosphere, it’ll be assisted by a brand-new, advanced parachute system that’s a joy to watch in action, as a new video of its first test flight shows.

Spotted by Gizmodo, the video was taken in early October at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Narrated by the technical lead from the test flight, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Ian Clark, the two-and-a-half-minute video shows the 30-mile-high launch of a rocket carrying the new, supersonic parachute.

The 100-pound, Kevlar-based parachute unfurls at almost 100 miles an hour, and when it is entirely deployed, it’s moving at almost 1300 miles an hour—1.8 times the speed of sound. To be able to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere, the parachute generates almost 35,000 pounds of drag force.

For those of us watching at home, the video is just eye candy. But NASA researchers use it to monitor how the fabric moves, how the parachute unfurls and inflates, and how uniform the motion is, checking to see that everything is in order. The test flight ends with the payload crashing into the ocean, but it won’t be the last time the parachute takes flight in the coming months. More test flights are scheduled to ensure that everything is ready for liftoff in 2020.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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