Author Archives: John F. Lindner

About John F. Lindner

John F. Lindner was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and educated at the University of Vermont and Caltech. He is an emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at The College of Wooster and a visiting professor at North Carolina State University. He has enjoyed multiple yearlong sabbaticals at Georgia Tech, University of Portland, University of Hawai'i, and NCSU. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, celestial mechanics, and neural networks.

Diffraction Limited

Yesterday, Webb optical telescope element manager Lee Feinberg said “We made the right telescope” while reporting that its focus has reached the  diffraction limit of 0.7 arcseconds at the infrared wavelength of 2 microns. (For comparison, from Earth, Luna subtends … Continue reading

Posted in Astronomy, Physics, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Shackleton’s Valiant Voyage

Although a child of the Apollo program, I was gripped by Alfred Lansing‘s 1962 book Shackleton’s Valiant Voyage, a great tale of endurance, leadership, and survival and an inspiring true story from the heroic age of Antarctic exploration. In the 1910s, shortly after … Continue reading

Posted in Adventure | Leave a comment

Halo Orbit

The Webb telescope has fully deployed and arrived at its halo orbit about the second Earth-Sun Lagrange point. But how can it orbit an empty point in space? In the accompanying animated sequence of inertial space diagrams, a star (red) … Continue reading

Posted in Astronomy, Physics, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Merlin & Raptor

The turbopump is the heart of most liquid-fueled rocket engines. Gas generator engines tap off and burn a little propellant to drive a turbine, which turns a centrifugal pump, which rapidly pushes the fuel and oxidizer to the combustion chamber, after the cryogenic … Continue reading

Posted in Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Astronomy Christmas Gift

I awoke early this Christmas morning to watch the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. I remember the genesis of the telescope a quarter of a century ago when it was called the Next Generation Space Telescope. (The … Continue reading

Posted in Astronomy, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Burning Plasma

In August I received an urgent email from my brother with the title “Fusion”. The National Ignition Facility (NIF) had created a burning plasma — a star on Earth — a major milestone on the long road to controlled nuclear fusion. … Continue reading

Posted in Physics | Leave a comment

Part Science, Part Art, Part Luck

Launched just last month, Lucy will be the first spacecraft to visit Jupiter’s trojan asteroids, rocky swarms that orbit about 60 degrees ahead and behind Jupiter in its orbit. Hal Levison, Lucy’s Principal Investigator, has described Lucy’s complicated trajectory, which includes an Earth … Continue reading

Posted in Astronomy, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

4D Unknot

In four dimensions, you can’t tie your shoelaces — because 4D knots don’t work. Any 1D curve in 4D space can be continuously deformed to the unit circle, which is an unknot. The looping animation below demonstrates how to undo a … Continue reading

Posted in Mathematics | 1 Comment

Punch it, SpaceX

She’s not looking up at the sky; she’s looking down at it. I am excitedly following the Inspiration4 spaceflight and its diverse all-private crew of Jared Isaacman, Sian Proctor, Christopher Sembroski, and Hayley Arceneaux. Orbiting higher than any humans this millennium and carrying … Continue reading

Posted in Adventure, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Dandelin Spheres

In 1609, Johannes Kepler first described how planets orbit the sun in ellipses. Kepler understood an ellipse as both the locus of points whose distances from two foci sum to a constant and as the intersection of a cone and a plane. But how … Continue reading

Posted in Astronomy, Mathematics, Physics | Leave a comment