Thursday, December 17, 2009

Random Wikiness

When I am looking for inspiration in my writing - or when I am bored beyond redemption - I visit Wikipedia and use the Random Article function. Located on the left sidebar of the main Wikipedia page, clicking the Random Article link sends the visitor into unknown and often fascinating journeys into the accumulated knowledge hundreds of thousands of Wikipedians have generated.

I first found myself on a Wikipedia page about Erprobungskommando, which was a Luftwaffe unit responsible for testing experimental aircraft and weapon designs under operational conditions. Among the more noteworthy devices that the various Erprobungskommando units tested were the Messerschmitt Me 163 rocket fighter and the Messerschmitt Me 262 which was one of the most advanced German aviation designs that reached the operational stage before the end of the Second World War.

My next destination was to a page describing the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL), which is located on the campus of Michigan State University, my wife's first alma mater. Scientists at the NSCL investigate properties of rare isotopes and nuclear reactions, simulating the reactions that take place in stars, novae, and supernovae. However, in my many trips to Lansing in the 1980s to visit the beautiful young woman who later became my wife, the only isotopes I investigated were those that happened to be inside a tequila bottle.

For some reason my random searches kept directing me to pages with technical themes, and I next learned about the Boeing X-37. This is an experimental spaceplane that flew its first flight on April 7, 2006 after being delivered to the edge of space by a White Knight that lifted off from Edwards Air Force Base. This vehicle, part of a classified NASA project, has the potential to become the first operational U.S. military spaceplane, and the X-37 is expected to reach a top velocity up to Mach 25.

But I bet my 1995 Hyundai can kick its arse off the line at a red light, since where the hell are you going to find a gas station that carries the X-37's special fuel blend of hydrogen peroxide and JP-8 around here, Bubba? I think not.


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