Archive for the ‘COOL STUFF’ Category

Carter’s life was a difficult one. Professionally, as a working class scholar, he relied on the money he got from the dig’s sponsor Lord Carnarvon. He was ill-fed and ill-clad much of the time and pushed himself very hard. In the years between the end of the excavation in 1932 and his death in 1939 he was not able to publish much of what he’d learned.

tut chariot.jpgSo, as famous as Tut became, and the material remains in the king’s tomb, Carter’s research languished. Most scholars in the field never saw more than a scant percentage of Carter’s work and the public at large was exposed to much less than that. Now, 3,500 note cards, over 1,000 photographs, 60 maps and much else besides is available, in addition to photos of the 5,400 grave objects, to anyone with an Internet connection.

The astonishing thing, as the Guardian points out, is the fact that Dr. Jaromir Malek and his staff at the Griffith did this in their spare time. Carter’s a hero but no less so are the Griffith staff. They scanned the paper itself in image files and uploaded transcribed and searchable versions of all writing.

Tutankhamun mask photo by Flydime | Chariot photo by Steve Parker

Watch a Giant Robot Arm Simulate a Ferrari Test Drive

Watch a Giant Robot Arm Simulate a Ferrari Test Drive

Driving simulators can give you pedals to mash and wheels to steer, but there’s something essential about that gut feeling of actually moving. This Ferrari simulator replicates it with a gigantic robotic arm. Watch it realistically jostle one test driver:

Watch a Giant Robot Arm Simulate a Ferrari Test Drive

The CyberMotion Simulator, built by Paolo Robuffo Giordano at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany, lifts drivers seven feet off the ground with the robotic arm, adapted from a model found frequently in amusement parks.

A wraparound screen puts the driver in the cockpit of a Ferrari F2007, operated by a force feedback steering wheel and pedals. But the rig isn’t for training the racecar drivers of the future—Giordano says such systems allow us to better understand how we experience motion:

A motion simulation system is a fundamental tool to understand how humans experience the sensation of motion…By running suitable experiments, one can gain better insights into the cognitive processes of the human brain.

He says the robot arm can be adapted to simulate the experience of planes, helicopter, and ships, as well. Sure, but how about a speeder bike from Return of the Jedi? [IEEE Spectrum via PopSci]

This is a Mini Cannon and by Mini I mean SMALL. I don’t think it’s any bigger than a quarter but it packs some power…

We take a look at the inner workings of a Virginia-class fast-attack nuclear submarine built in the US.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

In 2007, at the Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding yard in Newport News, Virginia — where the first of the next-generation aircraft carrier class, the Gerald R. Ford, is currently under construction — the US Navy rolled out the North Carolina, the fourth of the Virginia-class fast-attack nuclear submarines.

Today, the North Carolina (SSN 777) is stationed at the New London Submarine Base (as seen in the image above), commanded by Wes Schlauder. The Virginia is the first class of submarines to have true 21st century on-board communications, including a fibre-optic intranet, a server room and large digital screens placed throughout the ship that show what is being viewed through the periscope.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

This sign greets all who come aboard the North Carolina.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

Most submarine movies have created the romantic image of the skipper in a darkened room, looking through two eye holes, at what can be seen with the periscope. But with the Virginia class, that classic image is no more. Now, the imagery coming from the periscope is translated on to large digital monitors that are spread throughout the North Carolina, including here, in the main control room, as well as in the commander’s personal quarters.

The photo above shows a zoomed in image of the classic submarine Nautilus, at the museum that is adjacent to the New London Submarine Base. The Nautilus is a full kilometre and a half away from the North Carolina, meaning that the image on this screen — which is very crisp — is extremely magnified.

In the lower right quadrant of the screen, the slim wedge represents how much of the 360-degree view from the North Carolina the periscope is looking at.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

Here, we see a much wider angle view from the periscope, as designated by the wider wedge.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

In this photo, Schlauder uses the joystick that controls the periscope’s direction and other criteria. With that joystick, anyone can rotate the periscope 360 degrees, tilt the view up or down, and zoom in so that details at a kilometre away are easily discernible.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

In the past, submarines had one sonar room, where the commander could look out through the periscope and where the sonar work was done; and a second room for the drivers of the sub. Now, thanks to modern communications, navigation and driving systems, those separate rooms have been combined into one, modern nerve centre.

This is a view of the pilots’ station, with two seats and a full set of controls for the pilot and the co-pilot.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

This screen showcases all the digital trim controls, those that are used to bring the submarine down or up in the water, based on how much air is in the ballast tank.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

This screen has the digital controls for navigating the submarine.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

A bank of servers in the North Carolina’s computer room. All the digital data on board the submarine flows through these servers.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

In an emergency, the submarine can be forced to the surface in a hurry by pulling these levers, which are located just above the pilots’ electronic navigation station. By pulling these levers, all water is quickly expelled from the ballast systems, which would cause the sub to shoot up to the surface, and likely break through like a whale jumping out of the water.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

This digital screen shows the North Carolina’s coordinates, or any other location, either by virtue of GPS when above water or if under water, by a sophisticated system of sensors that keep highly accurate track of the boat’s movement in three dimensions.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

Commander Schlauder looks at two of the North Carolina’s weapons, a Mark 48 torpedo (left) and a Tomahawk missile (in the sheath on the right), which are being held in cradles. The submarine can carry as many as a dozen torpedoes at any time, but if necessary, the torpedo room can be largely cleared out — it is mostly modular — and a Special Forces crew of as many as 36 can be housed here.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

Using the special cradle system, the torpedoes are moved into place and then are essentially shoved at high speed out of these tubes. It takes a highly efficient crew about 10 to 15 minutes to prepare and launch a torpedo, though a crew can be working on launching multiple torpedoes in succession.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

There are four tubes in the torpedo room, with two stacks of two on opposite sides of the room.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

Torpedoes are hoisted on to the submarine using cranes and are brought in at an angle through hatches above. The torpedoes are then brought down through the levels of the sub at an angle via this slide.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

At the end of the Mark 48 torpedo, this extra device spools out up to 25,000 yards of fibre-thin cable. By staying connected to the submarine, the torpedo can keep constant communications with firing control, which can update the target profile in real time. If the fibre is broken, the torpedo still has enough information and autonomy to complete its last understanding of the target’s location and trajectory.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

Commander Schlauder climbs down into the North Carolina.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

This is the lock-out trunk, the compartment that is used when it is necessary to put people out into the water while the submarine is below the surface. Because the North Carolina could carry Special Forces, this is where those personnel might begin their mission, leaving the boat two at a time, using special suits to protect them from the conditions.

But regular submarine crew members are also trained in escape methods, and in the case of an emergency, the crew would also leave via this compartment.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

This is Commander Schlauder’s personal quarters, which includes a fairly complete workstation and where he can even have the imagery from the periscope piped in if something needs to be seen and he’s not in the control room.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

In the commanding officer’s quarters, the bed pulls down from the wall.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

The commanding officer is the only one on board with a single bed. This is the executive officer’s quarters, and if there are any VIPs on board, or anyone else needing special treatment, they will be quartered with the executive officer.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

Most of the crew stay in six bunk rooms, and up to eight crew members can share those rooms with at least two on watch at any given time). The North Carolina is big enough that most often it is not necessary for that form of “hot cotting”, which is what it is called when one crew member climbs into a bed recently vacated by another.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

While the North Carolina is a nuclear-powered submarine and can power itself for as long as necessary when underwater — it can produce enough power for a small city — the reactor is deactivated when the boat is in port. Then, for power, the sub is literally plugged into the port’s power supply, as seen here at the North Carolina’s berth at the New London Submarine Base.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

This is the North Carolina’s carbon monoxide burner.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

After going through the carbon monoxide burner, the resulting carbon dioxide is removed by this scrubbing machine. There are two of these for redundancy’s sake.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

It is said that submarine crews are some of the best fed in the military. First, that’s because there is not enough room, as there would be on a surface ship, to carry thousands of pre-prepared meals, meaning that the cooks must prepare meals from scratch. And second, that’s because the good food helps morale, something that’s important for a crew that can be underwater for 90 days or more.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

The crew’s mess on the North Carolina. Each table in the mess is adorned with sports homages to one of the five major North Carolina universities.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

This is the North Carolina’s diesel engine, which is an emergency generator of power if the nuclear reactor stops working and the battery banks aren’t producing enough power as backup.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

The North Carolina is the US military’s fourth with that name. Previous iterations have included an early 19th century ship of the line, and the most recent predecessor was the Battleship North Carolina. This is the silver service from the second North Carolina, an armoured cruiser launched in 1908.

Via CNET.com

Lots of cool photos. Amazed at how far the technology has come and the use of the same old green and grey paint. I would love to go out to sea for a day on one of these Virginia Class Boats, that would be great!

America Before Pearl Harbor – Early Kodachrome Images

By johnnygunn

On Thu Dec 07, 2006 at 12:32:05 AM PDT

When we think of America during the Great Depression, we often picture it in shades of grey.  It was a grim era and nearly all of the photographs we see are in black and white.  

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This is one of Dorothea Lange’s most famous photographs – a destitute mother in a migrant farm worker camp in California.  Lange was one of the many talented WPA photographers who recorded the history and conditions of the Depression across the United States.  

Follow me below the fold as we look at America before Pearl Harbor.


Color presents an entirely different image.

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This is a photograph of Faro and Doris Caudill, farmers in Pietown, New Mexico.
They lived in a dugout and struggled to survive on Resettlement Administration land.

As the 1930s came to a close, Kodak came out with Kodachrome film – the first commercially viable color film available to the general public.  In 1937 and 1938, the colors were still not stable and accurate, but by 1939 Kodachrome was producing color images of remarkable precision.  

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Now, not just anybody could buy this film.  It cost $5 per roll and had to be sent back to Rochester, New York for development.  By comparison, in 1938 Congress established the first minimum wage at 25 cents per hour.  $5 represented half a week’s work.  But the Farm Security Administration sent out about a dozen photographers with this new film.  Commercial photographer, Samuel Gottscho, and well-to-do amateur, Charles Cushman,  embraced this new technology, as well.

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Urban America

New York City was the metropolis of America.

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Times Square was the happening place.  Big date.  Hop in a taxi.
And go see Night Train at the Globe Theater.

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Washington was a city of contrasts – the New Deal having extended its influence across the nation.

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But it was still very much a Southern city – especially if you were African American.

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Chicago was the transportation, food, and manufacturing center of the country.

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And the Southside was still an industrial neighborhood of steel mills and packing houses.

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New Orleans was the largest city in the South – not Atlanta.

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Jim Crow laws were a fact of life for residents of the Ninth Ward.

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San Francisco had been eclipsed by Los Angeles in size, but it remained the most important port and financial center of the West.

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And Charles Cushman had to take a photograph of his new coupe beside the recently-completed Golden Gate Bridge.

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Rural America

Nearly half of all Americans still lived on farms and in small towns.

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The Farmall Tractor had revolutionized farming, but mechanization remained limited.

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In rural Georgia, folks still went to town on Saturday by wagon.

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And kids still went barefoot in Indiana in the summertime.

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Mothers still made clothes for the kids – from flour and feed sacks – as with these girls at the Vermont State Fair.

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And grandmothers still made sure that their teenaged granddaughters didn’t hang out at the horse auctions with the menfolk in little towns in eastern Kentucky.

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This is my favorite.  
Look how mad grandma is and how her granddaughter is stomping away.

Saturdays were the day that everybody went to town in Cascade, Idaho.

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But rural life remained quite distinct from urban America – whether on the C-D Ranch in Montana –

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Or during the peach harvest in western Colorado.

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Modernization

Despite the Depression, modernization proceeded rapidly in the 1930s.
People still traveled by train.  Railroads were one of the largest employers.

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But the emerging airlines were already flying four-engine Boeing Stratoliners out of Chicago Midway for those wealthy enough to fly.

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The country store was the furthest many rural Southerners ever got.

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Yet, Miami Beach was filled with northern vacationers.

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Hoover Dam began generating electricity for California in 1936 – promising to transform the West.

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The Roosevelt Administration’s TVA projects created jobs and electricity for one of the poorest regions of the South.   The divide between urban and rural America was beginning to close.

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Having Fun

By 1939, Americans wanted to imagine a new and better future after the Depression decade.
The futuristic New York World’s Fair ran for two seasons in 1939 and 1940.

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San Francisco’s Golden Gate International Exposition envisioned a Pacific future for America.

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Americans celebrated Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak during the summer of 1941 and another Yankees’ World Series championship in the fall.

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Dances in Oklahoma were simple affairs – with perhaps a fiddler and guitarist.

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And on the cusp of modernity, Americans still clung nostalgically to rural myths –
Not the reality of the poverty that most rural Americans endured during the Depression.

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But they saw it in color – – for the very first time.

Those on the Edges

Although immigration had been curtailed in the 1920s, the Lower East Side remained vibrantly Jewish.

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African Americans faced brutal discrimination in jobs, housing, education, and public accommodations.  It’s no wonder that the women here and even the older girl are suspicious of the white photographer.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe New Deal did little to improve conditions for sharecroppers in Alabama.

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Mining families in Pennsylvania still lived in decrepit company housing.

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The Roosevelt administration struggled to get Mexican American children out of the fields and into schools in Texas and other border states.

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Native Americans, who had only recently received citizenship in their own land, remained desperately poor.  This Tohono O’odham grandmother in Tucson shows the same distruct of the white photographer that the Africam American family in Maryland did.

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And little do these Japanese Americans suspect – as they celebrate their culture during the World’s Fair – that within two years, they will be deported to relocation camps by their own government.

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On December 6th, a very different America prevailed.
After December 7th, that America would be changed forever,

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CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman visited the Samuel Adams brewery in Boston as part of Road Trip 2010, and saw how its beer is made.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

BOSTON–If it were any other day, and I was tipsy from drinking beer on the job, particularly given that it’s not even noon yet, I’d probably be in serious trouble.

But today, I’ve got an excuse: I’m at the Samuel Adams brewery here for a behind-the-scenes tour of the famous facility. And they’ve got me sampling the wares.

I’m here on Road Trip 2010, which has taken me to a wildly diverse collection of places up and down the Northeast, but all I can think right now is that drinking amazingly tasty specialty beer is pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum from my tour last week on the Virginia class nuclear submarine, the North Carolina. Yet, for me, it’s all part of the same job.

What I’m really here to see is how Samuel Adams makes its beer, and for that, I’m being shown the lay of the land by brewer Grant Wood, who himself hasn’t missed any opportunities for a quick sample of the various beers they’ve offered me to try. I asked him at one point how anyone there stays sober during the workday, and with a bit of a sparkle in his eye, he said that it’s all about sipping.

An obsession with hops
The truth, I learned during my visit, is that making beer is actually a pretty simple process. That’s why Sam Adams can take its brew through every step in the process in a room that’s only about 30 yards long and about 20 yards across. It’s not that every beer made by the company is brewed here; it has breweries in other locations. But it has the equipment here to turn out enough suds to keep the hundreds of thousands of tourists who come through for the factory tour each year happy.

These are hops used for Samuel Adams beer. The brewery gets all its hops from a single region of Germany.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

At its most basic, explained Wood, beer is nothing more than water, malt, hops, and yeast. This is the formula codified by the Germans–with the Germany purity law–in 1516, although that recipe left out the yeast, since microbiology hadn’t yet come along.

The process begins with barley malt, Wood explained. Taking barley that has been harvested, but which is not ready for beer, the brewers malt it, a process that tricks the seed into germinating. This softens the grain, and produces the enzymes and the malty flavors that are critical to making beer.

Click here for a full photo gallery on beer making at Samuel Adams.

Indeed, brewers can produce different flavors of beer by working the malt differently. For example, Wood said, in order to make a porter or a stout–both dark beers–he would start by roasting the malt until it’s a coffee color.

Next up is the hops. At Sam Adams, Wood said, the brewers are true ingredients geeks and have “an obsession” with their hops. Indeed, he said that the way he sees it, hops are to beer as grapes are to wine. In other words, there are countless varietals of hops, and for making Sam Adams’ Boston Lager, it’s all about Germany. Each year, the brewery sends a team to that country’s Hallertau region and hand picks the hops that will be used for the coming year.

That’s because the lager recipe comes from an old family recipe of Sam Adams founder Jim Koch, and in that recipe, the hops were always from Bavaria. Yet, when Koch launched Sam Adams, the specific varietal of hops he wanted to use–Hallertau Mittelfrueh–were on the verge of extinction since they were a bit of a pain for farmers to grow, Wood explained. Still, based on Koch’s needs, farmers began producing them again, and today, there is no danger of their disappearance, largely because of Sam Adams, Woods claimed.

One might wonder why it’s so important to be so specific about hops; to Wood, it’s because the hops are what gives beer its signature bitterness. When they’re added to the brewing process, they’re boiled and their bitter elements are extracted and blended into the beer.

And it might sound strange that Sam Adams would make such a point of going to Europe for its hops, but Wood said that he has always been told not to worry (so much) about cost. As an example, he recalled that Koch once directed him to make a chocolate bock, and was told to go and find the best chocolate to use as a base. As part of that research, it turned out they needed vanilla, and when they found the one they wanted, they discovered it cost $399 a gallon, and had risen from just $99 a gallon two years earlier, thanks to various economic factors.

But Koch didn’t bat an eyelash when hearing the price, and told Wood to buy what he needed.

Brewing time
With the malt and the hops taken care, it’s now time to start the brewing process. So, Wood and his fellow brewers begin to make their mash, crushing and grinding the malt and adding them to filtered Boston city tap water that has been heated to a very specific temperature. The result is a mash that resembles porridge, or oatmeal, Wood said.

There are four main vessels used in the brewing process: a mash kettle, a mash tun, a Lauter tuna and a brew kettle.

The three vessels used in brewing: the mash kettle (right), the mash tun, and the lauter tun (left).

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

The brewer will add mash to the mash kettle and the mash tun–20 percent in the mash kettle and 80 percent in the mash tun–and then will bring the mash kettle rapidly to a boil. When it reaches a boil, the mash is pumped into the mash tun, where the new material causes a very quick temperature rise.

This is all about the key part of this process: breaking down the starch of the mash into sugars. And this is where how you do that breaking down determines the quality of the beer.

And now, what’s left is a barley meal, which is sent to a large strainer–the Lauter tun. Here, the grains are strained off and the liquid–known as the wort (a solution of simple sugars)–is moved into the fourth vessel–the brew kettle.

In the case of Sam Adams, where the production of beer isn’t that large, the brew kettle is usually just the mash kettle or the mash tun, which is rinsed out in preparation for the addition of the wort.

Here, the wort is brought to a boil and left there for 90 minutes. It’s then added to the hops. During this process, the wort becomes bitter due to the addition of the hops, but it’s also where the unique flavors of the hops varietals are added.

In total, the process so far has lasted about six or seven hours. Now it’s time to separate out the relevant part of the brew from the waste. So, the brew is moved onto a device known as a whirlpool, or a settler, where the wort is essentially decanted. What’s left after this is a bright, beautiful wort that is ready to be fermented, Wood said.

First, though, it must be cooled down. Coming out of the whirlpool, it is 190 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is then put through a cooler, which brings it down to about 50 degrees. Which means that it’s time to add the yeast.

Pumped into large tanks, and with yeast now added to the mix, the beer begins its fermentation process. This is where the yeast earns its keep. People forget, Wood argued, that yeast is a living, breathing microorganism, and it performs best at specific temperatures. In the case of Boston Lager, the yeast likes a cool temperature.

For the next week, the brew will sit in the fermentation tanks, with the yeast feeding on the simple sugars. The result is the creation of alcohol and carbon dioxide and a host of flavors. The brew is now beginning to taste like actual beer.

After each week of the brewing process, the yeast is collected–it is still alive, and it is set aside and kept cold. The beer is put in another, clean, tank, and the yeast and the wort are added to it.

There’s one more step: as the beer is in its second round of fermentation, but close to the end of that process, the brewers take some of the active fermentation from another tank and add it to the cold brew, where it acts as sort of a cleanup crew, Wood explained. The fresh yeast and fresh sugars essentially smooth out the brew. Add a little more hops, and the tank now becomes known as the aging tank, Wood said, because the brew is now kept for four weeks. This processing is known as lagering, and at the end of the four weeks, it’s time for filtration and packaging.

To be sure, the process is somewhat different for other beers–longer in some cases, shorter in others.

The basic premise, though, is the same, regardless of the beer, and at Sam Adams, they have turned this into a process that has won a lot of awards. Indeed, hanging from the rafters in the brewery entryway are banners celebrating those awards.

These are the three flavors from the Samuel Adams Barrel Collection–New World Tripel (left), American Kriek and Stony Brook Red.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

For me, having seen how the whole process comes together–and had quite a few tastes of different flavors, I’m feeling good. Sam Adams, of course, isn’t just about the Boston Lager. In fact, the company produces 20 different beers, including a new line called the Barrel Collection, so called because its three flavors, American Kriek, New World Tripel, and Stony Brook Red, are fermented in huge barrels that used to belong to an Italian sherry distillery.

These are seriously tasty. But I can’t have more than a few sips. Even though I’ve got a good excuse, I still have a lot of work to do.

For the next two weeks, Geek Gestalt will be on Road Trip 2010. After driving more than 18,000 miles in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Southeast over the last four years, I’ll be looking for the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation and more throughout the American Northeast. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. In the meantime, you can follow my progress on Twitter @GreeterDan and @RoadTrip and find the project on Facebook. And you can also test your knowledge of the U.S. and try to win a prize in the Road Trip Picture of the Day challenge.

SpaceShipTwo, also known as the VSS Enterprise, had made its first flight with a crew aboard, and we’ve got video.

Thursday’s flight marked the first time a captive-carry flight of the spacecraft and its mothership, Eve, has included pilots on SpaceShipTwo. The video includes preparation of the morning flight and air-to-air footage from the Beechcraft Starship chase plane.

The flight lasted more than six hours and included tests of systems aboard board the spacecraft, according to Virgin Galactic. The flight is part of the test program that will lead to the first glide flight of the spacecraft.

There have been several preparation flights during the last month, suggesting the team is preparing for the glide flight even though no date has been released. Though with the Farnborough International Airshow taking place this week and Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, next week, the media-savvy Virgin Galactic team has ample motivation to create a headline or two.

Video: Virgin Galactic