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Old 04 Oct 2017, 11:48 PM   #677650 / #1
lpetrich
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Default Sputnik 1 launched 60 years ago

On 4 October 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik 1 ("Satellite 1") into orbit. Its full name was Prosteyshiy Sputnik 1, "Elementary Satellite 1".

It was 58 cm / 23 in across, about the size of a beach ball, and it weighed 83.6 kg / 184 lb. It had four antennas sticking out of it, and a battery-powered radio transmitter with power 1 watt.

It went into orbit atop a modified R-7 ICBM, going into low Earth orbit: 215 km / 134 mi by 939 km / 583 mi with a period of 96.2 minutes.

It transmitted for 21 days, until 26 October 1957, and it stayed in orbit until it burned up in the atmosphere on 4 January 1958.


Its broadcasts, an endlessly repeated beep, were picked up all over the world by amateur radio operators, though the satellite itself was only borderline visible without a telescope.


It wasn't much, but it was startling. Large numbers of people watched this first artificial satellite and also listened to it. Many Americans came to believe that their nation was getting behind in the Cold War, since the Russians could now send their nuclear bombs to anywhere in the world in less than an hour.

It also did not help that the Russians successfully launched a second satellite a month later, on 3 November 1957. It carried a passenger, the dog Laika, though that dog soon died. It certainly did not help that the US's attempt to launch a satellite into orbit on 6 December 1957 was a spectacular failure. But the US succeeded in doing so on 31 January 1958.

However, President Eisenhower and his aides stayed cool. They were following the Russians' rocketry developments with pictures taken from U-2 spyplanes that flew high above the Soviet Union. So they were not very surprised when the Soviet Union got a satellite into orbit.

I've even seen the theory that Eisenhower had a reason for liking the Russians going first. He wanted to establish a principle of international law, that outer space is like international waters rather than sovereign territory, like airspace. He was concerned that if the US went first, the Russians would consider a US satellite flying over their territory to be a violation of their sovereignty, just like a US spyplane doing so. So when Sputnik 1 traveled over US territory, he decided to accept it.

The US increased funding for scientific research, adding to the National Science Foundation's funding and starting the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, now DARPA with Defense in front), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The US also made efforts to improve education, with its National Defense Education Act.

The "New Math" also came out of that period, but it was an abysmal flop. It introduced a lot of abstraction far too early, IMO. Though mathematicians love abstraction, non-mathematicians often find it difficult, and math curricula should be designed with that in mind.


The US has faced challenges that some people have compared to Sputnik, like Japan in the 1980's, but those challenges did not present the visceral level of threat that Sputnik did. Sputnik was a demonstration that the Soviet Union could send nuclear bombs to anywhere in the US in half an hour. Japan did not pose nearly that level of threat. It was at most "We will dig your graves" rather than "we will destroy you", those two interpretations of Nikita Khrushchev's "We will bury you".


Sputnik 1 | NASA
Sputnik 1: Celebrating 60 Years of Spaceflight - Sky & Telescope
(Wikipedia)Sputnik 1
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Old 05 Oct 2017, 04:27 AM   #677656 / #2
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The "New Math" also came out of that period, but it was an abysmal flop. It introduced a lot of abstraction far too early, IMO. Though mathematicians love abstraction, non-mathematicians often find it difficult, and math curricula should be designed with that in mind.
In one of the middle elementary school years the teacher talked about the "associative and commutative" properties. I kind of remember thinking that it was so obvious things have to be that way that it was a waste of our time to be talking about it. Years later I came to realize there are systems that don't have those properties, and there are applications in science for these "weird" systems.
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Old 05 Oct 2017, 01:28 PM   #677665 / #3
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I'm not quite two years older than the Space Age; I don't remember Sputnik, but I barely recall seeing news about Explorer 1 on TV.
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Old 05 Oct 2017, 10:52 PM   #677683 / #4
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I remember watching from my backyard as a Sputnik satellite traversed the night sky. (It was probably Sputnik II.) I was in 5th grade (11 years old) at the time, and the Russian launch came as quite a shock. My 5th grade teacher talked to us about it to a class of youngsters disappointed that the US was now behind in the space race. She assured us that the US would catch up but that nobody would ever send a man to the moon. It just couldn't be done. She wasn't exactly a visionary.

The Russian advances in space technology inspired me to learn Russian, which came to be offered in high school. The word 'sputnik' means "traveling companion", and it is formed off of the same root as the family name "Putin". The prefix "s" means "with", and "put'" means "way". "Mlechnyj put'" is the "Milky Way".
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Old 05 Oct 2017, 11:17 PM   #677686 / #5
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I never knew that the first Sputnik launch came extremely close to failure. From the Wiki article-
Quote:
The launch came very close to failure—a postflight examination of telemetry data found that the Blok G strap-on had not attained full power at ignition and the resulting imbalanced thrust caused the booster to pitch over about 2° six seconds after liftoff. Two seconds later, the flight control system tried to compensate by rapidly moving the vernier engines and stabilizer fins. The Blok G strap-on finally reached 100% thrust only one second before the pitch angle would have been great enough to trigger an automatic shutdown command, which would have terminated the launch and sent the R-7 and Sputnik 1 crashing to the ground in a fireball only a short distance from the pad.
Amazing how a single second can so affect history, isn't it?
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Old 09 Oct 2017, 09:40 PM   #677929 / #6
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I was nine. My dad took me and my brothers outside one night to try to get a glimpse of it (yes, you could still see stars in the night sky in Dallas sixty years ago). My dad thought he saw something moving, but I don't remember much except the dizzy feeling of looking straight up.
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Old 11 Oct 2017, 06:22 AM   #678060 / #7
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It always amuses me when Americans claim they won the space race. America came first in a single aspect, manned mission to the moon, but the Soviet Union was first in every other way. And then the US propaganda spun the entire space race to only be about manned missions to the moon. Lol.

Russia won the space race 20 times over.

Another amusing thing about the differences between the American and the Russian space program, was that the American was centralised, Soviet style. While the Russian was decentralised with independent teams competing against each other (free market style). So, it's not so surprising the Russians wiped the floor with the competition, despite much lower funding.

I also like how Stalin, early on realised that they needed to lose the political/ideological officer, or it would impede progress. So he was removed. The interesting thing about this is that he must have realised how inefficient his system was in the rest of the country. Anyhoo...

I'm huge space nerd. Can you tell.
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Old 11 Oct 2017, 10:07 PM   #678085 / #8
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It always amuses me when Americans claim they won the space race. America came first in a single aspect, manned mission to the moon, but the Soviet Union was first in every other way. And then the US propaganda spun the entire space race to only be about manned missions to the moon. Lol.

Russia won the space race 20 times over.

Another amusing thing about the differences between the American and the Russian space program, was that the American was centralised, Soviet style. While the Russian was decentralised with independent teams competing against each other (free market style). So, it's not so surprising the Russians wiped the floor with the competition, despite much lower funding.
Personally, I would say that nobody "won" the space race, because there never was a finish line. The (Wikipedia)Soviet space program does indeed deserve a lot of praise, but it failed in some areas. For example, the SU competed in the race to put a man on the moon, but, despite firsts in other areas of space exploration, it was never able to do that. Perhaps that is why some Americans like to think that the US "won" in the end. The reality is that, after the Soviet Union fell, Roscosmos continued to play a major role in the development of space technology, particularly in its joint effort with NASA and other space agencies to build and maintain the ISS.

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I also like how Stalin, early on realised that they needed to lose the political/ideological officer, or it would impede progress. So he was removed. The interesting thing about this is that he must have realised how inefficient his system was in the rest of the country. Anyhoo...
I'm not quite sure what to make of your views on Stalin, but Stalin never eliminated political officers. He just rebranded the "pompolit" under the name "zampolit". The title of "commissar" was dropped. Political officers remained a part of the Soviet Army until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. And Stalin was never "removed". He died in office, although there were suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. Perhaps you would like to take up Soviet history in another thread, if you think that Stalin's reputation needs to be "rehabilitated". You might learn some interesting things about Russian and Soviet history. Quite a bit of it was suppressed in the Soviet education system.
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Old 12 Oct 2017, 07:26 AM   #678105 / #9
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It always amuses me when Americans claim they won the space race. America came first in a single aspect, manned mission to the moon, but the Soviet Union was first in every other way. And then the US propaganda spun the entire space race to only be about manned missions to the moon. Lol.

Russia won the space race 20 times over.

Another amusing thing about the differences between the American and the Russian space program, was that the American was centralised, Soviet style. While the Russian was decentralised with independent teams competing against each other (free market style). So, it's not so surprising the Russians wiped the floor with the competition, despite much lower funding.
Personally, I would say that nobody "won" the space race, because there never was a finish line. The (Wikipedia)Soviet space program does indeed deserve a lot of praise, but it failed in some areas. For example, the SU competed in the race to put a man on the moon, but, despite firsts in other areas of space exploration, it was never able to do that. Perhaps that is why some Americans like to think that the US "won" in the end. The reality is that, after the Soviet Union fell, Roscosmos continued to play a major role in the development of space technology, particularly in its joint effort with NASA and other space agencies to build and maintain the ISS.
The space race was primarily a propaganda war. Being first to stuff mattered. Of course, to science nerds, (like me) it wasn't a race. But it was a race. It was a race very much. It was a race in the same way athletic competitions is a race. They measured the scientific ability of two different ideologies.

Also, USA had a head start since they'd skimmed off all European talent before and around WW2. A lot of scientists had taken refuge there, making USA the hub of western science. Although, you could, if you like, incorporate that into the rules of the competition.

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I also like how Stalin, early on realised that they needed to lose the political/ideological officer, or it would impede progress. So he was removed. The interesting thing about this is that he must have realised how inefficient his system was in the rest of the country. Anyhoo...
I'm not quite sure what to make of your views on Stalin, but Stalin never eliminated political officers. He just rebranded the "pompolit" under the name "zampolit". The title of "commissar" was dropped. Political officers remained a part of the Soviet Army until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. And Stalin was never "removed". He died in office, although there were suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. Perhaps you would like to take up Soviet history in another thread, if you think that Stalin's reputation needs to be "rehabilitated". You might learn some interesting things about Russian and Soviet history. Quite a bit of it was suppressed in the Soviet education system.
You must have misunderstood me. He removed political officers from the space program. Obviously he didn't remove political officers from anywhere else. That was a major problem in USSR. Everything was politicized, which was a massive drain on the efficiency of the economy. In a way that cannot be understated. My point, (with the comment) was that Stalin must have realized this, and not cared.

I don't think one of the world's worst and most evil rulers need's to have his reputation rehabilitated. I didn't mean to give that impression.
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Old 12 Oct 2017, 02:09 PM   #678127 / #10
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The Soviet Union's leaders:

Vladimir Lenin: 1917 - 1924 ... died
Joseph Stalin: 1929 - 1953 ... died
Nikita Khrushchev: 1953 - 1964 ... forced out
Leonid Brezhnev: 1964 - 1982 ... died
Yuri Andropov: 1982 - 1984 ... died
Konstantin Chernenko: 1984 - 1985 ... died
Mikhail Gorbachev: 1985 - 1991 ... position abolished
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Old 12 Oct 2017, 03:01 PM   #678130 / #11
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The Russians certainly wanted to land cosmonauts on the Moon. They tested out lunar-landing hardware, and they developed a Saturn-V-sized booster rocket for that purpose, the N1. However, all four tests of the N1 failed, and the Russians then claimed that they were never in that race.


As to landing on other planets, the Russians were first on both Venus and Mars. But overall, they succeeded on Venus and failed on Mars.

Venera 3 crashed on Venus on 1966 March 1. It returned no data on its way down in the planet's atmosphere, however.

Venera 4 entered Venus's atmosphere on 1967 October 18. It stopped transmitting after transmitting a measured temperature of 200 C.

A day later, the American spacecraft Mariner 5 flew by the planet, and its radio transmissions traveled through the planet's atmosphere. This revealed a surface temperature of some 400 - 450 C.

So Venera 4 had conked out on the way down.

Its successors Venera 5 (1969 May 16) and Venera 6 (1969 May 17) were repurposed as atmospheric probes, slowly drifting down by parachute until their batteries died.

Venera 7 landed on Venus on 1970 December 15, becoming the first spacecraft ever to successfully land on another planet, though it rolled over when it landed. It radioed back a temperature of 465 C.

Venera 8 landed on 1972 July 22, but it stayed correctly oriented.

Venera 9 landed on 1975 October 22, and it was the first to return pictures of Venus's surface

Venera 10 landed on 1975 October 15

Venera 11 landed on 1978 December 25

Venera 12 landed on 1978 December 21

Venera 13 landed on 1982 March 1, sent back color images and lasted 127 minutes, an endurance record for that planet's surface

Venera 14 landed on 1982 March 5


While the Soviet Union beat the United States to a Mars landing, its landings on that planet were failures.

Mars 2 crash landed on 1971 November 27, as a result of its parachute failing

Mars 3 landed on 1971 December 2. It started transmitting 90 seconds after landing, but lasted only 20 seconds after that. It sent back a partial image with only 70 scanlines.

Mars 6 landed on 1974 March 12, but it failed as it was about to fire its retrorockets.

Mars 7 tried to land on 1974 March 9, but did a close flyby instead.


The first successful Mars landers were American ones:

Viking 1 landed on 1976 July 20, and lasted there over 6 1/4 years before failing

Viking 2 landed on 1976 September 3, and lasted there over 3 1/2 years before failing
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Old 12 Oct 2017, 03:06 PM   #678133 / #12
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Most of the Soviet Union's lunar and interplanetary spacecraft were built by one builder: (Wikipedia)Lavochkin

Not much competition there.
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Old 12 Oct 2017, 05:25 PM   #678137 / #13
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I also like how Stalin, early on realised that they needed to lose the political/ideological officer, or it would impede progress. So he was removed. The interesting thing about this is that he must have realised how inefficient his system was in the rest of the country. Anyhoo...
I'm not quite sure what to make of your views on Stalin, but Stalin never eliminated political officers. He just rebranded the "pompolit" under the name "zampolit". The title of "commissar" was dropped. Political officers remained a part of the Soviet Army until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. And Stalin was never "removed". He died in office, although there were suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. Perhaps you would like to take up Soviet history in another thread, if you think that Stalin's reputation needs to be "rehabilitated". You might learn some interesting things about Russian and Soviet history. Quite a bit of it was suppressed in the Soviet education system.
You must have misunderstood me. He removed political officers from the space program. Obviously he didn't remove political officers from anywhere else. That was a major problem in USSR. Everything was politicized, which was a massive drain on the efficiency of the economy. In a way that cannot be understated. My point, (with the comment) was that Stalin must have realized this, and not cared.
If you were talking about Joseph Stalin's "space program", then I did misunderstand. You didn't specify where or when Stalin "removed" them, and he is more generally known for having renamed and rebranded "political commissars" in the Red Army. Perhaps he purged a number of political officers in the space program. It wasn't until after his death in 1953 that the real depoliticization occurred. You seemed to me to be saying the opposite.

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I don't think one of the world's worst and most evil rulers need's to have his reputation rehabilitated. I didn't mean to give that impression.
Glad to hear that. I think you may have been trying too hard to find good things to say about Soviet science during the brutal Stalin regime. The truth of the matter was that he obstructed and retarded it. The real advances started in 1955. See (Wikipedia)Soviet space program:

Quote:
The rocket and space program of the USSR, initially boosted by the assistance of captured scientists from the advanced German rocket program, was performed mainly by Soviet engineers and scientists after 1955, and was based on some unique Soviet and Imperial Russian theoretical developments, many derived by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, sometimes known as the father of theoretical astronautics...
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Old 13 Oct 2017, 07:39 AM   #678200 / #14
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Glad to hear that. I think you may have been trying too hard to find good things to say about Soviet science during the brutal Stalin regime. The truth of the matter was that he obstructed and retarded it. The real advances started in 1955. See (Wikipedia)Soviet space program:

Quote:
The rocket and space program of the USSR, initially boosted by the assistance of captured scientists from the advanced German rocket program, was performed mainly by Soviet engineers and scientists after 1955, and was based on some unique Soviet and Imperial Russian theoretical developments, many derived by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, sometimes known as the father of theoretical astronautics...
Because everything Stalin touched turned to shit. The fact remains that political officers were kept out of the Russian space program.
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Old 13 Oct 2017, 03:54 PM   #678214 / #15
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Soviet aerospace contractor Lavochkin not only built the Soviet Union's Venus and Mars spacecraft, it also built several Moon ones, including the Lunokhods, the Soviet lunar rovers.

I've found some other ones:

OKB-1, TsKBEM, NPO Energia, S. P. Korolev RSC Energia, Korolev design bureau, nowadays S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia or RSC Energia or RKK Energiya -- many of the crewed spacecraft, also Sputnik 1

OKB-52, TsKBM, nowadays NPO Mashinostroyeniya -- military space stations (Almaz)

-

Looking at the US, many of its uncrewed lunar and interplanetary spacecraft have been built by JPL, with some by various other contractors, like TRW and Boeing. A variety of contractors have built its crewed ones.

So for interplanetary spacecraft, it was mainly JPL vs. Lavochkin.
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Old 15 Oct 2017, 05:29 PM   #678299 / #16
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Speaking of great Soviet first in space, there was the famous long-term space station--the Soyuz--which was 50 years old in November of 2016.

When I worked at Boeing, I remember an engineer telling us about the Russians having used pencils, when NASA spent millions to develop a pen that would write in a weightless environment. That story got passed around a lot, because it fed into their conservative political attitude that the government just pissed money away on boondoggles (often ignoring the fact that the government was largely paying the company to employ many of them). If only we didn't have so much money to waste, then we would do everything sensibly like the threadbare Russian space program did. Never mind that lack of funding led to a lot of disasters in Russia that were caused by cost-cutting and lack of attention to the health and safety of cosmonauts.

Anyway, the "pen vs pencil" legend is somewhat apocryphal. Both astronauts and cosmonauts used pencils, but pencils had a tendency to produce debris in a weightless environment. So NASA did try, and fail, to create a "space pen", especially when it became public how much they were paying for each mechanical pencil (roughly $130 each). However, they got their pen from private industry in the end.
Here is the story of the real history, which was reported in Scientific America: Fact or Fiction?: NASA Spent Millions to Develop a Pen that Would Write in Space, whereas the Soviet Cosmonauts Used a Pencil
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Old 17 Oct 2017, 05:50 PM   #678379 / #17
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My father talks about how his school then tried to rush students through crash courses in mathematics and physics in a stupid, desperate attempt to "catch up" with the Soviets. I recall once asking him about some either pre-calc or calculus and he said he recognized it, but was rushed through it so quickly, very little had stuck with him. He went on to study political science and economics in college, though.
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Old 17 Oct 2017, 10:47 PM   #678397 / #18
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My father talks about how his school then tried to rush students through crash courses in mathematics and physics in a stupid, desperate attempt to "catch up" with the Soviets. I recall once asking him about some either pre-calc or calculus and he said he recognized it, but was rushed through it so quickly, very little had stuck with him. He went on to study political science and economics in college, though.
By the time I got to high school in 1960, we were thoroughly into competing with Russia. They had built a brand new high school to accommodate all of us baby-boomers, and mine even had a planetarium. How I loved to attend sessions there!

The school also offered courses in Russian as one of the possibilities for fulfilling our language requirement. (Yes, we had a foreign language requirement before educationists decided that languages weren't important. In fact, we all had to take a class in Civics! Can you imagine? I still have the scrapbook with my annotated clippings of the election between Nixon and Kennedy--a class requirement.) Unfortunately, I couldn't take the Russian class until 10th grade, so I started out with Latin. I did so well in that, that I kept it up while taking Russian. So, at the end of high school, I had completed 4 years of Latin and 3 years of Russian, not to mention all of the other advanced classes they offered in their honors program. Later on, all of that educational infrastructure, including the honors program, got watered down and largely replaced by less challenging opportunities.
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Old 18 Oct 2017, 04:58 AM   #678418 / #19
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Later on, all of that educational infrastructure, including the honors program, got watered down and largely replaced by less challenging opportunities.
Just days ago CNN ran an hour-long documentary on Chinese who come to the USA. Anchor babies and all that. One woman's answer to "Why?" was that schools are so much better here in the USA. That surprises me, after a lifetime of hearing how far behind our students are as compared to this or that country's students.
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Old 18 Oct 2017, 08:25 AM   #678423 / #20
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My father talks about how his school then tried to rush students through crash courses in mathematics and physics in a stupid, desperate attempt to "catch up" with the Soviets. I recall once asking him about some either pre-calc or calculus and he said he recognized it, but was rushed through it so quickly, very little had stuck with him. He went on to study political science and economics in college, though.
Come on.... it's not competing with the Russians. It's to be smart. No, offence but USA's voter base is not the most intelligent on this planet. I suspect American lacking maths skills may be part of the explanation.

Swedish kids who went to USA for a year would struggle with the maths when coming back. They basically got an easy year in the states to ace the tests. But then fell way behind upon returning.

Maths is very important to study. I don't think there's anything as effective to exercise the brain.

Russians do loads of maths in school. All East Bloc kids did. You can discuss the finer points of Nietzschean philosophy with Hungarian construction workers. Or poetic metre with Polish farmers. I suspect it's the maths. It just makes the brain better. Helps us think outside the box. Helps us to become more creative.
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Old 22 Oct 2017, 08:26 PM   #678608 / #21
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My father talks about how his school then tried to rush students through crash courses in mathematics and physics in a stupid, desperate attempt to "catch up" with the Soviets. I recall once asking him about some either pre-calc or calculus and he said he recognized it, but was rushed through it so quickly, very little had stuck with him. He went on to study political science and economics in college, though.
Come on.... it's not competing with the Russians. It's to be smart. No, offence but USA's voter base is not the most intelligent on this planet. I suspect American lacking maths skills may be part of the explanation.

Swedish kids who went to USA for a year would struggle with the maths when coming back. They basically got an easy year in the states to ace the tests. But then fell way behind upon returning.

Maths is very important to study. I don't think there's anything as effective to exercise the brain.

Russians do loads of maths in school. All East Bloc kids did. You can discuss the finer points of Nietzschean philosophy with Hungarian construction workers. Or poetic metre with Polish farmers. I suspect it's the maths. It just makes the brain better. Helps us think outside the box. Helps us to become more creative.
You can have those discussions, and initially it's quite impressive. However, they all say the same thing in my experience. Either way, if you can discuss metre or mad German philosophers with someone it's because they were taught it, not because they did maths. Either way, right now both Poland and Hungary have elected leaders who make Trump look like an elected leader.

Intellectuals are a different matter.

The US, post Reagan, has a marvelous top and middle but falls off really sharply. I think that was, and continues to be, deliberate policy.

Back to the space race, I always saw it as just another way of doing conflict and I'm eternally grateful that this was the chosen battlefield. I agree that the Russians won many of the battles but they both lost the war and failed to spin off the technologies terribly well. There most obvious area of capitulation was timekeeping both in instrumentation and for astronauts. It is this that seriously limited their ability for both stellar navigation and remote and automated control until quartz timebases came along and they could steal the tech.

Because the Americans had this at the dawn of the 1960s:



and nothing else came remotely close until after the moon landing.
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