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Dr. Phil Metzger @DrPhiltill
, 14 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
At the airport again. This time going to Silicon Valley for the Frontier Development Lab to mentor a team of researchers creating artificial intelligence for lunar roving and prospecting vehicles. This will be fun!
2/ Something I am wondering... Back when I was on the International Space Station program we all traveled A LOT. We had to go to contractors all over the country to make sure the thousands and thousands of parts and assemblies were on schedule and passing checkout requirements...
3/ Then we had to make sure that when the parts got put into black boxes, those boxes passed their tests, and when those boxes got put into racks, and the racks got put into modules of the Space Station, every level of assembly was on schedule and passing all tests...
4/ And then we had to plan how to hook the modules together for additional testing while they were still on the ground as they arrived at the Kennedy Space Center. Not all modules were at KSC at the same time. Some went to space before others arrived. But many overlapped...
5/ That additional testing of modules before launch was called the Multi-Element Integrated Test (MEIT), and was reputed to be the largest aerospace test in history. It was our LIFE for several years, planning with the companies who were building pieces all over the world...
6/ I was in charge of defining tests of the communication systems on the space station: radios, TV, audio, etc. (That was before I returned to school to study physics and became a regolith fanatic 😸). Our group was the Space Station Hardware Integration Office (SSHIO)...
7/ The SSHIO lived on the road for years during this long process of getting the Space Station into space on schedule. Fun times. So here is what I am wondering. During that time I would run into people I know at airports ALL THE TIME, so I came to expect it. But now...
8/ I think I am actually traveling more than I did at the height of the Space Station program. And I work with colleagues who travel all the time, too. So I still look at every airport for people I know and expect to find. But I never find anybody any more, and I wonder why...
9/ So I think there is a mathematical explanation for this in Percolation Theory. When objects are randomly diffusing through a medium (in this case, the air transport system), we can calculate the odds of them randomly percolating across to some destination...
10/ In this case, the destination is a particular node (airport) where one of your friends happens to be. Percolation Theory talks about the conditions of the system that produce successful percolation. So what is different about the Space Station program vs Planetary Scientists?
11/ I think it's because we have more diverse destinations, so even though we are as numerous as Space Station travelers our density in the portions of the airline system we use is lower, and therefore below the Percolation threshold. This causes an abrupt change.
12/ Slightly above the Percolation threshold you see friends about 100% of the time. Slightly below that threshold you see them about 0% of the time. It is a sudden change for such a small change in traveler density.
13/ So that is what I wonder about nowadays as I sit in airports with nobody to talk to 😢. If you see me in an airport by myself, please come talk with me and rescue me from this obsession 😂.
14/14 The cabin doors are now closed. See you in California.
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