One Small Step
July 31, 2019 1:57 AM   Subscribe

For the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, Google created a tribute to Margaret Hamilton by positioning over 107,000 mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Facility in the Mojave Desert to reflect the light of the moon, instead of the sun.
posted by growabrain (17 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
This is cute but I wonder what the male/female ratio of tech workers is at Google these days.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:02 AM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Such an elegant and gentle tribute. For me this grateful gesture illustrates the best humans have to offer. Shivers down my spine. Thank you for posting.
posted by ouke at 5:03 AM on July 31, 2019 [11 favorites]

Sean-- they publish a diversity report annually to sate your curiosity.

Quick summary of women hires:
- 47% Non-tech (up 3.3%)
- 25% Tech (up 1.1%)
- 25% Leadership (down 3.5%)

(31% overall for the global workforce)
posted by Static Vagabond at 5:53 AM on July 31, 2019 [8 favorites]

On one level this is a very cool effect and every public tribute to a female pioneer (especially in science) is a good thing. Having said that, I can't help but think this is a PR attempt to burnish the image of the Ivanpah Solar Facility.

Google invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the concentrated solar plant which has had a number of problems since it came online, including environmental effects that include vaporizing birds and insects who fly near the site (covered here on Mefi in 2014).

Actually, that aforementioned thread is interesting to look back on, because many of the economic claims for the plant from five years ago have not panned out. Ivanpah was extremely close to getting shut down by California state regulators a few years ago for failing to reach its supply commitments.
posted by jeremias at 5:58 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Better they do something with Ivanpah, which was planned at the time that concentrated solar thermal would have been competitive but only became operational after silicon wiped the floor on cost.
posted by scruss at 6:06 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Margaret herself coined the phrase “software engineering” while working on Apollo"

Awesome! I never knew that, that's pretty cool one of my fields was coined by a woman working on the fricking Apollo program. Maybe I'll make a little more effort on my next test-suite :)

I'll give them the benefit of just having a cool idea-- if your engineers have got access to a massive array of mirrors, and has a cool idea to reflect moonlight to celebrate the Apollo program, and literally highlight a key software engineer in the program at the same time. Nice work.
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:08 AM on July 31, 2019 [7 favorites]

Wonderful! My kind of lunacy.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:57 AM on July 31, 2019 [6 favorites]

That was pretty awesome.

My kind of lunacy.

I see what you did there.
posted by dazed_one at 7:07 AM on July 31, 2019

What I really want to know is if you focused all of the mirrors on the tower with moonlight, could you feel any warmth or heat at all? I'm assuming you could measure it at some small amount, but would it be enough to feel? How bright would it be? Would it be dangerous to stand in the focal point and look down at all the moonlight?

And would it be strange or would it drive you a little bit mad?

I have a small magnifying beauty mirror I might try focusing some moonlight with just to see if I can barely feel it on my hand or something or see a reflection, but we just hit a new moon so it'll be a while. Assuming I even have a clear sky which is iffy around here.
posted by loquacious at 7:38 AM on July 31, 2019

Hmm. My memory is that you can't get any warmer than the radiating body itself, but I'm not sure how it works with second stage reflection. And the moon does get somewhat hot during the day, though I'm not exactly sure the max.

Aw, look, XKCD has addressed this, or at least a related question. So theoretically you could get some warmth if the array was big enough, since the moon does reach 100 degrees C.
posted by tavella at 8:24 AM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

What a lovely tribute...
posted by PhineasGage at 8:56 AM on July 31, 2019

When I first watched the video and they started talking about focusing the mirrors, for just a second I thought I was about to hear a plan to burn Margaret Hamilton's name into the moon (ala Chairface Chippendale). Ah well, perhaps for the 100th anniversary...
posted by Thalience at 9:14 AM on July 31, 2019 [6 favorites]

Very good. I've seen that mirror array; didn't realize the mirrors were so articulate. When I passed by they were all focused on a point just above the tower, as seen in Bagdad Cafe, although that was a long time ago.
posted by Rash at 11:39 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I read the post I though it meant they were reflecting the light onto the moon and was wondering if they'd be able to write anything on it (such as "CHA").
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:45 AM on July 31, 2019

Am I the only one who thought it was Margaret Hamilton from The Wizard of Oz? Probably.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:31 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Moon is about 400,000 times dimmer than the Sun. So the 100,000 mirrors concentrating the light of the Moon would produce warmth of a partially obscured Sun. Definitely something one could feel.
posted by haiku warrior at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2019

Oh, that Margaret Hamilton!
posted by bcarter3 at 7:40 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

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