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Time Tunnels Meet Warped Passages

Our Science of Hollywood columnist spotlights the celebrated work of Harvard physicist Lisa Randall, who's become quite the scientific celebrity herself.

4 min read

Just in time for its 40th anniversary, the classic sci-fi television show "The Time Tunnel" is out on DVD. In case you missed it the first time around, "The Time Tunnel" is a lost gem from the mind of Irwin Allen, creator of "Lost in Space" and a bunch of 1970s disaster flicks, including The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure.

The conceit is something every engineer can relate to: a pulled plug. Scientists in an underground lab are working on a secret government experiment in time travel. Then the Feds threaten to cut the project short, so naturally, two intrepid scientists leap into the machine to show that it's for real. And, surprise surprise, they get stuck. So every week the show finds Dr. Tony Newman and Dr. Doug Phillips valiantly ping-ponging through history as they try to get back to the lab.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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