Huge swirls in the sea off of Mumbai, India. Photo: Chris Hadfield/NASA
Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is currently living in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as Flight Engineer on Expedition 34 (and soon to be Commander of Expedition 35 in March 2013), has been tweeting some gorgeous snapshots of earth as seen from space. Follow him on Twitter, for daily photo updates.
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I found this video in Reddit's Learn Useless Talents
section. In my reality this won't be useless for long!
4chan's worksafe GIF board– a treasure trove of excellent content before it hits the social media tracts –has a great thread of space GIFs up now. I've selected a few of the best here.
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Sunita Williams was in charge of the International Space Station for six months. On her last day in space, she made this 25-minute video — a much more in-depth tour of the ISS than I've personally ever seen before. This is the first time I've actually been able to get a sense of the whole interior layout of the ISS, rather than just seeing one place and then another with no understanding of how they connect. What's more, you really get a sense of the unearthly weirdness of moving through this space where walls are never just walls and "up" and "down" are essentially meaningless.
The video includes a detailed (but safe for work) demonstration of how to use the ISS bathroom; a behind-the-scenes peek of the pantry (with separate pantries for Russian and Japanese food); a visit to the Soyuz craft waiting to take Williams home; and the vertigo-inducing horror pod where all the really great pictures of Earth get taken.
Money quote: "I haven't sat down for 6 months now."
Also, for some reason, it bothers me that she refers to the "left" and "right" side of the Space Station, instead of port and starboard.
I've carried a Fisher Space Pen Bullet on and off since I was a kid. ("Write underwater and upside down!") I usually lose them in a matter of weeks, but while I can manage to hold on to one I do appreciate its minimalist design, small size, and great "fiddleability." Of course, the Space Pen is surrounded by some epic marketing and myth. Did NASA really invest millions to develop a perfect pen for astronauts? No, apparently, Fisher had developed the pen technology and later brought it to NASA. Following two years of testing, the space agency bought 400 of the pens at a 40 percent discount. And on October 11, 1968, Apollo 7 astronauts carried Fisher Space Pens, model AG7, into orbit.
"The Fisher Space Pen Boldly Writes Where No Man Has Written Before" (Smithsonian)
Fisher Space Pen AG7 (Amazon)
Fermi's Paradox speculates that the fact that our civilization has not yet encountered evidence of alien civilization implies that such life must not exist. In "Tapeworm Logic," Charlie Stross brilliantly skewers this by looking at the version of Fermi's Paradox that a tapeworm-philosopher might arrive at:
Our tapeworm-philosopher gets its teeth into the subject. Given that the human is so clearly designed to be hospitable to tapeworm-kind, then it follows that if there are more humans, other humans out there beyond the anus, then they, too, must be hospitable to tapeworm-kind. Tapeworm-kind has become aware of itself existing in the human; it is logical to assume that if other humans exist then there must be other tapeworms, and if travel between humans is possible—and we infer that it might be, from the disappearance of our egg sacs through the anus of the human—then sooner or later humans interacting in the broader universe might exchange eggs from these hypothetical alien tapeworms, in which case, visitors! Because the human was already here before we became self-aware, it clearly existed for a long time before us. So if there are many humans, there has been a lot of time for the alien tapeworm-visitors to reach us. So where are they?
Welcome to the Fermi paradox, mired in shit. Shall we itemize the errors that the tapeworm is making in its analysis?
(Image: segments, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from istolethetv's photostream)
There will be no bacon on Elon Musk's Mars
Elon Musk would like you to know that he is not trying to be the Emperor of Mars
and has no authority to ban meat there. (Thanks Carl Franzen!) — Maggie
It's been a good week for pedantry
. In a guest blog post at Scientific American, Kyle Hill discusses the durability of spaceship windows — both in the real world, and in Joss Whedon's movie Serenity
. Spaceship windows have to be incredibly tough, because even tiny chips of paint become dangerous projectiles in space. But how would they stand up to frontal attack by a spear?
Physics has the answers. — Maggie
Bacteria living zero-gravity environments become more virulent. People living in zero-gravity environments have less-than-fully-functional immune systems. The result is a danger for space travelers that few of us on Earth ever think about
— even though a lot of early astronauts, right up through the Apollo program, suffered severe infections in flight, or shortly after landing. Ed Yong's article for Wired UK from 2011 is a reminder that there's a lot of details that need to be worked out before humanity can become a space-faring species. We've got more worry about up there than just radiation
. — Maggie
Space is full of radiation. It’s impossible to escape. Imagine standing in the middle of a dust storm, with bits of gravel constantly swirling around you, whizzing by, pinging against your skin. That’s what radiation is like in space. The problem is that, unlike a pebble or a speck of dirt, ionizing radiation doesn’t bounce off human flesh. It goes right through, like a cannonball through the side of the building, leaving damage behind.
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From NASA's Image of the Day blog: "This face-on galaxy, lying 45 million light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation of Fornax (The Furnace), is particularly attractive for astronomers. NGC 1097 is a Seyfert galaxy. Lurking at the very center of the galaxy, a supermassive black hole 100 million times the mass of our sun is gradually sucking in the matter around it. The area immediately around the black hole shines powerfully with radiation coming from the material falling in."
The happy mutants at MonkeyBrains, the San Francisco hacker-friendly ISP, have launched a $350,000,000 IndieGoGo campaign to buy their own satellite ("North Korea just launched a satellite; we want to as well"). Some fun facts about MonkeyBrains: it was founded by Rudy Rucker, Jr (son of the archduke of mutantcy, cyberpunk writer Rudy Rucker [Sr]); it is the basis for the fictional ISP pigspleen.net in my novel Little Brother; and they want $350,000,000. Also: if the satellite thing doesn't work out, they want to use the money to fill San Francisco with high-speed fiber optics that aren't run by crappy telcos.
A quick internet search reveals that this is the cost for getting a satellite into orbit:
Satellite manufacture: $150M
Satellite launch: $120M
Launch insurance: $20M
In-orbit insurance: $20M
Satellite operations (15 years): $15M
Our initial research seems to indicate having a satellite in orbit may not speed up your internet at all. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_Internet_access#Geostationary_unsuitable_for_low-latency_applications]. However, if more research doesn't bode well for a geostationary satellite, we will take all of the $325M to fund either:
Fiber to the home.
A balloon tethered to the Farallon islands.
a hovering drone over the Bay.
Alexis Madrigal writes: "The Soviet Zond 5 sent the animals around the moon -- although not into lunar orbit -- during a mission in the middle of September, 1968
. The unmanned craft then returned to Earth and splashed down in the Indian Ocean, after which the Russians recovered the craft." The turtles were fine. — Rob