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Science Talk

Mary Roach Is Packing for Mars, Part 1

Podcast host Steve Mirsky recently attended a talk by author Mary Roach about her new book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. In part 1 of this two-part episode, we'll hear that talk. Web sites related to content of this podcast include www.maryroach.net

Podcast host Steve Mirsky (pictured) recently attended a talk by author Mary Roach about her new book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. In part 1 of this two-part episode, we'll hear that talk. Web sites related to content of this podcast include www.maryroach.net

Podcast Transcription

Steve:          Welcome to Science Talk, the weekly podcast of Scientific American posted on August 20th, 2010. I'm Steve Mirsky. This week on the podcast

Roach:          I called this chapter, "Houston, We Have a Fungus".

Steve:          That's renowned writer, Mary Roach, author of the new book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. The book tour recently brought her to New York City, where she gave a talk at the Barnes and Noble on the Upper West Side. In part 1 of the podcast, coming right up, we'll hear that talk. Then in part 2, Mary and I discuss further the general unpleasantness of being in space. So without any further ado, here's Mary Roach.

Roach:          Thank you. I'm sorry I don't have any beverages. I did give thought to serving Tang today; which you have to carry, comes in these large containers, you know, you pack it in the bag and then you've don't have [the] carry-on thing. Anyway, Tang we should [note] was not invented by NASA; it's a commercial off-the-shelf product that they brought onboard. NASA actually takes a bunch of commercial products straight off the supermarket shelf into space. One of them I found out, the diapers that the astronauts wear under their spacewalking suits, which I assumed were some very hi-tech NASA developed thing—in fact I asked the public affairs people, "Well, what's the [brand that you use?" And it is no longer available but it was an adult diaper called—Rejoice. Who names an adult diaper Rejoice? Anyway, my book is not your average space book. [Most] space books that I have seen tend to be a lot of heroics and bravery, where they're [all] boldly going and boldly coming back. I mean, you had Apollo 13, Commander Lovell and his crew fighting for their lives [on their way to] the moon, and there's an explosion. And I actually did interview Commander Lowell, but it was about Gemini 7, and Gemini 7 was a rehearsal for the moon. It was a two--week mission getting ready for going to the moon, which is a two-week, sort of, round-trip thing. And they were looking at, among other things, the effects on the body of restricted hygiene. You know, what happens to your skin if you['re] wearing a spacesuit 24/7. You're going to be wearing the suit all day and all night, sleeping in it, and it will be hot and sweaty. And was [that] too much ask of human beings to do this? And I called this chapter "Houston, We Have a Fungus." There['s] this memorable point in the mission transcript where the flight surgeon comes on the microphone; he is talking to Commander Borman and it actually says, "Gemini 7, this is the flight surgeon. Have you had any dandruff problems up there, Frank?" That's a word you really don't expect in a NASA mission transcript. Also lotion—two guys orbiting the Earth, discussing skin care. The Commander Borman, Frank Borman, he's a [man's] man. He would sometimes just completely ignore the flight surgeon; the flight surgeon would [come on and] say, "Are you running out of moisturizer?" No reply. These guys felt he was compromising the overall manliness of the mission. You know, I kind of feel bad for them because when you don't shower, normally, you know, when you shed cells they build up and then you take a shower and they're washed away; well when you don't shower, these cells buildup and then you have dandruff. And in space, it never falls to the ground, where the cleaning person can come and sweep it away. It just kind of hovers. And actually I talked to Captain Lovell about this. I believe my exact words were, "Was it just like a snow globe in there?" He said, "Mary you're investigating a rather unusual aspect of spaceflight." Anyway, so this book is about the astronaut life—life in the void—but it's also about—it's about life in space— but [it's] also space under simulated space travel. Because space is such a hostile, unusual, foreign place, and because it's so expensive to do things in space, anything that happens up there gets rehearsed—simmed, as they say at NASA—down here [in these] delightful but bizarre simulations. By a way of example—the toilet. Okay, you [all] take gravity for granted. You need water on an Earth toilet, but you also need gravity because gravity is what you gives you that Holy Grail [of] the waste management department at NASA, good separation. Okay, because the mass is egested—this is my favorite new euphemism. Instead of, the opposite of ingest is egest, so as you egest the growing mass of the material, has a weight on Earth, has weight, and it pulls away and breaks off on of its own [and ventures forth. Well]  it doesn't do that up there. It just kind of hovers. So it's up to the toilet to actually provide the separation. So it works like a [shop vac]. It's [this] airflow that—here's another funny euphemism—it entrains the [bolus.]—So it's got to, you know, it encourages it along its way. [But] how much airflow? You know, you don't want to send the thing up there and say well, "Hopefully there'll be enough, and we'll just wait and see." Because that's very, very expensive. These toilets are, it's like the size of a washing machine. You don't want to just, sort of, cross your fingers and hope that it works. So you [haul it] over to Ellington Field and you test it [on a] zero gravity flight. Now this is a plane [that, kind of, goes on a] flight path [like this], and as it goes over and down, [you have] 22 seconds of zero gravity. Think about this. Not too hard maybe. So you've got the poor, you know, volunteer from the waste management systems department, [who] has 22 seconds in which to produce, and that's not easy for a lot of people. And that's why NASA also has a department, NASA Ames has a couple of engineers who work on simulants, and we don't need to really go too far into the simulants. They did not just use, [what] the diaper industry [uses. They have] their own sort of testing materials, and they tend to use disconcertingly [appetizing] things like pumpkin pie mix, brandy mix, mashed potatoes; things that have the right rheology, the right consistency and elasticity. Well, NASA took it a step further and actually invented their own—not using any foods.

I am going to read a section. All right, this is Apollo 16, and we have Charlie Duke and John Young and they've [been out and] about collecting rocks on the moon, as was their job—samples, geological samples—and now they're back in the lunar module. They're home after a day out and about. And there is a radio debriefing with Mission Control. And out of the blue—and this is, you know, another transcript is where I found this—out of the blue Young declares, "I got the farts again. I got them again Charlie. I don't know what the hell gives them to me. I think it's acid in the stomach." [Following] Apollo 15, in which low potassium levels were blamed for the heart arrhythmias of the crew, NASA [put] potassium-rich orange, grapefruit and other citrus (Tang) drinks on the menu. Young kept going—it's all there in the mission transcript. "Man, I haven't eaten this much citrus fruit in 20 years. And I will tell you one thing, in another 12 f***g days I [ain't ever eatin' anymore.] And if they [offer to] serve me potassium with my breakfast, I['m] going to throw up. I like an occasional orange, I really do. But I will be damned if I'm going to be buried in oranges." Moments later, Mission Control comes on the line and provides Young with yet more [fodder] for indigestion.

Capsule communicator—"[Orion,] this is Houston."

"Yes sir."

"Okay, you have a hot [mike]."

"Oh," says Young. "How long have we had that?"

"Ah, it's been on during the debriefing." The day after Young's comments hit the press, the governor of Florida issued a statement in defense of his state's key crop, which Charlie [Duke] paraphrases in his memoir. The statement reads, "It is not our orange juice that is causing the trouble. It is an artificial substitute that does not come from Florida." In fact, it was [apparently] the potassium and not the orange juice. The [quote] "coefficient of flatulence for orange juice"—to use the terminology of USDA flatus researcher Edwin Murphy, a panelist at the 1964 Conference on Nutrition in Space and Related Waste Problems—the coefficient of flatus for this is low. Murphy reported on research he had done using an "experimental bean meal" fed to volunteers who had been rigged via a rectal catheter to outcast into a measurement device. He was interested in individual differences, not just the overall volume of flatus, but in the differing percentages of constitutant gases. Owing to differences in intestinal bacteria, half the population produces no methane. This makes them attractive as astronauts, not because methane stinks—it is odorless—but because it's flammable. Murphy had a unique suggestion for the NASA astronaut selection committee: "The astronaut may be selected from that part of our population producing little or no methane or hydrogen"—hydrogen also being explosive—"and a very low level of hydrogen sulfide and other malodorous trace flatus constituents not yet identified. Further, since some individual astronauts may vary in the degree of flatulent reaction to a given rate of food, individuals can be chosen who demonstrate high resistance to intestinal upset and flatus formation".

They were actually going to have intestinal flora and digestion traits. There was talk of having it as actually part of the astronaut selection process. In China, if you have bad breath, that's considered, just for the basic reason, that [in space] you can't open the window; you've got the same air circulating over and over. In Japan they don't want astronauts who snore, because it makes you barf. Now on the same topic, I called or e-mailed an astronaut named, Roger Crouch. I had heard a rumor that for astronauts one of the pastimes on all-male flights was to use intestinal gas like rocket propellants to "launch themselves across the mid deck." Now I questioned [the] scientific veracity of that, and I contacted Crouch. He wrote back, "The mass [and] velocity of the expelled gas" he said in an e-mail that has forever after endeared the man to me "is very small compared to the mass of the human body, thus it was unlikely that it could accelerate a 180-pound astronaut." He actually had done math. Crouch pointed out that an exhaled breath doesn't propel an astronaut in any direction and the lungs hold about six liters of air versus the fart, which [as] we learn[ed] from Dr. Murphy holds at most about [three] [soda] cans worth—or the average persons anyway. Well this is a quote again of the astronaut Roger Crouch: "My genes have blessed me with an extraordinary ability to expel some of the by-products of digestion. So given that I thought it should be tested. [In] what I thought was a voluminous and rapidly expelled purge, I fail to move noticeably." Crouch was heading to Cape Canaveral and promised to ask around for some other astronauts' input. But so far no one is, as they say, spilling the beans.

There are a million things that I could talk about. The other night when I opened it up for questions, we went to [some] really interesting places. So I would love to encourage [that] if people have questions. If you don't have any questions at all I could keep yammering. But do you have things that [you're] really curious about? The book is really, you could call this book, "The Wrong Stuff"—it's about all of that; it's all the little things that fall through the cracks. It's [all the ways] that zero gravity renders your life strange and difficult. I mean, like everything that you do and everything you bring up [there], everything has to be rethought, relearned. You know, astronauts are these high-achieving, top-of-their-class individuals, and [essentially] they go back to preschool. They have to learn how to use the toilet, they have to learn how to eat, they have to learn how to cross the room. You know it takes, floating, I experienced weightlessness on that, they call it the "Vomit Comet". Well "they" being me and others. NASA actually, when we were there they said, "No one is to refer to this as the "Vomit Comet". We are now calling [it] the "Weightless Wonder", which kind of makes you vomit. So it's that that plane. [And being on it,] you're up there and floating, being weightless; it's this wonderful experience, it's delightful. But it's very hard, very, very hard to control where you're going. I mean, I was up there with the, NASA has something called the Student Flights Opportunity Program where aerospace students compete for a chance to go on a weightless flight and do their experiments. They build these rigs and, you know, [they're] testing electromagnetic docking devices or zero gravity welding. And I was the journalist who was supposed to be reporting on this one team, and of course I was just up above them going "Weeeeee!" And I can't, you're supposed to hold on with a strap, because this is NASA and they want to make sure you don't have too much fun. So [I'm holding onto] the strap, which makes, you [can] reach the end of your tether, and I [went] head up over like the [airspace] over the University of Kansas students. So in order to move back, I put my foot down on the edge of their rig, and the guy there, you know, the head of the program goes "Stop kicking their experiment." So I got into some trouble but I really didn't care because it was a tremendously fun experience. And I have no idea why I even brought that up, but well zero gravity, yeah. Just that, [you] name a body part it does something weird to it. Name a body part, all right let's just try it. No [in public]. Come on, bring it on, bring it on…

From the crowd: Boobs.

Roach:          Boobs, okay boobs. All right boobs. [Ladies and gentleman,] we have boobs. All right, this is a good one, because I can tell you that one astronaut called [it] the "space beauty treatment" which is, okay, in zero gravity more of your blood, your bodily fluid, is migrating to the upper part of your body and less of it's down below. So you have more fluid puffing out the wrinkles, you have, your organs tend to migrate up a little bit so your waist is smaller; your boobs don't sag—no sagging. Your hair is fuller. Yeah, so what else? I think that was about the extent of the space beauty treatment. However, bear in mind I have also heard this called "puffy-face chicken leg syndrome". So yeah, [and in a] flight suit, nobody can tell that your waist is smaller and your boobs are more pert because you're wearing a, sort of, well now kind of, they're wearing Polo shirts and stuff. Okay boobs, that was good. Anything else? Any other…

From the crowd: How long can you live in zero gravity?

How long can a person live in zero gravity? Well there's reasons why you don't want to spend too long in zero gravity because what happens is your bones and your muscles, since you don't need them to walk around, your body basically says use it or lose it, you know, [and] starts dismantling them. And you get a lot of bone loss. So for a [Mars] mission I've heard from a third to half loss of bone mass, which is like the equivalent of being paraplegic, being in a wheelchair. So that plus, well that's the big concern with floating—you[could] adapt. As long as you stay floating, you know, if you are going to do that forever, then that [would] be fun. Once you  want to start walking again, that could be problematic. So but theoretically you could keep living in zero gravity. [Also] your immune system is a little compromised because you have less blood therefore less immune defenses. Your body thinks that because the blood all goes up here when the blood volume sensors up here, it's sort of, you shed. Well that's one thing you lose weight because you shed fluid. Yeah.

From the crowd: Did you find in your research any evidence [that there had been romantic activity in space?

Roach:          There are well, there are two missions [that] most of the rumors revolve around. One of them was in Russia. It was Valery Polyakov and Elena Kondakova, who's quite a hot chick and there were rumors. There's a photograph of them you know, sort of, [flirting], and he is throwing bubbles of water, you know, spheres of water. You can't really have a water fight because it doesn't get very far. And I interviewed these cosmonauts in Star City and I asked them about that, and he said, "Yeah, we kept saying, 'Valery,'"—which is the guy—"'Valery, did you have sex?' Valerie goes, 'Don't ask me this question.'"Well, the other [thing] going on is Elena Kondakova is married to another astronaut, so that would be a little difficult. So we don't know for sure—they say no. And the other one is a shuttle mission. It was an astronaut couple who went out [and], on the sly, got married before their mission. They were dating and then got married but NASA doesn't send married couples into space, not out of prudery so much as it's, you know, if there was an explosion and both of them were killed it would be so much of a loss to the families. And because if they have a situation [you had] to chose between the mission and your spouse, you would probably choose your spouse, and NASA would rather you focus on the mission. So couples don't tend to fly. But these two got up there, and they don't talk about it, and NASA doesn't really comment on it. My guess is that they did not just because they'd never fly again. It would leak, somebody would say, somebody else on the shuttle I'm sure would tell somebody else. People can't keep secrets. This is the thing. Human nature says that if somebody had sex up there, somebody would know. And that's what, I have explained that. But my agent goes, "Surely they had sex." And I said "No. Think about being an astronaut. You train for so long, you know, you've got this incredible devotion to your career, and do you really want to put that, do you [really] want to risk all that?" And he goes, "Really? I don't know; might be worth it." Yeah.

From the crowd: When you say "it could [leak]", do you mean that somebody would spill the beans?

Roach:          Oh, yeah.

From the crowd: Also it would be problematic, wouldn't it? In terms of privacy…

Roach:          Oh zero-gravity sex? Yeah, [privacy]. Well there's the airlock maybe. I think the airlock I am guessing, but yes.

From the crowd: What would happen to sperm in zero gravity?

Roach:          Well yeah, well I interviewed—because you can't, you know, it's [a] little difficult to get NASA Public Affairs to return an e-mail that says "zero-gravity intercourse"—I talked to marine biologists who study the mating habits of animals who have sex while floating: seals, earless seals and otters specifically, and dolphins. And essentially gravity is your friend when it comes to sex, because you want something to push against. These animals tend to go down, you know, to the bottom to have something to push against. So I brought that up with, I think it was Roger Crouch, that very kind astronaut who was talking about the farts in space. [He has probably]so regreted speaking to [me]. I said, "So won't you just push the person away from you? Wouldn't it be very difficult?" And he said, "No, I mean, you just start out like the way people start out, kind of fumbling and not [knowing] what they're doing, and you get better by experience. And if all else fails you get a roll of duct tape."

From the Crowd: I was wondering do astronauts have the opportunity to shower in space?

Roach:          Yes, the showers don't work because the water comes out and [it goes] a little way, and then it starts forming a big sphere. And if you hold the shower head really close, so you can try to head off the blob from [forming], then you get little pieces [ricocheting] off and they have to chase those all down. So I think it was Alan Bean [who said], so they just decided it just wasn't worth it. There was a shower once. So what they do, they use moist towels, and, yeah, and dry shampoo—that's what they use, yeah.

From the crowd: What happens to vision? Nearsightedness? Farsightedness?

Roach:          Yeah, [well that was a big concern] back before they sent up Alan Shepard and John Glenn in the beginning of the space program because no one knew what happens when you take away gravity—you know, will the blood still flow? [And there was all this hand wringing that went on.] [And] one of the big concerns was will the eyeball change shape? And the astronauts will, because if your eyeball changes shape, it changes whatever, you know, focus, it misses where it's supposed to hit the retina. I used [to] think, "Wow! What was that [like to be] John Glenn?" [It was kind of] like to going to the eye doctor, because he had this Snellen eye chart and there was this stigmatism device, [and he had to, every few minutes [he had] to look over [at] the eye chart and make sure [his] vision wasn't deteriorating. As far as I know, the only effect, they're now finding that weightlessness is having an effect on this pressure, increased pressure on the optic nerve. And so that's something that's recently come up. Up until that point, they didn't, like vision is not, acuity is not [affected]. Yes, green shirt, yes.

From the crowd: How do they control that everybody doesn't sleep together or when they sleep and how they sleep?

Roach:          You mean, sleep together and have sex or…?

From the crowd: …no, I mean…

Roach:          …you mean, how do they [sleep]? Well they have little, sort of, [bivouac] bags that they can crawl into and they're hooked onto. They do, yes, yes, they used, I think they used to stagger it, and I believe now they've imposed a sort of an Earth-based rhythm to sleep rather than try to make somebody stay awake and then somebody else sleep. So there's kind of, "Pull down the shades, okay nighty-night, we're all sleeping now." [But] it really must be [tough]. If you watch NASA TV—[and] I'm the kind of geek that loves to watch NASA TV, which is sometimes just raw footage—but you'll hear these announcements: "The astronauts are entering the pre-sleep phase for one hour, and then at 11:57, they'll enter the sleep phase." [Like who] goes to sleep at [exactly] 11:57,  just like that? And then they wake them exactly eight hours later. And so sleep meds are involved, definitely some sleep meds.

From the crowd: Seven astronauts waking at the same time. What if they all have to use the bathroom? How does that process work? I mean, how long does that take?

Roach:          Yeah right, right. [Well], the other thing is that the toilet sounds like a jet taking off. I mean, if you have to get up in the middle of the night and go, first of all, you're knocking into people [and] waking them up, and then you'll wake everybody up, so that's another thing that's interfering with sleep, you know. I don't know how they work [it out]. It takes a long time. I tried it out. There's a training toilet at Johnson Space Center and there's a list of instructions, you know: remove this valve, push this lever here, and it's that long, so it's not a speedy process. So I don't know how they do that, good question yeah.

From the crowd: How have the experiments changed in the last 40 years?

Roach:          [Well,] you know, in the early days they were pretty basic. Because it was, you know, the Mercury missions were just, let's see if we can get them up there and get them back down. Gemini was, let's see if they can survive for two weeks, what'll happen. Can you put people in such a cramped space? Well, you know, what are we going to feed them? How do we deal with the fact that there's no toilet? You know, so it was working out all of the logistics for a moon [shot]. And then the moon became, that's when—the first scientists didn't go up until the last Apollo [lunar] mission. That's the first time somebody flew who wasn't just a flyer. It was actually the first time that scientists [studied], you know, planetary geology that sort of stuff. And now the International Space Station has been [doing] lots of studies on how do we live for a long time in space? You know, what kind of exercise helps them keep their bones from disappearing? And there's been some studies on reproduction, conception in rats, on pregnancy and how does that affect birth, that sort of thing. So it's a whole range of things, but really the International Space Station has just kind of been an exercise in global cooperation, [with] all these different countries involved. It's really preparing for going on to Mars, on you know, the large scale at a glance is how do we live for a long time, get along, stay healthy and thrive in space. Okay, green shirt.

From the crowd: Did you look at the Russian program and are there any differences in the approaches to these problems in our two countries?

Roach:          I was over at Star City. The Russians, you know, [here in the U.S.,] they have these, sort of, bed-rest facilities where they're studying bone loss. It's a mimic of weightlessness to have people lie in bed for three months. They have one over there, but they're on a big water bed, so [they always have] sort of, little difference[s]. The Russians have a much more if it's not broken don't fix it, if it's working, just leave it. Whereas at NASA things seem to be very over-engineered and very carefully considered. I have this little, the press office gave me a little pin, a little, it's was, you know, an Aries [rocket]; they have like a little blinking light on the front, and you turn it over and it was this elaborate, complicated six solar cells in a panel, and it just, sort, of summed up NASA right there. Whereas, you know, in Russia, it would have been a safety pin  .

From the crowd: [What do they do with all the waste produced?]

Roach:          Well, up on the—waste produced, you mean, like garbage and human waste? Yeah. Well because, we're just orbiting the Earth, they can take the garbage back down to Earth. But on a mission to Mars, one of the things they would use it for—and I'm talking about biological waste, feces—that could, on the way back you could use that. Because hydrocarbons are good radiation shielding. You would line the capsule. You could make tiles. At NASA Ames [they] actually have this device where you can make tiles that would contain fecal material. It's like an Easy-Bake Oven. And you would get these tiles, and you would line the capsule. So the thinking is, on the way to Mars, you would use your food; you would have it all lining the interior, you know, of the [module] that you're living in. So you'd fly to Mars in a can food and then you'd fly [home] in a can of s***t, as the president of the Mars Institute told me.

From the crowd: Do you undergo any psychological tests?

Roach:          Yeah, I failed. There's a project called Mars 500 in Moscow. It's an isolation chamber, and they have these volunteers and astronaut candidates, cosmonaut candidates, and they put them in and observe them and see how they get along. And I applied to be part of it. There was a three-month run up to that, just to work out the [kinks], and I applied. Because it was an international thing. And I made it to the first round because there were [very] few women who had applied. And then they said, "Okay, you'll be getting a phone call." [And I said,] that's ok[ay], [and] I got [excited]. And at four in the morning one night, the phone rang, and I sort of staggered out of bed. And it's the European Space Agency person, who is you know, recruiting. And they said, "[Yes], we're calling from the European Space Agency." And I go, "It's like four in the, I'm sorry, it's four in the morning." And I [did not make any effort] to hide my irritation. Just said, thank you and [they] asked me a couple of questions. And I found later that was part of the test and I had failed. And one of the [people], I was speaking to a guy who is familiar with the selection process, and he said they do that kind of stuff all the time. Because if you know you're being tested, you'd behave very responsibly, maturely, and for me, unlike myself. But if you don't know you're being tested, then your true colors show. He said they always do that stuff. Like they'll call up an astronaut candidate and say, "Sorry, we've lost some of your medical tests, and you'll need to fly to Houston. You need to fly tomorrow." And if they [balk] at it, they say, "Okay you know, [you're] out." They want to know how badly you want to be one of us. I mean, I think if you were sleep, you know, if you are an astronaut, you've got to be used to being woken up in the middle of the night [and] not getting grumpy because that happens all the time. So yeah, I was out. Yeah.

From the crowd: With all that blood going up to your head, do people get smarter?

Roach:          You know, you'd think so. But you know what, there's a condition called space stupids. And I thought at first that there was something about the radiation up there, or that it was somehow about affecting them. And the person that I talked at NASA said, "No, that's just the result of sleep deprivation, maybe the meds that they're on, stress, too much to do and all the other indignities we [heap] on our astronauts. They're just stressed out. So it seems that they don't get smarter, [though] you would think so.

From the crowd: What does it do to your heart with the blood flow changing so much?

Roach:          The heart, heart it gets deconditioned because it doesn't have to pump [as hard]. It gets lazy. So they were, also on Apollo 15, I think there were some heart arrhythmias. And [Irwin]—I was going to say Bill [Irwin], but he's a professional [clown]—[it was Jim Irwin.] And I think he had these arrhythmias, [like] a mild heart attack, while he was up there. And they thought it was potassium, lack of potassium. That's what Charlie Duke felt—"I'm [not] going to [eat] [anymore] goddamn citrus fruits—that was the effect. That was because of arrhythmias. So there seems to be some sort of effect on the heart, although you don't really hear very much [about it] and NASA is a little close-mouthed about the long-term effects on astronauts. One more, okay…

From the crowd: Is there any way to make artificial gravity?

Roach:          Yes, yes there is. You know, if you'd seen 2001, the movie, 2001, you know, Keir Dullea and Gary whatever, they're jogging; it's that big, it's like a centrifuge basically—you're spun outward. So you're pressed into you know, the bottom of the ring with you know, Earth gravity or half gravity or whatever it is depending on how fast it's spinning. It's a little problematic because it's a great big moving part and that's tricky for the engineers, but they've looked into it and then somebody started building one, and then they got, you know, the budget got cut or something like that. Is that it? Thank you so much.

Steve:          Mary Roach's book is titled, Packing for Mars. I'll be right back after this word from Kerri Smith over at the Nature podcast.

Kerri Smith: Thanks Steve. We've got butchered bones from millions of years ago and a large family of monkeys helping scientists to study anxiety. Plus, as always, the best of the rest of the Nature podcast.

Steve:          The Nature podcast is available at iTunes and at http://www.nature.com/podcast. Well, that's it for part 1 of this Mary Roach extravaganza. Tune in very soon for part 2, in which Mary and I [say] things like:

Roach:          You check what you check.

Steve:          That was not the rearview mirror.

Roach:          I just broke the shuttle toilet.

Steve:          For Science Talk, the podcast of Scientific American, I'm Steve Mirsky. Thanks for clicking on us.

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