01 agosto 2010

In Space

On astronaut food:
Space food must be both lightweight and dense in calories. Therefore, bacon enters a hydraulic press to become a “Bacon Square” and toast becomes a “Toasted Bread Cube” glossed with a layer of edible fat designed to keep crumbs in check. Because carbonation bubbles won’t rise to the surface without gravity, beer is a no-go in space. Milkshakes work just fine, however, as does grapefruit juice.
On relativity:
If you tote your bathroom scale onto an elevator and watch the readout at takeoff, you will temporarily gain weight as the elevator’s acceleration adds an additional earthward pull to the earthward pull of gravity. The gain is temporary.
On weightlessness:
Bed rest, curiously, mimics spaceflight in that “staying off one’s feet causes the same sorts of bodily degradations that weightlessness causes”, including muscle atrophy and the thinning of bones. Because of the similarity, NASA funds bed-rest studies at the University of Texas in order to assess the helpfulness of weightlessness countermeasures. Some bed-rest facilities refer to volunteers as “terranauts”.
On vocabulary:
The medical term for shed skin is scurf. “Dorland’s Medical Dictionary” defines it as “a branny substance of epidermic origin.” Branny? Yum.
On space euphoria:
“Space euphoria”, “rapture of the deep”, “nitrogen narcosis” and “the martini effect” are all terms for the sensation of tranquil invulnerability that can strike a deep-sea diver or an astronaut gazing down at earth. Four minutes into Gemini IV, NASA’s first spacewalk, astronaut Ed White dreamily said that he felt “like a million dollars” and stammered, “I’ve...it’s just tremendous.”

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