Ode To Hubble Space Telescope
Mar14

Ode To Hubble Space Telescope

The European Space Agency are currently running a competition to celebrate 25 years of astronomical photography from the Hubble Space Telescope. The Ode to Hubble competition is for those creative people who want to produce a video in honour of the orbiting scientific marvel and it just so happens that a friend of mine has submitted an entry. Shown below, it’s a short animation complete with original music and I’ve made sure to vote for it on the appropriate voting page...

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Sex In Space
Feb24

Sex In Space

From the November 1959 edition of Adam magazine comes this article titled Sex in Space, written by Ronald Sturgeon. Firstly, the artwork is excellent. The image has great attention to detail and one look at it could instantly date the picture to the time period; right at the start of the space race. I love the aerial coming into the front of the rocket as well as the handles, pedals, levers, and switches for both the female astronaut pilot’s spaceship seating location and her male colleague’s too, who’s possibly performing the role of communications officer onboard the snug vessel. The shielding in front of the rocket engines is a good touch, showing a lot of thought and love has gone into the diagram. Sadly, there are a couple of disturbing elements to the illustration too. There’s the jug of alcohol, clearly of the illegal variety, and then there’s the action and look on the male astronaut’s face (which may have come from indulging of the alcohol); we can see that he’s got a can opener and the implication is that he’s going to open up the ship from the outside and then open up his colleague sexually, whether she likes it or not. Back in the late 50s or early 60s (possibly even later too) this type of dominating man seeking what was deemed rightfully his was considered par for the course and the picture was funny. Of course, the imagery was in a magazine for men so it’s not that surprising either. Still, the idea that what’s illustrated more-or-less amounts to a diagram just before space rape doesn’t sit quite so well these days. And there’s the stupidity angle that’s hard to get over too: why not just walk through the ship and not damage the craft? Alcohol again? Some quotes from the article itself: This business of women and sex in space has long been something of a problem for conscientious science fiction writers. While accustomed to taking the problems of time-travel and interstellar flight in their stride the iminence [sic] of actual space flight has given them pause where putting a broad into orbit is concerned. Usually, they solve the problem by making her a stowaway – or by preceding the U.S. Government by omitting the girls altogether until the intrepid spacemen get to Venus or Mars or Mercury or wherever they are going. Note the use of the word “broad” there. So how are the boys (and girls) going to get their sex in space in the coming age or [sic] planetary travel? Somebody is going to have to come up with a power system...

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Genetic Experiment
Feb01

Genetic Experiment

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The Pearlfish, The Oyster, And The Starfish Anus
Dec22

The Pearlfish, The Oyster, And The Starfish Anus

At last! An article that finally covers everything you ever wanted to know about the sounds that fish make, making homes in oysters, and burrowing inside the anus of a starfish! Here’s how pearlfish call to each other from inside the bodies of other living animals: Rather famously, pearlfish (family: Carapidae) species from the the genera Carapus and Encheliophis make their homes in the living bodies of invertebrate hosts, including sea cucumbers and starfish. Once inside, some of the creepier species even feed off their host’s genitals. But how, exactly, do they get in? […] “Oh”, I hear you say, “they go in through the mouth?” Well, not quite. They go in through the cloaca, which is in all intents and purposes, an anus, through which sea cucumbers and starfish breathe. Once inside, a pearlfish will hang out in a unique breathing organ called the ‘respiratory tree’ all day, very occasionally poking their own anuses outside to relieve themselves into the open ocean. You know you’re intrigued to learn...

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ColdZyme
Dec07

ColdZyme

I just saw an advert on television for Boots promoting ColdZyme, the spray that fights off the common cold. Somehow. When all other attempts to ward it off have failed for decades. My skeptisense tingled. I searched online… Pop along to Coldzyme: a result of real science being left out in the cold for a look at ColdZyme and its apparent ability to perform a feat no medicine can perform (not “no other medicine” because it claims not to be a medicine for probably legal reasons (remember kids, always treat your illnesses and afflictions with things worded to get around legalities to stick it to the man)). The article takes a look at the science behind ColdZyme (so it’s not a terribly long read, obviously) and finds its claims lacking, as I’m sure you’ve already surmised, you not being a moron and all that. What is this breakthrough, miracle product that will powerfully break down viruses? Well, an enzyme called trypsin. An enzyme that merrily and plentifully kicks about in your digestive system, breaking down proteins. An enzyme which, for the purposes of this product, is inexplicabl[y] being derived from cod (which has meant that I have had to resist the urge to refer to it as somewhat fishy.) An enzyme which should be stored at temperatures of between -20 and -80 degrees Celsius, to prevent autolysis. Now, I’ve seen some fancy medicine packaging in my time, but never a simple mouth spray bottle that can manage such storage feats. So, if trypsin really is present in this product, then it seems fairly likely that it’s going to be inactive, unless the manufacturers have found a way of warping room temperature. Okay. The “fishy” pun has been taken but I think I can still use the word “codswallop” to feast upon a free boost of the smugness hormone in my body, right? Take that cold virus! Tissue box photo courtesy of David...

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Materials In High Radiation Environments
Dec03

Materials In High Radiation Environments

If you’ve got any interest in future spacecraft design – real design, not the stuff of fantasy and science fiction – then Icarus Interstellar is a great source of information. As an example of the sort of thing you can expect to read why not take a look at this article on Materials in High Radiation Environments which explains the sort of building materials and shielding you’d need with near-future fusion drive systems: The use of controlled defects is the other important aspect of radiation resistance, since radiation can actually “cure” defects in certain types of materials (radiation hardening phenomena and radiation annealing effects). If we choose materials that can only be manufactured with a large number of defects in the first place, the basic properties of the material are known and the design can be done. Radiation then interacts with these defects and, if the materials are well chosen, these interactions can actually reduce the influence of the defects, increasing, rather than decreasing, the strength of the materials. […] If we instead started from perfect materials, the radiation would introduce defects that break down this perfection, making the materials weaker. The defects would be random, and might lead to catastrophic failure. By controlling the flaws in our materials and in designing for them, we have controlled and reliable properties: reliable mid range materials, rather than unreliable high strength...

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