Space Fantasies Meet Biological Realities

At NASA the waste management engineers are incredibly important to the entire mission, says Mary Roach.

As we consider the prospect of space vacations (the 600th ticket was recently sold for Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo), luxury space hotelsspace colonies, and other commercial enterprises that will bring humans to space in the near future, we need to recognize that the biologists are as important as the engineers.


Not only do we need to physically get humans to space, we also need to keep them alive, or at the very least ensure that their lives aren't completely miserable. 

After all, human space travel today is a luxury experience. Supercouples like Brangelina and celebrities like Ashton Kutcher are paying big bucks. The idea of traveling to space may seem like fun right now, but few people will want to lay out $200,000 in the future if SpaceshipTwo's maiden voyage becomes the sub-orbital equivalent of the Carnival Cruise "poop cruise."

That's why at NASA "the waste management engineers are incredibly important to the entire mission," says Mary Roach. Roach is the author of Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, a fascinating and humorous look at what happens to the human body in space.

In the video below, Roach describes how space explorers are basically sent back to kindergarten, having to re-learn how to go to the bathroom and how to eat.

Watch here:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less

The world's watersheds, mapped in gorgeous detail

Hungarian cartographer travels the world while mapping its treasures.

Strange Maps
  • Simple idea, stunning result: the world's watersheds in glorious colors.
  • The maps are the work of Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs.
  • His job: to travel and map the world, one good cause at a time.
Keep reading Show less
Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
Keep reading Show less