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

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less