Elon Musk: Nuke Mars to Colonize It. Earth: Been There, Done That.

Elon Musk says nuking Mars would get it nice and toasty for humans. Is that really within the realm of possibility?


On the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Elon Musk presented the idea that perhaps we could nuke Mars, in order to warm it up for colonizing. Like many (possible) supervillians, his deadpan made it difficult to tell if he was joking or completely serious. But it raises an interesting question, one asked with wonder by stoners and sci-fi writers alike: Can we drop a nuclear bomb in space?

As it turns out, we already have. In the early 1960s, with the Space Race under way, there was a series of experiments in which the United States dropped the bomb hundreds of miles above Earth. This culminated in an event known as the Starfish Prime, where we dropped a 1.4-megaton bomb about 250 miles above Earth. You can watch that below, but it is recommended you mute it and play Pink Floyd as you watch.

Realizing these experiments were both insane and dangerous, President John F. Kennedy signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963. That was over 50 years ago, and today we’re talking about bombs on whole different planets. Bombs closer to Earth have somewhat more predictable results, as some of the rules with magnetic fields still apply. When the Starfish Prime happened (and why is that the name of a metal band yet?), it strongly affected the Earth’s magnetic fields by causing blackouts and issues with electronics. Do we know enough about Mars and its atmosphere to drop a nuclear weapon on it?

Right after Hiroshima, there was a huge firestorm. Are fireballs in space a possibility? NASA engineer Dan Dietrich says fire in space is “potentially more lethal” and “less predictable” than on Earth. While that could make an enjoyable Michael Bay film, it would be a terrifying reality. What also of the post-bomb Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse? What happens with radiation in zero gravity? And the biggest question comes courtesy of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park:  “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.”

Nukes in Space. A moral quandary, yes. Movie plot, yes. A good idea as a way to microwave a planet? To be determined.

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Lori Chandler is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, NY, which is the most unoriginal sentence she has ever written. You can look at her silly drawings on Tumblr, Rad Drawings, or read her silly tweets @LilBoodleChild. Enough about her, she says: How are you?

PHOTO CREDIT: iStock

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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