Sci Fi Sunday – Now With Actual Science!
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach. Every now and again, I interrupt my Sci Fi with some real science. I don’t mean I DO science, that would be too much like work. I’m talking about kicking back with books like The Physics of Star Trek (totally worth reading by the way — did you know that the transporters are the most scientifically improbable thing in the Trek universe?). ANYWAY, before I get completely sidetracked, let me highly recommend Packing for Mars. Mary Roach approaches journalism by jumping in feet-first, taking a ride on the plane that simulates zero G and experimenting with astronaut food. Since a multiple-year expedition to Mars would involve various physical challenges, she also investigates issues such as sex and excretion in zero G (both WAY more complicated than you probably ever thought about — or ever wanted to think about). When she can’t participate in a program herself, she interviews everyone she can get her hands on, from study participants to former astronauts to NASA employees and scientific experts. Along the way, Roach asks the questions everybody wants to know but was told by their mother to stifle. Since some of the programs have since been defunded by Congressional cuts, the book has a bittersweet conclusion; however, Roach makes a strong case that if our government is going to waste billions, this research is is the kind of thing we want them to waste it on. Highly recommend. Roach’s other books include Bonk (about the science of sex — I have read it and also recommend), Spook (on the science of the afterlife) and Stiff (about what happens to your body after you die).