Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

Book: Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

About: Roach tackles the difficulties involved getting humans to space, keeping them alive there and returning them to Earth. Food, bathing, using the toilet and keeping sane in the vast blackness are all covered.

A few interesting things I learned:
  • You can't hang yourself in space, due to the lack of gravity.

  • The best way to survive a runaway plummeting elevator is to lie down on your back on the elevator floor.

  • A meteoroid is a piece of planetary debris hurtling through space. If it's bigger than a boulder, it's an asteroid. If any part of the meteoroid makes it through Earth's atmosphere intact, it's a meteorite. The visible trail of the meteoroid through Earth's atmosphere is called a meteor.
  • In zero gravity, urine doesn't collect on the bottom of the bladder. Due to surface tension, it adheres to the sides. Therefore, astronauts don't get the urge to go until the bladder is almost completely full. They are encouraged to pee on a regular schedule.

  • Farts aren't strong enough to propel a weightless astronaut across a room.

  • Steatorrhea means fatty feces.

  • You can buy skinned cats online.
Pros: Roach is one of my my favorite writers. I loved her other books (my review of Bonk is online) and this book continues the trend. Very funny, especially humorous footnotes. Wonderfully written and fascinating.

Cons: I was sad space ice cream wasn't mentioned. Bibliography included but no in-text cites.

Grade: A

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