Updates Fridays

Would you care for an espresso with your freeze-dried steak and potatoes in a bag?

I expect it will come as no shock to readers of Half-Man to learn that I have a deep and abiding interest in space and humanity’s discovery of it. I am always eager to hear about the latest creations and ingenuities that we must develop in order to continue to expand our species’ place in the universe. Also, science is cool. I mean, how awesome was it a month or so back when we heard that NASA had emailed a wrench to space?

This week the story that caught my interest was about engineers at Portland State University working on developing an espresso cup that will allow astronauts to sip espresso in zero gravity.

Partially this work is in response to Italy’s intention to send an espresso machine to the International Space Station later this year, but the endeavor is also part of the larger task of learning how to design objects for use in low gravity. And that larger task sounds wicked hard.

I mean think about it, what must it be like to design everyday objects for use in an environment that the engineer has no personal experience with? What sort of abstract thinking must that utilize, how much imagination and careful attention to detail? They must need to think through every little decision, they can’t take anything for granted, and there will always be unexpected consequences that might not come up for quite a long time. It must be like…like…like writing science fiction!

That sounds way too hard. I’m glad we have artificial gravity in the world of Half-Man.

But seriously, how cool is it that there are people who spend their days trying to predict how tiny changes to the depth of a curve in the belly of a coffee cup will affect the size of the bubbles of liquid that will leak out of the top of the vessel? Those people must be seriously smart. And before you start asking if these people are waisting their talents trying to improve the experience of drinking espresso for a handful of individuals, consider this: this work is expanding the horizons of humanity’s collective experience with the world we live in. This work will lead to many other things. And not just improvements in fuel movement in rocket engines, as the Wired article I linked to above points out, but also so much more then that. As time goes on and more and more people have the opportunity to experience space travel, there are so many aspects of that experience that will be enriched by these basic advances. When I take my first luxury moon cruise for my 110 birthday, I’m going to want to be able to wash my face before I go join the captain for a brandy on the observation deck. Or, more practically, when I get disoriented and bash my head in on a strut the first time I try to move around without some sort of restraint and I’m bleeding all over the place, I want the ship’s doctor to be able to give me a blood transfusion. I mean think about that: how would you do a blood transfusion in low gravity?

Anyway, my point is simply that space is cool, and the work that is being done to explore even the most fundamental aspects of living in it is also really cool, and in my humble opinion, totally worthwhile. And you can look forward to other brilliant observations of that nature as I continue to share the totally awesome developments going on in our world with you in the weeks to come.