How curious!

June 12, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

This is the second post in my regular feature How Curious! Many stories, articles and news items I come across cause me to mutter “what the?!!” and there are some choice ones for this How Curious! post.

Let’s start off by learning how to survive in a black hole. This may come in handy one day, you just never know. I would think that falling into a black hole (and I’m not talking about working in a KM programme here!) would be some wild trip. Your body would be ripped and pulled this way and that in free fall. Gravitational forces would ensure you didn’t pop out at the other end. You’d be kaput. But two researchers have contemplated whether you could in fact delay death before the inevitable happens (now, this is something to think about when you’re bored). They’ve come up with the idea of a black hole life preserver. You’d need to think ahead and take the preserver with you, but this state-of-the-art life preserver will counteract the stormy forces of the black hole and delay death by about 0.9 second.

Now, the real problem I can see here is that the life preserver ring would apparently need to be as heavy as a large asteroid and could be as large as one of the rings of Saturn. I’d also like to know if it comes in hot pink:)-

I’ve been reading a couple of books on NASA’s space programme and did a post recently on The Magnificent Seven. So I’ve been on the look-out for news on NASA’s Mars exploration programme. Sending a human mission to Mars could involve a flight time of 6 months or more just to reach the red planet. Like me, you might just wonder how the astronauts will take care of certain business. I found the answer about toilets but the answer to the other question – can you have sex in zero gravity? – has eluded me till now. Perhaps when you think of heroic space missions, you don’t think of things like “how do you get rid of a dead astronaut in space?”, nor do you think about “special considerations” on an interplanetary journey.

But science journalist Laura Woodmansee has been probing these intriguing questions for her book Sex in Space and has encountered resistance from retired astronauts and NASA – they just don’t seem to be comfortable talking about this topic. I’ve been wondering about all the tangled relationships that could occur between members of a male/female crew. If you fall in love in space with a fellow astronaut, do you send an sms back to Earth to tell your partner “sorry, met someone else”! One question I hadn’t considered was this one I found in a review of Woodmansee’s book: “Have astronauts and cosmonauts practised “docking maneuvers” while in orbit? Mmm…better ditch my book on Neil Armstrong’s life and read Sex in Space instead (for research purposes of course).

Should you come across a pothole in the ground, you might consider casting your eye around for some ants. Scientists observed that when ants were foraging over rough terrain, some of them used their own bodies to plug potholes. The ants even considered which fellow ant would be the best fit to lie across the hole. This pretty spesh technique provided the fastest route between prey and nest. An ant may remain in place for hours, but once the traffic of ants has crossed, the ant will pop out of the hole and bolt home.

And the following advice will help us through any encounter with a leopard. Should an ageing leopard jump into your bed, as happened to an Israeli man recently, simply lunge at the cat (preferably clad only in your night clothes), grab it by the neck, pin it down and wait for help. To avoid being woken up by a leopard in the first place, consider not taking your domestic tabby to bed with you.

And should the night-time leopard wrestling fail to subdue the big cat, quickly find your mobile phone (but first make sure you have a ring tone that moos, bleats or clucks). Animal ring tones have a soothing effect on leopards. Villagers in India are using mobile phones with great success, recently capturing five leopards and releasing them back into the forest. Sure beats the heck out of using a poor goat as live bait – pretty unpleasant for the goat!


Entry filed under: Animals, Bizarre, Curiousity, Fun stuff, How curious!, NASA, Science.

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