In Print: Nature’s Call, Nature’s Mimic
Sep30

In Print: Nature’s Call, Nature’s Mimic

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what went on in last week’s issue of C&EN. When you've gotta go, it doesn't matter if you're thousands of feet above the earth. In 1961, Alan B. Shepard Jr. became the first American to fly into space ... and likely became the first American to pee his pants in a space suit (unverified). As Senior Correspondent Steve Ritter writes in last week's print column, NASA's space program was light-years ahead of its onboard facilities program. Because the first spaceflight was so short--only 15 minutes--NASA engineers put the pee problem on the back burner, only to regret that decision when launch delays left Shepard in the suit for more than eight hours. (To learn about the more-detailed discussion that went on, Steve points us to the movie "The Right Stuff" about the first NASA astronauts. Without having watched it, the Newscripts gang really hopes that Shepard said, "Houston, we have a problem.") Steve says that researchers were developing catheter-based and other devices for the Air Force for high-altitude and long-range airplane flights. But, understandably, these were uncomfortable and often leaked. After learning the hard way during Shepard's flight, NASA planned something new for their second spaceflight. Later in 1961, Gus Grissom went to space wearing two pairs of rubber pants that he got to take a leak between. On the third flight, John H. Glenn Jr. was the first in the U.S. space program to use a urine collection device (UCD). Now, astronauts in the International Space Station have vacuum-like toilets that work in zero gravity. What about when they're in their space suits during takeoff, landing, and space walks? The space shuttle program in the 1980s replaced these UCD storage bags with "absorbent technologies" suitable for men and women, writes Steve. So, giant diapers, Newscripts guesses. The Washington Post reports that they're called maximum absorbent garments, or MAGs, which sounds slightly more dignified. Toilet troubles aside, Steve is undeterred. "I have always dreamed of being a space cowboy," he says. "The best part would be seeing if the moon really is made out of cheese or if the little green men on Mars have been hiding from us. The worst part is a fear of running out of air to breathe." Steve has had adventures a little closer to home, however. His next Newscripts item discusses ball lightning, which people only have a one in 1,000 chance of seeing in their lifetimes. Steve's a lucky winner, he recounts: "Once I was hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the...

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Behind the Story: Urine Rides Wave Of Media Attention
Aug14

Behind the Story: Urine Rides Wave Of Media Attention

A funny thing happened after Newscripts' Lauren Wolf wrote a post promoting peeing in the ocean late last month: The article, much like the urine it discussed, slowly spread through the waters of the Internet, garnering attention from everyone from Gizmodo to Jezebel. In the video above, fellow CENtral Science blogger Carmen Drahl asks Lauren what it's like to be known as a "urine evangelist," whether there's any truth to dyes detecting urine in pools, and why Lauren's husband would still rather not pee in the ocean. This conversation is the second videocast that Carmen and Lauren have produced. Definitely check out their discussion about the history of the National Organic Symposium, if you haven't already....

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