Lectures for a New Year: Mary Roach is an Awesome Space Nerd


Mary Roach is thoroughly awesome: she's funny, whip-smart, and well-read. In other words, she's one of us. Roach is the author of Stiff, Spook, Bonk, and most recently Packing for Mars; in this lecture, Roach tells stories about space (mainly from NASA), including exactly the kinds of questions we all have about space: what's it like to be there? Does it smell weird? How does food work? What if you get mad at your fellow astronauts? And of course, what's up with the toilets??

Topics: funny (and sometimes slightly gross/weird) stuff that happens in space. Roach has interviewed tons of people, plus read zillions of transcripts of NASA transmissions, to find the best bits for you.

For: anyone who is not currently eating lunch.

Representative quote:

"The Space Toilet. You may not really appreciate gravity in your lives the way that you should. ... [In space] you're sitting on a shop vac, essentially." Later: "Okay. I give people the impression that this entire book is about crapping in space, and it's not, really, honest to God, it's not. But there's just one more thing [about crapping in space] I have to tell you."

Viewing tip: jump to about three minutes in for the actual lecture. Also, you can download the lecture directly from YouTube (link is below the video player) if you want to take it offline.

Further Reading

You're in for a treat, as Roach's books are universally awesome: funny, smart, educational, and easy to pick up -- basically great vacation reads, but with science content. The book she discusses in the lecture above is Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. See also: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex; and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife.


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