The Fascinating Device Astronauts Use to Weigh Themselves in Space

Most every scale on Earth, from the kind bakers use to measure ingredients to those doctors use to weigh patients, depends on gravity to function. Weight, after all, is just the mass of an object times the acceleration of gravity that’s pushing it toward Earth. That means astronauts have to use unconventional tools when recording changes to their bodies in space, as SciShow explains in the video below.

While weight as we know it technically doesn’t exist in zero-gravity conditions, mass does. Living in space can have drastic effects on a person’s body, and measuring mass is one way to keep track of these changes.

In place of a scale, NASA astronauts use something called a Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) to “weigh” themselves. Once they mount the pogo stick-like contraption it moves them a meter using a built-in spring. Heavier passengers take longer to drag, while a SLAMMD with no passenger at all takes the least time to move. Using the amount of time it takes to cover a meter, the machine can calculate the mass of the person riding it.

Measuring weight isn’t the only everyday activity that’s complicated in space. Astronauts have been forced to develop clever ways to brush their teeth, clip their nails, and even sleep without gravity.

[h/t SciShow]

This Innovative Cutting Board Takes the Mess Out of Meal Prep

There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
TidyBoard, Kickstarter

Transferring food from the cutting board to the bowl—or scraps to the compost bin—can get a little messy, especially if you’re dealing with something that has a tendency to roll off the board, spill juice everywhere, or both (looking at you, cherry tomatoes).

The TidyBoard, available on Kickstarter, is a cutting board with attached containers that you can sweep your ingredients right into, taking the mess out of meal prep and saving you some counter space in the process. The board itself is 15 inches by 20 inches, and the container that fits in its empty slot is 14 inches long, 5.75 inches wide, and more than 4 inches deep. Two smaller containers fit inside the large one, making it easy to separate your ingredients.

Though the 4-pound board hangs off the edge of your counter, good old-fashioned physics will keep it from tipping off—as long as whatever you’re piling into the containers doesn’t exceed 9 pounds. It also comes with a second set of containers that work as strainers, so you can position the TidyBoard over the edge of your sink and drain excess water or juice from your ingredients as you go.

You can store food in the smaller containers, which have matching lids; and since they’re all made of BPA-free silicone, feel free to pop them in the microwave. (Remove the small stopper on top of the lid first for a built-in steaming hole.)

tidyboard storage containers
They also come in gray, if teal isn't your thing.

Not only does the bamboo-made TidyBoard repel bacteria, it also won’t dull your knives or let strong odors seep into it. In short, it’s an opportunity to make cutting, cleaning, storing, and eating all easier, neater, and more efficient. Prices start at $79, and it’s expected to ship by October 2020—you can find out more details and order yours on Kickstarter.

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NASA Scientist Simulates What Sunsets Would Look Like on Venus, Mars, and Beyond

NASA's Curiosity rover captured this sunset at Mars' Gale crater in 2015.
NASA's Curiosity rover captured this sunset at Mars' Gale crater in 2015.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M Univ.

Earth, Venus, and Mars all share the same sun, but due to factors like distance and atmospheric composition, it looks different from each planet. This is especially true during sunset, when sunlight travels through more of a planet's atmosphere. Now you don't have to imagine what an extraterrestrial sunset would look like: The video below, created by a NASA scientist, shows realistic simulations of different sunsets throughout the solar system.

Planetary scientist Geronimo Villanueva from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, came up with the idea while working on a computer modeling tool for potential Uranus missions. The model helps scientists study how sunlight interacts with the atmospheres of other planets. This data can tell us a lot about a planet's chemical makeup, and as Villanueva discovered when testing the tool, it can also show us what an otherworldly sunset looks like.

After modeling a Uranian sunset, Villanueva built simulations for sky colors on Earth, Venus, Mars, and Saturn's moon Titan. In the clip below, you can see the sky domes of the eight celestial bodies, plus a hazy version of Earth. As the sun moves from horizon to horizon, the colors of each circle start to change. On Mars, for example, the sky transitions from brown to grayish blue, because the fine Martian dust particles in the atmosphere are effective at scattering blue light from the sun when it's low in the sky.

Once you've watched this simulation, check out what an eclipse would look from the surface of our planetary neighbors.