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One Book One Marin: Chapter 4–Gravity

Packingformarscover OK folks, we’ve finished chapter 4, covering the fascinating topic of gravity, anti-gravity, and…animal testing. The last subject is a bit depressing, and highly controversial. If you’ve got a strong desire to read more, here’s a link to a NASA article detailing the history of animals in space. Additionally, you can check out images of a monkey being suited up for a space flight from the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution site. Reading about the experiments with all of the animals and seeing the photos made me a little too sad to cover it in detail.

I was particularly impressed and intrigued by Roach’s basic explanations of gravity and weightlessness: “the term ‘zero gravity’ is misleading when applied to rocket flights. Astronauts orbiting the Earth remain well within the pull of the planet’s gravitational field…Here’s why they’re floating: When you launch something into orbit, whether it’s a spacecraft or a communication satellite or Timothy Leary’s remains, you have launched it, via rocket thrust, so powerfully fast and high and far that when gravity’s pull finally slows the object’s forward progress enough that it starts to fall back down, it misses the Earth. It keeps falling around the Earth rather than into it. As it falls, the Earth’s gravity keeps up its tug, so it’s both constantly falling and constantly being pulled earthward. The resulting path is a repeating loop around the planet. ” (Roach, 86) How amazing is that? Any scientists out there who want to weigh (pun intended) in?

And what a talent Roach has for breaking down sophisticated concepts into succinct and humorous explanations. There’s a number of instances throughout her book that demonstrate that gift–take a ¬†look at her amusing footnotes, for example: “you don’t have to worry about being killed by falling spatulas of LSD gurus, because these things burn up when they reenter the Earth’s atmosphere. (Dr. Leary was recremated sometime in 2003).” (Roach, 87) For more on Timothy Leary’s ashtronomical experience, here’s a brief article from the Seattle Times.

~Ali

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