John Carpenter, this movie, and Escape from New York plagiarism. Metal Gear Solid also as an Escape ripoff. Running popular media through a “Hideo Kojima filter” to see what comes out.
Side-mounting your spacecraft. Flying a brick. Deorbiting and landing in the space shuttle’s “orbiter.” Wiggle-worm descent. Having only one chance because all of your fuel was spent getting out of orbit. Returning to shuttle-like designs with mag-lev mountain-ramps.
Inert gas asphyxiation
Nitrogen! Biologically inactive gas asphyxia vs potentially-toxic: CO2, CO, etc. Hypoxia.
Falling out of space
The slim odds of hitting the ISS when accidentally de-orbiting. Space is… small? Understanding what “orbit” really means. HALO/HAHO jumping, Baumgartner’s Stratos jump, and the incredible difficulty of jumping out of orbit ffs. Copyrighting all of the “totally radical” stunts.
Breaking the sound barrier
The difference in the “speed of sound” at different atmospheric densities. Terminal velocity at high altitudes. Air is more “sticky” than you might expect. Why didn’t Felix Baumgartner “burn up” on reentry?
“Jumping down” from a space station and how that is not sufficient for deorbiting. Megaconstellations and space junk.
Worrying the minimum amount about your speech. The difficulty of quoting noisy radio transmissions.
Because it is haaaahd
Recognizing the small temporal distance from the first powered flight to the first moon landing. The cutting edge of the early space program. Test piloting. Gemini.
The edge of space
Defining the edge of space. The “Karman Line”: transition from atmospheric lift to orbital velocity. Complications and redefinition of where “space” begins. Geopolitics, ruining everything since forever.
The “right stuff”
Badass engineer pilots. Moving fast and breaking things. Selection testing. Giving prospective astronauts ice-water wet willies. The importance of simulation in the early space program and the difficulty of simulating things we haven’t actually ever done or seen up close.How hard it really is to stay conscious under high-g stress.
Monocular depth cues. Light and shadow, unfamiliar objects, and depth perception. Equatorial noon on the equinox when stuff looks creepy: Lahaina Noon.
Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment
Retroreflectors and really really powerful lasers. Tiny photonic returns: 1 out of every 10¹⁷ photons shot at the moon mirror make it back for our detection. Multi-mile laser beams. Confirming relativity ftw.
… from the moon! And some regolith to boot. Vacuum transport for moon samples and how we work with them on Earth’s surface without contaminating. The difficulty of maintaining a a very strong vacuum vs nonreactive gasses. Detecting the provenance of proposed moon rocks. NASA’s moon-rock cataloguing system.
Viewership numbers. NASA’s custom video encoding and the incredibly analog conversion methods employed to bring it to television.
Best Star Trek movies. Liking things because they are familiar. The odd-even Star Trek movie rule. Mathematical proofs. Dismissing the reboots.
Giant cylinders and plumbuses. Finding out you are as an ant in the universe. Spreading across space and building giant robot suits to fight the larger incomprehensible creatures.
Using time travel to solve problems despite the consequences. Time travel anachronism stories. Bad time-travel sales pitches. The Mooreeffoc Effect. Would you go to the future? Only going forward because medicine in the past is always so bad. Time travel vaccinations.
The possibility of cetacean “language.” “Save the whales” in the 80s. Whale oil being supplanted by kerosene as industrial fuel. Stinky whale candles. The Napoleonic origins of margarine and the economics of fuel and margarine. Industrialized whaling. “Factory ships.” Realizing we are running out of whales. Continued industrial whaling, namely by Japan and some of the Nordic countries.
The fun, friendly future where the alleyways are safer than the streets. Worrying about your future children and feeling disgusted by your teenage self. Pelvic thrusting fight technique.
DJB back in the embarrassing teenage days
Time travel technique
Buying The almanac. Varieties of time travel: mutable, immutable, and branching. The way BTTF mixes these options at its leisure. The butterfly effect. Coping with the scale of possibilities. Strategic infanticide and Godwin’s Law.
Taking into account frames of reference. Appearing suddenly in near-vacuum if you don’t properly calibrate your time machine to also account for space travel. The importance of accurate time measurement e.g. Doctor Who The Movie. Destroying “the universe” but only the local area as causality here could not affect far away galaxies due to expansion. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Bricking your self-lacing shoes. Keeping your shoes from joining a botnet. Self-smoking shirts. The periodic nature of futurism where “the future” always looks basically like now but with neato accessories. Hoverboard hoaxes and disappointments.
A hundred years to uninhabitability is a little bit quicker than we thought. Timelines here to red dwarf and all the unpleasantness in between.
Probing your star
The surprising difficulty of actually reaching the sun. The Parker Solar Probe. Taking a close peek at the corona and the young solar wind. Close as in millions of miles.
Shifting circumstellar habitability zones. Moving the planet out nearer Jupiter as our sun expands. Throwing moderation to the wind and ditching the solar system. Tidal forces.
Planetary travel in deep space
Relativistic impact vulnerability. Appreciating Earth’s protected position within the heliosphere, blocked from impactors by two gas giants and its own moon.
Earth’s new home
Traveling across deep space with no sun. If you dig deep enough, mayyyyyyybe Kelvin’s “secular cooling” would keep everybody warm for the trip. Signing up for some eye shine. The three-body problem.
Living underground. Shielding from the radiation and frigid cold of deep space with kilometers and kilometers of Earth. Learning to eat lots of algae, crickets, and fungus. Taking advantage of geothermal energy at depth. Dealing with Earthquakes while being under some of them. The safety of tunnels.
Smuggling pickles in your pants into space. And maybe some vodka or cognac. “Who wants a warm pickle?”
The Wandering Earth by Liu Cixin: Amazon
The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin: iTunes | Amazon
The AMAZING Design of the Parker Solar Probe by Smarter Every Day: YouTube
Dolphin intelligence. It’s not about how smart they are, it’s about how they’re smart. Mammalian sameness as an avenue into better understanding life in the sea. Dolphin communication. Dolphin “language” and the possibility of translation. The Dolphin C.H.A.T. interface.
Big star! Red supergiant, 9th brightest in our sky. “Brightness” outside the visible spectrum. Dying stars gnoshing on their planets before going off.
Life form dominance
Metal boxes, taking over the planet and slowly digesting the soft squishy things inside them. Street Fighter-style car-breaking. How to judge the “top” species of a world.
Universal translators. A visit from Nick Farmer from the past, when we asked him about universal translators in our Q&A #2.
Space is big
Mind-bogglingly big! The bigness of space and the difficulty in finding a sense of scale from a human perspective.
Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.
Doors deriving sexual pleasure from providing their service. Polar opposite extreme AI demeanors. Deep Thought and AI constraints.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy The Game: BBC Radio 4
DRONE Solar System Model by Mark Rober: YouTube
VFX Artist Reveals the True Scale of the Universe by Corridor Digital: YouTube
The most interesting moon ’round Saturn! Viewing the moon Titan by eye or by telescope. Protip: bincolulars are actually just two tiny telescopes.
The Saturnian hexagonal storm vs the larger Jovian storm. Latitudinal wind gradients.
Adapting the world to our needs. The possibility of adapting ourselves to a world. Inhospitality. Ethiopian, Tibetan, and Andean elevation adaptation. Andean vampires?
Atmosphere. Temperature. Breathability. Tidal locking and avoiding tidal locking with Jupiter. Frozen and liquid water! Methane oceans. No shortage of atmospheres in our solar system, but we’re short on good ones.
The Huygens probe. Proposed future Titan exploration projects.Drones, submarines, floatydrones, sinkydrones, etc.
Titanian weather gets bigs! Large methane rainstorms, but really only after decaded or centuries of drought. Energy availability so far from the sun.
Who needs oxygen? Apnea training irl. Suck-tubes. Eventually breathing methane. Cat eyes vs shark eyes and which is best for a flying lizardman.
Space Moreau, or Space Mengele? Space Merengele? Individual plasticity. Creating the ultimate MMA alien creature thing. Modeling after Bas Rutten. The final mutation hogdepodge. Bat-lats. Human flight on Titan.
The Titan: Netflix
What About a Mission to Titan? It’s Time to Explore Saturn’s Largest Moon by Fraser Cain: YouTube
Glowing blood and possible alien infections. Human sensitivity to positive and negative g-forces. Trying to push more blood to your head for mental superpowers.
And impromptu deorbiting. How to crash a probe into mars (by accident).
Chinese space stations, then and now. Station entrance and exit procedures. Finally the Star Trek balloon analogy comes in handy! Decompression sickness/the bends during EVA. Portable life support systems. Sokol and ACES, and their insufficiency for extra-vehicular activities.
…in spaaaaaace. Carbon dioxide. Water. Super soakers. Fire emergency procedures.
Past designs and modern designs. Future EVA suit developments. Constrictive suits directly against the skin rather than creating an atmosphere around the body: the biosuit. The NASA Z Suit that looks like Buzz Lightyear, and operating EVA suits at the same pressure as your space station.
Soyuz reentry angles. Heat shielding. Trying to point in a particular direction.
The complete obviousness that heavy compound weight lifting is the major solution to muscle and bone loss in space. Bro do you even lift? Vacuum-based space squat rack.
Memories of the arcade and the Sega Game Gear. Introduction of Larry the Rat in the Atari Lynx port. How to pick from current social fears for your lazy game plot.
Genetics research in spaaaaaace. CRISPR. Bremen Drop Tower.
Gorilla sign language
Koko the gorilla. Gorilla sign language. Credulity and confirmation bias. Impressive gorilla lexicons. Adventures in signing portmanteus. Yogurt aka “milkfruitcandy food.”
Comparing the gorilla to the grizzly bear. Relative animal size. Grizzly bears as killing machine. Gorilla conflict-avoidance techniques.
The square-cube law! Relative scaling and the race between volume and surface area (volume always wins!). The creation of a bio antenna. The relatively low energy of radio waves.
Mutations, mutations, mutations
Gorilla turns into giant gorilla. Lizard turns into mega lizard. Wolf, though, turns into a wolf… with patagia and throwable quills! Possibly resembling the urticating hairs of a tarantula.
How to Make an Elephant Explode with Science by Kurtzgesagt: YouTube
Zero-G Experiments on Earth: The Bremen Drop Tower by Tom Scott: YouTube
Scientists Successfully Teach Gorilla It Will Die Someday by The Onion: YouTube