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    Hands-On with NASA's HoloLens Mars Demo

    NASA has been working with Microsoft's HoloLens technology to allow its Mars Curiosity rover engineers to visualize Mars and plan missions for the robot. We try a version of this OnSight application and chat with NASA's Dave Lavery about the potential of this kind of mobile virtual reality.

    Simple Feats of Science: Liquid Nitrogen Experiments!

    In this episode of Simple Feats of Science, we're joined by Zeke Kossover from The Exploratorium to demonstrate an unconventional experiment with liquid nitrogen. Kishore and Zeke discuss some liquid nitrogen basics, and then show how you can use it to illuminate a broken light bulb!

    In Brief: Topographically Accurate Lunar Desk Globe

    I am completely enamored by this desk model, a project four years in the making by artist Oscar Lhermitte and London design studio Kudu. It's a 1/20million scale model of the moon (~7-inch diameter), modeled with accurate topographical data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and 3D printed with an industrial SLS printer at 100 microns layer height. The resin cast globe rotates on a simple motorized pedestal, illuminated by a ring of LEDs on an extended arm to simulate the sun. The photos of this globe look stunning. Find the project on Kickstarter here, where the desk model is selling for $700 for the globe and motorized LED arm. Too expensive for me, but it's absolutely lovely.

    Norman
    Adam Savage Mini Science Fair Project

    In honor of the 2016 White House Science Fair, Adam spotlights some counter-intuitive science, demonstrating how an acorn-shaped object can roll evenly -- just like a ball bearing! Find out more about #WHScienceFair here!

    Octopus-Inspired Robots Can Grasp, Crawl, and Swim

    Video of a robot developed by The BioRobotics Institute in Italy, which explores high-dexterity soft-bodied robots that mimic the movements of an Octopus. It's not just the form of the robot that takes inspiration from Octopuses, but also the way its limbs are controlled. From IEEE Spectrum: "Rather than relying on top-down instructions from the central nervous system, many of an octopus’s movements happen almost spontaneously–the result of the physical interplay between the animal’s body and its surrounding environment." Read more about this robot and its biomimicry lessons here.

    The Joy and Pain of Wearing NASA's Spacesuits

    During my time working as a contractor for NASA, I was presented with several opportunities to wear an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), the suit that spacewalking astronauts have used since the beginning of the space shuttle program. While the majority of my experience as a suit-wearing "test subject" was exciting and enjoyable, it wasn't all fun and games. The EMU has a way of showcasing the humility of its occupants and I was no exception.

    When people ask me about my experience in the EMU, I usually tell them, "The only thing better than getting into an EMU is getting back out." It may sound cavalier, but it's the most efficient wording that reflects the love-hate relationship that I slowly developed with the suit. I never turned down a chance to wear the EMU in any capacity. I was often sleepless with excitement the night before. At the same time, I was never sad for those events to come to an end. All I wanted was to slither my body out of its puffy man-made cocoon and pop a few ibuprofen to ward off the aches and pains that often followed.

    The Extravehicular Mobility Unit has been worn by astronauts and lucky test subjects for decades. (NASA photo)

    The fun parts of being in the suit are pretty obvious. Who wouldn't jump at the chance to play junior astronaut? Those good parts always outweighed the bad. It took a while for many of the downsides to emerge, but some unexpected challenges just couldn't wait. This story reflects the beginning of my gradual awakening to the indignities, discomforts, and dangers that are inextricably linked to the fun and exhilaration of wearing an EMU.

    If the Suit Fits…

    Rather than being a custom-tailored suit for each astronaut and test subject, the EMU is a modular system consisting of several components (legs, arms, etc.)…each available in a few different sizes. It is your specific combination of parts that makes the suit fitted to you. Nailing down the sizing for someone is a process that requires a minimum of three separate events. Some astronauts come back again and again during their career to address trouble spots or accommodate changes in their body.

    During the first sizing step, I had to stand partially naked while technicians compiled a long list of my body measurements. This data allowed engineers to take a preliminary stab at what components would fit me.

    The EMU is a modular system with many of the components available in different sizes. The gloves have the widest variety of sizing options. (Bill Brassard photo)

    A week or two after getting measured, I was allowed to try on a few different sets of gloves that had been picked out for me. Of all the different EMU components, the gloves have the largest variety of sizes to choose from. For these types of events, the gloves are attached to arm components within a vacuum box. The pressure difference afforded by the box provides the same feel as gloves attached to a pressurized suit, but with a much smaller overhead.

    Another week or so after choosing my favorite gloves, it was time to go all the way and put on the full EMU. I don't recall having any apprehension about this…just excitement. I had watched people get into and out of EMUs every day as part of my normal job duties. It was always a non-event for them, so why should I be any different?

    "Let's Go to Mars" Panel at Silicon Valley Comic Con

    At Silicon Valley Comic Con, Adam hosts a panel discussing what it would take for a manned mission to Mars. Joining him are author Andy Weir and planetary scientist Chris McKay, who is actively involved in planning for NASA's future Mars missions.

    Science Communication Caution - Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project - 3/29/16
    The gang gets together this week to talk about interesting observations of prime numbers, Google's DeepMind Artificial Intelligence, and the tricky thing about being a science communicator. We discuss at length the responsibilities of science communication and the complexities of internet rhetoric.
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    Simple Feats of Science: Bed of Nails

    We take on this classic science experiment! Zeke Kossover from the Exploratorium explains how he built a bed of nails that he can comfortably lie on, and then we smash a concrete block on top of him! The science is simple, but it's still fun to watch every single time.

    Visualizing Energy Inside a Microwave Oven!

    Have you ever wondered why your microwave oven has a rotating turntable, or what exactly makes water boil inside a microwave? This week, we're joined by Zeke Kossover from The Exploratorium to demonstrate an experiment that visualizes microwave energy in the form of a light show. Plus, we show how glass can absorb microwaves by melting a soda bottle!

    Hamilton and The Three Body Problem SPOILERCAST! - Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project - 3/01/16
    The latest book we're gushing over is Liu Cixin's The Three Body Problem, a science-fiction story with ideas that blew our minds. Adam, Norm, and Will review the book and discuss its concepts in a Spoilercast! Adam also talks about his current obsession with Hamilton: The Musical, and we hear Norm's best segue yet.
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    Adam Savage's 'The Martian' Spacesuit Project

    It's no secret that we've been enamored with the spacesuit from The Martian. From the moment we saw the costume in the film's first teaser trailer, we were impressed by designer Janty Yates' imagining of near-future NASA gear, and special effects studio FBFX's ability to bring those designs to reality. It's no surprise then that Adam has been looking forward to building a replica of the costume. But it's not going to be easy--it's a project much bigger in scope than a One Day Build. It's a project that's going to take many months, and we want to bring you along for the build.

    Over the course of this year, Adam and Frank Ippolito will be working on building their own The Martian spacesuit replicas, using the processes and materials of the original fabricators. We've been given unprecedented access to one of the costumes to document and create reference, but that's only the beginning. There will be more research, experimenting with materials, and a whole lot of prototyping, building, polishing, and finishing work. Every month, we're going to show you the progress of Adam's suit replica, with in-depth videos for the Tested Premium member community. In this new video series, you'll get to see every new discovery, every part of the fabrication process, and yes, all the mistakes as well.

    We're excited to show and share for the first time Adam's entire replica building process for a prop of this complexity. It's not going to be easy. Failure may be an option, but one thing's for certain: this is going to be fun! Join the Tested Premium Member Community today to follow along with this build and get exclusive updates!

    Replicating 'The Martian' Spacesuit, Part 1: Building Reference

    Adam Savage has been granted unprecedented access to one of his favorite movie costumes: the spacesuit from The Martian. Over the course of this year, Adam aims to replicate the spacesuit, keeping as close to the original as possible. The first step is to study and document the prop, creating reference through photos, sketches, patterning, and even photogrammetry! (Bring home The Martian on Blu-ray™, DVD & Digital HD today.)

    Watch This Animated Short: "We Can't Live Without Cosmos"

    This 2014 animated short from Russian director Konstantin Bronzit is nominated for an Academy Award, and tells the poignant story of two best friends who have dreamed since childhood of becoming cosmonauts. It's a story told without a single word uttered, but says volumes about friendship, humanity, and the loneliness endured by the brave men and women who put their lives at stake in pursuit of the final frontier.

    Breaking Glass Panes with Car Speakers!

    In our second episode of Simple Feats of Science, Zeke Kossover from The Exploratorium demonstrates how to use cheap car speakers to break a pane of glass. Unlike shattering a wine glass with sound, this experiment uses a low frequency of sound that won't hurt your ears. Watch that glass bend and then break!