Offworld, Episode 9: Isolation Trope in Sci-Fi Space Travel

This week on Offworld, we explore the trope of isolation and loneliness in science fiction space travel, and how both fictional and real-world astronauts cope with being away from home for extended missions. Joining us are neuroscientist Indre Viskontas and field geophysicist Mika McKinnon for a lively discussion on how sci-fi depicts the very real challenge of isolation in space!

Comments (3)

3 thoughts on “Offworld, Episode 9: Isolation Trope in Sci-Fi Space Travel

  1. good episode, ariel and indre and mika.

    i was thinking about exercise equipment, but most exercise i’m into not only relates to gravity as in how strongly does it pull downwards – that could most likely get recreated in a gravity-independent way – but also management of body momentum, and that would probably be very tricky to simulate. but yeah, probably something to do pullups from and a hangboard, plus some way of facilitating a countering downward pull, so i’m not completely noodles when i get back.

    also a strong contender: materials to practise a new art skill.

    regarding lighting in scifi: off the top of my head, i can remember one hint of changing lighting in star trek TNG. at the end of data’s day (season 4, episode 11), data takes over command of the bridge from worf for the night shift. on data’s command ‘begin night shift’, the bridge lighting dims. but that all goes pretty much according to what you mentioned – the need to artificially recreate a rhythm for structuring day and night.

  2. Gekitsu: Have you seen the video of Chris Hadfield working out on the ISS?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wam7poPzG1w

    He also talks about it in his autobiography in more detail. Exercise in space is an interesting issue, because it is functional and part of a rather complicated balance. You need to exercise to counteract negative effects of weightlessness, but you don’t want to exercise too much, because then you’ll need that much more resources to fuel your body. You basically want to do as little exercise as you can while maintaining the parameters you need to maintain for health (or at least slow the degradation down enough for the mission duration not to cause permanent damage).

    They do spend two hours per day exercising, so I also suspect even the most avid gymrats would quickly lose interest in exercise as recreation. :p

  3. What a wonderful discussion. so many amazing gems in this one. The interesting bits of Psychology that play out and are considered when dealing with isolation was very smart. Thank you for this.

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