By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
It is said the information revolution, partly fueled by the Internet, Social Media and media in general surrounds us with information 24x7.
Over the years, including before the Internet (we’ve had The National Inquirer for decades to equally misinform us) and mainly because I’m cursed with a fairly good memory I’ve managed to “learn” a great deal of information all things being equal that I’d be just as happy to not know.
Let’s start with some history: With an orbit that takes it 238 years to go around the sun, the former planet called Pluto has never made a complete orbit from the time it was discovered in 1930 until it was declassified as a planet in 2006. Now there’s a fact you can use to win a round of drinks with your buddies!
Things needed to travel in space for extended periods of time: Let’s look at the obvious. You can’t bring sufficient oxygen, water, food or other “staples” of life with you to last months if not years in space. Just not enough space nor the ability to bring that much weight with you. So, what is necessary is to recycle just about everything a traveler needs to survive.
Let’s start with human waste. The liquids are all recycled including down to whatever was the “original” form of the liquid. So, the coffee you drink today was originally coffee that you drank at an earlier date. No doubt it took many “experiments” to refine the recycling to the point where the “re-made” product was acceptable for consumption. You know what? I’m glad I was not one of the people used to taste test food and drink as these systems were developed.
Solid Waste: If you’ve seen the movie “The Martian” Matt Damon plays an astronaut left behind on Mars. He is seen using his own solid waste as fertilizer to grow potatoes on which to live. While this was fiction, there is technology being developed to make this possibly useful.
It involves building a reactor in which the waste is recycled. It is funny that to test their reactor (at Penn State University), the Lab didn’t use actual human feces — in large part because of the risk of infection (of course in space flight I guess they don’t worry about this!) I also like this statement by one of the lab managers: “If this is not only treating your waste but it’s also generating — in a separate process — your food, it can’t ever fail.” That is a statement I like to call: “Telling the obvious to the moronic.”
When I read this my mind links back to a famous Bob Newhart routine. See someone had to write the proposal for funding for this project. It strikes me as similar to a Bob Newhart “selling” the idea of smoking. No doubt the writers of this funding request spent hours laughing their butts off in the local bar discussing this grant proposal.
Cruises: We’ve all been lured by the promise of a great sea cruise. Only problem is there are potential health issues you need to be aware of. 11-reasons-you-should-never-ever-take-a-cruise. Let’s start with the physical characteristics of a cruise. There you are, along with 8000 of your closest friends (that includes passengers and crew) contained in fairly “tight” quarters. And these cruise ships have very powerful climate control systems, which recirculate the air repeatedly.
Suppose worse case, one of the passengers is Mary Mallon, aka “Typhoid Mary” Once a communicable disease starts to spread, there is little you can do other than a. stop breathing, and/or b. water-ski behind the ship until it is back in port. I suppose one could dress in a 100% self-contained breathing apparatus and not eat or drink anything for your remainder of time on the ship.
In summary, as my lawyer once told me, the only way to maintain your safety is to not interface with the rest of the world at all. So that means constructing a totally isolated living space complete with its own air supply, sanitation and food. We used to put things like this buried in our back yards. They called them bomb shelters.