Staying Curious – Cool things to find?

Hello Readers! I recently stumbled across a video on Youtube (see it here), you might have seen the post about it on the Facebook group or the Twitter feed. While the video is about the Curiosity rover, it got me thinking about our field of science and the reasons we investigate things like this in the first place.

By now, most of you will have read something about what it is Curiosity is looking to find and the numerous innovations that allowed it to travel to Mars and look for these things- but what ‘cool things’ have been found in the name of planetary science right here on earth and why should anyone actually care?

Sunglasses – While the concept nor the original design were developed by NASA, their influences can be seen all over the modern designs we see today. The following are a handful of features sunglasses wearers enjoy due to innovations made by NASA.  Titanium frames which make glasses much stronger and resistant to breaking. Lens designs that are not only more scratch resistant than conventional glass lenses but are also better at filtering out harmful UV rays.

Memory foam - the space race's way of ensuring you have a good night's sleep!

Memory foam – the space race’s way of ensuring you have a good night’s sleep!

Memory foam – The luckier readers among you may be reading this post from your bed (while I am likely slaving away in a lab somewhere!). Well, if your mattress or pillow are made from or contain memory foam, then you are benefiting from one of NASA’s many technological innovations. Originally designed to provide comfort and protection for space suit users, the material has now found its way into conventional use around the home as well as several other more specialist uses.

Freeze dried ice cream- because no astronaut should ever have to be without ice cream in space!

Freeze dried ice cream- because no astronaut should ever have to be without ice cream in space!

Freeze drying – Some of you will understand when I say, on a cold winter morning I can’t bring myself to face the world without first having a cup of coffee. What’s more, being a student, I can’t quite justify (let alone afford) buying a big and bulky machine along with coffee beans to make  a cup every day. If only there were a product I could use instead… Fortunately, due to NASA’s attempts to make a wide range of foods suitable for space travel, there is! Instant coffee is just one of the now numerous ways that the freeze drying process is used.

Modern running shoes – The technology used by many running shoe companies hearkens back to the boots first used in the Apollo missions. Designed to spread the distribution of weight on the foot, insoles that are now common place in any gym are truly a product of the space race!

Computer microchips – When the Apollo 11 mission was being guided to its landing site, it was in fact being guided by the precursor to the types of chips that make writing (or reading) this blog post possible. Every microchip in your computer owes its existence to that giant leap for mankind.

That’s almost all there is in this blog post but before I sign off I’d like to keep you up to date with what I’m planning for the future. In the near future (probably January) I am hoping to create a video blog entry for this site and I wanted to take this opportunity to include you in this development. I’m aiming to do a question and answer section to the video, which is where you all come in – Leave a comment below, tell me what it is you are curious about in science and I’ll do my best to answer them!


About Mark Nottingham

Mark is a PhD student in the Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry group at UoM. Primarily working on the RIMSKI and RELAX noble gas instruments.
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