Episode 44

Episode 44 of the Mindcast is up!

Download it here.

There was no news in this show, due to a glitch in the station’s recording computer. However, the interviews were pre-recorded, and so I just spliced them in with an explanation at the beginning. The end of the show still has commentary, so don’t miss it. Who did I interview?

Kimbrell playing with her fliesWhy, Deborah Kimbrell from UC Davis, and John Z. Kiss from Miami University, Ohio. (not Florida) Where’s the commonality? These two scientists sent up experiments in the space shuttle discovery, mission STS-121, which launched on July 4. Deborah Kimbrell conducted an experiment on immunity in fruit flies in zero G’s, and John Kiss sent up an experiment called Tropi, which studied gravitropism and phototropism in plants, while growing them with red, white, and blue LED lights.

We talked about the experiments, why they are being condeucted in space, and we also talked about the state of science (and space science) funding in this country. They might have met once or twice in Florida during the launch, but I doubt that they would have been talking about that topic specifically, so that they agree without hearing each other’s interview, shows just how obvious the situation is to scientists connected to space science.

As always, I brought up science ficiton. Deborah liked a bit of SciFi, but John wasn’t too fond of it. Strangely, however, John was walking around the STS-121 launch site wearing what appeared to be a star trek insignia. Well, no, someone at NASA designed his experiment’s insignia to look like it:

To boldly grow where no arabidopsis has grown before

See what you miss if you don’t appreciate SciFi as a scientist?

I got this image from a PDF file that John sent to me, and you can all take a look at his photo journal of the mission preparations on his trip to Florida. You might also notice something unintentional about the case that they packed the TROPI experiment in. I talked about it in my commentary at the end of the show, but I’ll print it here because I feel it is important. I suggest you listen to the show first, because the words won’t have the same impact.

This is critical.

Critical Space Item

You know, its interesting, talking to two researchers sending up experiments in the same shuttle, while working thousands of miles apart from each other. They recognize the same thing about science at NASA. It is not only a critical part of our space program, but also a critical part of scientific research. The zero-gravity environment of space offers the chance to separate gravitropism from phototropism in the TROPI experiment. These two phemonena are linked on the surface of the Earth, but seperable in orbit. For long-term space flight, learning how to grow plants for food is also of critical importance. In Kimbrel’s experiment, zero-gravity offers the chance to study disease pathogens, and the immune systems’s defenses against them when gravity is a variable. And if we are to send humans through space, we’d better know how their health will be affected.

John Kiss also sent me a photo journal of the handoff of his experiment, which you can look at on the Episode 44 post at http://www.inoculatedmind.com. I highlighted one image for everyone to view – of one of the boxes containing the Tropi experiment. It read: Critical Space Item. In more ways than the official terminology that NASA uses for cargo.

People are starting to learn that science itself is a critical space item, and things are looking up, but before that happened things had to be looking down. Several missions have been in jeopardy, but some have been reinstated.

And you heard it, too, when asked how to help improve the state of space science, part of the solution is my show. Well, shows like mine that call attention to it. So how do we spread the word? Hey, tell people about this show! And I’ll bring more great interviews such as these.

I’m Karl J. Mogel of The Inoculated Mind, and until next week, keep your minds open.