Friday, December 25, 2015

The Royal Institution's 2015 Christmas Lecutres: How to Survive in Space

A picture of Michael Faraday lecturing at the Royal Institution.
Michael Faraday lecturing
at the Royal Institution.
190 years ago at the Royal Institution in London, Michael Faraday presented the first Christmas Lectures. These lectures about science have continued annually except during the worst years of World War II, and are now broadcast on television and online. Each year is a different topic, and this year the topic is How to Survive in Space.
In December 2015, Tim Peake will become the first Briton in space for more than 20 years and a new member of the European Astronaut Corps. As Tim adjusts to life on board the International Space Station (ISS), Kevin Fong’s CHRISTMAS LECTURES will take us on a journey from planet Earth into Low Earth Orbit and beyond. This is the story of human survival against all the odds; the story of how science, medicine and engineering come together to help answer our biggest questions about Life, the Earth, the Universe and our place in it.

From artificial gravity and greenhouses in space to plasma drives and zero-G surgical suits, the Lectures will reveal how what once was the stuff of science fiction is fast becoming today’s science fact.

Throughout the three-part series, Kevin will be accompanied by special guest appearances from ISS astronauts who will reveal what daily life is like 400 kilometres above the Earth, demonstrate the technology and techniques that help them stay safe and healthy, and explain the scientific experiments they are part of that are helping to stretch the limits of our understanding of human physiology and survival in a way that no experiment back on Earth could.
Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology does not address space medicine specifically, but many of the topics examined in these Christmas Lectures require a deep understanding of how physics and medicine interact. I plan to watch. The lectures will be first broadcast by the BBC on December 28, 29, and 30. I won’t be able to view them until they are posted afterward (hopefully, soon afterward) on the Ri Channel.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, superimposed on Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.
A Christmas Carol,
by Charles Dickens.
Because this year I’m posting on Christmas Day, I’ll conclude with a Christmas present—the final lines of my all-time favorite book (yes, even better that IPMB): A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. I reread it every December.
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

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