The Martian Movie Review

The-Martian-movie-poster

I tried to go see The Martian a week after it opened but it was sold out. I went home and watched Time Lapse instead.

I have since been able to see it. I was squished into the corner seats of a full theater, but I got to see it!

As you’ve probably already guessed, a movie that continues to sell out show times two weeks after they’ve opened are probably worth a look.

In The Martian, Mark Watney is trapped on Mars. He went there with five other astronauts to do astronaut stuff. Due to a storm the team needed to do an emergency evacuation while on the red planet. Mark was hit by some debris, blown away, and his biomonitor goes black. The team presumes he is dead and rockets off the planet, leaving Mark behind.

Mark awakes with a broken biomonitor and a suit leaking oxygen into Mars’ thin atmosphere.

The rest of the movie is two parallel storylines. On Mars, Mark struggles to survive on a planet that is essentially unihabitable. He deals with getting oxygen, water, food, and a radio up and running to contact Earth.

On Earth, NASA realizes that Mark is still alive and they come up with several plans to rescue him (one of which succeeds, surprise!).

The movie is all about how space exploration works and the dangers associated with it. Everything has to be just right to get to Mars. Everything has to be just right once you’re there. As Mark says, “Without the water reclaimer, I die of thirst. Without the oxygen reclaimer, I suffocate. Without food, I slowly starve to death. And without shelter from the atmosphere, I’d just sort of implode and die.”

The movie is all about how Mark prevents those things from happening; but, of course, things break over time. That’s why NASA has to rush to save him.

The movie contains many technical aspects about space and planetary eporation. I only felt lost when Mark described how to turn hydrazine fuel into water.

I think that’s a big part of why the movie is so successful. It’s able to describe how space travel to Mars would work in an easily understood manner.

A lot of people are focused on landing a human being on Mars as the next big space mission, with projects like Mars One in the works. That interest also contributed to the film’s success.

Plus, Matt Damon is just on point throughout the movie.

I picked up the novel written by Andy Weir that the movie is based off of. The writing style is technical and gets into Mark Watney’s flow of consciousness. The plot of getting a supplies and a rocket to Mark takes a backseat in the book which also leads to little character interaction. Just Mark against Mars.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far Weir’s writing has reminded me of CS Forester. If you liked the Hornblower series, The Martian might be the right book for you.

If you liked the movie… I think the movie is better so far. It removes very little from the book, but adds a lot of emotion and feeling that can’t be captured well in written prose. I am still enjoying reading the book, but I’m not sure if everyone else would like it as much as I am.

As for seeing the movie, I’d recommend that to everyone. I would’ve loved to see this as a kid imagining being an astronaut. And The Martian makes all the principles behind space travel simple enough that I think everyone, incuding five year-old GoCorral, can learn something.

-GoCorral

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Liquid Nitrogen in the Lab

A thermos with some bubbling liquid nitrogen at the bottom.
A thermos with some bubbling liquid nitrogen at the bottom.

Liquid nitrogen is used pretty much everyday by someone in my lab.

Liquid nitrogen is an extremely cold liquid coming in at close to -200°C (-330°F).

Nitrogen’s natural phase is a gas. Its a fairly common gas to, making up 78% of the Earth’s air.

When it nitrogen is condensed as a liquid it is essentially always at boiling temperature.

I tried to capture the vapor coming off the bubbling liquid nitrogen in the picture above, but its difficult to convey what liquid nitrogen is like in a photo.

Liquid nitrogen looks exactly like boiling water. If you put liquid nitrogen into a pot it would look just like a boiling pot of water ready for spaghetti to be added.

But liquid nitrogen is not boiling water. It won’t scald your hand if you touch it.

Liquid nitrogen is the coldest thing you will ever touch and can instantly freeze burn your hand.

Even things that come out of liquid nitrogen are painful to touch with you hands. I can’t do it for more than a second.

Using gloves to handle liquid nitrogen has another problem attached to it.

When you wear gloves a natural layer of sweat and oil occurs between your hand and the inside of the glove.

If your gloved hand is in the liquid nitrogen for too long, the sweat freezes.

That’s just ice though. It’s happened to me plenty of times. I just yank my hand out of the nitrogen and my bodyheat melts the ice back into sweat right away.

So if its so dangerous, why do we use it in the lab?

Liquid nitrogen is useful because it stops all biological activity. That’s why its dangerous and why its useful at the same time.

When working with a dead specimen its best to prevent bacterial decay. Bacteria can’t survive at liquid nitrogen temperatures, so its used for that.

Liquid nitrogen is also used to isolate RNA from a specimen.

Every cell has RNA inside of it, but RNA is also what many viruses are made out of.

Cells quickly learn to distinguish RNA inside the cell as good and RNA outside of the cell as bad virus RNA.

Cells have defense mechanisms to destroy RNA called RNases.

RNases can’t work at liquid nitrogen temperatures though!

I was using liquid nitrogen for a third purpose today, just to quickly freeze some worms.

More on why I need to freeze worms another day!

-Mister Ed

Cow Fartpacks

OutsideOnline cow flatulence farts fartpacks methane environment INTA Argentina

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook recently about collecting methane from cows.

Most people are familiar with carbon dioxide (CO2) as a greenhouse gas, but there are two other big ones, water (H2O) and methane (CH4).

Water is the preferable one. It only has a large greenhouse gas effect because there is so much of it.

Methane actually has a larger greenhouse gas impact than water or carbon dioxide if one molecule is compared to another (30x that of carbon dioxide).

The good thing about methane is that it only stays in the atmosphere temporarily.

Carbon dioxide never leaves the atmosphere.

Methane takes about ten years to degrade into a carbon dioxide molecule and two water molecules.

During those ten years methane is pretty bad and the biggest controllable source of methane is cows.

Cows fart a lot. According to the article, about 300 liters of methane gas per day.

The fartpack collects that methane before the cow farts and stores it in the cow’s backpack.

The methane can be collected at the end of the day and turned into fuel.

The fuel is then burned and turned into carbon dioxide, but this is a good process. It’s carbon-neutral.

The carbon dioxide from the fartpack would’ve already been released into the atmosphere as methane and then turned into carbon dioxide in ten years.

The fartpack never lets the methane into the atmosphere and gives us a renewable source of carbon fuel.

The article indicates that strapping fartpacks on to every cow at a dairy farm isn’t cost effective, but its a cool new green energy idea that some farmers might get grants for.

Pretty soon you might be driving a car powered by cow farts!

-Mister Ed