[ExI] 7 Man-Made Substances that Laugh in the Face of Physics

spike spike66 at att.net
Sun Oct 11 20:26:47 UTC 2009


> -----Original Message-----
> From: extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org 
> [mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of Max More
> Sent: Sunday, October 11, 2009 9:20 AM
> To: Extropy-Chat
> Subject: [ExI] 7 Man-Made Substances that Laugh in the Face of Physics
> This was posted to the Extrobritannia list and is too good 
> not to repost here:
> http://www.cracked.com/article_17476_7-man-made-substances-tha
> t-laugh-in-face-physics.html
> Max

One of the coolest perks of working in the rocket science biz is that one
does get to fool with a lot of wicked cool exotic materials, to find novel
uses for them.  One of the consequences of designing stuff that costs $10k
per kg just to get it into orbit is that the actual cost of the material
matters a lot less than finding ways to design weight out of stuff.

That being said, I think the article gets one thing wrong about #6, aerogel.
It is used in space applications, but I don't think it can be used for space
suits, or at least not the conventional kind: not flexible enough.  I can
imagine its use in some places in the proposed hard suits, but in any other
spacesuit application, it seems to me it would quickly be crushed to a whiff
of dust.  The aerogel I have used in the lab reminds me of styrofoam, only
transparent and about a tenth the density, and perhaps a quarter the
mechanical strength, and zero elaticity.  It is so delicate, one can cut it
with a piece of paper.  In that photo with the brick sitting atop of a piece
of aerogel, if one pressed down on the brick with one's hand, the aerogel
would be crushed so thin, it would be difficult to find afterwards, and it
would not form a sheet of flattened material, but rather a powdery residue.

I worked on a project in 1995 where we used a piece of aerogel to capture
dust particles and bits of techo-debris in LEO.  Anything bigger than a few
hundredths of a micron blasted right thru it like it wasn't there.


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