One Giant Prank for Mankind
SPACE Cadets was amongst the most inventive television of recent years. It pains me to say this as it is, strictly speaking, the very lowest form of entertainment - reality TV.
It ended tonight in quite spectacular style. For those not privy to the big secret, Space Cadets fooled three people into thinking they are in space. Using a state-of-the-art simulator, world-class (geddit?) video projection and a meticulous eye for detail, the Channel 4 team created an entirely believable experience. Well sort of.
I was immensely impressed with the leg work that went into this show. The Kazakh cosmonaut training base was, in fact, in Ipswich in Suffolk. However the entire area, a disused military base, was Russianified with the fruits of gargantuan shopping sprees to Mockba's constellation of malls and supermarkets. Tampons, food, road signs, registration plates, actors - all Russian.
The Apollo 13 visual effects team were called into create the 'space ship' and their training was supervised by a former KGB agent who trains real space tourists.
But despite all the hype before the programme's launch, I had the same question much of the country was asking, "how can they fake weightlessness?" The answer became apparent when the first programme aired. They chose complete dunces. A series of bunk lectures convinced the would-be cosmonauts that gravity could be generated by a new machine. There was a priceless line in the first show, something along the lines of:
"Anyone who had studied science at A-level or who could name more than four characters from Star Trek, was instantly disqualified"There were some worries that this cosmic joke was rather cruel. How would these hapless cosmonauts react when they find out they've been duped in front of the whole country? In the end I had no such guilt whilst laughing at these three space cadets, because they're so monumentally thick. Anyone that dumb deserves to be laughed at. Whilst the projection they see out of the window is admittedly awe-inspiring, the fucking take off was more tame than a tea-cup ride! In reality, astronauts wear nappies in case the immense G-force causes an accident.
Anyway, they didn't take it too badly and all ridicule turned into jealousy when their prizes of £25,000, a holiday to Star City in Russia and a flight in the parabolic 'vomit comet' were revealed. Very nice. In fact well worth all the public humiliation. Rumour has it that America is planning a repeat performance, so soon some American idiots will be boldly going where only British idiots have gone before.
In related news, the RAS sent out a press release the other day explaining how the Hubble Space telescope has been used to weigh a white dwarf. The closest white dwarf to the Earth is Sirius B, which is right next to Sirius A in the sky, which is otherwise known as Keanu Reeves' band's name, the 'Dog Star'.
Sirius B is about the size of the Earth, but weighs about the same as our Sun. Fuck! Its gravitational field is 350,000 stronger than the Earth's, despite the similar size.
A white dwarf is the future of our Sun - stars which aren't that big don't explode in a supernova, they expand to a red giant whilst burning helium (the Sun will probably one day engulf the Earth) and then collapse into a white dwarf, leaving a planetary nebula (the name of which is something of a misnomer). A white dwarf is a dead, cooling star made up of oxygen and carbon, which is also immensely dense. The white dwarf is supported only by electron degeneracy pressure - which is overcome in the far smaller and denser neutron stars.
Sirius B is not far from the maximum limit for a white dwarf's mass, which is about 1.4 times the mass of the Sun. This was named after the brilliant Indian physicist, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar.Despite being discovered in 1862, few calculations were possible for Sirius B as it's so overshadowed by its massive neighbour, Sirius A - as demonstrated in the picture; Sirius B is the little dot bottom left, Sirius A's the daddy. Even though it's younger. Well you know what I mean.
Permanent link action