Saturday, January 28, 2006


Good old earthlings, there’s no doubt about our ability to stuff up. Not content with making a mess of the planet, we have branched into space.

There is more than 9,000 pieces of space debris totalling nearly 5,500 tons orbiting above us. NASA scientists say the debris will grow as items in orbit collide and break into more pieces.

Much of the debris results from explosions of satellites, especially old upper stages left in orbit with left over fuel and high pressure fluids.

The worst area is between 550 miles and 625 miles above the Earth. The International Space Station operates at about 250 miles and the Space Shuttle flights range between 250 and 375 miles so the biggest risk is to commercial, research flights and other space activities.

At the moment there is no viable solution to removing any of the existing large objects before they collide and make more debris. Ideas put forward so far include tethers to slow down orbiters to cause them to fall back to Earth, engines in satellites and booster rockets to direct them down or ground based lasers to disturb satellite orbits but all are costly or impractical.

The European Space Agency launched the first test satellite for its Galileo navigation system on December 28. The Galileo system will consist of 30 satellites orbiting 24,000 kilometres above Earth.

That’s another 30 satellites and the hardware to get them there and while there is an advantage to having a system that’s not controlled by the military it adds to an environmental problem with no immediate hope of being cleared up.

Our first alien visitors may well be intergalactic inspectors on a mission to Planet Garbage.

While I’m talking about pigs ex-husbands, it seems I may have done him a slight injustice. According to New Scientist this week, sex before stressful events keeps you calm (Hi, Warnie). The Blight was in Toastmasters when he met the Blonde so it may all have been an innocent attempt to alleviate stress during those speech contests.

Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley, UK, compared the impact of different sexual activities on blood pressure when a person later experiences acute stress. For a fortnight, 24 women and 22 men kept diaries of how often they engaged in penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) (got to love those initials), masturbation or partnered sexual activity excluding intercourse (boy am I going to get some google hits with this). After, the volunteers (volunteers! I know some blokes who would have paid to do this) underwent a stress test involving public speaking and mental arithmetic out loud.

Brody also made psychological measurements of neuroticism and anxiety (keeping a diary like that would stress me) in the volunteers, as well as work stress and partnership satisfaction. (24 women but only 22 men, right)
Differences in sexual behaviour provided the best explanation for the range of stress responses. He speculates that release of the “pair-bonding” hormone oxytocin between partners might account for the calming effect.

I was going to be more witty on this subject but my stress levels went soaring as a giant huntsman came over the top of my monitor. Thank goodness my chair has wheels and can they go fast. I thought he was down behind the bookcase eating silverfish, stupid prat. He has been humanely stuffed in a plastic bag and dumped outside and I can’t even use that to see if it’s right about them predicting rain since it’s been pissing all day. Now I’ve totally gone off the subject of sex. Spiders and talking about the Blight will do that.

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