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Taking Up Space

January 1, 2008

Twitter is good for something.  It alerted me to a fun article on the BBC news web site called 100 things we didn’t know last year.   Many of these were new to me, such as that adding milk to tea negates some of the healthy benefits of the tea.  I thought the milk negated some of the stomach-altering effects of the tea.  Maybe both things happen, and the effects just cancel each other out.  Who knows.

One thing on the list that I did hear about which totally dismayed me was this gem, brought to light in the astronaut-stalker story earlier in the year:

11. Astronauts wear nappies during launch and re-entry because they can’t stop what they’re doing should they need to urinate.

This isn’t disturbing just because it’s, well,  disturbing.  No, it’s disturbing because it reveals a gaping hole in my college education.

You see, like many other college students, I had to take a number of “general education” courses.  Some requirements, like English, History, and Computer Science were easily completed.  I took a lot of English courses, and I enjoyed computer languages.  I was a history major, so those requirements were covered.  Others like sciences and foreign language were a little more problematic.  Taking a foreign language would have gone against all my values at the time, meaning I would have had to apply myself, study and work hard.  So I took “Who Are The Soviets?” a course that doesn’t exactly have a lot of applicability today, but it was 3 credits, dammit, so it counted in a big way.

For science, I thought Nutrition would be great, until I heard it wasn’t a gut course and it required a fair amount of coursework.  Wrong!  Try again!  Biology was a weed-out course for pre-med students, and that ruled out my coasting through it.  I was having enough trouble with all the b-school courses that prospective majors had to ace before applying to be a business major.  Scanning through the course catalog, I found what seemed to be the perfect solution.  Physics 103, aka Exploration of Space. 

This course was intended to fulfill the science general education requirement without taxing the brain too hard.  That’s the ticket, I thought, and I enrolled.

My plan had two fatal flaws.  One, there was no textbook for the course.  You had to actually attend, listen and take notes.  Which brought me to fatal flaw #2.  The whole course was taught via slides, charts and pictures.  For which they had to turn down the lights so the entire lecture center could view them properly.  Which turned Exploration of Space into Exploration of Sleep.  I napped through ever single one of those lectures.  I ended up borrowing Dave Wetzel’s notes to study from, and I probably got at least a C as a final grade.  You could some up my university career as “at least a C” but that’s for another blog entry.

We did learn a lot of interesting things in there.  Such as if astronauts are ever to have sex in space, it will require bungee cords.  You see, if you push against something in zero gravity, it moves away.  For anyone to do the deed, you have to be connected.  I remember a few other things, but that certainly stands out.  It continues to be great cocktail party conversation, and what more can you ask for than that?

But never, NEVER did the profs mention the whole diaper thing.  I know if I had heard that, I would have remembered that.  I now doubt the completeness and accuracy of the course and feel that I should suggest a partial refund of tuition from the university, or at least see if they would raise my grade to an A or B. 

I see Albany is still giving the course,and they still don’t have a text.  There was one, written by the original profs, but the new prof says it’s out of date and out of print.  It probably also doesn’t mention astro-diapers, so how much use can it be?  I certainly hope that “Eric Woods” and “Adom Giffin” have corrected previous omissions and are all over the nappy thing. 

Another thing about Phys 103 – my neighbor and friend Rina took the course during her time at Albany.  Her dad was horrified to see the course name turn up on her transcript.  “Space?  I’m paying good money for you to take up Space?”  Yes, but it was 3 credits, and credits are credits, right?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2008 12:18 pm

    Hi, Ellen —
    I went to Albany, too. But in my day Natrition (in the Nursing Dept) *was* a gut course. Two lultiple choice quizzes and two book reports. I mean it: book reports!

    Cheers –

  2. January 6, 2008 10:54 am

    Barbara, if book reports were given instead of tests in my day, I might have a GPA worth bragging about! Thanks for sharing.

  3. January 17, 2008 8:21 am

    There’s a lot they don’t tell you in college. I let just hope if we make it into old age that technology is available for better uses.

    Funny POst

    Peace Out,


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