Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Smell of "Empty" Space



"...we must raise the whole problem about place/space -- not only as to what it is, but even whether there is such a thing." -- Aristotle, Physics, Book IV

"...if it [place] is itself an existent, where will it be? Zeno's difficulty demands an explanation: for if everything that exists has a place, place too will have a place, and so on ad infinitum." -- Aristotle, Physics, Book IV

"It is evident, then, that it is easy to refute the arguments by which they prove the existence of the void." -- Aristotle, Physics, Book IV

"...there is no void...." -- Aristotle, Physics, Book IV

"There is no vacuum." -- Gottfried W. Leibniz, polymath, 1689

"...space without matter is something imaginary...." -- Gottfried W. Leibniz, polymath, 1689

"When formerly I regarded space as an immovable real place, possessing extension alone, I had been able to define absolute motion as change of this real space. But gradually I began to doubt whether there is in nature such an entity as is called space; whence it followed that a doubt might arise about absolute motion." -- Gottfried W. Leibniz, polymath, 1695

"Space is filled with electrons and of flying electric ions of all kinds." -- Kristian Birkeland, physicist, 1904

Space.Com: Space Sights and Smells Surprise Rookie Astronauts.

WASHINGTON - For rookie astronauts flying aboard the International Space Station, the food is good, the rocket thrusters are loud and there's an odd tang in the air - apparently from outer space.

"It's a very, very different environment than I expected," Discovery shuttle pilot Kevin Ford, a first-time spaceflyer, said from orbit late Friday.

One of things Ford wasn't ready for is the weird smell.

"From the [spacewalks] there really is a distinct smell of space when they come back in," Ford said from the station in a Friday night news conference. "It's like...something I haven't ever smelled before, but I'll never forget it. You know how those things stick with you."

In the past, astronauts have described the smell of space as something akin to gunpowder or ozone.

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