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"Ring it Out"
April 18, 2013 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Last fall, the Canadian Space Agency asked students to design a simple science experiment that could be performed in space, using items already available aboard the International Space Station. Today, Commander Chris Hadfield conducted the winner for its designers: two tenth grade students, Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner, in a live feed to their school in Fall River, Nova Scotia. And now, we finally have an answer to the age-old question, What Happens When You Wring Out A Washcloth In Space?

Additional Videos
Commander Hatfield is Canadian, and has been recording videos for the CSA from the ISS during the current mission, which they have been uploading to their YouTube channel. Playlist. The vids cover random trivia about living in space. There's also an inspirational message and a discussion or two of other experiments the astronauts have been conducting.

Background
* NBC's Cosmic Log: What happens when you wring out a washcloth in zero-G? Now we know.
* Mashable: What Happens When You Wring Out a Washcloth in Space?
* CSA Press Release

Expedition 35: Photos
* Commander Hadfield's Tumblr
* NASA's Flickr Photo Set for Expedition 35.

Previously on Metafilter
* Gorgeous photos of earth tweeted from the International Space Station
* Space jam

Other Stuff
* The Greatest Conversations To Ever Happen On Twitter Between Real Astronauts And The Cast of Star Trek
* Reddit IAmA: I Am Astronaut Chris Hadfield, currently orbiting planet Earth.
posted by zarq (63 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh that is so frickin cool. There's not a single part of that video I could have predicted--if you had asked me before if it were even possible to wet a washcloth in space, I would have just stared at you blankly.
posted by phunniemee at 6:34 PM on April 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Water-gloves. Super weird.
posted by curious nu at 6:39 PM on April 18, 2013


Would not have predicted that. But it makes sense. Nice.
posted by jcruelty at 6:44 PM on April 18, 2013


I really love this video because it really underlines how much gravity informs our intuition about the world, even in places where its impact is not so obvious.
posted by selenized at 6:46 PM on April 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


So. Cool.

I guess hanging things out to dry doesn't work in space...
posted by DoubleLune at 6:47 PM on April 18, 2013


Space performance is evolving quickly. Note how astronauts are learning to handle zero-gravity in increasingly sophisticated ways. Chris has learned how to play with the environment up there. He places the mic and anticipates it's drift, while manipulating that magic washcloth. Just wait till Cirque du Soleilâ„¢ gets involved with this.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:50 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


So, no headset microphones in space?

Seriously though, this fantastic, and I remind my Twitter feed regularly that we should enjoy Cmdr. Hadfield's account while he's in space.
posted by dry white toast at 6:51 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Astronauts must drop shit all the time upon returning to Earth.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 6:52 PM on April 18, 2013 [50 favorites]


What do they do with all the little plastic wrappers they pull off their washcloths and stuff?
posted by latkes at 6:54 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Astronaut return to Earth Day 1.

Pushes off bed to get up. Wonders why not moving. Falls off bed and braces self to push off surface. Impacts floor. Ow.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:56 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


What was the hypothesis they were trying to prove or disprove?
posted by NiteMayr at 6:56 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


NiteMayr, from the press release:
Using items already available aboard the Station and assisted by their science teacher, John Munro, Lemke and Faulkner tried to imagine how a microgravity environment could influence an experiment. Their experiment "Ring it out" investigates the effects of weightlessness on the reaction of water after being wrung out of a soaked washcloth. Their hypothesis that the water would not drip in microgravity but rather remain on the washcloth was proven correct. In the absence of gravity to pull the water down, it took a shake or a quick squeeze from Commander Hadfield for the washcloth to release the water.
I didn't want to give it away in the post, but I think 12 comments into the thread is okay. :)
posted by zarq at 6:58 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


That was awesome.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:59 PM on April 18, 2013


What was the hypothesis they were trying to prove or disprove?

Hypothesis: "Wringing out a washcloth in space would look cool as hell."

PROVEN.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:59 PM on April 18, 2013 [31 favorites]


Oh man, Cmdr Hadfield has been spectacular with his use of social media while on the ISS. Whoever follows his command has a hard show to live up to.
posted by aclevername at 6:59 PM on April 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


I love his twitter feed. His photos of cities at night make me think of black and gold sequinned fabric. And the crazy terrain shots of rivers and desserts are like abstract art. And Chris Hadfield himself seems like such a regular guy.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:01 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Proposed experiment: who would win a pickup game of washcloth-puck hockey?
posted by oulipian at 7:01 PM on April 18, 2013


What do they do with all the little plastic wrappers they pull off their washcloths and stuff?

I saw that. Seems like a bad idea to bring stuff up that's just going to be thrown away and have no further use.
posted by curious nu at 7:02 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was really great. I could have just watched him spray the water into the washcloth for a while, actually. I wish I could go to space!
posted by leahwrenn at 7:02 PM on April 18, 2013


Proposed experiment: who would win a pickup game of washcloth-puck hockey?

Three Russians, Two Americans and a Canadian up there -- those are not the kinds of fights you want to start.

But seriously.

The Canadian, obviously.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:06 PM on April 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Seems like a bad idea to bring stuff up that's just going to be thrown away and have no further use.

Watching that washcloth expand like that to provide that much surface area was almost as exciting as the water experiment. Packing that much utility into such a tiny volume, and then activating it when needed, is close to magic. Clearly you haven't spent very much time living on boats.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:07 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love that science is getting uproarious applause.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:14 PM on April 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


He's Canadian? What happens to maple syrup in zero gravity?
posted by desjardins at 7:14 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or poutine?
posted by desjardins at 7:17 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It gets eaten. Right away. Just like in town.
posted by srboisvert at 7:24 PM on April 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Weirdest part of official Government of Canada communications products: the Queen holds the copyright.
posted by asnider at 7:28 PM on April 18, 2013


I am cynical and cranky, so I was not prepared for how fucking awesome that would be. Thanks for the future laugh lines.
posted by prefpara at 7:31 PM on April 18, 2013


Also: Fuck Tommy Douglas1. Chris Hadfield is the new Greatest CanadianTM

1. Not really.
posted by asnider at 7:38 PM on April 18, 2013


I guess hanging things out to dry doesn't work in space...

Commander Hadfield explains how spills are dealt with in this video (1:15). Apparently, rags wet with plain water are hung (clipped, anyway) and allowed to air-dry. The water vapour is recycled by Life Support. For drinkin'.
posted by Casimir at 7:54 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it turns out that astronauts have special hockey-puck washcloths which are really difficult to unwrap. I want a hockey-puck washcloth.
posted by ook at 8:05 PM on April 18, 2013


Also:

If it was something else, something a little nasty, then of course we could get a more rugged cleaner, just a great big cloth, to wipe it up. OR, if it was something a little sticky...

Fapstronaut troubleshooting?
posted by Casimir at 8:08 PM on April 18, 2013


I want a hockey-puck washcloth.

We should start a company to market them to the public in tandem packs with TangTM.
posted by localroger at 8:09 PM on April 18, 2013


There is a life-size mockup of the ISS you can walk through at the NASA museum in Huntsville, AL. The striking thing about the interior of the ISS is that there really isn't a floor or ceiling in any of the modules; every surface is accessible and so every surface is used for storage or service access or for control panels. Walking through the mockup in Earth gravity it's clear the floor and ceiling are just walls, and it doesn't feel right walking on a wall and not being able to reach the one directly above.
posted by localroger at 8:14 PM on April 18, 2013


Chris Hadfield is currently working on the first original music album to be recorded in orbit.

So it turns out that astronauts have special hockey-puck washcloths which are really difficult to unwrap.

Only the Canadian astronauts.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:25 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The unrolled hockey puck washcloth looked like a diaper.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 8:26 PM on April 18, 2013


That was cool...
posted by Jughead at 8:28 PM on April 18, 2013


I want a hockey-puck washcloth.

Sure (there are other models too). You can also get the cool expanding sponges. This guy will even make the sponges as business cards, which is awesome.

Apparently the Smithsonian has a spare washcloth from the first shuttle mission, but it's not on display (because it's not a cool hockey-puck one I guess).
posted by zachlipton at 8:32 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mr. Computech: "Of course he's Canadian, given the correct pronunciation of 'hockey puck.'"
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:35 PM on April 18, 2013


That was so delightfully cool! Yay for science!

Doesn't somebody make promotional T-shirts compressed into similar (slightly larger) pucks? I could swear I got a free one at some event in college... I seem to recall that it was still wrinkled after a trip through the washer and dryer, but maybe I'm just remembering the expectation in my overly-vivid imagination.
posted by vytae at 8:39 PM on April 18, 2013


I was really fascinated with the way he was dealing with the microphone, which I didn't initially notice he wasn't actually holding.

This is the first time in my life I have ever wanted to be an astronaut.
posted by jeather at 8:56 PM on April 18, 2013


So very cool. Chris Hadfield is doing an off-the-chart awesome job all around at communicating the wonder and beauty of science and space travel to a general audience. If the Canadian Space Agency is smart, they should retain his services as official spokesperson/evangelist/figurehead indefinitely when he returns to earth.

And here's my chance to brag about my dad a bit: my father taught Hadfield how to fly fighter jets.
posted by gompa at 9:00 PM on April 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


That was awesome, equaling the alkaseltzer which was my previous coolest playing with water in space video.
posted by BeeDo at 9:01 PM on April 18, 2013


I was about to curse you for posting the link that I was going to as soon as I could make another FPP... and then I saw all the other amazing things you have put in yours and am back to wow, coooool.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:16 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't it bad to have floating bits of water in the space station?
posted by sadtomato at 9:31 PM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


NiteMayr: Hypothesis are over rated. No really, I think they hold science back, as you then have to predict what will happen, rather then finding something you don't know what will happen when you do it.

I heard about one controversial chemist who told the rest of chemistry a few years ago that if you want to find more reactions, find more reactions: Instead of spending months or years planning and trying to predict reactions, he threw a ton of chemicals and catalysts in a big beaker, let it stir for 24 hours, then found the new chemicals, and worked backwards to find what they'd been made from and how. Then published a wack of never before seen reactions.

Science should (in my not-so-humble-yet grad school opinion) be about finding something we don't know and answering it, rather then trying to predict everything to look smart.
posted by Canageek at 10:09 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Commander Hadfield explains how spills are dealt with in this video (1:15). Apparently, rags wet with plain water are hung (clipped, anyway) and allowed to air-dry. The water vapour is recycled by Life Support. For drinkin'.

Neat! I hadn't heard of the Norfoil/Silver Shield gloves before. (In the nasty-stuff cleanup kit.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:20 PM on April 18, 2013


I heard about one controversial chemist who told the rest of chemistry a few years ago that if you want to find more reactions, find more reactions: Instead of spending months or years planning and trying to predict reactions, he threw a ton of chemicals and catalysts in a big beaker, let it stir for 24 hours, then found the new chemicals, and worked backwards to find what they'd been made from and how. Then published a wack of never before seen reactions.

Who was that?
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:21 PM on April 18, 2013



I heard about one controversial chemist who told the rest of chemistry a few years ago that if you want to find more reactions ... Then published a wack of never before seen reactions.


Sounds like someone on sci.chemistry from the 1990s, all het up about "the Establishment keeping them down."

Real chemistry doesn't happen "[finding] new chemicals" in a beaker you threw a bunch of reagents into.
posted by chimaera at 10:26 PM on April 18, 2013


I think Chris Hadfield may be the best loved Canadian at the moment He is like that cool cousin of yours that went to engineering school and came home and showed you how to build spaghetti bridges and do surface tension tricks and all kinds of amazing things. He puts up slide shows of earth photos like your great uncle who, every spring when he got back from Florida, would invite the family over, heat up some JiffyPop and run a slide show in the living room and entertain you with pictures of alligators and Epcot..

He's awesome...just plain awesome.

I remember years ago before his first spacewalk he was being interviewed on CBC by Sheelagh Rogers and she asked him if he could anticipate what was going to go through his mind during the walk. He replied that his routine was going to have him facing the shuttle for a full hour, that he wasn't even going to get to look at earth until he completed his task. But then he described the moment when he was going to turn around and see the earth spread out before him (I think I remember hearing him say "between my feet") and he knew it would change his life forever. And in hearing him say that, in that moment, driving on the TransCanada highway in southern BC listening to CBC, something inside of me leapt for joy, for gratitude and for inspiration. I think I was just so happy that one of us - the curious, positive, excited people of planet earth - was getting a chance to do this and not a second of it would be lost on him.
posted by salishsea at 10:30 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Cmdr Hadfield has a great singing voice too. I really admire that man, but also secretly hate him for setting such a high standard.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:32 PM on April 18, 2013


There's a guy living up in outer space playing with a washcloth and I'm watching a video of it on my phone.

We're living in the future, people.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:35 PM on April 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


And a note on performance in space. Jeanne Robinson (wife of sci-fi writer Spider Robinson) was slated to be the first choreographer to work in space by participating in the civilian in space program. jeanne's flight was cancelled in 1986 after the Challenger explosion and it wasn't until 20 years later, just before she died, that she finally got to work in zero g albeit on a plane within the earth's atmosphere. You can find more on that project at the Stardance project website.
posted by salishsea at 10:42 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where I grew up, there was a yearly event put on by a large, local company in a science related field, where scientists from the labs would set up booths with various demonstrations and seventh-graders would come out and spend the day or part of the day going around and basically just playing with cool shit in the name of science.

In my high school AP Chemistry class, we got to run a booth ourselves, with a pretty basic demo to run. NASA sent up a bunch of simple toys on a space shuttle run, and video taped the astronauts playing with them. We had the toys available, and we'd let the kids play with one of them, then ask them for predictions about how they'd act in space. Then we'd play the video for that toy and see. Nothing to do with chemistry of course, but it was fun anyway.

It looks like the set we used was Toys in Space II - here's a pdf of the materials and here's a youtube post of the whole video. I also turned up a non-pdf copy of the part of the materials describing the individual toys used. We wouldn't run through the whole thing with any one group of kids, but we had time to do a couple before they moved on.

Anyway, the most interesting part to me was the common themes in the predictions that were made. In particular: there's a couple magnetic toys in the set, and a very common prediction was that the magnets wouldn't work in space. Which is a pretty reasonable prediction if all you know about space is "gravity doesn't work in space", but you don't know why or the ways that that isn't actually true. Kids can handle a better explanation than that, especially by the time they're 12-13.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:57 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want a hockey-puck washcloth.

Performance Bike sells a similar washcloth at the front counter, for $1.50. It unfolds to a 14 inch x 20 inch size washable bamboo fiber. Compressed, it's thinner than the one in the video, which looks really absorbent.
posted by jjj606 at 11:08 PM on April 18, 2013


sebastienbailard, chimaera: The article was from In The Pipeline. The chemistry was by John Hartwig (and co-worker Daniel Robbins), and was published in Science.

So yeah, I misremebered the conditions: They used an automated method to mix the reactants in microwell plates, but yeah, they just mixed plausible chemicals on a very large scale until interesting things showed up. Unlike what chimaera said, if you mix 1000 reagents with 1000 other reagents, statistically you should get a reaction somewhere in there. They are just testing this, and getting into Science in the processes.
posted by Canageek at 11:16 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Commander Hadfield's (and Don Petitt's) videos of simple experiments and day to day life are, I think, some of the most important things to come out of the ISS in terms of encouraging interest in space. Playing with stuff to see what it does is fun, and these videos look like the most amazing playground ever.

When I was a kid, I read and watched so much sci-fi talking about microgravity and the way water and objects behave in it, these videos make me feel weirdly Other Home-sick. It reminds me of the ponds in The Integral Trees, or wiping sheets of water off yourself in a space station shower.
posted by lucidium at 3:13 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Real chemistry doesn't happen "[finding] new chemicals" in a beaker you threw a bunch of reagents into.

HULK DISAGREE
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:20 AM on April 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess hanging things out to dry doesn't work in space...

Sure it does. Evaporation still works. But the clothes won't be exposed to the sun, won't really "hang" as such, and you won't get the benefit of water dripping off. So it's probably not all that efficient. But it will still work, particularly if you can remove the excess water before you lay things out.
posted by valkyryn at 3:37 AM on April 19, 2013


Oh nice, they finally DID send a poet!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:43 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doesn't somebody make promotional T-shirts compressed into similar (slightly larger) pucks? I could swear I got a free one at some event in college... I seem to recall that it was still wrinkled after a trip through the washer and dryer, but maybe I'm just remembering the expectation in my overly-vivid imagination.

Yeah, I think so. I seem to recall getting a promo shirt that was compressed into a tiny packet attached to a bottle of rye one time. From what I remember, the wrinkles never really came out (although I didn't keep it for long, since it was a crappy shirt that ended up get ruined when I was doing yard work or something).
posted by asnider at 9:45 AM on April 19, 2013


Doesn't somebody make promotional T-shirts compressed into similar (slightly larger) pucks?



Yeah, I have one sitting here that I picked up at a trade show one time. Never opened it up, though.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:53 AM on April 19, 2013


Was I the only screaming "It's on your hands, it's going to eat your soul, get if off, get it off" ?

Because it looked like a Hollywood special effect.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:34 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Scientists Update Us on Sex in Space; Thanks Scientists
posted by homunculus at 2:00 PM on April 20, 2013


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