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11 Eye-Opening NASA Wakeup Calls

NASA has been waking up astronauts using music since the Apollo Program. Sometimes those wakeup calls get pretty weird.

1. STS-111 - "I Got You Babe" from Groundhog Day

On June 19, 2002, the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour awoke to a tinny rendition of "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher, taken from the Groundhog Day soundtrack. This song was chosen because the crew, much like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day, was caught in a loop, repeating the previous day's deorbit activities, hoping to land that day if weather cooperated. In Groundhog Day, Murray's character was repeatedly awakened by "I Got You Babe" at 6am each morning. NASA's history notes (emphasis added):

For commander Ken Cockrell this was his third mission in a row where he's stayed in orbit for an additional two days in the hopes of good weather in Florida. On STS-80 the landing finally cooperated and he landed in Florida, for STS-98 and STS-111 he landed at the alternate site in California.

You can hear the wakeup (WAV file), including a nod to Groundhog Day at the end.

Although "I Got You Babe" was the last wakeup call for STS-111, its first was "Gettin' Jiggy wit It" by Will Smith. Smith's song was intended for Mission Specialist Valery Korzun, who took command of the International Space Station that day.

2. STS-44 - Patrick Stewart

On November 25, 1991, the crew of Atlantis was treated to an extended wakeup call recorded by Patrick Stewart, who was four years into his star turn as Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation. At the TNG theme played, Stewart intoned:

"Space: the final frontier.
This is the voyage of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
Its ten-day mission:
To explore new methods of remote sensing and observation of the planet Earth...
To seek out new data on radiation in space, and a new understanding of the effects of microgravity on the human body...
To boldly go where two hundred and fifty-five men and women have gone before!"

"Hello Fred, Tom, Story, Jim, Tom, and especially Mario -- this is Patrick Stewart, choosing not to outrank you as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, saying that we are confident of a productive and successful mission. Make it so."

Mission Specialist Mario Runco was a Trek fan, you see.

3. STS-26 - Robin Williams

On September 30, 1988, actor Robin Williams woke the crew by announcing, "Good morning, Discovery!" in the style of his 1987 hit movie Good Morning, Vietnam. This was the first wakeup call of the first Shuttle mission after the Challenger disaster in 1986, so a little levity was called for. After that intro, a modified version of the "Green Acres" theme played, with newly recorded Shuttle-appropriate lyrics, followed by two other songs. (Details of the lyrics and the other two songs are not listed in NASA's historical record.)

4. STS-9 - All Work and No Play

The crew of STS-9 worked around the clock in shifts from November 28 through December 8, 1983. Because of this, no wakeup calls were transmitted. (STS-9 was the Shuttle mission carrying the first Spacelab module to orbit; it also contained the largest crew of any space mission to date -- six men.) A similar round-the-clock schedule was maintained on STS-51-F in 1985 and many other missions afterwards.

5. STS-29 - William Shatner

On March 16, 1989, the Discovery crew started their day with the "Star Trek" theme, then comments from William Shatner congratulating the astronauts on their mission. Mission Control then played fight songs from various crew members' alma maters. Finally CAPCOM G. David Low said, "Discovery, [this is] Houston -- beam me up, Scotty!"

Shatner made another wakeup call for STS-133 on March 7, 2011:

6. STS-29 - Kids

I'll just quote NASA's history of wakeup calls directly for this adorable moment from March 18, 1989:

Mission Control sent recordings of astronauts' children shouting such things as "Get up, Dad, get out of bed and get to work" and "Hi, daddy, this is your darling daughter telling you to wake up." This was followed by "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. The crew responded with "Homeward Bound" by Simon and Garfunkel.

Discovery landed safely later that day, concluding STS-29. Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" has been played five times for returning astronauts.

7. STS-37 - Tom Selleck as "Magnum PI"

On April 11, 1991 the Atlantis crew was greeted by the "Magnum PI" theme song, followed by Tom Selleck greeting Mission Specialist Linda Goodwin: "Good morning, and a special wakeup to Linda. This is Tom Selleck and I hope you had a nice night's sleep, but it's time to get up and go to work." The crew landed safely later that day, and NASA's history notes that Goodwin was "a big Selleck fan."

8. STS-53 - The Singing Dogs

The crew of STS-53 were known unofficially as "Dog Crew I," after dubbing themselves the "Dogs of War," because their flight was supposed to be the last one devoted to Defense Department work. For their first wakeup call of the mission on December 3, 1992, Mission Control played a version of "Jingle Bells" performed by The Singing Dogs, a creation of Dr. Demento. Carl Meade at Mission Control said, "Crew dogs, wake up. We got work to do." Commander David Walker responded, "Good morning, Carl. Dogs of War are wide awake." The next morning the crew was greeted with "I Wanna Be a Dog" by Nancy Cassidy.

Interestingly, there was a Dog Crew II on STS-69. Starting on September 8, 1995 that crew was treated to a series of dog-themed wakeup calls, including "Hound Dog" by Elvis, the "Scooby Doo" theme, "Bingo" (performed by Pilot Kenneth Cockrell's five-year-old daughter's kindergarten class), the "Rin Tin Tin" theme, "A Hard Day's Night" by The Beatles, the "Underdog" theme song, "He's a Tramp" from Lady and the Tramp, and finally "Snoopy's Theme" from Peanuts. In 2001, Cockrell was subjected to "Who Let the Dogs Out" as a tribute to his time on the Dog Crew II. You can hear Cockrell's bemused reaction (WAV file) to the song, following an awkward exchange with Mission Control.

9. STS-107 - "Amazing Grace"

STS-107 was Columbia's last flight; the orbiter broke up upon reentry and all seven crew members were killed, making the string of wakeup calls on their mission extremely poignant. Midway through the mission, on January 19, 2003, "Amazing Grace" was played for Mission Specialist Laurel Clark, who was on her first spaceflight. The same song had been played on bagpipes at her wedding, and was later played at her funeral. On the same morning, Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" was played for Pilot William "Willie" McCool.

Later during the mission, on January 29, 2003, John Lennon's "Imagine" was played for McCool and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut. McCool and Ramon noted that from orbit, no borders on Earth were visible, and that the astronauts hoped the people of Earth could live in peace. Ramon proceeded to translate words from the song in Hebrew. "Imagine" was played at Ramon's funeral, ending with a recording of Ilan's voice from the Shuttle, speaking Lennon's words in Hebrew: "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." You can hear an MP3 of the song and the astronauts' remarks, though it may make you weep.

10. "Star Wars" Theme

Perhaps the most predictable wakeup song imaginable was the "Star Wars" theme composed by John Williams. Various "Star Wars" music was played eight times for NASA wakeup calls, starting in 1984, then proceeding through missions in 1988, 1993, 1996 (both the main theme and "Darth Vader's Theme"), 1999, 2007, and 2009. That 2009 song (MP3) was actually the "Cantina Band" theme, which the crew referred to as a "loony wakeup song" (I can only hope it's NASA's policy to emphasize that Han shot first).

11. STS-135 - "Good Day Sunshine," "Man on the Moon," "Rocket Man," "Run the World (Girls)"

The last Shuttle mission featured lots of great music, including a special wakeup message from Elton John along with "Rocket Man," a perennial NASA favorite. Beyoncé greeted the crew with "Run the World (Girls)" and a recorded message. Michael Stipe of R.E.M. sang an a cappella version of their hit song "Man on the Moon" and commented, "I recorded 'Man on The Moon' for NASA in Venice, Italy, where Galileo first presented to the Venetian government his eight-power telescope, and in 1610 wrote 'The Starry Messenger' (Sidereus Nuncius), an account of his early astronomical discoveries that altered forever our view of our place in the universe." The capper came on July 15, 2011, when Sir Paul McCartney woke the crew, saying "Good morning guys, wake up! And good luck on this, your last mission. Well done," after The Beatles' song "Good Day Sunshine" played. The last wakeup song for the Shuttle program was Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" performed by Kate Smith, and Mission Control staff stood at attention as it played. Although the Shuttle program has ended, the ISS still receives regular wakeup calls.

You can see video of all the STS-135 wakeup calls!

Lots More

This list is just scratching the surface of the amazing wakeup call history compiled by NASA Historian Colin Fries. You can read his history (PDF link) for tons more, which also includes links to many of the more modern wakeup call recordings. I should also note that the Beach Boys appear dozens of times, and Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" shows up a lot too.

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The Elements
9 Diamond-Like Facts About Carbon
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How well do you know the periodic table? Our series The Elements explores the fundamental building blocks of the observable universe—and their relevance to your life—one by one.
 
 
It can be glittering and hard. It can be soft and flaky. It can look like a soccer ball. Carbon is the backbone of every living thing—and yet it just might cause the end of life on Earth as we know it. How can a lump of coal and a shining diamond be composed of the same material? Here are eight things you probably didn't know about carbon.

1. IT'S THE "DUCT TAPE OF LIFE."

It's in every living thing, and in quite a few dead ones. "Water may be the solvent of the universe," writes Natalie Angier in her classic introduction to science, The Canon, "but carbon is the duct tape of life." Not only is carbon duct tape, it's one hell of a duct tape. It binds atoms to one another, forming humans, animals, plants and rocks. If we play around with it, we can coax it into plastics, paints, and all kinds of chemicals.

2. IT'S ONE OF THE MOST ABUNDANT ELEMENTS IN THE UNIVERSE.

It sits right at the top of the periodic table, wedged in between boron and nitrogen. Atomic number 6, chemical sign C. Six protons, six neutrons, six electrons. It is the fourth most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen, and 15th in the Earth's crust. While its older cousins hydrogen and helium are believed to have been formed during the tumult of the Big Bang, carbon is thought to stem from a buildup of alpha particles in supernova explosions, a process called supernova nucleosynthesis.

3. IT'S NAMED AFTER COAL.

While humans have known carbon as coal and—after burning—soot for thousands of years, it was Antoine Lavoisier who, in 1772, showed that it was in fact a unique chemical entity. Lavoisier used an instrument that focused the Sun's rays using lenses which had a diameter of about four feet. He used the apparatus, called a solar furnace, to burn a diamond in a glass jar. By analyzing the residue found in the jar, he was able to show that diamond was comprised solely of carbon. Lavoisier first listed it as an element in his textbook Traité Élémentaire de Chimie, published in 1789. The name carbon derives from the French charbon, or coal.

4. IT LOVES TO BOND.

It can form four bonds, which it does with many other elements, creating hundreds of thousands of compounds, some of which we use daily. (Plastics! Drugs! Gasoline!) More importantly, those bonds are both strong and flexible.

5. NEARLY 20 PERCENT OF YOUR BODY IS CARBON.

May Nyman, a professor of inorganic chemistry at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon tells Mental Floss that carbon has an almost unbelievable range. "It makes up all life forms, and in the number of substances it makes, the fats, the sugars, there is a huge diversity," she says. It forms chains and rings, in a process chemists call catenation. Every living thing is built on a backbone of carbon (with nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and other elements). So animals, plants, every living cell, and of course humans are a product of catenation. Our bodies are 18.5 percent carbon, by weight.

And yet it can be inorganic as well, Nyman says. It teams up with oxygen and other substances to form large parts of the inanimate world, like rocks and minerals.

6. WE DISCOVERED TWO NEW FORMS OF IT ONLY RECENTLY.

Carbon is found in four major forms: graphite, diamonds, fullerenes, and graphene. "Structure controls carbon's properties," says Nyman.  Graphite ("the writing stone") is made up of loosely connected sheets of carbon formed like chicken wire. Penciling something in actually is just scratching layers of graphite onto paper. Diamonds, in contrast, are linked three-dimensionally. These exceptionally strong bonds can only be broken by a huge amount of energy. Because diamonds have many of these bonds, it makes them the hardest substance on Earth.

Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 when a group of scientists blasted graphite with a laser and the resulting carbon gas condensed to previously unknown spherical molecules with 60 and 70 atoms. They were named in honor of Buckminster Fuller, the eccentric inventor who famously created geodesic domes with this soccer ball–like composition. Robert Curl, Harold Kroto, and Richard Smalley won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering this new form of carbon.

The youngest member of the carbon family is graphene, found by chance in 2004 by Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov in an impromptu research jam. The scientists used scotch tape—yes, really—to lift carbon sheets one atom thick from a lump of graphite. The new material is extremely thin and strong. The result: the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.

7. DIAMONDS AREN'T CALLED "ICE" BECAUSE OF THEIR APPEARANCE.

Diamonds are called "ice" because their ability to transport heat makes them cool to the touch—not because of their look. This makes them ideal for use as heat sinks in microchips. (Synthethic diamonds are mostly used.) Again, diamonds' three-dimensional lattice structure comes into play. Heat is turned into lattice vibrations, which are responsible for diamonds' very high thermal conductivity.

8. IT HELPS US DETERMINE THE AGE OF ARTIFACTS—AND PROVE SOME OF THEM FAKE.

American scientist Willard F. Libby won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960 for developing a method for dating relics by analyzing the amount of a radioactive subspecies of carbon contained in them. Radiocarbon or C14 dating measures the decay of a radioactive form of carbon, C14, that accumulates in living things. It can be used for objects that are as much as 50,000 years old. Carbon dating help determine the age of Ötzi the Iceman, a 5300-year-old corpse found frozen in the Alps. It also established that Lancelot's Round Table in Winchester Cathedral was made hundreds of years after the supposed Arthurian Age.

9. TOO MUCH OF IT IS CHANGING OUR WORLD.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important part of a gaseous blanket that is wrapped around our planet, making it warm enough to sustain life. But burning fossil fuels—which are built on a carbon backbone—releases more carbon dioxide, which is directly linked to global warming. A number of ways to remove and store carbon dioxide have been proposed, including bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, which involves planting large stands of trees, harvesting and burning them to create electricity, and capturing the CO2 created in the process and storing it underground. Yet another approach that is being discussed is to artificially make oceans more alkaline in order to let them to bind more CO2. Forests are natural carbon sinks, because trees capture CO2 during photosynthesis, but human activity in these forests counteracts and surpasses whatever CO2 capture gains we might get. In short, we don't have a solution yet to the overabundance of C02 we've created in the atmosphere.

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science
Last Month Was the Second-Warmest October on Record
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After an unseasonably toasty October, the numbers are in: Temperatures exceeded averages across the globe last month, making it the second-hottest October ever recorded, according to NASA.

As Mashable reports, worldwide temperatures reached 1.62°F (or 0.90°C) above the average in October. It just edged out global temperatures in October 2016 and came short of the all-time October record set in 2015. But while El Niño contributed to temperature spikes in 2015, there's no weather event to explain the anomaly this time around.

Records of global mean surface temperature changes date back to 1880. Of the 136 years in NASA’s database, the past three years (2014, 2015, 2016) have produced the greatest temperature anomalies. With the end of the year approaching, it looks like 2017 will end up breaking into the top three, and will likely be the warmest non-El Niño year on record.

While alarming, the record-breaking statistics shouldn't be surprising to anyone who follows global climate trends. The Earth has been warming at a rapid rate in recent decades, and climate scientists blame the carbon dioxide being dumped into the atmosphere by human activity.

Following a hot autumn, the next few months aren't looking to be any cooler: Like last winter and the winter before that, this season is expected to be unusually warm.

[h/t Mashable]

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