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Why Astronaut Urine Is a National Treasure

Astronauts in space are kind of like royalty: They’re never alone, and someone is always watching. This is, in part, because doing stuff in space is inherently fascinating. It’s also because nearly everything they do is scientifically relevant. Simply existing in a spacecraft is an experiment in itself, and Mission Control is always collecting data. Some of that data comes from monitors aboard the space craft. Some is recorded by the astronauts themselves. And some of that data is pee. 

Space travel takes a toll on the human body. Astronauts have to contend with shrinking hearts, squashed eyeballs, stretched spines, and a loss of bone density. It’s that last one that concerns a team of chemists at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. The space program hopes to eventually send human beings to Mars, but we certainly can’t do it if the trip will wreck our skeletons.

As Smarter Every Day host Destin Sandlin demonstrates in the video above, travelers aboard the International Space Station follow a rigorous exercise program to keep their bones strong. It’s difficult to get in a good workout without gravity, so the space program is working to fine-tune the exercise machines. To do that, they need to know how well the existing machines help preserve bone density. And to do that, they need urine.

Our pee is a pretty good indicator of what’s going on in our bodies. It serves as a repository for all the excess chemicals, nutrients, and minerals we don’t need. Astronauts losing bone mass will have high levels of calcium in their urine. Or, as Destin puts it, “they pee out their bones.”

The urine is collected in space and comes back down with the astronauts. By the time it reaches the laboratory, it’s come a long, long way. The government goes to great lengths to keep the urine safe. As NASA biochemist Scott Smith explains in the video: “It is considered a national treasure.”

Header image via YouTube // SmarterEveryDay

[h/t The Nerdist]

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Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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Design
A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

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