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4 Odd Things David Bowie Taught Us About Space

Legendary rocker David Bowie died on January 10 after a long battle with cancer, just two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his latest album, Blackstar. And though his 40-plus-year career gave us characters ranging from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke (not to mention Jareth the Goblin King), one of the most enduring aspects of Bowie's music is his fascination with and reverence for space.

1. ASTRONAUTS REALLY DO TAKE PILLS.

"Space Oddity" (1972) was Bowie's first hit, and not only did Major Tom tell us something of the melancholy nature of traveling in solitude and floating helplessly in space, he also reminded us that astronauts often deal with completely unappetizing food options and must compensate with pills (protein, in Tom's case). These days? Astronauts know why food tastes so bland—swelling of the nasal passages causes a constant feeling of congestion, which means that subtle food flavors don't come through. Those aboard the ISS frequently ask for spicier foods with added Sriracha or wasabi. But for the nutrients they can't get as easily up in the space station, like vitamins K and D, they supplement with pills.

2. LIFE ON MARS IS STILL A POSSIBILITY.

Bowie's 1973 single "Life on Mars?" was ambiguous in its lyrics and seems to reflect on the existential hope that there is more to life than that which is on our planet. Forty years later, that's still up for debate. Recent findings such as glass and water hint that life existing on the red planet is possible, and the rover Curiosity is still sending back images and data. But odds of Curiosity spotting a life form as colorful or musical as Bowie remain low.

3. MOONDUST CAN BE DANGEROUS.

In 1996, Bowie reflected on extraterrestrial love in a heavier song, "Hallo Spaceboy," which he once referred to as sounding like "metal Doors." But his lyrics about moondust covering the spaceboy point to an actual problem—all of the dust covering the moon presents a complication for astronauts who may one day return. NASA pathologist Russell Kerschmann has explained that lunar dust is very similar to Earth's silica dust, which is often hazardous to construction workers. Luckily, MIT engineers have been working on a space tent that would help explorers keep dust at bay if NASA ever decides to return to the Moon.

4. ALL MOVEMENT IN SPACE IS ITS OWN KIND OF DANCE.

Like so many basic activities, dancing in zero gravity can be much harder than on Earth. Though astronauts can pull off some sweet moves like slow-motion somersaults and never-ending spins that any ballerina would be jealous of, the idea of busting any quick, rhythmic moves is basically out of the question. But, as Bowie suggested when singing "girl, you move like water" in 2013, astronaut Mae Jemison has discussed how her childhood background as a dancer helped her with the physical requirements and coordination needed to navigate the tight quarters of a space shuttle.

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Kevork Djansezian, Stringer, Getty Images
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LeVar Burton Is Legally Allowed to Say His Reading Rainbow Catchphrase
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Kevork Djansezian, Stringer, Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine the original Reading Rainbow without LeVar Burton, but in August, the New York public broadcasting network WNED made it very clear who owned the rights to the program. By saying his old catchphrase from his hosting days, “but you don’t have to take my word for it” on his current podcast, WNED claimed Burton was infringing on their intellectual property. Now, Vulture reports that the case has been settled and Burton is now allowed to drop the phrase when and wherever he pleases.

The news came out in an recent interview with the actor and TV personality. “All settled, but you don’t have to take my word for it,” he told Vulture. “It’s all good. It’s all good. I can say it.”

The conflict dates back to 2014, when Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign to revive the show without WNED’s consent. Prior to that, the network and Burton’s digital reading company RRKidz had made a licensing deal where they agreed to split the profits down the middle if a new show was ever produced. Burton’s unauthorized crowdfunding undid those negotiations, and tensions between the two parties have been high ever since. The situation came to a head when Burton started using his famous catchphrase on his LeVar Burton Reads podcast, which centers around him reading short fiction in the same vein as his Reading Rainbow role. By doing this, WNED alleged he was aiming to “control and reap the benefits of Reading Rainbow's substantial goodwill.”

Though he’s no longer a collaborator with WNED, Burton can at least continue to say “but you don’t have to take my word for it” without fearing legal retribution. WNED is meanwhile "working on the next chapter of Reading Rainbow" without their original star, and Burton tells Vulture he looks “forward to seeing what they do with the brand next."

[h/t Vulture]

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By Napoleon Sarony - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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literature
25 of Oscar Wilde's Wittiest Quotes
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By Napoleon Sarony - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On October 16, 1854, Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland. He would go on to become one of the world's most prolific writers, dabbling in everything from plays and poetry to essays and fiction. Whatever the medium, his wit shone through.

1. ON GOD

"I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability."

2. ON THE WORLD AS A STAGE

"The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast."

3. ON FORGIVENESS

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."

4. ON GOOD VERSUS BAD

"It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious."

5. ON GETTING ADVICE

"The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself."

6. ON HAPPINESS

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."

7. ON CYNICISM

"What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

8. ON SINCERITY

"A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal."

9. ON MONEY

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is."

10. ON LIFE'S GREATEST TRAGEDIES

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

11. ON HARD WORK

"Work is the curse of the drinking classes."

12. ON LIVING WITHIN ONE'S MEANS

"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."

13. ON TRUE FRIENDS

"True friends stab you in the front."

14. ON MOTHERS

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."

15. ON FASHION

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."

16. ON BEING TALKED ABOUT

"There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

17. ON GENIUS

"Genius is born—not paid."

18. ON MORALITY

"Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike."

19. ON RELATIONSHIPS

"How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?"

20. ON THE DEFINITION OF A "GENTLEMAN"

"A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally."

21. ON BOREDOM

"My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s."

22. ON AGING

"The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything."

23. ON MEN AND WOMEN

"I like men who have a future and women who have a past."

24. ON POETRY

"There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope."

25. ON WIT

"Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit."

And one bonus quote about Oscar Wilde! Dorothy Parker said it best in a 1927 issue of Life:

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

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