The Corner

Dark Matter in Space

Out there on the fringes of the magazine world—I mean, as opposed to here in the warm, beating, revenue-gushing center where National Review dwells—are the special-interest periodicals, some of them intelligently and beautifully produced, with much to interest the curious nonspecialist.

A favorite of mine is Archaeology magazine, which always has something in it worth reading. Modern archaeology is by no means just a matter of digging up old bones and potsherds. There is, for example, the burgeoning field of outer-space archaeology. Did you know, for example, that Vanguard 1, the U.S.A.’s second artificial satellite, launched in March 1958, is still in orbit, and, being no longer operational, bears the coveted title “oldest piece of space junk”?

And then there’s… this, from a Q&A in the Nov/Dec issue of Archaeology with space archaeologist Alice Gorman of Australia’s Flinders University.

Q.    You once wrote that organic matter—human waste in orbit—might also be interesting.

A.    One account noted the Mir space station was surrounded by a halo of yellow icy particles, so we know there’s a lot of human waste up there. It is exposed to a hell of a lot of radiation. Nobody’s stayed out in space that long, so if we were to sample the solid material, we’d learn about how cosmic radiation affects organic molecules. This also has implications for the panspermia theory that there’s like lurking all over.

[Me] No…   kidding. You really have to admit that science is wonderful. There is no substance in the universe that some researcher, somewhere just can’t wait to get a really good look at. Including, it seems, astronaut poop.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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