Chris Hadfield made a music video during a space flight in May. (CHRIS HADFIELD/NASA VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Inquiring minds
Brilliant Ten 2013, Popular Science, October issue

Do you sometimes feel a little insecure about your career path and intelligence? Then don’t read Popular Science’s annual roundup of the 10 brightest up-and-coming scientists and engineers for 2013. They’re a pretty daunting bunch, inventing tools and techniques that sound very leading-edge (and a little unintelligible to the layperson). Among them: an MIT scientist who came up with ways to dramatically speed up the splicing of genes into living cells; a CalTech astronomer who studies weather systems on exoplanets; a Bell Labs engineer who has figured out how to avoid Internet data bottlenecks; and a Virginia Tech “aerobiologist” who “sends drones armed with petri dishes into the atmosphere to capture airborne crop pathogens.”

As Pop Sci writes: “Like the 110 honorees before them, the members of this year’s class are dramatically reshaping their fields — and the future. . . . The common thread between them is brilliance, of course, but also impact. If the Brilliant Ten are the faces of things to come, the world will be a safer, smarter, and brighter place.”

You, meanwhile, better start working harder.

to infinity and beyond
A life in space, and also on YouTube
‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth’ by Chris Hadfield

You remember Chris Hadfield, the singing, guitar-strumming astronaut whose space-station rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” was an Internet sensation last spring? (It’s had 18 million viewers.) His memoir, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth,” tells you everything you might want to know about how that came about, along with lots of other interesting details about life in space.

The book suggests some lessons that earthlings might glean from the astronaut way of life: Never give up; keep your goals in sight even if they seem unlikely; and ALWAYS sweat the small stuff and prepare for (but don’t be weighed down by) the worst.

Lots of anecdotes from his life make it clear that this is a man who prepares for just about everything. Hadfield, who recently retired, spent 144 days as commander of the international space station; his most compelling material describes what day-to-day life is like in a cramped space with out-of-this-world views and what happens to the human body when it’s away from gravity for long. (He grew a couple of inches as little sacs of fluid between the vertebrae expanded, and he lost bone mass and heart size.) His description of coming back to Earth is pretty intense; so, too, is the nausea and weakness that he and others experience in the days after a tour in orbit.

Beyond the book, Hadfield has many other YouTube moments worth checking out, including one showing why it’s hard to cry in space.