Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yesterday there was a conflict at work.
Wanting to go downstairs to the deli, a group of us crowded into a co-worker's cubicle to lean over him as he labored at getting a technician to enter a communication trouble ticket with Verizon.
That took forever. I was convinced the tech on the other end of the line was chipping the details of the outage into a stone tablet with a mallet and chisel he had recently crafted himself.
Anyway, those of us putting the pressure on our co-worker about the much-needed journey downstairs for cola (836 Coke Reward Points and counting) started playing with a Nerf ball.
Of course, the conversation naturally went towards space travel.
At that point, someone (I don't remember who) wondered what would happen to Nerf in a vacuum.
At first, the theory was ventured that the ball would swell like a marshmallow in the microwave absent the air pressure holding it in its convenient forehead bouncing size.
Someone else posited that all the air would be sucked out of the micro holes in the ball, causing it to shrink down to the size of a grape. Not one of the big green seedless grapes, but a wine grape. Not Pinot. Never, ever Pinot.
But what if the moisture in the air froze first? One would need to take humidity into account. Since the Nerf ball would probably leave Earth from Florida or possibly Houston via the space elevator, there would naturally be some moisture present. Unless the ball were sealed in plastic at Nerf HQ and shipped overnight, under guard, to the launch pad and its date with destiny.
That still leaves too much wiggle room to allow a serious, untainted scientific result.
The only real test would be to form the Nerf in space.
Now, the formation of Nerf products is probably a closely held trade secret, but we could pretty easily dig up the method for the creation of generic springy foam. The delicate blend of chemicals is poured into a mold (or open area) and rises like hemp seed bread dough, then cools and hardens with different cell densities based on temperature. You know. Like you do.
But, moving back to the space elevator (which has an amazing array of legitimate uses for a fictional product, much like a laser sword) if we take liquid foam and force it up a tube and into space it would form in a unique, non-Earthy way. The outer areas of liquid foam would form a skin with almost no open cells due to the extreme cold, but the inside would be insulated by these layers, with bubbles forming in increasingly large sizes. If a person extruded this substance out over a steel or fiberglass framework he or she could form a space-worthy, impact resistant orbital craft which could very easily maintain cabin pressure and temperature, be propelled by jets of air and (most importantly) be bounced off the foreheads of other space-going people.
A person could crash one of these vehicles into people they actually like.
After that, we went downstairs for cola.
I like cola.

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