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Nicole Ackerman | SLAC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

Space-pig flu

Every time I get ill I tend to joke about it being the plague or something horrible (and implausible). This past weekend my illness actually coincided with the swine flu, so the joke was not too funny. Since I don’t know anyone who has been to Mexico lately (and Tom was sick a few days before me, before the scare) I am fairly sure I am just a victim of the rhinovirus. Unfortunately I was supposed to go SCUBA diving this weekend, so my mild cold cost me some productivity and a trip to play with the starfish in Monterey!

In true Ackerman style, I decided to watch The Andromeda Strain. This is the sort of black humor my family believes in – my father often watches The Perfect Storm on his sailboat, which is the same type as is shown destroyed in the movie. I consider myself an avid fan of old sci-fi, especially anything dystopian in nature. The Andromeda Strain wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it immensely. The movie is about a satellite that appears to have brought back a deadly germ from space and the scientists that study it (in order to save the world). It is notable for a few things:

  • A female scientist! She is simply treated as one of the scientists, rather than serving as eye-candy. I believe this is one of the first (if not the first) movies to have a believable female scientist.
  • The obstacles of science being portrayed reasonably. The scientists are hampered by the limits of technology – silly little things, like a mechanical failure and communication issues. Those are the things that slow science down!
  • A ridiculous level of cleanliness. These scientists were worried about biological cleanliness (ie, not introducing bacteria and fungi into the research area), rather than the radiological cleanliness that we worry about on EXO. The steps they had to go through to enter the clean area certainly belonged in sci-fi, rather than an actual lab, but it was comforting to see we don’t have it the worst on EXO! It took them hours to get to their labs – it only takes us a few minute to put on gloves, hair bonnet, clean room suit, and go through the air shower.

The scientists in the movie were normal researchers who were part of a group brought together in the case of an alien germ. It’s exciting to think of scientists getting to save the world (without weapons). So government, if you’re reading this, feel free to give me a call!

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