1536: "The Martian"

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Jun 13, 2015 3:01 pm UTC

... with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby cryptoengineer » Sat Jun 13, 2015 3:53 pm UTC

KarenRei wrote:
Also, as their flowering bodies breach the surface, I can replant them deeper, then plant younger plants above them.


What the frick?? Is this guy on drugs or something? "Naaaaah plants don't need to spend any time above the surface - just stack then up in the dirt! I'm a botanist, trust me!"



Karen: Google the term 'potato mound'. Whlle your points re light levels and perchlorate are spot on, even I, a non-gardener,
knew about this: by raising the soil around a growing potato plant (not burying it entirely!) , you increase the length of the underground, tuber-bearing portion of the vine, and increase your yeild. It's an old, well-established technique. I don't know what you grow, but it certainly isn't potatos.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby KarenRei » Sat Jun 13, 2015 9:25 pm UTC

cryptoengineer wrote:
Also, as their flowering bodies breach the surface, I can replant them deeper, then plant younger plants above them.


by raising the soil around a growing potato plant (not burying it entirely!) , you increase the length of the underground, tuber-bearing portion of the vine, and increase your yeild


Potato mounds don't have additional plants growing on top of each other.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:06 pm UTC

They literally do, and now we now know that still, when someone provides sources showing how wrong you are about a thing, you don't even click on said source.
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby KarenRei » Sun Jun 14, 2015 4:11 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:They literally do, and now we now know that still, when someone provides sources showing how wrong you are about a thing, you don't even click on said source.


First off, youtube "references" are incredibly annoying, and seldom accurate. But fine, to please you I watched it. And it was even more annoying than I thought, mostly just sitting around watching a woman dig up potatoes. There goes ten minutes of my life I'll never get back.

Those big potatoes in that video are her seed potatoes. The little ones are what the plants have grown. Calorically insignificant. And your reference for how to grow potatoes is a woman who says right at the start that this is her first time to ever grow potatoes? And on top of all of that, she doesn't stay to "plant them on top of each other". She says that when she takes them out, she's going to plant yams instead of them.

You do not plant potatoes, or any other plant, on top of each other. It's just a way to kill the lower plants. They compete for the same root space, soil nutrients, and light. It's not even good to stack pots on top of each other even below the canopy simply out of oxygen reduction to the lower pot.

In case you're curious, here's how you actually grow potatoes in mounds:

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/plant-pota ... 20456.html

Stack up soil around the plant: YES
Bury the plant and plant new plants over it: NO.

That plants need to be on the surface to grow is third grade stuff that apparently this author missed out on. And while we're at it, stems and leaves on newly emerged seedlings are not called "flowering bodies".

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Jun 14, 2015 4:44 pm UTC

KarenRei wrote:There goes ten minutes of my life I'll never get back.
An apt description of most discussions with you.

You do not plant potatoes, or any other plant, on top of each other. It's just a way to kill the lower plants. They compete for the same root space, soil nutrients, and light. It's not even good to stack pots on top of each other even below the canopy simply out of oxygen reduction to the lower pot.
And yet from your own source, you can see that mounding potatoes increases the rate at which they produce tubers.

I think you're confused what was occurring in the book, and what 'mounding' means.
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby rmsgrey » Sun Jun 14, 2015 6:16 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
KarenRei wrote:There goes ten minutes of my life I'll never get back.
An apt description of most discussions with you.

You do not plant potatoes, or any other plant, on top of each other. It's just a way to kill the lower plants. They compete for the same root space, soil nutrients, and light. It's not even good to stack pots on top of each other even below the canopy simply out of oxygen reduction to the lower pot.
And yet from your own source, you can see that mounding potatoes increases the rate at which they produce tubers.

I think you're confused what was occurring in the book, and what 'mounding' means.


Assuming this is an actual quote from the book:
Also, as their flowering bodies breach the surface, I can replant them deeper, then plant younger plants above them.

it does seem like the book was confused first...

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:51 pm UTC

Is the thing causing confusion the 'flowering bodies' part?

Weir is describing the same process of mounding. I.e., once a potato plant begins to flower, he replants it deeper, resulting in more tubers, and plants a younger plant on top. A flowering potato plant is dedicating it's resources to reproductive growth, i.e., making potato fruiting bodies, and storing resources for next season, i.e., expanding the tuber. By removing the flowering body, and burying the plant, you ensure the rest of the growth is dedicated to the tuber. By planting another potato plant ontop, you recapture that growth space.

But, in any case, you can see from countless gardening resources that mounding, i.e., burying potato plants, is a thing. If KarenRei wants to dismiss the book because of this plot point, she's welcome to.
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby KarenRei » Mon Jun 15, 2015 12:46 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Is the thing causing confusion the 'flowering bodies' part?

Weir is describing the same process of mounding. I.e., once a potato plant begins to flower, he replants it deeper, resulting in more tubers


Except that he writes when the flowering bodies breach the surface. As if he thinks that everything that's above ground is a pointless "flowering body".

, and plants a younger plant on top


*Never Do This*. Unless you're wanting to kill one of your two plants or mutually weaken them both so that they can't store energy in the form of starch for you.

Plants are not magical beings. They extract water and nutrients from the soil and turn water, CO2 and light into sugars and then starches. Two plants, one on top of each other, are robbing the same resources from the soil and mutually shading each other. It's a stupid concept that is not a standard farming practice anywhere, except for maybe in a garden snip

By removing the flowering body, and burying the plant, you ensure the rest of the growth is dedicated to the tuber.


Which would be great if that's what he wrote. Which of course, he didn't. He wrote, "Also, as their flowering bodies breach the surface, I can replant them deeper, then plant younger plants above them." snip

By planting another potato plant ontop, you recapture that growth space.


Wow, are people really this stupid? No, you go do that! Plants don't actually need light or root space to grow, so you go and just stack them up like cordwood!

As an aside, since I had to open up the book again just to double check that I got the quote right (I did), since the "the author is a moron" quotes are so dense, I ran into another one straight away just when flipping through the pages:

Not because of the perfect landing, but because he left so much fuel behind. Hundreds of liters of unused Hydrazine. Each molecule of Hydrazine has four hydrogen atoms in it. So each liter of Hydrazine has enough hydrogen for *two* liters of water


So. Much. Fail. No, not talking about how hydrazine would be an unlikely propellant for the role he describes. No, not talking about how he feels the need to capitalize "Hydrazine" as though it's a brand name. No, I'm of course talking about the complete and utter chemistry failure where he again confuses molar ratios with mass ratios. This sort of stuff would get him an F in high school chemistry.

(The correct answer is: under STP conditions, hydrazine is 1,021g/cm^3. Hydrogen makes up 12,5% of the mass, or 0,128 g/cm^3. Water under STP conditions is 1 g/cm^3 and hydrogen makes up 11% of its mass, or 0,11 g/cm^3. 1 liter of hydrazine gives you 1,16 liters of water under STP conditions, not 2.

God, how can people possibly read this and not notice all of blatant, god-awful errors just jumping off the pages at you?

Can we have less of the ablist language. Find other insults.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby BlitzGirl » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:57 am UTC

I look forward to the point-by-point scientific critique of Star Wars Episode VII. :mrgreen:

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby ucim » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:12 am UTC

What I don't understand is why he doesn't use the solar panels stacked on top of the rovers, instead of wasting all his energy spreading them out. When they are stacked up like that, the light can bounce around between the solar panels, so you're literally re-using the photons. This should easily increase their efficiency by an order of magnitude.

Duct-taping the edges would also help keep the photons in, so he could get some solar power at night.

Who needs potatoes?

Seriously, I found the book quite enjoyable. No, it's not a botany book, nor a Mars colonization handbook. But it's very good for its genre.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby KarenRei » Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:23 am UTC

ucim wrote:What I don't understand is why he doesn't use the solar panels stacked on top of the rovers, instead of wasting all his energy spreading them out. When they are stacked up like that, the light can bounce around between the solar panels, so you're literally re-using the photons. This should easily increase their efficiency by an order of magnitude.

Duct-taping the edges would also help keep the photons in, so he could get some solar power at night.

Who needs potatoes?

Seriously, I found the book quite enjoyable. No, it's not a botany book, nor a Mars colonization handbook. But it's very good for its genre.

Jose


I opened up the book again to see if he actually wrote that or if you were just making a joke about the author's terrible knowledge of science in general ;) Thirty seconds of searching for the word "solar" I run into this:

Thanks to the fine taxpayers of America, I have over 100 square meters of the most expensive solar paneling ever made. It has an astounding 10.2% efficiency, which is good because Mars doesn't get as much sunlight as Earth. Only 500 to 700 watts per square meter (Compared to the 1400 those spoiled Earthlings get). Long story short: I need to bring 28 square meters of solar cell.


Hahaha - 10.2%, "astounding", "most expensive ever made"? 10.2% is like a cheapo thin film panel. And planetary solar constants aren't how much light hits the surface.

Oh, god, the next part:

Each solar cell is on a lattice that holds it at a 14 degree angle. I'll admit I don't know why it's at a 14 degree angle. Something about maximizing solar energy


The "scientist" is confused as to why you'd position your panels at an optimal angle!

Let's skip ahead a page or two let's see what we hit.... haha, a series of rants about how plutonium-238 is "way more dangerous" ("way" in bold) than other isotopes because its radiation is so intense it gets hot (never mind that it's non-penetrating alpha radiation... it's "radiation", oooh!) - it's clearly, to quote, "a glowing hot ball of radioactive death", and lots more fear-and-terror about how dangerous the "radiation" is ;) (alpha can, of course, be blocked with as little as a sheet of paper; it doesn't penetrate your skin. Alpha emitters are only dangerous if inhaled or ingested)

I look forward to the point-by-point scientific critique of Star Wars Episode VII.


If only Star Wars was this rich in terrible misunderstandings of science - it just hand-waves things away rather than confidently asserting nonsense ;) Seriously, this book is like MST3K-level funny here. It's "hard science" in the same manner that Barney is "hard paleontology" ;)

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby erzet » Tue Jun 16, 2015 10:41 am UTC

Call me a cynic but I don't have much faith in this adaptation. Knowing how people who make movies work, they'll cut out all the "boring technical stuff" that made the book interesting and instead focus on the "people back home" - and not the interesting ones at NASA but Watney's mother and father and newly-invented wife and child.
We'll probably get a potato montage, a setting-up-the-radio montage, followed by ten minutes of hilarious radio banter and a tearful email exchange with the imaginary wife. Then there'll be a travel montage and back to the real problems on earth where Watney's child must grow up without a father figure. Maybe make up a teenage son who gets beat up in school because his father was more occupied with work than with caring for his child - audiences love that.

Seriously, I don't know where the sudden faith in movie adaptations of scifi novels comes from. Everyone is hyping this movie to death even though Hollywood has shown over and over again that science fiction without a romantic subplot and lots of human interest stories is not going to happen.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jun 16, 2015 6:28 pm UTC

KarenRei wrote:I went ahead and looked up some of the details from the book and now I'm hitting my head even more. Apparently his power source was 200 square meters of solar panels and was used to grow about 100 square meters of potatoes. So we're to take it that he converted Mars' 44%-intensity sunlight, with at best maybe 25% capacity factor (highly optimistic!) to electricity (at best maybe 30% efficiency if they're super expensive multi-junction cells), then into light as per above (at best maybe 20% in an optimal situation), thus giving his plants the amount of light that strikes 60 square centimeters of potatoes on Earth, assuming that nothing else in the habitat needed power? That makes it even more ridiculous and I'd be hitting my head against the wall even harder if I read that. The author clearly screwed up by orders of magnitude on this one.
Whatever the author may have screwed up, and however accurate his or your starting figures are, you're off by a factor of 220 according to your own numbers.

200m2*.44*.25*.30*.20 = 1.32m2, not 0.006m2 as you claim. (I think you rounded and also forgot that he's talking about 200m2 and not 1m2.)

If you're going to be that sloppy with your own numbers in your own post, you really don't have a leg to stand on criticizing the author's math. (Nevermind how little you apparently know about how potatoes are grown.)

KarenRei wrote:
OP Tipping wrote:
KarenRei wrote:Okay, I found the book online. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

First off, it's terribly written.
Most of it takes the form of a blog by a scientist. To me it reads like the blog of a scientist.
Really? How many martian scientists do you know that don't know the word "regolith" and are obsessed with the word "shit", and refer to hardware systems by 1950s pop sci-fi names like "Oxygenator" rather than actual hardware names?
Have you ever, like, read any scientists' blogs? They generally don't use all the words they know, and generally write more informally and more whimsically than they do in journal articles.

He might be erring too far one way, but just like in your calculations you're erring even farther in the opposite direction.
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby KarenRei » Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:52 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
KarenRei wrote:I went ahead and looked up some of the details from the book and now I'm hitting my head even more. Apparently his power source was 200 square meters of solar panels and was used to grow about 100 square meters of potatoes. So we're to take it that he converted Mars' 44%-intensity sunlight, with at best maybe 25% capacity factor (highly optimistic!) to electricity (at best maybe 30% efficiency if they're super expensive multi-junction cells), then into light as per above (at best maybe 20% in an optimal situation), thus giving his plants the amount of light that strikes 60 square centimeters of potatoes on Earth, assuming that nothing else in the habitat needed power? That makes it even more ridiculous and I'd be hitting my head against the wall even harder if I read that. The author clearly screwed up by orders of magnitude on this one.
Whatever the author may have screwed up, and however accurate his or your starting figures are, you're off by a factor of 220 according to your own numbers.

200m2*.44*.25*.30*.20 = 1.32m2, not 0.006m2 as you claim. (I think you rounded and also forgot that he's talking about 200m2 and not 1m2.)

If you're going to be that sloppy with your own numbers in your own post, you really don't have a leg to stand on criticizing the author's math.


Calculator didn't take a number? How horrible! Because you know I'm totally writing a book here, not a forum post. Clearly with that worked out, the main character totally going to stay alive on 1,32 square meters of potatoes (given ridiculously favorable assumptions to even get to that level). Every last piece of idiocy in the book described in the past two pages of posts suddenly makes perfect sense!

(Nevermind how little you apparently know about how potatoes are grown.)


Right, because once again, planting plants on top of each other like cordwood is totally normal practice and totally works, because plants don't actually get energy from light and water and nutrients from the soil.

FYI, I actually have grown potatoes several years ago - when's the last time you grew them? And while we're at it, want to see what my home looks like?

Image

Yes, I know a thing or two about plants. And the author is a complete and utter moron who has his main character with orders of magnitude too little light for his plants, all of which would have died in over a dozen different ways.

BTW, see that black box with a white underside in the upper right corner of the picture? I had to shut it off so that the whole picture didn't come out bright pink; that's a 600W (1200 "LED Watt") grow light. It's eye-numbingly bright - you look at it for a second and you'll see pink for several minutes afterward. It, several smaller LED grow lights, and a couple dozen large fluorescents light up about 10 square meters of space. Highly efficient and designed for plant growth, not room lighting, they use more power than all his solar cells would produce if perfectly clean and auto-tracking (which the book says they're not) over the course of the day. And it's still way too little - I really should have at least three times more light for this much space for getting fruit, so it's hard to get more than low-caloric stuff like berries, edible leaves, etc - some plants can't even grow at all in this "dim". Here's a guy I know who has a more appropriate amount of lighting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A7w5fAeRE0

He has to use a filter over his camera so that you can see normally (jump ahead to 3:59 to see it without the filter). Notice how many of the same lights he uses and how close he spaces them together - about one of those blinding lights per square meter. The power companies must just adore this guy. ;) Even still he probably provides about 0,01% of his annual calories that way.

Have you ever, like, read any scientists' blogs?


Daily. I read every bloggers' posts at the Planetary Society blog, for example.

They generally don't use all the words they know, and generally write more informally and more whimsically than they do in journal articles.


I have never, ever in my life seen a single scientist write like a toilet-obsessed 13 year old, avoid the most basic scientific terms of their field, or use gimicky 50's Pop Sci-Fi style names for hardware.

He might be erring too far one way


A book built around orders of magnitude error, yeah, I'd say that's "erring too far".
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Flumble » Wed Jun 17, 2015 12:56 am UTC

erzet wrote:Call me a cynic but I don't have much faith in this adaptation. Knowing how people who make movies work, they'll cut out all the "boring technical stuff" that made the book interesting and instead focus on the "people back home" - and not the interesting ones at NASA but Watney's mother and father and newly-invented wife and child.
We'll probably get a potato montage, a setting-up-the-radio montage, followed by ten minutes of hilarious radio banter and a tearful email exchange with the imaginary wife. Then there'll be a travel montage and back to the real problems on earth where Watney's child must grow up without a father figure. Maybe make up a teenage son who gets beat up in school because his father was more occupied with work than with caring for his child - audiences love that.

This seems like an apt description of hollywood sci-fi. (and I checked, every good good sci-fi flick I can recall isn't made in hollywood)

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby OP Tipping » Wed Jun 17, 2015 9:17 am UTC

Although these points about mounding are interesting...

They don't get past the serious energy bottleneck represented by the lack of input radiative energy. We are talking a three orders of magnitude shortfall. I am a bit surprised that this point has not been picked up by sciencey reviewers because he set off a big WTF-klaxon for me as soon as I read it.

I am hoping that someone making the movie realised the problem and either used high intensity growlights (which were on board for some experimental reason) or used mirrors to direct sunlight from outside or something.

BTW great irony there, Jose!
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby orthogon » Wed Jun 17, 2015 1:26 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
KarenRei wrote:
OP Tipping wrote:
KarenRei wrote:Okay, I found the book online. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

First off, it's terribly written.
Most of it takes the form of a blog by a scientist. To me it reads like the blog of a scientist.
Really? How many martian scientists do you know that don't know the word "regolith" and are obsessed with the word "shit", and refer to hardware systems by 1950s pop sci-fi names like "Oxygenator" rather than actual hardware names?
Have you ever, like, read any scientists' blogs? They generally don't use all the words they know, and generally write more informally and more whimsically than they do in journal articles.

The style didn't bother me, in fact it's part of what makes the book so readable.

There are two points here: firstly it isn't just any log entry, it's the log entry of a man abandoned on Mars who expects to die there, alone. It's not out of the question that he might let certain aspects of the IEEE Style Guide slide a little. The black humour in the face of death is not just plausible, it goes a long way to show, without telling, how he deals with the psychological element of survival, which would be a problem almost as great as the practical ones.

The second point is that the toilet humour, the swearing, and to some extent the exaggeration are part of a natural reaction to being in the situation he's in. I don't know about the fine denizens of this forum, but I find that any time I find myself in situations where the basics of life take centre stage, my language (and that of those around me) immediately takes a nosedive. And it needn't be a life-and-death situation, a two-day camping trip or weekend at a music festival can be enough. In those situations it's all about food, water, shit and piss; calling this stuff what it is somehow helps one to deal with it (this is a form of what Pinker calls dysphemism). Much as I admire those airline pilots who maintain the even intonation and professional demeanour right until they smack into the mountain at 400mph, I feel this is largely training and concentration and lacking the time to muse on one's predicament. The guy with 24.5 hours per sol to think about his impending doom who doesn't find some solace in declaring "I'm fucked" from time to time is some kind of Spocklike automaton. (I think to some extent you could express the same sentiment by deliberate understatement: had it been a stereotypical British astronaut you might have him say "the situation has deteriorated somewhat since my last entry" though it would be difficult to resist following up with "and by 'deteriorated somewhat' I mean 'I'm fucked').

Sure, there are things that annoyed me; 42V isn't really high voltage by any definition; and the sheer blind luck that he has time after time stretches credulity (none of his patch-up jobs causes a fatal decompression, to the extent that he can build an unnecessary bedroom just for comfort - though, see also psychology above), but I enjoyed it.
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby trpmb6 » Wed Jun 17, 2015 4:51 pm UTC

First of all, I find it rather interesting that someone feels they can critique a book they haven't actually read. Second, I feel his descriptions of potato mounding may just be bad wording and some misinterpretation. I don't think he really means "plant a new plant on top of" the other plant. Anyone who has ever potato mounded knows that when you rebury your potato plant it will continue to grow up and pop out like a new plant. Did Weir use a bad description for this process? Yes. But I think you're taking a single sentence and blowing it way out of proportion. Also, for the record i have a 3.5 foot tall potato mound in my garden right now and have had success doing mounds several years now with great yields. The main advantage is it frees up a ton of space in my garden for my other plants.

I really love this book because I'm an aerospace engineer by day and a gardener by night. I can relate 100% to Watney throughout the book. Sure everything isn't perfect from a numbers stand point but nothing is completely implausible. It really is a nail biter and keeps you hooked. Can't wait to see the movie, even if it is Matt Damon....

Edit: Ok 100% can't really be true since i'm not doing these things on Mars....
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 17, 2015 4:56 pm UTC

Why the Matt Damon hate? I think he's a pretty solid actor.
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby orthogon » Thu Jun 18, 2015 9:37 am UTC

trpmb6 wrote:I really love this book because I'm an aerospace engineer by day and a garden by night. I can relate 100% to Watney throughout the book. Sure everything isn't perfect from a numbers stand point but nothing is completely implausible. It really is a nail biter and keeps you hooked. Can't wait to see the movie, even if it is Matt Damon....

In the end, it's a work of fiction, and Weir is allowed a certain amount of artistic licence. The fact is, it probably wouldn't be possible for someone to survive on Mars for long enough to be rescued, but all good adventure stories involve an element of doing the impossible. The trouble may be that it's been praised, particularly on this forum and in the comic, for its level of technical and numerical detail. Sure, if you look closely at the calculations you're going to find holes. It seems to me that Weir deserves credit for at least showing his working; I read it without dwelling too much on the calculations, in the manner that one might read a textbook on a subject in which one is not planning to take an exam. Read this way, it creates the impression of somebody doing the calculations that they need to do. The overarching message is that you might be able to save your own life by doing science and engineering correctly, staying alive by using your brain (and your asshole): it's a feel-good story for geeks.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Beavertails » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:03 pm UTC

Wow. Quite the thread. I avoided it until this point as I wanted to read the book first.

Having done so, I will say that I enjoyed it immensely. Sure, I would imagine if I had done a deep dive into the math that there would be some holes. But this wasn't a physics, chemistry, or biology textbook. It was a novel about survival, and using what was on hand to do it in a way that highlighted the importance of science and engineering to do so.

I know that everyone has their moments where you can no longer suspend disbelief, whether it be due to your education level, inimate knowledge of zero G, or your own back of the envelope math about the effects of the Martian atmosphere and soil composition.

But the incredulity displayed here by some that we don't blindly believe in your ranted facts the way you accuse us of believing in the methodologies in the book is stupid at best. I choose to suspend my disbelief to a certain point in most books or movie entertainment that I pursue. You know why? Because it isn't entertaining to me to point out every minor scientific inconsistency to those around me in the mistaken assumption that they want to listen.

I bet some of you are real fun at parties.

It was a novel. That showed one man's struggle for survival, using science, in a way that was actually entertaining rather than quoting chapter 1 of my local university's Physics textbook.

I'm sorry if I have disappointed some of you for choosing to be entertained rather than fine tooth comb the book for errors.
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Kit. » Thu Jun 18, 2015 4:21 pm UTC

Beavertails wrote:in a way that was actually entertaining rather than quoting chapter 1 of my local university's Physics textbook.

Oh, I wish Hollywood could be able to make a movie of a book as entertaining as Dirac's "Principles".

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby mashengo » Thu Jun 18, 2015 11:13 pm UTC

Adam Savage has an interview with Andy Weir on tested which confirms this comic (scrub over to about 45:50 in the interview). Maybe Andy Weir has mentioned it before online or in past interviews, or was xkcd extremely lucky? ;)

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby trpmb6 » Fri Jun 19, 2015 12:28 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:In the end, it's a work of fiction, and Weir is allowed a certain amount of artistic licence. The fact is, it probably wouldn't be possible for someone to survive on Mars for long enough to be rescued, but all good adventure stories involve an element of doing the impossible. The trouble may be that it's been praised, particularly on this forum and in the comic, for its level of technical and numerical detail. Sure, if you look closely at the calculations you're going to find holes. It seems to me that Weir deserves credit for at least showing his working; I read it without dwelling too much on the calculations, in the manner that one might read a textbook on a subject in which one is not planning to take an exam. Read this way, it creates the impression of somebody doing the calculations that they need to do. The overarching message is that you might be able to save your own life by doing science and engineering correctly, staying alive by using your brain (and your asshole): it's a feel-good story for geeks.



Exactly. And to be quite frank, we really don't know what would happen on Mars in that type of environment. It very well could be that his potato yields could be much better than expected due to Mars having 38% the gravity of Earth. Think about that for a second. Plants that have cell structures built to support themselves under Earth's gravity, now being grown in a new environment with 38% of the gravity. I'm not a botanist so I don't really know if this would actually happen in practice, but it seems to me if you have less gravity it means you spend less energy trying to support yourself. I've noticed that my tomato plants beef up their stems when I leave them unsupported and they begin to grow heavy fruit. If I support my stems they logically use that energy elsewhere.

Now granted my example above isn't a direct correlation since Potato plants tend to not have very tall stalks (and you would usually rebury it anyways). But this could mean that the energy that would normally be used to build the main stalks and branches could instead be used in creating more or larger leaves.

Without a doubt this is one of the studies NASA should eventually pursue further.

A side note for myself. I've always wondered how plants know to send the stalks upwards (ie away from the center of the Earth). You can turn a bulb completely upside down and it will still send it's stalk the direction it's supposed to. Is this due to a temperature gradient in the soil? So it would go towards the warmer soil where the sun would be shining down on it. Do plants feel gravity and understand they must go opposite of it? How did this trait develop originally...?
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Jun 19, 2015 12:51 pm UTC

How plants sense gravity is actually pretty interesting!

There are some modern hydroponic growing systems that slowly rotisserie the growth chamber to equally distribute statoliths. It evidently makes certain plants grow significantly larger.
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Angua » Sun Jun 21, 2015 9:16 am UTC

Can we have less of the ablist language. Find other insults.

Sorry this took so long, I've been on holiday.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby ubikuberalles » Mon Jun 29, 2015 8:24 pm UTC

Aw man! I had the popcorn ready and everything! ;)

Anyway, I loved the book and I can't wait until the movie comes out. While I was reading the book I knew it was bound to have all sorts of technical and scientific flaws. I didn't care. The writing was that good. Another big factor was, since Martian biology (or biology in general) is not my thing, I won't catch the errors.

Contrast that to the TV show Scorpions and "Halt and Catch Fire". I hate those shows because the glaring technical (and, in the case of "halt...", historical,) inaccuracies just take me out of the show. Instead of watching the story develop, I'm grinding my teeth about how they got that wrong or how that other thing is impossible and so on. Long story short, I don't watch those shows. If the technical issues of "The Martian" movie upset me (probably won't but we'll see) I'm not likely to walk out of the theater in the middle of the movie, but I mind grind my teeth a little.
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby orthogon » Tue Jun 30, 2015 10:20 pm UTC

I don't have much to add, but I want to see Marriage, Margaret and The Martian at the top of the forum. Come to think of it, Marriage, Margaret and the Martian would make a good title for a novel.

ETA: actually we haven't discussed the title, but The Martian is pretty clever in its simplicity.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Flumble » Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:56 am UTC

Married... with Martian

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Mikeski » Thu Jul 02, 2015 12:55 am UTC

Flumble wrote:Married... with Martian

Wasn't it was called "Alf"?

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby mathmannix » Thu Jul 02, 2015 12:32 pm UTC

Mikeski wrote:
Flumble wrote:Married... with Martian

Wasn't it was called "Alf"?

Actually, Mork and Mindy would be closer...
I hear velociraptor tastes like chicken.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:21 pm UTC

I will be disappointed if the protagonist of this book is not named Marvin.
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby duzenko » Sat Jul 11, 2015 11:28 pm UTC

I strongly agree with KarenRei
It's a pity people take this nonsense as science fiction. One of the praisers said he was a space engineer? Jeez
And Ridley is directing a movie based on this?! Double Jeez

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby mikrit » Sun Jul 12, 2015 7:16 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:ETA: actually we haven't discussed the title, but The Martian is pretty clever in its simplicity.

I have just finished reading the Swedish edition, which is titled Ensam på Mars ("Alone on Mars"). I suppose the publisher thought: Hey, the book isn't really about a green-skinned Martian, I had better correct the title.

I found the book enjoyable and funny, but sometimes a little monotonous in its geekiness.

Also, I am sorry to learn from this thread that the potato farm as described wouldn't have worked. My own two attempts at growing potatos on Earth didn't work well either. Too wet soil, I think. I neglected to check my soil for poisonous Martian perchlorates, though: that would have been a much more interesting cause of failure.
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby orthogon » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:39 pm UTC

Just saw a review of the movie. They said you never really believe it's Mars, and the still definitely looks like Earth. While reading the book I suddenly thought the sky would probably be black, with the atmosphere being pretty thin, and tried to imagine it that way for the rest of the book. But looking at some NASA pictures, turns out it's blue after all. Or not black, at least.
[Edit: typo]
Last edited by orthogon on Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:00 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby mathmannix » Mon Sep 14, 2015 3:57 pm UTC

When reading the book, I pictured the sky as a kind of yellowish-brown sandy color, like in most of the NASA rover pics I've seen. (Apparently I remembered them better than I would have guessed.)
https://xkcd.com/695/ shows a light pink, though, which doesn't look wrong.
And yes, apparently at sunset the sky looks blue.
So, basically, I guess Martian sky has variable colors, just like ours does (black, grey, blue, orange, pink, and even green at times).
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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Quercus » Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:13 pm UTC

Weirdly I don't think I did picture the sky when I was reading the book - my brain often doesn't fill in cosmetic background in books. I think I imagined it as a fairly neutral colour - otherwise I would have "noticed" it specifically.

I did get my mental image of pathfinder pretty much exactly spot on though, remembered from a lesson we had on it in primary school.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby orthogon » Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:14 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:When reading the book, I pictured the sky as a kind of yellowish-brown sandy color, like in most of the NASA rover pics I've seen. (Apparently I remembered them better than I would have guessed.)
https://xkcd.com/695/ shows a light pink, though, which doesn't look wrong.
And yes, apparently at sunset the sky looks blue.
So, basically, I guess Martian sky has variable colors, just like ours does (black, grey, blue, orange, pink, and even green at times).

According to the Great Wiki page, though, it's never all blue, only an area around the setting sun. I looked at this NASA photo and possibly this one too, and the sky in both looked quite blue on my phone, but on my PC monitor it's a bit more pink. This was the review I saw, complete with the stills. The sky in those shots is just about plausible, but I think I'd have tried to make it a bit more other-worldly, but maybe it would have been too much work.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1536: "The Martian"

Postby Keyman » Mon Sep 14, 2015 5:06 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:
mathmannix wrote:When reading the book, I pictured the sky as a kind of yellowish-brown sandy color, like in most of the NASA rover pics I've seen. (Apparently I remembered them better than I would have guessed.)
https://xkcd.com/695/ shows a light pink, though, which doesn't look wrong.
And yes, apparently at sunset the sky looks blue.
So, basically, I guess Martian sky has variable colors, just like ours does (black, grey, blue, orange, pink, and even green at times).

According to the Great Wiki page, though, it's never all blue, only an area around the setting sun. I looked at this NASA photo and possibly this one too, and the sky in both looked quite blue on my phone, but on my PC monitor it's a bit more pink. This was the review I saw, complete with the stills. The sky in those shots is just about plausible, but I think I'd have tried to make it a bit more other-worldly, but maybe it would have been too much work.

Oh sure... the sky might look blue or black, but it's really....
Never mind. Sorry.
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