Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Our pornographic future in space.

A loyal reader who shall remain nameless recently alerted me to a fairly interesting article in the LA Times. The article discusses the debut of a new kind of swimsuit that is sparking controversy. The suit, manufactured by Speedo, appears to reduce drag by just enough to enable record-breaking performances:

Never mind that backstroker Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe barely had time to wedge her body into the new, ultra-tightfitting swimsuit or to test the suit in warmups, let alone race conditions.

Coventry, a gold medalist in the 2004 Olympic Games, hit the water that day and smashed a world record that had stood for 16 years, swimming the 200-meter backstroke in 2:06.39, which was 0.23 second faster than the storied mark.

The new swimsuit? Speedo's LZR Racer.

That modest meet last month in Columbia, Mo., began an unprecedented -- and controversial -- six weeks that turned competitive swimming upside down: 14 world records set as of Wednesday, 13 in the LZR suit.


What does this suit look like? Well, it looks pretty spiffy but it doesn't have built-in propellors or anything:



The main, and humorous, issue to this suit is the one that my unnamed source pointed out to me: they leave perhaps too little to the imagination. Or, to paraphrase Robin Williams, this is a swimsuit so tight you can tell what religion a man is. Striking a blow for gender equality, on the other hand, the women appear to be in the same boat. Perhaps not the outcome I expected but, given that women have long been expected to wedge themselves into absurdly tight swimsuits, this is at least equally absurd for both sexes. Rah rah.

Leaving that aside, however, these suits were apparently developed with the assistance of NASA. Don't get too excited, though, as that assistance seems to have been fairly minor:

Not only was this suit designed with help from NASA and its wind tunnels, but Speedo made sure that each step of the development process, including ultrasonically bonded seams -- no thread and needle here -- was approved by FINA, swimming's international governing body.


Nonetheless, this reminds me of something from my science fictional roots: the skinsuit. You see, when most people think "spacesuit" they think of the awkward, bulky monstrosities that our astronauts wear. Essentially a modern day suit of armor that encapsulates a human being in a very small semi-flexible spacecraft. Yet, this is not the only way to protect a person in space. An alternative approach is the space activity suit or "skinsuit" that uses a tight form-fitting garment to reinforce the structural strength of human skin. The result, given temperature control apparatus, is a much more flexible and possibly comfortable approach to extra-vehicular activity. By now I'm sure you see where I'm going with this: the new speedo swimsuits remind me of nothing so much as a skinsuit.

And if that wasn't enough to get your blood pumping, it turns out that research into the skinsuit design has been renewed and we may someday see astronauts venturing forth in these types of protective garments. An advance for astronauts? Hell yes- such suits would be better for long-duration spacewalks and safer besides. An advance for NASA public relations? Also yes! What could drum up support for the space program again like sleek and stylish EVA attire?

I have no opinions about what this means for swimming, but I'm excited about the potential for space travel. Soon we may not only be able to live and work in space more safely and comfortably, but also harness the power of sex appeal. I mean, shit, if dressing our astronauts like pornstars doesn't revive interest in the space program I don't know what will.

Can't hurt, right?

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3 Comments:

Blogger Marf said...

I've heard of those skin-tight space suits as well.

Some sort of fiber that constricts and puts pressure on the body equal to atmospheric pressure on Earth. The benefit is it's much more flexible, not as bulky, not as heavy, and the wearer has much better dexterity and mobility. However, if I remember right, the chest and head area still had to be a solid structure...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008 3:01:00 PM  
Anonymous a very public sociologist said...

Lol, suits of that calibre rule evangelicals out of the space programme straight away! That may be a good thing, do we really want them bringing Billy Graham to the Martians?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008 7:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious about the man's choice of, um, position. Do you think they checked in the wind tunnel whether up or down was more aerodynamic? Not that I really want to think about it.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008 3:32:00 PM  

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