Donald Pettit is a chemical engineer, NASA astronaut, and one of the few individuals in the world with a Wikipedia page that lists his status as âCurrently in space.â
Pettit is also the guy from that NASA-endorsed spot for Angry Birds Space, in which he explains trajectories and the gravitational pull bodies can have on slingshot-propelled flying vertebrates with attitudes and egg-lovinâ pigs. And now heâs the dude from an original infotaining web series from Physics Central (a website with a mission to disseminate the âexcitement and importance of physicsâ to the masses brought to you by the American Physical Society) called Science Off the Sphere.
The âSphereâ in that title refers to the Earth and the âOffâ is meant to mean âoutside the boundaries of Earthâs gravitational field.â So, as the name would imply, Pettit, who is currently on board the International Space Station, explores and presents âfantastic physics that can only be demonstrated in micro-gravity.â
Donât let the fact Pettit has a Ph.D., that heâs comfortable talking about hardcore scientific concepts, or that a few of the programâs videos have viewcounts in the three or four-figures lead you to click away. Pettitâs demonstrations bring to life the things of which special effects in sci-fi films and David Lynch music videos are made. The episodes depict PettitÂ performing acts like cutting off the sleeves on his shirt to fashion a didgeridoo out of a space station vacuum cleaner (which heâs excellent at playing) to show the effects of sound waves on water droplets, fashioniongÂ the zero-gravity equivalent of a lava lampÂ out of laptop speakers cornstarch (which is a non-Newtonian fluid), and many other things literally out of this world and visually appealing.
I havenât wanted to be an astronaut since kindergarten, but Pettitâs videos may have me questioning my career choice. If you feel the same way, you can tune into the whole collection of Science Off the Sphere on Physics Centralâs YouTube channel.