One of the great things about Rough Science is how
everyone just mucks in when there’s work to be
done. Kate and I had come back with a pile of zeolite
the previous evening, but this morning there were more
mundane problems to solve. Trying to get a decent vacuum
on the cooking pots was proving a pain – the metal
tins kept imploding. What was needed was some basic
wooden bracing to put inside them and give internal
support, so armed with a saw, some nails and the trusty
hammer I did my best. The results might not have people
taking orders for shelves, but it did the job.
On the whole, day 2 was one of those grinding days
that is so common in science but which is a million
miles from the public face of scientists ‘in action’.
We just all grafted away at our various chores, tweaking
things here and there, modifying the design, testing
this and that, going up ladders and down snakes trying
to get the different parts of the cooling, circulation
and pumping system to work. For most of the day I was
pulverising and cooking up my zeolite, trying to make
sure that I drove off all the moisture that over many
years had accumulated in its crystal structure. There’s
only so much fun you can have cooking zeolite.
So, it wasn’t that much of a surprise then when
the boredom set in and the mind wandered onto more trivial
matters. By mid-afternoon, a wee knock-about baseball
game was in full flight – the various parts of
the space system left scattered around us. At first
the camera crew filmed from the sidelines, but of course
that didn’t last. Sound booms and cameras were
laid aside and the serious baseball started. It was
great fun, even when, after diving in the dirt gloriously
failing to catch the ball, I was left bruised and grazed.
It ended 20 minutes later, our consciences tugged by
our series producer Jonathan pacing the outfield like
an expectant father, anxious to see car windows unscathed
and a refrigeration system that actually cooled something.
To put his mind at rest, we set everything up for our
first full test. It failed.