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In the news this weekend: Space is awesome. From the Super Blood Moon to water on Mars, there’s plenty going on up there. But the possibility for life on the red planet was no surprise to Ridley Scott, director of The Martian, an upcoming movie about a stranded astronaut. (The Guardian)

In the era of political correctness, universities with curricula that discuss potentially traumatic subjects walk the line between conducting open, intellectual debates and mentally scarring students with difficult pasts. When it comes to tough subjects, some advocate for the use of trigger warnings, while others condemn them as a barrier to intellectual freedom. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Readers can get very attached to the words on the page — books can become our friends, family, and lovers. Die-hard Jane Austen or Dan Brown fans may remember their first encounters with a twinkle in their eye, but do the authors do the same? Six writers reminisce over their first novels and decide if that young romance was really true love. (The Millions) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.
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If you haven’t seen the photos of Pluto, go look at them. If you have, go look again. The NYT has packaged them beautifully.

Also: how Pluto changed how we saw the solar system, and why we’ve never lost our enthusiasm for space travel.

Collector’s Weekly on the existential conundrum (and history) of the American waste-paper basket.

Gonzo illustrator Ralph Steadman’s portraits of birds on the verge of extinction.

Nabokov said there is no reading, only rereading. Tim Parks doesn’t quite agree, but thinks he’s found the key to an illuminating reread, practicing with The Waste Land and Mrs. Dalloway. •

Diane Pizzuto is the art director and managing editor of The Smart Set.
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I see John Glenn's underwear, worn on 1962 mission, Project Mercury.

Everyone wears underwear. Your grandma wears them, your dad wears them, your mailman wears them. Heck, even some dogs wear underwear. We are a society fixated on comfort, but also on functionality. Your personal trainer dons moisture-wicking underlayer, while your mom might be sporting spanx to hold in the result of years of childbearing.

Suited for Space. The Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia. Through November 14, 2014.

But astronauts tend to think of underwear on a different level. You might say their views on underwear are – dare I say – out of this world.

Alyssa Shaw is an English major and graduate education student at Drexel University in Philadelphia. 

Project Mercury, the first U.S. human spaceflight team.

It was exactly 10 years ago, 1999, that the heat of a rocket ship on its way to Mars turned the dark Ohio winter into summer. The First Expedition landed men on Mars but it would be three expeditions later before the men of Earth would fully inhabit the red planet and make it their own. Eventually, they would come with their families, build homes and cities on the dead Martian sands, and create new histories that would replace their own and those of the Martian lives they destroyed.

The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. 222 pages. Doubleday.

Or so Ray Bradbury imagined it when he was writing The Martian Chronicles a half-century ago in 1949 (it was published in 1950). Just a few years before, World War II created a lasting, worldwide fear of nuclear apocalypse. While wars of the past had ended one empire or another, Hiroshima and… More…

 

Currently there is a lot of space debris — generated by programs like NASA — circling the globe. It’s becoming an increasing problem for satellites and new missions. How can we reduce this debris to ensure that future and current missions will be safe? — Linwood, Boston, Massachusettes

Your mission, Linwood, if you choose to accept it, is to write an apocalyptic poem about the space debris problem that is so powerful it begins a change. It has to be so good that it inundates the mainstream, warrants translation into all the world languages, and terrifies the globe. All international leaders need to be compelled to work together, with a team of scientists, and solve this problem, and it’s your job to make this problem a priority.

After your poem’s publication (your poem should be so good that… More…

Uhhhh...aliens, you say?

It wasn’t until the end of our few days’ drive together through the extraterrestrial landscape of northern Colorado that this distant cousin of mine started talking about aliens. He was a bit older than my parents, and a Vietnam vet. Along the way he had shown me the remains of an old family farm, the high Rocky Mountain passes, and the endless shrub brush ranches on the other side. Then, back in the library of his home outside Denver, he showed me Zecharia Sitchin’s The 12th Planet.

That summer, waiting for college classes to start again, I read Sitchin for myself and almost converted. His beliefs could have consumed me entirely if the books weren’t dressed in such pulp sci-fi packaging. A few footnotes, a respectable cover, or a university press publishers, and I might have been done in for good.

The idea goes like this: If you read the… More…