Study Guide

The Martian Science

By Andy Weir

Science

Chapter 2
Mark Watney

Half the people who studied botany were hippies [...] I didn't like them. I've always been in it for the science. (2.35)

Though he once hated them, Mark acts a lot like those hippies during his time on Mars. He composts—his own poop. He recycles—his own urine. He even uses solar energy. Going green has never felt so good!

Chapter 6
Teddy Sanders

"Naturally," Teddy said. "Astronauts are inherently insane. And really noble." (6.197)

Mark and co. fly in the face of popular stereotypes of scientists. They don't spend their days in front of computers. They don't spend their nights tinkering in labs. They go on adventures.

Chapter 7
Mark Watney

But I do have a free source of heat: me. A couple million years of evolution gave me "warm-blooded" technology. (7.19)

Sometimes, the best scientific solution to a given problem is to simply use what Mother Nature gave us. After all, our bodies are finely-tuned pieces of technology that took hundreds of thousands of R&D to perfect. That sure beats the pants of an iPhone.

Chapter 10
Mark Watney

At first, I figured it was my duty [...] But then it started to get fun. Now, as I drive, I look forward to that simple act of bagging rocks. (10.8)

You know you're a science nerd when you can have fun picking up rocks. After having more brushes with death than he can count, Mark takes comfort in something as simple and as logical as geology. It must be a relief to simply be a scientist again.

Chapter 15
Annie Montrose

"Mark Watney's [...] prolonged mission and fight for survival are giving us more knowledge about Mars then the rest of the Ares program combined." (15.138)

Mark's brand of science is all about getting your hands dirty. There are many times when it's important to do things by the book, weighing your decisions and taking calculated risks. This isn't one of those times. That being said, everybody should take comfort in the fact that they're going to know a lot more about Mars when this thing is over.

Chapter 16

"If this becomes a negotiation by diplomats, it will never be resolved. We need to keep this among scientists." (16.49)

Science for the win! We don't know about you, but our hearts were warmed by the bond between NASA and the CNSA (China National Space Administration). Scientists are logical people, so they're much more concerned with getting things done than silly things like nationality or political allegiance.

Chapter 17
Mark Watney

Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped. (17.50)

Jeez, Mark should just get a sponsorship deal already. We can already see the pitch: If duct tape is good enough for Mark Watney, then you can be darn tootin' it's good enough for you! Jokes aside, this passage shows that the most useful technology isn't always the flashiest.

Chapter 18
Mark Watney

I tested the brackets by hitting them with rocks. This kind of sophistication is what we interplanetary scientist are known for. (18.107)

Once again, we watch Mark achieve some high-minded scientific goals though some very primitive techniques. If we get nothing else from The Martian, it's that science isn't about laboratories or equations—it's about getting your hands dirty and making things work.

Chapter 19
Teddy Sanders

"It just goes to show," Teddy said. "Love of science is universal across all cultures." (19.58)

Would we kill the mood by bumping "Give Peace a Chance" at maximum volume? Seriously though, Mark would never have made it home if it weren't for the bond between NASA and the CNSA—a bond created by a mutual love of science.

Chapter 22
Mark Watney

It's kind of silly if you think about it. I'm in my space suit on Mars and I'm navigating with sixteenth-century tools. (22.34)

Actually, that doesn't sound silly at all. Throughout The Martian, Mark is forced to use some seriously lo-fi solutions for some big time problems—problems usually caused by complex modern technology. That newfangled stuff can be nice, but sometimes you just have to go back to basics.