Science takes a turn for the better
June 23, 2008
The New York Times reported on Friday that NASA scientists are convinced they have proof there’s water on Mars. White patches seen in a trench that the Phoenix Mars lander dug in the Martian soil shrank and then disappeared. Experts say it was ice that melted away. And Boing Boing Gadgets reported that bacon flavored dental floss is now available for $4.95 per container. Experts and pundits of all kinds, everywhere, have broken out the champagne and are celebrating like 45 year-old male Texas polygamists at a girl’s slumber party.
“There’s no doubt about it, the white stuff that shrank and disappeared had to be ice that turned to vapor, because nothing else we care about does that,” said a NASA scientist chugging Jack Daniels like an astronaut flying a shuttle mission. “I’m so giddy at this discovery that I’m going to brush all my teeth when I get home tonight, and then try that new bacon flavored floss. Is life good or what?!”
Not everybody is partying like Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. “A white substance that shrinks and disappears may or may not be water, there’s no way to prove that without a chemical analysis. Conclusions drawn from pictures are no better than conjecture,” said Yolanda Williams, a bridal consultant and winner of the Hottest Body on 10th Street Award. “I’ve been with white guys who had little things that shrank and darn near evaporated and may or may not have been water. Whether they were or not, I’m not going to start building a scientific career on the theory. I’ve got more sense than that. On the other hand I’ve had sausage sticks that I’d trade for vanilla wafers because the quality was terrible. You can’t judge a book by its cover you know.”
The New York Times reported that after a decade of shouting, “Follow the water!” in its exploration of Mars, NASA can finally say that one of its spacecraft has reached out, touched water ice and scooped it up. In a photograph released Thursday evening of a trench that the Phoenix Mars lander has dug into the Martian soil, some white patches that were seen earlier in the week have shrunk, and eight small chunks have disappeared. Until now, scientists were not sure if the white material was ice or some kind of salt. When exposed to air, water ice can change into water vapor, a process known as sublimation. Salt, on the other hand, is not capable of such a vanishing act. “It must be ice,” said Dr. Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, the mission’s principal investigator. “The whole science team thinks this. I think we feel this is definite proof that these are little chunks of icy material.” The Phoenix robotic arm has a scraper and, if necessary, a small drill to break off pieces of material for analysis in one of the ovens, which would determine chemical composition. Liquid water is an essential ingredient for life, and this area may have been, at least intermittently, a habitable environment in Mars’s geologically recent past, in the past 10 million years or so.
Boing Boing Gadgets reported last week that Archie McPhee now has bacon-flavored dental floss available for sale. The waxed floss is only $4.95 per container [http://www.mcphee.com/items/11847.html]. The article said it’s an excellent way to get that lovely bacon taste in your mouth again after brushing, although the writer said he prefers to use the fat-greased sinew of a freshly slaughtered sow first thing in the morning. Experts say that science has always been and will always be the key to better living.
“Whether you want to dig for water on Mars or floss you teeth with bacon, science will find a way to help you do it,” said Ingrid Filibuster, a Swedish social theorist and stripper currently working in Canada on a student visa, and writing a paper on the sexual mores of the Canadian hockey enthusiast. “Why anyone would go all the way to Mars looking for ice when there’s so much around this country, I’ll never know. But everything is better with bacon, science has that figured out. I’ve never had a better time than the night all the Canadian professors of ice hockey came into the club for a 24-hour lard and bacon extravaganza. You can still barely walk on the floor without slipping around. NASA scientists are great but even they couldn’t have done any better.”
In other news, the Economist magazine reported in their June 19th edition that robots are getting cleverer and more dexterous. The article said that two weeks ago at a Munich robotics trade fair, Roboshaker, an automated bartender, was introduced. Roboshaker can mix a cocktail and clean up afterwards. Whenever it picks up a can of drink to add to the ingredients, it examines the lid with a camera so that it can work out where to find the ring-pull. No word on whether it also looks for ice on other planets or can find bacon, but it’s good to know that science is always looking for ways to make our lives more fun by coming up with new gadgets that do stuff so we don’t have to.
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