Tag Archives: science

The Final Frontier

It was a week for celebrating space milestones: landing on the moon, walking on the moon, planting the flag on the moon. But to me the biggest of these was getting the hell off the moon.

Yes, putting men on the moon was an amazing technological achievement but think about this: before Apollo 11 no lunar module had actually been tested landing on or taking off from the moon’s surface. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin fired the rocket that would get them back to the Apollo 11 command module it was a first.

And if it hadn’t worked they’d still be sitting there.

This weighed heavily on my mind as a child. As a kid I was obsessed with space and I built a model of the Saturn V rocket. This thing was nearly three feet tall and could be disassembled into stages so you could recreate a full Apollo mission from lift-off to splashdown and everything in between. It was the most awesome toy I ever had.

When I was a slightly older and differently motivated youngster this model was systematically destroyed with firecrackers and lighter fluid  as I acted out a series of terrible space disasters. That’s what happens when hormones begin kicking in.

TV Is Not Rocket Science

There are geniuses among us and many of them work at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, NY. Just a few miles from where Charles Steinmetz helped GE harness the power of electricity and change the world, today’s best brains are pioneering new technology that will carry us into the future. At least that’s what I thought until I read this:

Global Research also supports General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal division, which operates TV networks including NBC, Bravo and USA.The folks in Niskayuna have been helping schedule TV shows by developing software systems for the network executives who decide the lineup of shows.

Whoa! This is a little like bragging you designed the O-rings on the space shuttle Challenger.

I don’t have a PhD but I’ve seen enough rating books to know that the whole NBC schedule thing is nothing to write home about lately. My advice? Stick to the lasers, fuel cells, hover cars, and whatever else you mess around with up there. What NBC needs is some good shows —not scientific scheduling.

You and Me Both, Kid

Have you ever heard of methanethiol? It is a chemical compound found in in rotten eggs, onions, garlic, the secretions of skunks —and it’s also the stuff that makes some people’s pee smell after eating asparagus. There are several theories on this, but the one I like best is that everyone produces the odor, but only certain people can smell it.

That said, it turns out in our household that my son Zack and I can smell it while my wife Ann and son Alex can not. This has set up a very weird sort of bonding between us since it’s something unique we share together. I’ll serve asparagus at least once a week and we exchange a knowing glance, aware that an hour later we’ll both be enjoying the pungent odor of asparagus pee wafting up as we go to the bathroom.

Is it really true that everyone produces the odor but can’t smell it? I’m going to suggest that Zack do this as some sort of science project at school, but maybe we should start small at home.

Smelling Ann’s pee should be easy; getting her to smell ours? Not so much. That may require some trickery.