Tag: Hydrogen

Day 1000: How It Ends

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Inside this cubicle the air is thick as honey, with asphyxiating flecks of the mundane bracing against the irrefutable promise of a golden weekend. Outside these pin-cushion partitions – and indeed inside as well – every tiny molecule in the universe is saying its goodbyes to its neighbors and preparing to splash into the unknown permutations of a distant someday. My fingers hammer at these tiny plastic letters, fully ignorant of what’s to come.

Or are they? The hallowed fingers of esteemed science – no doubt similar in size and shape to my own, only tasked with a far more specific purpose – have combed back the hair of the observable now and picked at the scalp-nits of projection. The fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and a cabinet full of –ologies have given us a map of what’s to come. A timeline of time’s last hurrah.

And the best part? If any of these predictions are wrong, every record of them will likely be destroyed before anyone finds out. That’s my kind of science.

Genetics-1

Within 10,000 years, human genetic variation will no longer be regionalized. This won’t mean we’ll all look the same – the blonde gene will still speckle crowds and set up offensive jokes, but it will be distributed equally worldwide. This forecasted panmixia is far more optimistic than astrophysicist Brandon Carter’s Doomsday Argument, which places our present at roughly the halfway point of humankind’s civilized journey, and projects a 95% likelihood that we’ll be wholly extinct in 10,000 years.

If global warming hasn’t already soaked us into a Kevin Costner-esque hellscape by then, we may also be facing the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which will raise the sea levels by 3 or 4 meters above wherever it will be once we lose the rest of the polar ice caps, which should happen long before then.

Long term forecast: buy a big-ass boat. Read more…

Day 930: The Other Foo Fighters

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I admit it, I frequently dip into the tart, opaque candy bowl of skepticism, filled with lemon drops of doubt and sour-chews of crotchety fact-checking. That said, I like my sour sweets to end with an upbeat aftertaste, a smidgen of optimism that my aforementioned leeriness will be heartily disproven. Deep down, I don’t believe in the hibber-jabber of ghosts, of karmic energy tallies or Earth-snooping alien life, but even deeper down, I kind of hope I’m wrong.

If this miasma of rambling self-reflection seems like a hopelessly clunky introduction to a kilograph on one of the greatest rock bands of the past two decades… well, it would be. But while the caliber of Dave Grohl’s rocktastic ass-kickery certainly merits a lengthy diatribe of praise (hell, I could do a thousand words on nothing more than the rib-clenching, cerebrospinal-throttling bridge of “Monkey Wrench”), that’s not what today is about.

Today we look at the original foo fighters: no foot-swiveling grooves, no cinematic videos and no capital ‘F’s. These foo fighters transport us back in time, into the goose-feather fury of the second World War, then up into a nebulous sky filled with illusionary aberrations – gravelly bumps in the smooth road of logic and comprehensible reason.

SmokeyStover-1

The word ‘foo’ was a popular nonsense word of the 1930’s, much like any of Doctor Seuss’s whimsical wordage or much of what you’ll hear on Fox News today (hey! A topical joke! Three points for me!). It grew from the work of popular Chicagoan cartoonist Bill Holman and his Chicago Tribune strip known as Smokey Stover. Foo was an anarchic dalliance into the lexicon of imagination. It functioned as a noun, an adjective, and a G-rated exclamation of disbelief. Did it morph into the 1940’s-era military term FUBAR? Perhaps. But it certainly held ground in the American military landscape at that time. Read more…

Day 678: Alas, The Cheese Hath Been Cut

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Oh but for the crack of a wicked breeze, to damn the olfactory to the fleeting abyss of that which was wrought through the machinations of yesterday’s cabbagey broth. I fail to suppress this rumbling squeak and for that my fellow rail patrons afford me a banquet of scowls and derision.

Yet I question their condemnation. For this? Is this a trespass so egregious, so horrifically in opposition to our modernized civility that it warrants ostracization? Must I quell my internal commotion with flatus-flaying charcoal or bismuth? Does not my active participation in the betterment of our culture, our collective totemic documentation of societal touchstones allow me the leniency to unleash only the most irrepressible and urgent flutterings of gaseous… oh wait. Never mind. That one was just awful – wow, I’m sorry everyone. Anyone carrying any air freshener? Lysol? Whew! Crack that window!

However high we may perceive our own brow, the unavoidable fact is that everybody farts.

Isn't that the title of Weird Al Yankovic's version of "Everybody Hurts" by REM? If not, it should be.

Isn’t that the title of Weird Al Yankovic’s version of “Everybody Hurts” by REM? If not, it should be.

Fermentation is a wonky matter. In a vat burgeoning with yeast, malt, hops, water, and the hopelessly magical interminglings of these ingredients, fermentation produces the holiest of nectars: beer. In the shadowy alleyways of the colon, that process spits out comedy, crudeness or embarrassment, depending on the situation. Over 99% of our aft output consists of gases which are harmless to one’s olfactory nerve, innocuous clouds of nitrogen, oxygen, CO2, methane and hydrogen. To force a topical western societal parallel, it’s the 1% that run the show. And it’s the 1% that mess everything up. Read more…

Day 618: Immaculate Conceptions, Part 2 – The Independents

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In an effort to make this weekend’s topic of automobiles more relatable to a lifelong non-car-guy like myself, I’m going to draw a simplistic parallel to the world of movies. The majority of what the big auto-makers put out are akin to the majority of big-studio movies that populate our theatres. The boring sedan is the formula rom-com, the minivan is a cliché-ridden kids’ movie, the SUV is your typical political thriller, and the jacked-up pickup truck is the brawn-heavy, brains-light action flick. Oh and your Hummer? That’s a soulless Michael Bay CGI piece of crap.

But concept cars are the one-off studio epiphanies – the brilliant films unlike anything that had come before. These are the Inceptions, the Dr. Strangeloves of the auto world. The difference being that we can all experience those movies, while concept cars are out of reach to everyone, apart from inviting puddles of drool at auto shows. Hey, even a half-decent metaphor can only be stretched so far.

But I’m not interested in the big-studio one-offs; I wrote about those yesterday. A movie fan has to keep one eye on the independents, just as a car-lover should keep track of what folks outside the corporate sphere are cooking up. Today I’m throwing the spotlight on those innovative forward-thinkers who don’t have corporate backing fuelling their fingers.

RinspeedPresto

The Rinspeed Presto, which is really fun to say, emerged from Switzerland in 2002. With the push of a button, this two-seater stretches its innards (and its outards) and becomes a four-seater. It boots around like a roadster, but as with most concept vehicles from this century, the focus is on fuel efficiency. The Presto makes the most of this with an unusual 60/40 diesel / natural gas power system. Read more…

Day 617: Immaculate Conceptions, Part 1

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One of the topics I almost never sprinkle my words upon is cars. Sure, I’ll admit to an ethereal arousal at the curves of a ’65 Corvette, and I melted into my seat a little the first time I experienced a back-up camera. But I’m not a car guy. When a guy opens up his baby’s hood and invites a small congregation of cross-armed frowners to nod knowingly at the stuff inside, my eyes tend to gloss over and I find myself daydreaming about my luggage being first off the plane or a really great pastrami sandwich.

But as unimpressed as I may be if your car has harnessed the power of 60 more horses than mine, I am still drawn to the concept car. These are the fresh-plucked berries of imagination, the fertile soil of fantasy in that pristine moment before the tire-treads of practicality and profit margins grind it into dust.

Those behemoth car companies who eagerly swallow tens of thousands of our dollars with every purchase use the spotlight on the concept car stage to show off to one another, and occasionally drop an idea that will be made into an assembly-line reality.

These are not those ideas. These are the ones that push the funky meter a little further to the right.

LincolnFutura

In 1955, Lincoln debuted the Futura, a snazzy and pointy two-seater with a glass canopy. It was a huge hit, and Ford hauled it out for a number of auto shows without ever mass-manufacturing the thing. That may be due to the slightly high price tag – $250,000 from its Italian manufacturer, which works out to about $2.1 million in today’s money. Read more…