Tag: Neil Armstrong

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.

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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 988: That’s No Moon

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With only a dozen days remaining of my self-imposed sentence in this asylum of perpetual prose, I am scootching toward the realization that there are some topics I will never get to. The hidden subtext within the dialogue of each Misfits of Science episode will remain unexplored, and I’m afraid the sacred ghost notes that elevate the percussive harrumph of Led Zeppelin’s “Fool In The Rain” and Toto’s “Rosanna” will fail to make the kilograph cut.

Instead I must devote these dog-yawn final days to loftier, more resonant subjects – yesterday’s investigation into Mozart’s poop jokes notwithstanding. And so I look to the moon – that luminous gob of celestial spittle, that pearlesque voyeur who knows all of our funkiest sins, the swiveling muse of the incurable drunkard. The moon pours elbow grease on our tides and provides an alibi when we need one for our meandering sanity. And before we had the cognitive wherewithal to stack our chips on science, the moon provided the palette for some of our strangest superstitions.

The moon puts on a nightly spectacle; what earth-bound broadcast can compare to the thrill of a clump of rock bigger than our entire continent dangling in the air over our heads? And even with Neil Armstrong’s size 9½ prints on her cheeks, she still retains an exotic air of mystery.

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Before Georges Méliès stabbed it with a wayward rocket ship, the man in the moon had a starring role in olde-timey mythology. In the biblical Book of Numbers, one of the more cynical stories tells of a man who was sentenced by God to death by stoning for the heinous crime of gathering sticks on the Sabbath. Early Christian lore suggested that the man in the moon was that very man. Another tradition claims the man is Abel’s blood-bro Cain, forever doomed to circle the Earth. Read more…

Day 651: When The Whole World’s Watching

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A couple Sundays ago, over the course of 75 minutes that some of us are still trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to wash out of our brains, Breaking Bad aired its series-concluding episode. 10.3 million people tuned in, scoring a 5.2 share – a phenomenal success, considering the previous season’s finale (the unforgettable Face Off episode that wrapped up the Walter White vs. Gus Fring conflict) only drew in 1.9 million viewers.

For those who spend a much more logical amount of time thinking about television than yours truly, that 5.2 share means that 5.2% of running televisions during that time-chunk were tuned into AMC’s broadcast. In 2013, that’s pretty impressive, especially for a cable series. When The Sopranos clocked out with a cut-to-black curtain in 2007 the numbers were only slightly better, with 11.9 million fans watching. Somehow they can tweak the numbers to account for PVR recordings, but of course the ratings-counters can’t keep track of illegal downloads, a very real player in how a lot of people catch up on their favorite shows. But still… 10.3 million? I feel like that number should be higher.

The fact is, we live in a world filled with gazillions of channels – undoubtedly it was hard for some viewers to turn away from 12-year-old reruns of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire on the Game Show Network to catch some fresh drama. We’ll probably never hit the big numbers that have defined our most shared TV experiences again.

Sometimes you just can't beat some classic Regis.

Sometimes you just can’t beat some classic Regis.

Any list of the most watched shows around the world is bound to be suspicious. FIFA would have us believe that their World Cup broadcasts – inarguably the most beloved sporting event across the globe – bring in billions of viewers. But even they have admitted that some of their figures are exaggerated while others are an outright guess. Read more…

Day 129: Looking Up At Apollo 10

Launched in May, 1969, The Apollo 10 mission was critical to executing the successful July moon landing. But what about that trio of astronauts whose names are anything but household, who took the run before the big run? On the one hand, these three men strapped themselves into a capsule the size of a Buick’s trunk and allowed themselves to be fired into space, so they have nothing to prove to anybody. In fact, they should probably be allowed to eat for free at every Denny’s across the country. I’m just saying.

But on the other hand, the Apollo 11 astronauts are the rock stars of NASA. Armstrong is the coolest Neil this side of Young, and Buzz Aldrin dropped a record with Snoop Dogg. Why don’t the Apollo 10 guys get some love?

Luckily, I’m stuffed with so much love I literally have to wear a bib while I write every day.

This one. Because it always makes me laugh.

NASA set up Apollo 10 as a test-run for the moon landing. They ran everything as though they were going to drop onto the lunar surface, but without the actual landing. In fact, NASA wanted to make sure these cowboys didn’t pull a what-are-they-gonna-do-to-us move and drop the lunar module to the surface; they purposely left almost no fuel in the LM’s tank. That way, they could execute their simulation exercises, but if they decided to go rogue, they’d never be able to lift off.

The mission’s captain, Thomas P. Stafford, is what you’d call an overachiever. He flew on six space missions, including the first US-Soviet joint mission in 1975. He was also a brigadier general at the time – the first general to ever get launched outside Earth’s atmosphere. Suddenly all those hours I spent practicing the ultra-fast lyrics of REM’s “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” seem like a waste.

Stafford, seen here showing off an actual-size model of one of his testicles.

John Young piloted the command module. If John felt slighted for having been a part of the mission before the mission that landed on the moon, that was probably quickly dissipated by the fact that yeah, he landed on the damn moon.

John Young is the guy they should rename the profession of ‘astronaut’ after. He’s the only guy to have flown four different spacecraft: a Gemini, the Apollo rocket, the lunar module, and the space shuttle. He was a rebel too; he smuggled a corned beef sandwich aboard the Gemini and got his hand slapped for it. Read more…