williamallenpepper

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Archive for the tag “astronomy”

I HAVE QUESTIONS

Do you wonder about things? Anything at all?

That’s a dumb question. Are you at least wondering about why I would ask such a stupid question?

I wonder about a lot of things. Serious issues of life and politics and commerce. Funny things like the enduring appeal (to me and more than a few others) of Laurel & Hardy or why Conan O’Brien didn’t work on The Tonight Show at 10:30 central, but does fine at 10 central on TBS.

But mostly, I wonder odd things.

My family likes that I’m on Twitter, @carnivalofglee, because I can subject the Internet to my random thoughts rather than them. To give you an idea what suffering my family occasionally, and the Internet multiple times daily, here’s a peek inside my brain. Brush away the cobwebs and assorted old Archie comics and Dave Barry columns if you must, but do NOT kick the troll out of his barcalounger. He gets pissed. You do not want to have to deal with a pissed brain troll.

Anyway, here’s what’s in my head much of the time:

Why does pizza with a round crust taste better than rectangular?

Why do sandwiches cut into triangles taste better than rectangular ones?

Buffalo wings are chicken, with absolutely no relation to buffalo. Similarly, elephant ears are not what they seem.

Why do I enjoy Superman less than when I was a kid, but enjoy Spider-Man a lot more than when I was a kid?

Why wasn’t Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip a better show?

Why don’t time travelers got sick from all the diseases they’re exposed to in other eras and/or infect the people with unaccustomed diseases?

If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?

The necktie is a stupid idea. So why does it really look good?

Was my friend Robert right years ago when he predicted the end of the writing as a form of communication?

Is choosing to cut strangers’ hair as odd a career choice as I think it is?

Why is wearing team colors, debating sports stats with your friends, and setting aside the afternoon to cheer your team on considered less nerdy than wearing a t-shirt of your favorite character or show, debating plots and stats with your friends, and being excited to watch your favorite show?

There’s not a movie made that couldn’t be improved by the addition of Tim Curry.

How the hell do people who spend weekends binging entire seasons of TV shows find the time?

Sure, the Twilight series was popular, as was Hunger Games, but will another book series ever capture young readers’ attention the way Harry Potter did?

So there’s a wee sampling of the dross flossing my brain daily. Clearly, I need help. Also cash. And a donut.

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WHY WE NEED COSMOS RIGHT NOW

“Celebrity scientist” Neil deGrasse-Tyson is hosting a reboot of the venerable science series hosted decades ago by the equal venerable Carl Sagan. If you haven’t watched Tyson on TV or listened to his podcasts, you’re missing out. This guy is part of a vanishing breed. Celebrity scientists are an endangered species. Sagan passed away years ago. So, let’s see, there’s Tyson, Bill Nye the science guy, Brian Cox, Brian Greene, and unless there’s some other Brian with a Ph.D I don’t know about who looks good on camera, that’s about it.

The Cosmos reboot debuted simultaneously a few Sundays ago on TEN TV networks, including Fox and National Geographic channel. It netted about 8.5 million viewers, including those who watched it in real time and those who DVR’d it. By traditional network TV standards, that’s not much. But in the modern,splintered entertainment landscape, it’s pretty respectable, especially for a Fox show Seth MacFarlane isn’t involved in.

Oh. Wait. Except, he actually is. MacFarlane is an executive producer on Cosmos. I’ll give you a moment to wrap your mind around the concept of Peter Griffin producing stories about the origins of life on Earth.

Welcome back. Cosmos is phenomenal TV. Remember when you were a kid in school and you’d take a field trip to the science museum? You’d sit there in the dark watching those really cool movies about the solar system. They looked like Star Trek episodes, but with stirring narration that made you want to stop cheating off the smart kid in your physics class and learn something.

They were inspiring. They were fun. This show is like that.

In a world where the decision of what to teach our kids is increasingly determined by politics rather than facts and science, where NASA is quickly becoming irrelevant, and where private rich people are driving technological and scientific innovation rather than taxpayers and higher learning institutions, we need something, ANYTHING that might make kids curious about the world around them again.

This show could be it.

I hope.

A BAD CASE OF ASTEROIDS

So last week with a swing and a miss, Earth was spared the type of epic, total destruction of life as we know it that normally would be heralded with a speech by Morgan Freeman.

Remember how scientists always said there was virtually no chance of a huge asteroid colliding with Earth? Well, take that, scientists. Came pretty damn close this week. Guess the weather forecasters got some new blood to sit with them at the loser’s table.

Still…

Once I crawled out from under the dining room table and took off my tinfoil hat (hey, it’s not just to keep out the aliens) I cranked up my solar-powered radio (What? You don’t have one? Go ask at Radio Shack.). I was shocked to learn that my planet had not been destroyed. Despite the hype, it was just an epic Asteroid 2012 DA14 fail, friends.

You win this time, scientists.

Sure, the scientists said all along that asteroid probably wouldn’t hit us, but they left just enough doubt to keep up from walking away from the tv for a potty break (The tinfoil hats also come in handy here. If you’re ever invited to my home – and this is important – never go into my hall closet.) This asteroid came closer to Earth than any other asteroid that wasn’t in a video game ever has. But mass destruction? Blotting out the sun with a dust cloud so big it, uh, blots out the sun?

None of that.

There was that meteor in Russia. (Coincidence? I think not. Pretty sure those guys who faked the moon landing are involved.) That had some promise for dinosaur-level destruction. Big shock waves blowing out windows and such.

But, no….A little property damage is all. Sweep it up, call out the contractors to replace some windows. Ho hum.

Humans have been trying to wipe themselves out pretty much since the first one crawled out of the ooze and stumbled over a Tonka fire truck left at the top of the stairs. (Damn kids) But we’re still here.

The universe steps in, tries to help out by hurling a giant celestial bowling ball at us. But instead of a strike…gutterball!

And we’re still here.

I’m sure there’s something profound to be said here, but I’m not Morgan Freeman.

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