Saturday, March 14, 2009

Crunchy Inside

Last week, NASA launched a small telescope named after Johannes Kepler into space. I have my own reasons for enjoying this, but who could not like this squat little spacecraft? It looks like a cross between a Pisco bottle and a Taco Bell Burrito. It's only a third the size of that maladjusted diva, the Hubble. Its mission is to search for habitable planets circling other suns, taking pictures of them with its 95 mega-pixel camera. It has almost no moving parts. Just a few thrusters and a couple of little reaction wheels to keep it pointed at its chosen section of the Milky Way.

It also has a honeycombed mirror, a couple of starfinders, the 95 megapixel photometer, and a High Gain Antenna so it can call home once a week. All of this wrapped in a snazzy blue solar cape that James Brown might have envied. You could argue that the money could be better spent on earth, but the way the earth is heading, we might need extra planets some day. So Kepler's not just a pretty face; Kepler's practical.

Kepler also twitters, somewhat alarmingly, in the first person. But at least Kepler has enough sense not to talk to strangers:

In 1973, Nasa sent two Pioneer spacecrafts right out of our solar system, and had the bad judgement to affix plaques to them with directions on how to find us. As if that weren't enough, Man and Woman are depicted on the plaques. Man is a '70s white dude with an atrocious blow-dried do (with possible sideburns) and Woman is missing something: her vulva.

Carl Sagan, whose bright idea the plaque was, and his wife at the time, Linda, who contributed the drawings, omitted what he called "a very short line" (a few civilizations have fallen on the existence of that "very short line") to make sure that the plaque would escape earthly prudery and go on to miseducate the universe.

Carl Sagan was a brilliant man and an optimist. But cluing in advanced civilizations on our whereabouts, is that the best idea? Really?
03-12-2009 01;27;27AM
The Envoys Arrive
03-12-2009 01;29;17AM
03-12-2009 01;32;38AM
03-12-2009 01;36;36AM
that evening, at the Hay-Adams:
03-12-2009 07;21;57PM
03-12-2009 07;24;40PM
Cross-posted at Rumproast, America's Meatiest Blog


  1. I don't know why it's taken me so long to get here, but I love your site. The look, the content, the feel.

    First rate!

  2. Thanks, Brad. Coming from someone who deals with scripts, sets, shots,costumes, egos, equipment, and all of the everything, I'm really happy you like it.

    I was once assistant director for a week in my high school drama club. I was so hesitant and disorganized, they staged a coup and relieved me (that was certainly the applicable word)of my duties. It was a pity coup. So I take my hat off to people who are capable of anchoring such a complicated beast.

    I looked at your site, too. It's monumental! I enjoyed reading the reviews and seeing the pictures of Marat/Sade; I was very curious. Naturally, we did Marat/Sade in the Drama Club, but as teenage lunkheads, we were more interested in being mad then good. I really don't remember much; have to rent the movie, I think.

    Somebody needs to update his blog, though!

  3. Yes, Mrs. Polly. Rent the movie. Actually, it's a film of the Royal Shakespeare Company's stage production, filmed on a sound stage. Pure genius, from top to bottom.

    Yes, I'm bad at keeping my so-called blog up-to-date.

    Love your new post as well, BTW.

  4. I hope Kepler finds new planets soon. I'd volunteer to go when it does find one.

  5. Dr. Monk, if the planet's smaller than Earth, I might join you. I like more intimate planets, and it's an easy way to take off a few pounds.

    Brad, I'll rent the movie. Our drama teacher, Mr. Blais, showed it to us, but it too is lost in the panic-fog in which I spent my abbreviated assistant-directorship.