Trust Me. . . You Don’t Want to Know

Really, you don’t. But I’m going to tell you anyway because that’s the whole premise of blogging, so strap in!

Yesterday was my Dad’s first day at a new job, and he. . . well. . . he came home to an argument when we really intended for him to come home to a nice, home-cooked meal. That didn’t really go as planned.

Katie, what was this argument about, you ask? Oh, you know. The usual, ALIENS.

There’s really no doubt in my family that aliens exist in some form, somewhere.The way we look at it is: we hardly know enough about our own solar system; and there are so many more solar systems, so many galaxies, so many stars in this universe, and we don’t even know if it ends with this universe, so with all of that matter and all of those planets and stars, who are we to say that earth is the only planet to harbor life?

Right, so aliens exist, end of story. That’s not the argument. The argument is, let’s say they discover life on earth (assuming they’re more than just a single-celled organism floating on a rock, of course) before we discover life on the planet they’re from (although I find this highly unlikely, but hypothetically), what would they do?

My brother says they would ‘observe’ our planet long enough to conclude that we are violent people (by intercepting things like holocaust documentaries and other documentaries on war and things of the sort) and then they would attack us.

I disagree. I think it would go a little more like this (remember, throughout this argument, he was yelling and me and I was yelling right back at him, we get that heated): they would discover life on earth. I would assume that they were doing it for all the same reasons we are looking for life in the universe; curiosity, research, maybe resources. If they tried to ‘observe’ our planet, they would first have to get close enough, and I’m not sure if they would be able to do that without our realizing it. My mom made the point that everything we broadcast is out in space; but if they had radio technology, which they should to be taking on space travel, we would know they’re there just as well as they would know about us. Knowing world leaders and anti-war activists today, you would assume the world leaders would team up and probably want to go about this with peace. I mean, nobody wants a full-on war until there is no other option.

If it did, in the end, come to a war, I have no doubt that aliens would kill us. I mean, they had the advances in technology enough to get them to our planet and discover our planet’s life. It might not occur to them to put weapons on their ship, as I don’t think it occurred to us when we went to the moon; we were too busy with the issue of actually getting to the moon. The same with the Mars curiosity rover. However, if it did occur to them, we would be done for.

Alright , that’s all I’ve got for today, but I’d really like to know what you think in the comments, so go ahead with that. I’d really like to hear what other people are thinking, aliens are by far my favorite topic.

Knowing Everything

Some people spend too much time trying to make sense of the world. Some people can’t leave well-enough alone. Does anyone ever consider the idea that maybe we don’t need to know how everything happens? Has anyone ever thought ‘maybe this world just doesn’t make sense, and that’s fine with us’? Think about it; why do we need to know everything? Honestly, why do we find it necessary to know how everything works? Didn’t we create the saying ‘curiosity killed the cat’? We don’t necessarily need to know about the make-up of atoms; electrons, protons, and neutrons aren’t things we absolutely need to understand in order to survive.

Let’s go back to the basics: let’s leave it at ‘this plant isn’t poisonous and you can eat it’s fruit. This plant is poisonous and you can’t eat it’s fruit.’ I like the idea of being able to just make up a story off the top of your head that is entertaining to explain to your kids how people came to be. Wondering how things came about is natural, and so is wanting to know more about the world, but at what point in time do we really need to know why gravity pulls us to the planet or what the other planets in our solar system are made out of? As a human race; as the homo sapiens of the universe, will this information ever really benefit us. And I don’t mean short term, as in “If you learn this now, then you can have that job in the future,” I mean overall, in conclusion, finally, in the end; how is this going to help?

That being said; I’d like to know how everything works. I am one of those people. Everyone tells me that I’m too analytic and that I need to just drop things sometimes. When things don’t make sense, it irks me. Things like ‘why isn’t the red line coming up under the word irk’ or ‘why in the world am I getting follows after a post that I know sucked’?

There isn’t really a way to explain why I can’t handle not understanding things. Let’s give an example. You know how sometimes, when you get a glass of ice water, the ice stays at the bottom because it is pushed against the cup and it will stay there until a bit of it melts and it can float up to the top? I can’t look at it without twitching with my knowledge of physics. Don’t even get me started. When that happens, I have to set the cup down on the counter with a bang so that the vibrations will free the ice and let it float back up to the top, where it belongs.

Yes, I’m insane, you don’t have to tell me. It gets to the point sometimes where I have to just sit down and think about it. I may have been born in the wrong generation, because quite frankly if I’m trying to solve a question that I just came up with, I feel like a failure if I look it up on the web. Isn’t my generation just supposed to turn to Google for everything? Even if it’s something that there is no way I will figure out. For example: why do people with tourettes only say/do offensive things?

I realize this might sound out of the blue, but I was watching taboo, and there was a guy with tourettes on the show, and he kept swearing and flipping the bird. I must have sat there for a solid half-hour thinking ‘there must be something in the brain that categorizes certain gestures and phrases as inappropriate or not socially acceptable, and the syndrome taps in to that part of the brain and forces you to perform them.’ You never see someone with tourettes walking down the street saying something like “You have pretty eyes!” or just an incomprehensible link of words that don’t make sense like “Kettle purple dog was flying hope jump treadmill!” I still haven’t looked up the explanation.

Meteor Shower

Did you see the meteor shower? I did. Looking up at the stars, waiting for small glimmering balls of fire to pass by in the amount of time it takes you to blink inspired me way more than I thought it would. For one thing, I think way more than I should. I imagine all of these things that COULD happen, but the chances are so small that they never really do. The fact that these things don’t happen, only inspires me to create the rest of this made up story. So I do, I’ve been writing stories lately.

Anyway, back to the shower. My house is at the dead-end of my street, so no cars come by. Especially at 2 in the morning. That meant my little brother and I laid out in the middle of the street, staring up at the sky waiting for one meteor that both of us saw. We both saw a good handful, but we only saw about two together. All of the others either he saw or I saw. Have you ever just sat outside in the middle of the night to look at the stars? When you can’t sleep or you get bored and have nothing to do. If you live in a place where you can see the stars, then I highly suggest it. Even if you aren’t much into nature.

I’m not much for nature, and I’ll admit it. All that hiking in the woods does for me is make me even more conscious of the fact that mosquitoes and wasps exist. I seriously don’t know what it is about me, but I can’t go outside in the summer without coming back with at least four bug bites. But when you’re out there, watching the stars and there are crickets chirping in the background, you can forget everything else in the world that is wrong. Looking up at the stars out there in the universe that are so far away you probably can’t even comprehend the distance between us and them, everything on earth seems so insignificant. All the petty fights going on, between your friends or family, they are totally pointless and mean nothing. There is so much out there.

Then I had the thought that somewhere out there, orbiting one of those small, flickering lights, could be a planet with intelligent life on it, like earth. There could be other civilizations looking up that the stars, just like us, contemplating the existence of alien life, whether or not there are other life sustaining planets orbiting the stars that they are seeing, looking at our sun through their atmospheres. What are the odds of that? Think of all of the life forms on earth. How many species on our planet spend any part of the night gazing up at the stars? I don’t know of any outside of homo sapiens. Granted, I am no biologist. I don’t know much about animal behaviors.

Maybe I’m just really interested in science, most people probably don’t find this as interesting as I do. What about you? Ever stay up until 2 in the morning to watch meteors burn up in our atmosphere? Do you ever just lay out at night looking at the stars? Are you as fascinated by the vastness of our universe as I am? Leave a comment and let me know.Thanks for reading!

The Curiosity Rover Awesomeness

The Sheer Awesome of Science

Animation of the Curiosity on Mars.

We’ve done it. Well, not ‘we,’ but NASA did. Landed on Mars. Ignore the fact that it has happened before, and don’t assume that it isn’t amazing just because it has. The logistics behind getting this specific rover to the exact point on Mars where NASA wanted it was amazing. It seriously blew my mind. When you see everything that goes into it, the first thing you think might be ‘there are way too many factors. Too many things that can and will go wrong, no way that this will land without breaking.’ Well, you pessimist, you’d be wrong.

Yes, there was a lot of steps. First, the ‘whole package’ as I have started calling it, enters the atmosphere travelling at about 13,000 mph. The heat shield keeps the package from being damaged when it does enter the atmosphere. Clearly, if it hits the surface at this speed, it is doomed. At this point, communication between NASA and the rover is broken. Unfortunately, this is where it would be most helpful to know what is going on with the rover, seeing as how this is when all of the fun stuff happens. The package deploys a parachute, to slow it down a significant amount, but still not enough. Once it has slowed down enough, jets go off, pointed in the direction of the surface of Mars. Is that enough steps? No, because if the package is lowered with the jets, then the dust blown up towards the package could permanently damage the equipment and make all of the efforts behind it futile. So what happens next? The rover is lowered down on cables while the rest of the package jets off and crashes at a safe distance.

While you are thinking about the steps this package had to undergo in order to succeed, let me recall to your mind the fact that there is still no communication with NASA. All of these are programmed so that the package does it on its own. Now I’ve only ever programmed one thing to do anything, and that was in seventh-grade ‘pre-engineering class’ so it was nowhere near rocket (or rover) science. You skip one little step, and everything goes wrong. Upon going through the steps this package had to perform, I just keep going back to the fact that the people of Earth had no control whatsoever, so if something went wrong, there was no way to correct it. These minutes in the dark were known as the ‘seven minutes of terror.’

On August 6th, 1:00 in the morning, I sat on my laptop, watching the workers at NASA waiting for these seven minutes of terror. When the clock hit 1:30, it started, and it had finally hit me that the animation that was happening on my screen, indicating what was happening, wasn’t just happening on my laptop. This was ACTUALLY HAPPENING. Out there, in the universe, in the solar system, our next-door-neighbor in our solar system.

So next time you’re worrying about the Mike and Ike break up, hoping they’ll get back together, think of how amazing science is. Even if you aren’t a science nerd like me, this is the epitome of awesomeness. It will cheer you up. Thanks for reading, and I hope you are as excited for all of the discoveries coming our way from this rover as I am.