Man of Random Science: Best Of 2014
As the arrow of time rockets us inexorably towards the goyish New Year* it is once again appropriate to whittle down by arbitrary rules the amazing complexity of events of the past year into what amounts to the lowest hanging dingleberry on the literature bush: The Listicle. So without further ado (or much ado at all) I present:
Aaron's Top 5 Sciencey Thingies of 2014
5. WE LANDED ON A COMET! That's right. Humans have landed crafts on two planets (Venus and Mars), two moons (ours and Titan), an asteroid (Eros), and now a comet. Sure the space harpoons didn't harpoon, the down-going rockets didn't down-go, and the lander bounced a few times and ended up all wonky at the base of a cliff but it still marks quite an accomplishment for a species where roughly 50% of its members can't aim well enough to avoid peeing on the toilet seat. Even more impressive, it was done by a group that includes this guy:
But why land on a comet at all? Wouldn't that money be better spent here on earth? I'll tell you why: We're going to keep landing on space stuff until we find The Little Prince. That book made me cry and I will not rest until vengeance is mine.
4. Dr. Oz Gets His Ass Handed to Him by a Senate Committee: While it seems like the train of government has been permanently derailed at Dysfunction Junction, it is heartening to see that on both sides of the aisle there is agreement on the urge to pick up Dr. Oz by his pointy ears and shake him until some science falls out. The man peddles magic beans and, as an actual doctor, he should be held accountable for recommending untested and potentially unsafe substances to the public. And this was all before a recent study came out declaring roughly 50% of the medical advice given on shows like Dr. Oz's to be hogwash. Feel that? Yup, that's some good shadenfreude.
3. The resurgence of easily controlled diseases: Okay, stay with me on this one. It may not seem like falling vaccination rates and the accompanying outbreaks of things like pertussis and measles is a good thing but I'd argue that this is an important and necessary step in the cycle of human stupidity and medicine. For many years now the wisdom of the vaccination schedule suggested by doctors has been heeded and, as a result, things like measles were pretty much eradicated. But being short-sighted and even shorter-memoried, people looked around and asked themselves why we continued getting so many vaccines. It's not like we even get measles anymore. EXACTLY. THE ORGANISMS RESPONSIBLE FOR THESE DISEASES ARE STILL ALL AROUND US. WE DESTROYED NEITHER THE ORGANISMS NOR THE VECTORS. Hopefully after a few years of increasing meaningless suffering caused by well-meaning but ill-informed parents, vaccine rates will see an uptick and we can focus on important public health debates like fluoride in the water or the fact that nearly 80% of the air we breathe is full of nitrogen. WAKE UP SHEEPLE!
2. Bill Nye Crushes Ken Ham in All-Nude, Greco-Roman Style Theological Wrestling Match: Yeah, I know it didn't go down that way but I was so disappointed by reality I've edited it into a much happier version in my mind. Caught between the competing ideas of not wanting to add legitimacy to a view of creation that even the Pope shies away from, and the urge to engage in the cause of science, I was torn between fascination and dread. When all was said and done the winner was the creation museum's fundraising with the fooferall surrounding the event somewhat responsible for raising money to open the planned Ark Encounter in Kentucky. It was summed up for me pretty succinctly in answers to a question about what it would take to change the debaters' minds. Bill Nye, as expected, said that physical evidence of the biblical story of creation would mean he would change his views. Ken Ham? Not a damn thing.
1. You know, I got nothing else. There is just so much going on in every branch of science that a "Best Of" list of anything less than several hundred will leave out discoveries, retractions, and break-throughs that will effect humanity in myriad ways. Space missions, mind-controlled prosthetics, new species, lasers, it's just too much. I'm gonna go make some oatmeal. Here's a picture of Wilford Brimley:
*I celebrated the New Year earlier this Fall. It's called Rosh Hashana. I got drunk, dipped stuff in honey, and shouted "L'Chaim" a lot. It was awesome.