New Year 2007

As we approach the arbitrary point many cultures have decided to designate as the boundary between years, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. It is customary for media to publish reviews (often themed) of the past year, so I thought I would share with you some of my favorite science-related articles from The Onion, a satirical newspaper.

Mars Rover Beginning to Hate Mars

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists overseeing the ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission said Monday that the Spirit’s latest transmissions could indicate a growing resentment of the Red Planet.

Spirit has been displaying some anomalous behavior,” said Project Manager John Callas, who noted the rover’s unsuccessful attempts to flip itself over and otherwise damage its scientific instruments.” And the thousand or so daily messages of ‘STILL NO WATER’ really point to a crisis of purpose.”

(continued)

Kansas Outlaws Practice of Evolution

In response to a Nov. 7 referendum, Kansas lawmakers passed emergency legislation outlawing evolution, the highly controversial process responsible for the development and diversity of species and the continued survival of all life.

“From now on, the streets, forests, plains, and rivers of Kansas will be safe from the godless practice of evolution, and species will be able to procreate without deviating from God’s intended design,” said Bob Bethell, a member of the state House of Representatives. “This is about protecting the integrity of all creation.”

(continued)

NASA Launches Probe to Inform Pluto of Demotion

In August, the International Astronomical Union downgraded Pluto to a dwarf planet. The panel of experts met to officially redefine the characteristics of a planet. To deliver the news to the distant orb about its newly lowered status, scientists at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center launched a special messenger probe in September.

“It’s tough, but we thought giving it to Pluto straight was the right thing to do, “NASA Chief Engineer James Wood said.” After all, it put in 76 years as our ninth planet—it just didn’t seem fair to break the news with an impersonal radio transmission beamed from Earth.”

(continued)

Al Gore Caught Warming Globe to Increase Box Office Profits

Dozens of eyewitness reports indicated that former vice president Al Gore deliberately attempted to raise the earth’s temperature in order to boost box office receipts for An Inconvenient Truth, his documentary film about global warming that was released in May.

“We have accounts from concerned citizens that Mr. Gore purchased a Cadillac Escalade SUV several months before [his film] opened in theaters,” said Kimberly Blume, spokeswoman for the California-based environmental group Friends Of The Earth. “Not only did Mr. Gore use his new gas-guzzler to make short trips to the grocery store, he also left the vehicle running 24 hours a day in the driveway of his Tennessee home with the air-conditioning on full-blast.”

(continued)

Remember, these are satire; they’re not meant to be taken seriously. For a more serious retrospective look, the New Scientist has some nice reviews of 2006 in the areas of astronomy, biology and medicine, environment, and technology.

And finally, there’s a great post at Bad Astronomy with a really nice explation of the different definitions of “year” and why they matter.

Update: New Scientist just posted their most viewed stories of 2006.

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6 thoughts on “New Year 2007

  1. I’ve always thought we should make the year metric. One year has ten months, one month has ten weeks, one week has ten days. Or something like that…

  2. → Jd2718 You’re right—but then of course, those who wish to find fault with evolution have always had to walk an ever retreating line avoiding the extent of evolution that we can observe, and they’re still at it…

    → Greg Laden I do agree that metric units of time would be useful, but our current units are entrenched awfully well. And it’d be almost impossible to change units based on astronomical phenomena. If there were 1000 days in a year, then assuming the year keeps its current definition, we’d have something like 2.7 days per traditional day (one day-night cycle), which’d be a rather awkward definition to use while sunlight plays such a prominent role in our lives. Perhaps if we lived underground or enclosed, like in Asimov’s Robot stories, or maybe aboard a starship?

  3. During the French Revolution, the calendar was reformed. 12 months (still correspond loosely to lunar cycles, right?) but 30 days each, made up, I think, of 3 10 day weeks. The extra 5 days were one for each equinox and solstice, and then an extra at the beginning of the year (September 21?) Then they gave their months climate-related names (of course they were France specific, oh well). So the overthrow of the Jacobins is still called Thermidor (the hot month?). Something famous happened in Brumaire (the foggy month?) Problem is, I don’t know when they get their fog. Anyhow, the bakers didn’t like having their week thrown off, or something like that, and it didn’t last long. They also reformed the minute and the second – abysmal failures.

    The best evolution bit was from a Doonesbury about a year ago. Doctor asks an ID nut if he’d like the vaccine against the flu the way it existed 100 years ago, or the vaccine that is effective against the form that the bug has evolved into…. I’ll try to find a link.

    And oh yeah, Darmok, where’s the name from? I remember an episode of TNG where they spoke about Darmok. Same one? Or am I miles off?

  4. One minor quibble.

    The division of years isn’t arbitrary, it’s based on the highly scientific idea that the passing of time should be marked in reference to my birthday, which happens to fall on January 1.

    “Just so y’know”, as my Lover often says.

    🙂

  5. → Jd2718 That’s not a bad idea. Actually, it rather reminds me of the calendar used by the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings; they use 12 30-day months, but I can’t remember offhand what they did with the five extra days. I do remember that one of them (Midsummer’s Day, when Aragorn and Arwen were married) was on the summer solstice. Also, I think that day was outside the standard week, so the result was that each date would always fall on the same day of the week.

    And you’re right! It’s a reference to the Star Trek episode. (I’ve given Star Trek its own category on this weblog, even though I’ve only mentioned it in one post so far).

    → Corporal Kate Is that so? Well you better tell Dr. BA too so that he can update his post! Thanks for stopping by!

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