Saturday, January 15, 2005

Far and Away

Far and Away

So, we have landed on Titan. Actually we have not landed on Titan. A vehicle launched from Earth seven years ago has and we humans get the credit. The vehicle is described as a wok shaped object about the size of a Volkswagen. It’s not clear how many starving peasants in Hupeh Province in the Peoples' Republic of China could be fed by a wok the size of a Volkswagen, but it is an amazing accomplishment nevertheless. It's also pretty amazing that a VW sized cook pot could be sent hundreds of millions of miles, travel for seven years, and arrive at its destination on time and on target. The 07:24 from Kew Bridge to Waterloo can't arrive on time and on target on most days and that's a trip of less than 20 miles. If USAIR had managed the launch, the mission experiment package would have been diverted to Philadelphia. And here we have a 'joint consortium' of the US and European Space Agencies able to get from A to B as planned when the distance from A to B is bigger than the distance from George W. Bush to Jacques Chirac! Even if Titan is made of congealed wallpaper paste and gives us zero insight as to how things got started on Earth, simply making the trip is pretty incredible - a bit like driving in the Trans-African Road Rally to visit your mother-in-law's house.

According to early reports, Titan is not made of congealed wallpaper paste. It's orange and the atmosphere is mostly methane. First photos appear to show streams and islands and a sea of hydrocarbons. The methane may help explain how New Zealand developed - or perhaps the other way around. With 4 million people and 40 million sheep, New Zealand has pretty much methane in its atmosphere too. The hydrocarbon seas may be a sign of lunar warming brought on by the overuse of SUV's and coal fired power plants. Ordinarily this might seem a bit preposterous. However, consider where we (or more properly the giant wok) has landed. This is Titan. If something is from America, it is American. If something is from Sweden, it is Swedish. If something is from Japan, it is Japanese. So, stuff from Titan is probably Titanic - Titanian, Titanish or Titanese just don't sound right.

So we have the largest moon in the solar system...a truly Titanic place, blanketed by a smoggy atmosphere of methane and swimming in an ocean of hydrocarbons. We have the possibility of Titanic herds of Titanic sheep dropping Titanic amounts of sheep droppings and Titanic fleets of Titanic SUV's and Titanic power stations emitting Titanic amounts of fumes. There's more than enough for the most ardent naturalist and most committed industrialist in this picture.

Of course, the dark forces of evil that make up the governments behind this extraordinary voyage will never release pictures of Titanic sheep or Titanic SUV's or Titanic power stations. The threat to humanity is too great. Panic would result. The UN would have to form a task force. The neighbour's wife (who cannot parallel park a skateboard) would want a Titanic SUV and take up all the parking spaces at the shopping mall. Better to leave it at congealed wallpaper paste.

But those big rocks in that picture do look a lot like Titanic sheep droppings.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

intersting stuff dad, well written and fun. keep it up

3:43 PM  

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