Science matters


Cloudy beer

Scientists have discovered beer in space. Well, not beer exactly. But they did find alcohol: ethyl alcohol, to be precise, the active ingredient in all major alcoholic drinks. Three British scientists, Drs. Tom Millar, Geoffrey MacDonald and Rolf Habing, discovered this interstellar beer floating in a gas cloud in the constellation of Aquila.

Millar and his compatriots has estimated the size of this gas cloud at approximately 1,000 times the diameter of our own solar system; there's enough alcohol out there, they say, to make 400 trillion trillion pints of beer.

In human terms: remember that double-keg party you threw? Imagine throwing that same party, every eight hours, for the next 30 billion years.

The sheer volume of all this alcohol begs the question of how it managed to get out there in the first place. Despite the simplifying effect it has on the human brain, ethyl alcohol is a reasonably complex molecule: two carbon atoms, five hydrogen atoms, and a hydroxyl radical, all cavorting together in beery camaraderie. It's not a compound that is going to spontaneously arise out of the cold depths of space.

It can lead to speculation: What is this cloud?

1. It's God's beer. After all, He worked for six days creating the universe, and on the seventh day, He rested. And after you've had a hard week at the office, don't YOU grab a beer? Since man is made in God's image, it could be that this cloud is the remaining evidence of the first, best Miller Time.

2. It's Purgatory ("400 trillion trillion bottles of beer on the wall, 400 trillion trillion bottles of beer! Take one down, pass it around, 399,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999 bottles of beer on the wall!")

3. Proof of an undeniably highly advanced but chronically dipsomaniac alien society. This particular theory is shaky, however: it's reasonable to assume that if the aliens were going to construct a nebula of alcohol, they'd also have large clouds of Beer Nuts and pretzels nearby for snacking. Advanced spectral analysis has yet to locate them.

But don't worry about all that - just tell me how to GET there! Sorry. You can't get there from here. The gas cloud (which, by the way, has the utterly romantic name of "G34.3") is 10,000 light years away: 58 quadrillion miles. Even if you hijacked the shuttle and headed out with thrusters on full, by the time you got there, the guy in Purgatory would be done with his tune. You'd have had time to work up a powerful thirst, but you'd also be, in a word, dead. No, the Space Beer Cloud will have to wait for the far future, when men can leap through the universe at warp speed.


Bell Labs Proves Existence of Dark Suckers

For years it has been believed that electric bulbs emitted light. However, recent information from Bell Labs has proven otherwise. Electric bulbs don't emit light, they suck dark. Thus they now call these bulbs dark suckers. The dark sucker theory, according to a Bell Labs spokesperson, proves the existence of dark, that dark has mass heavier than that of light, and that dark is faster than light.

The basis of the dark sucker theory is that electric bulbs suck dark. Take for example, the dark suckers in the room where you are. There is less dark right next to them than there is elsewhere. The larger the dark sucker, the greater its capacity to suck dark. Dark suckers in a parking lot have a much greater capacity than the ones in a room. As with all things, dark suckers don't last forever. Once they are full of dark, they can no longer suck. This is proven by the black spot on a full dark sucker. A candle is a primitive dark sucker. A new candle has a white wick. You will notice that after the first use, the wick turns black, representing all the dark which has been sucked into it. If you hold a pencil next to the wick of an operating candle, the tip will turn black because it got in the path of the dark flowing into the candle.

Unfortunately, these primitive dark suckers have a very limited range. There are also portable dark suckers. The bulbs in these can't handle all of the dark by themselves, and must be aided by a dark storage unit. When the dark storage unit is full, it must be either emptied or replaced before the portable dark sucker can operate again.

Dark has mass. When dark goes into a dark sucker, friction from this mass generates heat. Thus it is not wise to touch an operating dark sucker. Candles present a special problem, as the dark must travel in the solid wick instead of through glass. This generates a great amount of heat. Thus it can be very dangerous to touch an operating candle. Dark is also heavier than light. If you swim deeper and deeper, you notice it gets slowly darker and darker. When you reach a depth of approximately fifty feet, you are in total darkness. This is because the heavier dark sinks to the bottom of the lake and the lighter light floats to the top. The immense power of dark can be utilized to man's advantage. We can collect the dark that has settled to the bottom of lakes and push it through turbines, which generate electricity and help push it to the ocean where it may be safely stored. Prior to turbines, it was much more difficult to get dark from the rivers and lakes to the ocean. The Indians recognized this problem, and tried to solve it. When on a river in a canoe travelling in the same direction as the flow of the dark, they paddled slowly, so as not to stop the flow of dark, but when they travelled against the flow of dark, they paddled quickly so as to help push the dark along its way.

Finally, we must prove that dark is faster than light. If you were to stand in an illuminated room in front of a closed, dark closet, then slowly open the closet door, you would see the light slowly enter the closet, but since the dark is so fast, you would not be able to see the dark leave the closet.

In conclusion, Bell Labs stated that dark suckers make all our lives much easier. So the next time you look at an electric bulb remember that it is indeed a dark sucker.


Is there a Santa Clause?

Although I find this topic somewhat distressing - in the interests of academia - I think these points need airing:

1) No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

2) There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - - - 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.

3) Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc. This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second--a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload--not even counting the weight of the sleigh--to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison: this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.

5) 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance--this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

The conclusion seems to be that if Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now.


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