Just in case I haven’t been clear, I love science. I think advancements in technology and medical practice and space exploration are amazing. I like to read about discoveries and projects and generally geek out a lot.
But like anything I love, I also enjoy laughing at it.
And you can totally laugh at science. There have been a lot of goofy and strange events that have shaped modern theory and application. There’s a lot of trial and error, and that’s what makes science great: it can be wrong. A scientist or a theory can be mistaken, and a new one is built-in place of the old. It’s not the end of the world. Unless, you know, you were theorizing that your doomsday device would not end the world.
I believe it’s a great thing that we can laugh at some of the most intelligent and awesome people who exist in the world today. So here’s a short and non-comprehensive collection of weird and silly moments in science:
1. Astronauts feel the need to compensate.
Yeah, these guys. You know, the most badass nerds ever? (Especially Chris Hadfield, who is a personal hero of mine.) Everybody wanted to be an Astronaut at some point, and if you’re like me you’d be strapping on a spacesuit before someone even finished asking you to join NASA. Which brings me to the best thing I’ve heard in a while:
NASA changed the names of the sizes for their Maximum Absorbency Garments (or MAGs, also known as space diapers) because none of the male astronauts wanted to admit they were a “small,” or “medium,” and instead opted for “large,” which I am assuming led to a lot of embarrassing accidents involving flooded spacesuits.
Just wrap your head around that: Our best and brightest were more willing to, uh, “wet the spacesuit” than admit they weren’t a “large.”
2. Rubber Ducky teaches us about the ocean.
In 1992 a ship traveling across the Pacific Ocean from Hong Kong lost a shipping container of 28,000 rubber ducks, which were then free to float around between the US and Japan. I can only assume the incident was either unnoticed, or the sailors saw it break open, spilling rubber ducks everywhere, and said, “Nah, not worth it.”
Aside from the potential damage to our oceans, these duckies have taught us a lot about the flow of the ocean. They’ve been found on the shores of Hawaii, Alaska, the Arctic, Newfoundland and even Scotland. It’s also believed there are over 2,000 of them caught in the currents of the North Pacific Gyre, which to my understanding is a continuously whirling vortex of water. But after roughly 20 years in a whirlpool, some or all of them have kind of miraculously managed to escape their swirly fate.
3. Huge evolutionary find preceded by intense dung-fight.
There’s literally no way to say this that doesn’t sound ridiculous: Respected paleoanthropologist Andrew Hill was doing research in Laetoli, a hominid archeological site in Tanzania, when he decided to get into an elephant-dung-throwing war with his colleague. In the process of dodging a stinky projectile, he dove into the ground and found a trail of hominid footprints that were later dated as 3.6 million years old.
Talk about a lucky break.
4. “Did you say ‘Taste’ or ‘Test’?”
In 1976 Shashikant Phadnis was working under scientists Tate&Lyle when he was told to “test” a chlorinated sugar compound. Phadnis mis-heard, and after apparently deciding he was okay with the rather strange request, he reported it was “exceptionally sweet.” I can only figure Phadnis either 1.) knew it wouldn’t hurt him, or 2.) was just very hungry. Or maybe he was aiming for some sugar-based superpowers, which he unfortunately did not get. Instead, we just ended up with a sugar substitute that perfectly mimics the taste of self-loathing.
Hope you enjoyed it. Also, I’m extending the challenge for another day because I’ve only had two submissions. So please, give me an inanimate object and I’ll Haiku it for Thursday!