Ray Arvidson, chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University, has been in the news a lot lately. He's spending his sabbatical serving as deputy principal investigator of the Mars Rover mission. As two high-tech dune buggies, Spirit and Opportunity, roam opposite sides of Mars, Arvidson and his team (which includes a number of Wash. U. grad students) help man the controls and analyze the data.
That, anyway, is what they want us to believe. Everyone knows this is all an elaborate fake staged by the U.S. government. Arvidson was gullible enough to field Unreal's call to NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Sacramento. We didn't waste much time getting to the tough questions.
Unreal: If a rover found something like a skeleton or a laser gun, what would the protocol be? Would you have to call the president before you released it to the press?
Arvidson: I don't think we'll find a gun, but maybe evidence of fossil life. If we look in the bedrock, for example, and there's clear morphologic evidence for a fossil, like a fish or something -- that's such an important discovery that we'd follow a pre-established protocol. There would be an immediate teleconference with the NASA administrator, Sean O'Keefe. Undoubtedly, Mr. O'Keefe would call the president before it was announced on the news.
But I'll tell you what we wouldn't do: We wouldn't hide it. This whole idea of the conspiracists that we're hiding things on Mars? I mean, we live for attention, right? And if we made a discovery like that, it'd be Nobel Prize-winning stuff. There's not a snowball's chance in Hell that we'd try and cover it up.
Speaking of conspiracy theories, there are, um, allegations that all this Mars stuff is actually happening on a soundstage in Hollywood. The Jet Propulsion Lab is located very close to Hollywood, Dr. Arvidson. Can you offer proof to the contrary?
It would be more expensive to replicate all the data than to actually fly the mission. This is a mission of exploration and discovery, so what you do next depends on what you've found. There's no way that someone could script this, or reconstruct in any way what we think Mars is like in a studio. But people have a right to their opinions.
Do you ever have dreams that are set on Mars?
No, but you know what I dreamed the other night? We work on three floors at JPL, and I woke up at about 4 in the morning and I couldn't remember what floor I was on, or what floor I was supposed to be on. It took me about a half an hour to remember that I was actually in my apartment.
Do you ever get sick of Mars?
No. It's what we do. I also have a program at the university in environmental sustainability, called Pathfinder Program. And I'm deeply involved in the exploration of Venus. And that's completely different -- that's the closest thing to Hell in the solar system. It rains sulfuric acid in the atmosphere, and it's about 900 degrees Fahrenheit. It's kind of a runaway greenhouse planet. The really neat thing is taking Venus, Earth and Mars as a kind of triad, and it really lets you look at how whole planets evolve. These are global-scale experiments, and what we're trying to get at is habitability. Was Mars ever habitable, and did it ever have the right stuff all together at once? Did life get started and evolve?
What's your gut tell you?
My gut is that it should have, and it's a question of finding it. And if it didn't -- if it was warm, if it was wet, if the chemistry was right, and life didn't evolve -- then to me that's as big a mystery as why it would have.
Be Like Mike's Sister!
While CBS and MTV defend themselves from uptight Puritans nationwide for the actions of Janet Jackson and Justin "I Was Under the Impression That It Was a Bustier" Timberlake during this year's Super Bowl halftime show, it's clear hardly anyone really minded seeing Janet Jackson's right breast. At least not heterosexual males -- on the previous day, callers-in to 100.3 The Beat overwhelmingly chose Janet over Beyoncé when asked which light-skinned poptress they'd rather "get with."
Be that as it may, locals will get all the boobs they can handle later this month at Soulard Party Gras. But the pasty promise of the bare breasts of Saint Louis University girls gone wild doesn't stir Unreal's senses like seeing Janet's did.
The reason, we suspect, is that cool sun-shaped nipple guard she was sportin'.
Which is why, in an offer you won't find on CBS, you can now sign up to purchase your very own Official Unreal Wardrobe Malfunction Nipple Shield! These adhesive-backed medallions, guaranteed to stick for at least 50 flashes, will be available in varying shades (just like the Jackson family's skin tones!). Affix one and you're instantly suitable for prime time. Just like Janet's, only plastic!
Because our Official Unreal Wardrobe Malfunction Nipple Shield is still in the design stage, we're only taking pre-orders at this time. But if our loyal readers show sufficient interest, we'll have 'em rolling off some cheap overseas assembly line in no time. Tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our Official Unreal Wardrobe Malfunction Nipple Shield phone line -- 314-754-6411 -- and leave a voicemail.
Don't delay; smooth operators are standing by!
An Unbalanced Diet
Unreal didn't want to say anything. But ever since St. Louis school-board member Rochell Moore cast her infamous curse on Mayor Francis Slay last summer, he hasn't looked so good. You'd look bad, too, if you had fever, inflammation, extreme burning and mildew, and the Angel of the Lord chasing you.
So it is with sincere distress that we report yet another Moore curse. Technically, she claims that her latest admonition is not a curse, but rather a friendly warning to anyone who opposes the intelligent-design bill introduced in the Missouri legislature last month. House Bill 911 would pink-slip any teacher who doesn't teach an alternative to evolution and require textbooks to also teach the biblical story of creation.
In response to the bill, Carol Prombo, a lecturer in earth sciences at Washington University and the parent of a student who attends a St. Louis public school, sent school-board members a short e-mail predicting "disaster for science education" if HB 911 passes.
That was a mistake. Moore fired back with two e-mails. "[I]f you try to interfere with this legislation or anything that has to do with school boards in Missouri or the African-American children attending our schools," she writes in the first, "the prayers I will pray against you and anyone who helps you will not be nice!!!" Moore also wants to know whether Prombo is familiar with the Prime Directive in Star Trek. "You have violated that," the school-board official concludes. In a subsequent e-mail, Moore asks Prombo if she had anything to do with the events of October 22, 2002 -- the day Moore alleges someone spiked her coffee with cocaine, landing her in a psychiatric unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Moore says teaching creationism and evolution is perfectly sane. "Muslims don't eat pork. So are you going to fix a diet that only has pork? You may not agree with them. But you have to respect their culture. You have to have beef, pork and turkey."
Amen. Uh, pass the gravy.