Sunday, February 3, 2013


            Don’t get me wrong; I love science.
            If you’re like me, you do too, and not because of how you use it in your daily lives, but because of how much you don’t realize it until something breaks, aches or bakes.
            It’s possible, thanks to science, to cook a chicken pot pie in a microwave oven, or if going viral on YouTube is your goal, to blow up an egg in one. Science is the reason we’re now using telephones as cameras and can instantaneously send videos of our dogs performing stupid human tricks to millions of strangers around the world (for now, we won’t discuss videos of us performing stupid pet tricks, but you know who you are).
            We can also thank science for the recent discovery of a mysterious and long-sought subatomic particle. “We are reaching into the fabric of the universe like we’ve never done before,” said scientist Joe Incandela, adding that they’ve “found the key to the structure of the universe.”
            As an armchair domestic egghead, Joe, I can relate. That’s exactly how I felt when I finally vacuumed the rug under the bed and found the key to my house.
            Winter in the North Country is a good time to talk about all things scientific. It’s too cold to read poetry, too dark to write it, and the roads are too icy to even risk a trip to the store for a microwaveable chicken pot pie, though I did once make a mad slip-sliding snowstorm dash to the store to satisfy a Cheez-Its craving.
            Wait … the roads were suffering from “wintry conditions,” would say the scientist … the same one who failed to deliver an overcast weather report as six inches of partly cloudy in my basement.
            By the way, when I looked up the word “science” in my synonym finder, it said “science.” Thus, for the following, let’s just call this a study in Leonardology.
            Today, I became an amateur Leonardologist when I read a story about how NASA scientists recently “beamed a picture of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, to a powerful spacecraft orbiting the moon, marking a first in laser communication.”
            Wow! Were YOU even aware that we had a “powerful spacecraft” up there going around the moon? I wasn’t. It’s called an LRO, or “Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter,” and it now, apparently, has a picture of the Mona Lisa on its dashboard visor.
            It’s fitting that the Mona Lisa, painted by a man who designed a parachute 420 years before Wilbur & Orville Wright proved that bicycles can fly, was picked by scientists to be the first image transmitted through space via laser beams. To me, Mona Lisa and the Man in the Moon have the same scientific smile.
            The major breakthrough, of course, is that the image was transmitted with a laser beam, not with radio waves. Big deal, NASA. I was successfully experimenting with primitive lasers on one sunny boyhood day when I scorched my name into the picnic table and burned down the lilacs with a magnifying glass.
            To date, we’ve brought back 842 pounds of rocks from the moon, and left behind almost 375 thousand pounds of junk cars, flagpoles and golf balls. Again, I can relate, Leonardologically. That’s the same deposit-withdrawal ratio when I go to the landfill with my trash, and return from its recycling center with junk car parts, an only slightly bent flagpole and a box of golf balls.
            And, if I had been Neil Armstrong, I’d have struggled with a moral dilemma if the Sunshine Biscuit Company had promised me a lucrative endorsement deal if I’d just take that first step onto the lunar surface and yell “Cheez-Its!”
            I was also not aware that we have six humans orbiting the earth in the ISS (International Space Station). You can check their current workday schedule online. Right this minute, there’s a scientist flying over your head in the ISS who is about to “post-sleep inventory the atmospheric revitalization system carbon dioxide scrubber.”  In amateur Leonardology-speak, I think that means he’s going to count trees when he wakes up.
            One of the scientists aboard the ISS says that the most common question he’s asked by schoolchildren is “What would happen to a marshmallow in space?”
            Well, it doesn’t take brain surgery on a rocket Leonardologist to know that it has nothing to do with molecular density or subatomic structure or wintry conditions.
            If you looked at it through a magnifying glass, it would roast and change into a ringer for the Mona Lisa.

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Author and Senior Wire News Service syndicated humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman launches his columns from Bethlehem, NH.  Copyright 2013 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved.  His new book, "Walk Tall and Carry a Big Watering Can", is scheduled for publication soon by Plaidswede Publishing.

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