I saw a meme on the internet about how Curiosity, one of the Mars Rovers, sings Happy Birthday to itself on the anniversary of its landing on Mars. Of course I went outside to look at Mars and I tried to take its picture. I ended up with a sunrise picture of Venus for the cover shot on this article…err… more or less.
I hope you can make it outside this morning.
Once back inside I checked out the meme on the internet. As we have discussed before, internet memes are, well, made up from whole cloth sometimes. That is a nice southern way of saying they can be giant lie. I found the delightful video which might be attached, err, maybe, to this article.
I have pulled out all the stops for you today. Videos, pictures…I am really stretching the limits of my nerdom today.
It seems they needed a way to shake the dirt samples down into the little laboratory inside the rover. You know, to test for the building blocks of life or whether, or not, Elvis had visited. The weight of a mechanical device to perform this task, was extravagant. In the space flight business, weight is always a premium. So instead of an arm or something, some very smart person thought resonance might work…You know, Ella Fitzgerald, is it live or is it Memorex?
Perhaps you are too young to remember Ella breaking a wine glass.
To use resonance, all you need is a relatively light speaker. Since they had the speaker, well, the road to “Happy Birthday” ran right through the last bite of bologna sandwich. Let me explain. The best ideas, the ideas which capture the imagination, are always hatched while everyone is chewing on the last bite at lunch. It is a time when thoughts and conversation drift from weather, report cards and new Hondas back toward work and the project. I believe a Supreme Being loves that twilight, I believe all things are possible.
When do your best ideas seem to show up?
In this case, it was a bunch of real, live rocket scientists finishing their lunch. Someone with a half-mouthful said why don’t we let it sing to itself! I am sure the idea was dismissed out of hand…too much battery power, it could corrupt our samples and the most critical of all questions, why?
Did your mom ever tell you why was a crooked letter?
I think I was one of those children who relentlessly peppered his folks with questions. My poor stay-at-home mom was the unfortunate victim of most of them. I think her exasperated answer held meaning which is still useful for me today. The letter “Y” is indeed a crooked letter. I think in her exasperation with her child, she was telling me that today, it was the best answer I would get. As an adult, I think sometimes, she was telling me no answer might be the best answer.
Philosophy is hard for a nuts and bolts engineer, so bare with me.
See, in the return-on-investment, what have you done for me lately world it is unacceptable to say, “why is a crooked letter.” You need talking points, charts and a YouTube video chock full of reasons why in today’s immediate gratification world. If you don’t believe me ask the people at the Large Hadron Collider. When their answer to the question, “why are you spending all this money,” is, “we think but, we are not sure,” people’s eyes glaze over and the discussion is over. That is why American scientists are in Europe and not in the United States, right now doing science which might change everything we know about physics. See, there is no satisfaction and certainly no immediate gratification in the “Y is a crooked letter” argument. Neither is there satisfaction in the argument’s cousin, “because.”
Truth is, Curiosity singing “Happy Birthday” to itself 46.8 million miles away, more or less, might be the coolest thing a child hears today. If the child plays the video, it could motivate the little girl or little boy to hear it for himself one day. We don’t know. We, and the scientists at CERN really don’t know what the Large Hadron Collider will find. We already know about the Higgs-Boson Particle. Otherwise, we don’t know.
Do you think there should be payday at the end of every human endeavor? What ever happened to wonder?
I remember watching Neil Armstrong on a little 19-inch black and white TV in Nashville, Tennessee with my Daddy. As a nuts and bolts engineer, I really have no idea if it had any kind of psychological affect on my life. I am bright enough to believe we are sum of our experiences in many ways. You can call it a waste of battery power if you want but, a little robot singing a song a tens of millions of miles away has its own kind of power. Inspiration defies being quantified or monetized. Why something inspires is… well, Y is a crooked letter…And who knows, Elvis might be listening.