Friday, October 13, 2006

Moon Landing Conspiracist Biologist

From the Smithsonian Magazine, an account of a chemist who was at a party, and ran into some ideas she thought odd. Specifically, the other guests were sure that the moon landings were faked.
“The pictures are all perfect,” he said.

“Because there is no air,” I replied. “Which means no dust, so that distant objects on the moon still appear crisp.”

“But they’re perfectly focused.”

“The published ones are perfectly focused, sure. Nobody wants to see the astronaut’s thumb. . . .”

“OK, maybe. But those supposed moon rocks” — he did that annoying curly-finger quote thing — “could have easily been faked in a lab somewhere on earth.”

“There’s no water in them,” I said. “Nor do they have compositions that are commonly found on earth.”

“But you could make them,” he insisted. “In a lab.”

I clenched my teeth. “It would take less research to just go get them from the actual moon!”

His nostrils flared. He was coming in for the kill now. “What about...radiation! People can’t go through the Van Halen belts. They’d be fried.”

“Van Allen belts.”

“Whatever.”

“The Apollo traveled through the Van Allen belts in less than an hour. It would take far longer than that for the exposure to affect them.”

I launched into a lecture on relative dosage, my area of expertise. But I didn’t stop there. In my fury, my three semesters of college physics resurfaced. I shoved the snack plates out of the way and positioned an olive centrally in the cleared space.

“This is earth,” I growled. I snatched four cheese puffs, to represent the inner and outer Van Allen radiation belts, then grabbed some Twizzlers and modeled the solar wind and the earth’s magnetosphere and the bow shock region.

I started spewing mathematical formulas, not because it was crucial to my argument but to intimidate. “Do you understand?” I finally demanded.

He shrugged. “I’m a biologist.”

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