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I’m With Stupid – April 28, 2017

by Todd Hartley

I don’t know if you guys pay attention to science news, but if you do, you might have noticed a headline a couple of weeks ago that went something like this: “NASA: Saturn’s moon Enceladus could support life.”

On April 13 and for the next few days, a variation of that headline ran as a lead story on virtually every big media website you can imagine. Do a Google news search for it and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The press treated it almost like NASA was declaring that it had found proof of alien life. It was big news.

And well it should be, right? I mean, if NASA itself is saying that Enceladus could support life, then there must be life there, and we could go establish a colony, and gosh, this is all so exciting!

But did you know that you can filter your Google news search to show custom time ranges? I didn’t, but now I do because, sensing some deja-vu over this Enceladus thing, I did a custom search from 2000 to 2012 for “Enceladus could support life,” and you’ll never guess what I found.

There, from June 24, 2011, was the following headline from CNN: “Scientists: Saturn moon could support life.”

So that big announcement that every news source got you all riled up about two weeks ago actually was 6 years old and just as speculative then as it is now. And you fell for it, didn’t you?

But you’ve been hoodwinked, tricked, duped, deceived, scammed, hornswoggled. They’re trying to make a monkey out of you. They think you’re so damn dumb and have such deficient short-term memory that … wait, what was I talking about again?

The problem in this scenario, however, is that I’m not entirely sure who they are. Is it the media, which need to feed a monstrous, 24-hour news cycle with whatever they can get their hands on? Or is it NASA, which hasn’t done anything really interesting since the Apollo program and feels the need to announce old news to keep itself in the public eye?

I really do need to know, because my response to this incident is going to vary wildly depending on who’s responsible.

If the media is just regurgitating old, unverified speculation because news outlets don’t give a rat’s patootie about veracity or noteworthiness anymore, then I’m outraged — outraged! It’s just a further sign of the decline of the press we once knew and the stupidpendous level of our collective national intelligence.

But if it’s NASA, which no longer has the budget to do anything grand, and it made the announcement because people were starting to forget what it was, then I think I support it.

I see it as kind of like a bake sale on NASA’s part. And if repeating old stuff it can’t prove is the only way for NASA to drum up interest and financial support, then repeat away. Hell, go ahead and announce that Saturn has rings if it helps.

Because it really is sad how NASA has become this forgotten stepchild of late. Sure, every now and then NASA folks send out cool pictures of Pluto or Saturn, but the spacecraft taking those pictures were launched in 2006 and 1997, respectively. Can you think of anything NASA has done more recently? I’m not asking that to be obnoxious; I just honestly can’t come up with anything.

I think we, as a people, benefit from a strong national space program in ways that are hard to measure. I believe that if we set our sights on some impossible goal, like JFK did in 1962, when he declared that we should put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, it’s a boost to the national morale, and it helps make us all more smarter. And God knows we could use some smartening right now.

So if you remember what NASA is (I think it stands for North American Space Association) and you think it should have more money so it can actually do something that people will care about, buy its metaphorical cookies and continue to pretend to be excited when it tells you through the media that there could be Klingons on Uranus.

And years from now, when you’re drinking the new, improved Tang developed for the astronauts we’re going to send to establish a colony on Enceladus, you’ll know who to thank: yourself and your thirst for pointless, concocted news.

Todd Hartley is pretty sure he has ADD: attention deficit — hey, look at that dog!

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Todd Hartley

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04 2017

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  1. RDH #

    FYI – NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It is a government agency that was created by Congress in 1958. NASA’s mission is to explore space and aeronautics, or flight research.

    While you sound like part of the problem I do appreciate your view –

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