2015-02-24

Roseveleth Spacecraft Lands on a Comet!

Science reporter Rose Eveleth has just personally made the most important contribution to the understanding of questions about the solar system that human beings have wondered about for millennia. Eveleth was a latecomer to the ten-year-long project involving hundreds of scientists all around the world, some of them widely rumored to be female, but she has nevertheless become far and away its most important and compelling voice.

A little background. A comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, was discovered 45 years ago in 1969 by Soviet astronomers Klim Ivanovych Churyumov and Svetlana Ivanovna Gerasimenko. Gerasimenko is widely rumored to be a female scientist whose work will permanently etch her name in the annals of science, but that's not important to the dramatic story which Rose Eveleth has to tell us.

The comet, its long, confusing, Russian and sciency name sometimes shortened to 67P or the unforgivably sexist and female-scientist-marginalizing nickname "Chury", was selected to be the first comet on which human beings would land a probe, giving us our first look at what's really going on underneath the frilly tail which has dazzled and terrified hundreds of generations of people, often foretelling doom and disaster.

But all this would pale in comparison to Rose Eveleth's shocking discovery when she probed deeper.

A comet's glowing tail is composed of gasses and dust which vaporize and come off as the comet approaches the sun and which are excited into a glowing plasma state by interaction with the solar wind. The solar wind is a continuous stream of ionized particles blasting away from the sun in all directions. This hurricane of solar radiation would kill all life on Earth if it were not for Earth's magnetic field, which collects all the ionized particles into the van Allen radiation belts that surround our planet and also funnels it to the poles, causing the Aurora Borealis. A new discovery is that comet 67P "sings" a song which may be heard in the electromagnetic vibrations caused by these plasma effects.

Scientists are still puzzled about the nature of this comet song, and, more importantly, whether it has misogynist undertones as courageous and ground-breaking feminist thinkers like Rose Eveleth inform us many songs do these days. We can only wait for further science reporting from Eveleth on this issue, so critical to all women, and indeed to all of humanity.

Plasma is the fourth state of matter, alongside solid, liquid, and gas. The Sun is made up of matter in this super-high energy state in which the electrons of the atoms are stripped away. Professor Matt Taylor is a scientist on the Roseveleth Project specializing in the plasma state. Taylor's work can help us understand, among other things, how the sun works, what the Aurorae Borealis and Australis are, why the van Allen radiation belts keep us all alive, whether they are likely to keep doing so and for how long and why they don't exist on other planets like Mars which we may one day hope to colonize, how comets work and now why comets sing.

The possible misogynist themes of the comet's song remaining an ominous question mark, Rose Eveleth went on to discover other dark secrets festering under the hairy underbelly of this comet project. For starters, the comet is releasing massive amounts of methane, effectively farting into space. While Eveleth, despite her extensive science-reporting training, was surprised to learn that methane is in fact odorless, the space probe discovered that there are many other organic compounds volatilizing into the vast void which, if smelled on Earth, would be stinkier than the stinkiest fart.

But the most shocking discovery Rose Eveleth made was that Plasma Professor Matt Taylor's friend, Elly Prizeman, widely rumored to be female, had made him a shirt that had 1940s-style cartoon pin-up girls on it to wear for the interviews for the project.  And that he wore it! Eveleth is still working tirelessly to determine if Elly Prizeman would be best described as a running dog of The Patriarchy for her participation in the oppression and victimization of women everywhere by this viciously objectifying seamstressing attack or whether she is merely another of its tragic victims (after all, she obviously knows how to sew).  At any rate, Professor Taylor clearly deserves the lion's share of the blame since he selfishly took what was offered him and callously put it on his own body without a thought for whom he was hurting.

Professor Matt Taylor also described the Roseveleth Project as "sexy". Clearly this man is a misogynist. He wears clothing in which women are depicted as attractive and he describes the most important space exploration project in recent memory using the same kind of terminology that men use to describe their feelings for and attraction to women. Who other than a dyed-in-the-wool woman-hater would compare his feelings toward women to the feelings and passion he has for his life's work and wear images of them all over his clothing?

In short, Rose Eveleth has boldly gone where no woman has gone before to show us that the world of space exploration and STEM is a quagmire of penis-shaped rockets, comets whose names give women second-billing and which are literally giant floating fart jokes, and in which people wear shirts depicting attractive cartoon women made by women. Thank you, Rose Eveleth, thank you. You and your story are the most important things to come of all this. We shall remember you. We shall remember you.

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