Jeff Vrabel: Curiosity killed the Mars rock
Is there some reason the Mars Curiosity rover isn't the lead news, the 720-point dominant headline, the screaming neon BREAKING NEWS ALERT of the day, all day, every day? Is anything else truly happening that resonates on such a primal, galactic, mysterious, steam-shooting-out-of-your-ears level?
Paul Ryan? Preseason football? A guy from "Saturday Night Live" talking about tax policy? This is all you've got?
Is there nothing that can match, in pure wonder and impressiveness, a sedan-sized space car that we parked on a DIFFERENT PLANET? Oh wait, according to this Major American News Website, "Boy's head lodged in guardrail." SORRY, NEWS PROFESSIONALS! BACK TO WORK.
Well, while the TV networks clamor to see if anyone might show up with a saw, here's the latest news about the Mars Curiosity rover: It is shooting Martian rocks with lasers.
To recap: Last fall, we sent a thing to Mars. Shortly after, it arrived at Mars. If this was the end of the story — Thing We Shot At Mars Actually Freaking Made It To Freaking Mars — it would be cause enough for a joyous celebration tinged with childlike wonder, the turning over of some cars, and, I don't know, probably some half-naked frolicking in the streets of whatever place space people hang out most — I guess that would probably be New Mexico? Where do nerds hang out these days? Is GenCon still happening?
Yet you likely do not know this story, which appears currently on a Major American News Network's Website next to another headline that reads "Man floats with dog to ease its pain." Which is sweet, unless he's floating with the dog by holding onto it, which I have to surmise would cause more pain that it would ease, what with all the thrashing and wet-dog smell.
Besides, that is NOT all of the story. The story on Sunday is that the Mars Curiosity rover blew up some rocks with a laser, and this is where I must pause until my head stops spinning around and making "wheeeeeee" noises and I can finish the chocolate milkshake that I make every time something flies to another planet and starts blowing stuff up with lasers, WHICH HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE, so obviously this milkshake tastes pretty sweet. Damn right, it's better than yours.
According to The News — and take this with a grain of salt because The News gets all excited when a guy and a dog can float, as though water has buoyant properties or something — the rover's laser "interrogated" a Martian rock as part of practice for future rock-investigating experiments.
And I am sure that there's a bunch of science to be learned up there, things like rock composition and age and whether that band that recorded "Pump Up The Volume" in 1987 is up there, but let me just back up: STUFF IS SHOOTING LASERS AROUND MARS, AND THOSE LASERS ARE WORKING. The next time your cable or Internet company tells you they don't know what the problem is, kindly remind them that they're from a planet that shoots things on Mars, and to plug the freaking thing into the other thing already.
Anyway, a decent-sized Mars rock — which was named Coronation, because two days ago it was a dumb rock on another planet and now it's the most famous space-laser-debut victim since Alderaan — was shot about 30 times over 10 seconds, with each blast delivering 14 millijoules of energy and a very faint but distinct "PEW PEW PEW" sound. The idea was to see what elements were in the rock, and, of course, to see if the rock, when hit, would sprout legs and run away.
Because maybe Martians look like rocks? WHO KNOWS! THEY'RE MARTIANS! Actually maybe we should be a little less willy-nilly about all the interplanetary zapping.
Jeff Vrabel took pains to not make this entire column a series of idiot "Star Wars" jokes. He can be reached at http://jeffvrabel.com or followed at http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.