Friday, July 21, 2006

"Space Travel on a Chapstick Budget"

You may be wondering how the realms of lip balm and space travel can possibly intersect. Well for one, they're both awesome (you may have trouble figuring out which is more awesome- that's a good party ice breaker). Secondly, I'm almost positive that in some epic science fiction story or other one of the main characters pulls out a tube of chapstick at a crucial moment, and in doing so discovers that the alien invaders have a fatal allergy to shea butter and mint, thereby saving the galaxy and ridding the universe of the oppressive Korglon overlords. Oh, crap. I just gave away the twist ending to my first novel, The Chip Chapman Odysseys Vol 1: Danger in the Petroleum Galaxy. Del Rey is publishing it this fall.

Where was I? Oh yes, space travel and chapstick. It turns out that such a connection can only be forged by a great mind, and one such mind is that of Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist extraordinaire and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. He recalls below how in an an interview with a very smug Matt Lauer he was able to justify the need to keep funding NASA missions:
So they call me in to the studio, and first they talk to the Cassini mission team — you know, the engineers — and they’re jumping up and down and celebrating. Then they turn the cameras on me, offer congratulations, and ask what it all will mean. I replied that we’re going to study Saturn, and execute large and targeted loops to study several of Saturn’s many moons. But then Matt Lauer wanted to be hard-hitting, and he said something like, “But Dr. Tyson, this is a $3.2 billion mission. Given all the problems we have in the world today, how can you justify that expenditure?”

So I replied: “Pause. First of all, it’s $3.2 billion divided by 12. It’s a 12-year mission. So now we’ve got the real number, which is what? Less than $300 million per year.”

Then I said, “Three hundred million dollars. Americans spend more than that each year on lip balm.”
Ho, snap! Matt Lauer gets bitchslapped by People Magazine's Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive 2000 (look at those bedroom eyes). Dr. Tyson goes on to say:
When I uttered those words, the cameras shook and the lights flickered, and Matt had no reply. He practically stuttered and said, “Uh, over to you, Katie.” And I realized in that instant that people just don’t understand how inexpensive this space exploration really is, when you place it within the context of what we, as a nation, spend money on.
Touché, sir. But I think the take real home message is that now you can use chapstick, or at least the amount spent on chapstick by the American public per year, to justify any expenditure. Should your company buy everyone new computer speakers? Why shouldn't they? Do you realize how much Americans spend on chapstick a year?!

The best part of this story is that the studio audience outside had heard the interview, and when Dr. Tyson exited the studio they were all cheering and holding up their tubes of chapstick, rock-concert style. Brings a tear to my eye.



Blogger Lothealian said...

I am also a proud member / supporter of this chapstick movement...and I am sorry if this sounds lame, but I am creating a group on facebook called the chapstick movement. The purpose of which is to help spread Dr. Tyson's words and remind everyone why space travel and the space program are awesome...because despite the inherent bias that comes with my degree and job, I thought the space program was totally awesome before I had either (which is why I got both, see?)

...and I like your journal entry...

May I post it? (with a link to your blog?)

11:51 AM  
Blogger JavaJive said...

Sure, go for it!

5:04 PM  

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