Invasion of the House snatchers

So I’m reading stories about John Boehner calling it quits as speaker of the House because the Republicans he leads are out of control, and I see this in on the NPR Web site:

In the wake of House Speaker John Boehner’s surprise resignation, one name has quickly emerged as the front-runner to replace him: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

And my first thought is Kevin McCarthy? Like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” Kevin McCarthy?


But then I realized that can’t be right. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” came out in 1956, and it’s a horror movie about a guy who slowly comes to realize that everyone around him is being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates. The movie is a classic and is considered “a metaphor for the tyranny of McCarthyism (or the totalitarian system of Your Choice).”

Yes, I started thinking the same thing. Kevin McCarthy is in a House where once reasonable people are being replaced by things that appear to be human but want to get rid of everyone who doesn’t agree that their way of doing things is the only way things should be done.

So maybe Kevin McCarthy is the logical choice to be speaker of the House. But I suspect that at a certain point, we’re going to see him running through the streets of Washington:

Sorry, dude. I’ve been yelling this since the Republicans went after Bill Clinton. No one listens.

Riding light and sending sounds in space

The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. That’s per second, not per hour. If you travel at the speed of light for an hour, you cover 671 million miles.

That’s fast, right?

Well maybe on Earth it is, but the universe is a big place. It took about five hours for the signal from the New Horizons probe to travel from Pluto to Earth. And that’s traveling at the speed of light.

To put it in perspective, take a look at this if you’ve got 45 minutes to spare:

That’s how long it would take to get from the Sun to Jupiter: 45 minutes.

Forty-five minutes of nothing but emptiness with a few big space rocks called planets, moons and asteroids showing up every few minutes to break up the monotony. I bore easily, so if it took this long to get to Jupiter, imagine how many “Are we there yet”s I’m going to ask on a trip to Pluto.

If we’re ever going to get to other parts of the galaxy, we’re going to have to break the light barrier. Which means we’re probably not going anywhere. Maybe a billion years from now, our robot satellites in space like Pioneer, Voyager and New Horizons will be picked up by some alien civilization, which will ask: What the hell is this?

This is the Golden Record we sent on Voyager back in 1977: a collection of greetings in different languages, sounds of life and selections of music, plus a roadmap to where we are. Voyager has left the solar system and is now in interstellar space.

So let’s say Voyager does end up on a planet in another part of the galaxy where there’s intelligent life. What do you think the aliens would say? Maybe this?

Check out the Speaking of Science blog at the Washington Post for more about the Golden Record.

Another reason we need gun control

There are crazy people out there who don’t know they’re crazy (Via CNN):

Police arrested a soldier carrying an AR-15 rifle and ammunition at a Fayetteville, North Carolina, mall after officers received multiple reports of an armed man walking through a Macy’s department store.

Bryan Wolfinger was tracked down within minutes near the Macy’s wing of the Cross Creek Mall on Thursday evening, police said.

He was detained without incident, according to police, and charged with “going armed to the terror of the public.”

Wolfinger, who is assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, was carrying the rifle, a Kevlar vest and multiple ammunition magazines, and he intended to have photographs taken with the gun and the other equipment, CNN affiliate WNCN reported, citing Fayetteville police.

Police have released Wolfinger, and he is “with his chain of command,” said Master Sgt. Patrick Malone, a spokesman for 82nd Airborne Division.

“These charges represent actions that are wholly inconsistent with the high standards and values we expect from our paratroopers,” Malone said. Fort Bragg is fully cooperating with the police investigation, he said.

Yes, when you wear a bulletproof vest and carry an assault rifle with tons of ammunition through a mall, people are going to be upset. Let’s just be thankful there wasn’t another heavily armed open carry fanatic strolling through the mall who would decide he should take preemptive action against gun-nut No.1.

And yes, this should be considered a terrorist act. People were terrified.