This was not a museum: it is a haunted house. It is a carnival ride. It shows throughout in the layout — the rubes are supposed to be shuttled through efficiently, get their little thrills, and exit so the next group can make the trip. If they’d had a few million more, I imagine they would have invested in tracks and little cars and turned it into the Creation Ride. The creators of this place wouldn’t recognize a museum if they woke up in the middle of the Smithsonian on a bed of museum maps with a giant sign saying “MUSEUM” in front of their faces and an army of docents shouting directions at them. They seem to have gotten all their information about how a museum works by visiting Disneyland.
What about the scientific content? They must have made some kind of argument, right? Wrong. They didn’t even try.
Grinnell Heritage Farm is 152 years old. Andrew Dunham is the fifth generation of his family to work this land about 50 miles east of Des Moines. He is a direct descendant of Josiah Grinnell, founder of the town and the man Horace Greeley once famously quoted as having said, “Go west, young man, go west.” Andrew and his wife Melissa are a few months shy of receiving their formal certification as an organic farm.
Across the road, due north of their land, is a field of corn that is owned and managed by the Monsanto seed corn plant. In Iowa and anywhere commodity corn is grown, it is common practice around this time of year to use chemicals to control fungus. Often this is accomplished via the use of aerial application, commonly referred to as cropdusting. On July 6th, a rustic-looking old biplane swooped in to spray Monsanto’s field. To put it mildly, the pilot’s bombardiering skills were not what one would hope.
Dunham’s crew was in the field picking broccoli and spinruts (“turnip” backwards—a Japanese form of the root vegetable). They witnessed the plane as it failed to shut off its spray mechanism, and the fungicide drifted into their fields. “The ground is in the third year of transition and would have become organically certified on September 1st,” Andrew said. Now, probably not.
You’d think that this would be a clear-cut cause of action, as the legal folks would put it. But the clever folks at Monsanto hire the crop dusters as contractors, and they in turn use a corporate shell with no assets, so when something like this happens and a victim sues, they simply file bankruptcy and then form a new corporation.
Every now and then you run into an editorial that has a real gem in it. Like this one about the health care reform:
People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.
So how did they figure this out?
Astronomers used Spitzer to take infrared spectra of HD172555, a young star only a few million years old. By breaking up the light into a spectrum, you can determine what elements and molecules are in the light’s source (I’ve written about this sort of thing before). When astronomer Carey Lisse looked at the spectrum from the star, he got a shock: it was a mess. His team finally figured out what they were seeing: amorphous silica, and lots of it.
In other words, glass.
Glass? From a star?
The most likely explanation is that the glass is in the form of tektites, which are blobs of glassy material that form when something big hits something else big. The silica gets fused into glass. But that means that there was a pretty big impact that must have happened at that star, and that in turn means that two planet-sized objects must have had a very bad day. This was supported by the detection of other chemicals consistent with the aftermath of a massive collision.