Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Eeep Eeep Grunt Grunt


Scientists are not supposed to anthropomorphize. Assigning human qualities to non-human things leads to bad science, but it also leads to more opportunities for conversation. I am the sort of person who talks to plants ("grow, you green fuck"); also, I live with a small, lint-filled dog and things just run smoother around here if his wishes are taken into consideration. And a scientist with a cat who doesn't pay attention to its motivations is likely to be subjected to random nocturnal puncturing and messages in her slippers.

Where I really lose control, anthropomorphism-wise, is with all these space buddies we've been sending out there. Like the rovers who (yes, who) land on Mars and go eeep and are never heard from again. All of those seem female to me. Little girls. They're on putzing speed and they can't go a couple centimeters without picking up a rock and putting it in their pockets. I can't stand to worry about them when we don't hear from them. I like to think they're plopped in the sand running their pebbles through a plot line and are so absorbed in the story they can't even hear the mothership trying to entice them with ice cream.

But it's possible they're all grown up and just relieved to finally find themselves in a place quiet enough where a rover has a chance to hear herself think. Or they're peeved and refuse to answer until Earth gets  their names right. They're sending Venera-D to Venus? Really? Who'd answer to that? There are a few spacecraft in the works with the mission to retrieve soil from the moon. They're named Luna-Glob and Luna-Grunt. They sound more like space emissions. Phobos-Grunt was sent to Mars's moon Phobos to do some scooping, but it never made it out of Earth orbit and ultimately crashed in the Pacific Ocean. Phobos-Grunt was totally a dog, probably a Labrador Retriever. It was sent to fetch but all it did was run around the yard like a crazy thing, and refuse to come when called, and then it saw a squirrel scampering over the troposphere and that was that.
Phobos-Grunt: Artist's Depiction

I tend to relate more to the Mars rovers, but it's hard not to get drawn in by the comet-chasers. Deep Impact was sent out in 2005 with the job of harassing a comet to find out more about its composition. He (yes, he) found one to blow up and analyzed the debris cloud, discovering that it was made of dust and crap and ice, which everyone already knew; but now they know what kind of dust and crap and ice. Comets are believed to be how we got water on Earth in the first place. There is a lot of water on this planet and it had to take a major bombardment of comets to accumulate an ocean. Fortunately there were no living things here during that phase; not only would it have been a violent experience for them, but they might not have been able to swim. Just like the men currently dumping chemicals into our streams and fracking up the aquifers, the Deep Impact spacecraft was clever, but stupidly shortsighted. It couldn't recognize any date after August 11, 2013, and kept rebooting itself into a coma.

But Rosetta is doing great. Rosetta has just rendezvoused with another comet.  Once he (never mind
"Rosetta:" it's a he) got past Jupiter, he took a three-year nap to conserve energy. The mission control crew worried, of course, that they may have heard the last from him, and then he woke up and tweeted "hello, world," without, I'm happy to report, including any emoticons, which live in the Oort Cloud with all the other crap. He and his sidekick, armed with a harpoon, are planning to land on that comet. It's full of ice and he's pretty sure there's going to be beer in there. And just before he takes the leap, he's going to say "watch this," and those, as is so often the case, really will be his last words. Totally a dude.

Speaking of crap, holy crap! This is my 600th Murrmurrs post. This calls for a beer.

30 comments:

  1. I not only anthropomorphize plants and animals, but appliances and automobiles as well. It seems to work well for me, as Harvey (my car) is very considerate and only has a major break-down in my driveway. Last Thanksgiving, I had driven him to and from New Jersey to visit relatives. The entire route is high speed highway (a driveway is high speed to ME. I prefer to think of them as speed suggestions.). As I entered my development, he stalled out on me but restarted. He almost stalled out several more times as I drove along the development. He finally stalled out again and would not start... in my very own driveway. I imagined him putting forth all that effort despite great pain to get me home safely and finally let himself lapse into a coma. He is a great car and I love him dearly!

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    1. My clothes dryer is still an It. My dryer is dead to me. Actually, now that I think of it, I don't do that to appliances or cars. I thought all cars were supposed to be female, and I tried naming one of mine once, but it didn't take.

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  2. Congratulations on the 600th post!

    You're not alone. The researchers who work with robot space probes tend to anthropomorphize them too, and that tendency will only increase as their AI gets more sophisticated and they're able to act more and more on their own. It's a little unfortunate when the failure rate is so high -- we're really pushing the limits of what our technology can do. But that's why we don't send people.

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    1. I really hate the idea of sending people to Mars. I hope they just keep sending the little buddies. You can do so many more projects when you don't have a human to theoretically keep alive.

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  3. If you don't anthropomorphize stuff you can start feeling very alone in this world. I just do not like those things that beep at me.

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    1. I've just noticed that I never hear the microwave beep until it does its second insistent beep, and then I remember it went off the first time. Evidently I am trying to ignore beeping appliances.

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  4. Beer on comets! I'll go.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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  5. What's everyone got against emoticons?

    >o( :p :O)

    Congratulations, by the way - I hope it turns out you are still just in your writing infancy and we get to enjoy your wit, wisdom and humour for a long time.

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    1. I certainly hope I can enjoy whatever it is I've got for a long time too. And then drop dead.

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  6. Second time trying to leave a comment. My computer.. or perhaps Blogger is in a snit today...

    Congrats on the 600th. Wishing you many, many more.

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    1. Thanks! You have a healthy attitude. I always think it's something I've done.

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  7. I anthromorphise therefore I am. Or because I can. It doesn't keep my ankles and butt safe from the feline fiend though - and he does it because he likes it.

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    1. He does EVERYTHING because he likes it. Eeep!

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  8. 600 witty utterances? Well done, you! I'm approaching my seventh year, but have no idea how many utterances that equates to.Not all that witty, either.Although I did mention flatulent hippos in the latest...

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    1. 1200 at least, I try to wedge in two witty utterances per. We shall be approaching your flatulent hippos shortly, and from the front.

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  9. Congrats on the running of the Murr 600!

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  10. Congratulations on your 600th! Have a beer for me; or maybe two. More if you feel like it. You never know how much I'd drink, and you'd hate to be stingy with me, wouldn't you?

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    1. That is the very last thing I'd want. I shall hoist accordingly.

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  11. Calls for 600 beers, more like.

    I tend to anthropomorphize my food, just so I can pretend to hear its screams as I swallow.

    Good thing that's not true, or I'd need to go take a sociopath inventory on Buzzfeed now.

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    1. "...just so I can pretend to hear its screams as I swallow." Ah ha ha ha ha! Oh, I took that quiz. I got L. Ron Hubbard. Fear me.

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  12. I anthropomorphize people often, thinking if they had human qualities, what would they do, be like. Is that odd?

    The cat across the street who I'm taking care of reluctantly doesn't seem to need human qualities, he/she (no idea, I respect it's privacy) does quite well as a cat.

    As to why is something a 'he' or a she', no idea. Sailboats were in the past given the female gender name, I rather liked that....if I had to trust my being to something at sea I'd rather it be a woman...they seem to have rather better judgement in my experience.

    I'll try to be more witty next time.

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    1. Screw that. I love your first sentence. I kind of wish things would stay the same sex; boats are ALWAYS supposed to be female, but somebody's probably messed with that already (to his detriment. Do not mess with tradition when you're in a little pot on the ocean). Shit, dear. Hurricanes aren't even female anymore.

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  13. First off, "grow, you green fuck" is the funniest thing I've read in a very long time. Second, if you are ever on Twitter, check out @sarcasticrover, the source of such gems as "Mars is the kind of planet than invites you over to hang out but then doesn't have anything to drink and there's no life and it kills you." Third, congrats on the big 6-0-0. Wow!

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    1. Thanks! I almost missed it. I was pulling the trigger on this post and (casually) Blogger mentioned it was #600. I thought I should have some sort of commemoration, and beer naturally came to mind. Seriously, if you had told me I could keep this up for 600 posts, I would have looked into long-term care insurance for you.

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  14. 600th post? Are you sure? You don't mean 6000th?
    That's an evil looking kitty you've got up there.

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    1. Hey, now. Well, yes. She looks evil. It's all in the angle. Except for her tendency to express her affection dentally, she's a peach.

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  15. Especially enjoyed Pootie in Space and Pootie in Clouds... & your pussycat will probably punish you for posting that portrait (possibly by pinhole-puncturing your Pabst). But kudos on #600!!

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    1. Pootie enjoys any opportunity to pose nude. Or, rather, beige. It's not his best quality.

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