When it rains crazies, it pours crazies.

I just saw an “article about an astrologer in Russia who is proceeding to sue NASA because she believes that a future planned comet mission will disrupt the natural order of the universe”:http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/russiausnasaspace.

Says the woman’s lawyer, “My client believes that the NASA project infringes upon her spiritual and life values as well as the natural life of the cosmos and would disrupt the natural balance of forces in the universe.”

Let me reassure her, the natural balance of the forces in the universe will not be disturbed. An impact on a distant comet involves the interaction of electrons in the comets surface with those of the probe; the electromagnetic force, while infinite in range, falls off in intensity as a function of the inverse-square of the distance. The effect on the surrounding universe (i.e. earth, sun, etc) is smaller than ambient electromagnetic disturbances (like lightening, or even a cell phone).

The impact is not energetic enough to break up atoms, so we don’t have to worry about the strong or weak nuclear forces (which are finite in range anyway). So that leaves gravity. Since the effect of this comet on the earth is vastly masked by the effect of the sun and moon on the earth (i.e. comets don’t cause tides, since they move past us quickly), and the comet’s material will merely be redispersed instead of totally annihilated, no problem there.

Let me assure you, Ms. Bai: there will be no disruption in the natural forces in the universe. Those forces have withstood much worse (i.e. the very creation of the universe) and this small probe will have no effect on us. Go back to your job with some satisfaction in that regard.

Back in Boston, Despite the Weather

Despite the bad winter storm that dumped upwards of 35 inches of snow in New England, I was able to get back to Boston yesterday with few flight delays. After an uneventful first leg of the trip from San Fran to Chicago (Midway), we were delayed by a half-hour. We made that up pretty easily in the air, thanks to a strong tailwind.

The fun really began in Boston. We sat on the runway for quite a bit until a gate opened. After that, it was a long wait at the curb for the 22 bus, which runs from the B terminal to the Blue Line train station. The most entertaining part of this episode was surely the interaction between the illegally parked cars picking up passengers and the State Trooper.

There were easily 10-12 cars parked in the curb space reserved for rental car shuttles, courtesy vans, and public buses. This behavior forced the buses to stop in the middle of the road, unable to pull up to the curb. Travelers the had to wade through ankle-deep slush and mud to get across the road to their waiting bus.

Then comes the State Cop. He pulls up in an SUV, lights twirling and siren honking and whooping. Then he gets on the PA and starts asking — nicely, for someone who didn’t have to be nice — people to get out of that area as they were illegally parked. There was one guy, also in an SUV, who just refused to move. So the trooper pulls up along side him, flashes the lights and whoops the siren a few times. He barks on the loudspeaker. Finally, the guy pulls away from where he was blocking the courtesy van curb, moves up about 75 feet, and parks in the public bus curb.

Well, that was the end of it for the trooper. He cuts the guy off, hits the lights, and storms out of his vehicle. He barks the man out of the SUV, walks him around the back of the car (where we all have a clear view of him) and chews him out right in front of everybody. If we could have applauded through all our luggage and mittens, we would have!

After a set of long changes between trains, I finally arrived at Alewife station (north end of the Red Line). Gabriella’s husband, Masahiro, picked me up at the station and we headed back to their house for dinner.

Today, it’s going to be a nice, long, full day of neutrino veto simulation development!!!!