Last night nerds shut down the Internet. To be accurate, some clouds of sport and p0rn remained online, but the only tubes that mattered went through NASA, or to be more specific, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The NASA spokesperson was quick to apologize for the overload, however in true PR cluelessness, she missed the irony of 1) apologizing for success, 2) apologizing on the medium that was offline, and finally 3) suggesting that anyone who can’t reach NASA online, try the NASA URL to get back online. No worries for nerds who broke the Internet, as they had already followed the Mars Science Laboratory rover to a safe landing in Gale Crater.
Here’s some breaking news for the media, this outlet included: Nerds don’t need you.
Nerds do not rely on a broadcast television pretty head to mispronounce, misreport and then laugh out loud at the thought of anyone actually caring about science.
Nerds do not wait for Tuesday when a science writer at the New York Times will talk down to them.
Nerds aren’t listening to NPR coverage, even with the chairman of the House Science Committee as special guest .
Let’s be brutally honest here… If you are a nerd, you get worse reporting from the mainstream media than a 3 year old gets when “Dr. Bob, The Scientist!” visits the kids on Sesame Street. That is why they go directly to the source, and if every NASA server is overwhelmed, the nerds celebrate the One World of Nerditude by using the down time to create realtime memes, like:
-The row of three blue-shirted cruise stage engineers at JPL Mission Control, one grey-haired stoner, one normal, one red-dyed mohawk -> “Proof NASA has a Time Machine!”.
-The juxtaposition of the JPL celebration paired with an image of troops heading to war -> “More of These – Less of These”
-An image of MSL on the surface of Mars exploring -> “The Olympics are still on? How cute!”
The raw facts nerds feed on, like so much hot buttered popcorn, cannot be filtered, interpreted, translated and dumbed down. Nerds want the live feed off the Deep Space Network’s 70m dishes, they want to hear the spacecraft’s EDL tonal carrier wave that says less than John Cage on a good day but conveys more than Wagner at Bayreuth. They want to hear a flight controller list each pyro event crisply and solely as an acronym, and, as a nerd, knowing beforehand the meaning, order, timing, and several recoverable contingencies. Nerds do not sit quietly through the Coca-Cola commercials, waiting to see the gold metal event that happened the day before. Nerds are there.
The landing was nominal, in the words of EDL leader Adam Steltzner. Nominal tears of unprogrammed joy were filling his eyes, as was happening in the lacrimal glands of nerds worldwide.
Just one minute before landing, as the entry vehicle’s supersonic parachute slowed the craft, above and 347 line of sight km away, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took a pre-programmed image of MSL suspended against the Martian terrain. At a resolution of 33cm per pixel, anyone can clearly see a perfect white saucer from one planet descending onto another planet. A planet without gun violence or gloating athletes or car commercials, and until we export those alien traits, don’t expect the media to give Mars exploration the attention it deserves.
With all respect to the nice NASA PR lady, nerds didn’t want her to open her mouth during the final seven minutes. NASA got that right last night too.
Pete Goldie holds a Ph.D. and 2 other graduate degrees from “old East Coast universities.”
“I merely wish it known that I am a licensed ceramic tile & natural stone contractor and everything I write about space science is not only freely available but eagerly disseminated by federal government agencies through the judicious expenditure of income tax revenue.”