The Electric Commentary

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mailbag!

Sometimes we get letters, e-mail, etc. People, occasionally, don't want to use the comments section for whatever reason, and we reserve a Friday every so often to answer their questions. Let's jump right in, shall we?

Dear EC, what's this "dark matter" that I keep hearing so much about?

S.H.


As I understand it, a bunch of physicists were trying to figure out the Big Bang, and they did a bunch of calculations and, as it turns out, there isn't enough matter in the universe. So after that they got together and toked up and one of them said something to the effect of:

Hey, man, what if there's like matter out there, but we can't see it or detect it. That would solve all of our problems dude. And it would be totally righteous. Pass the Cheetos. No Richard, the real Cheetos, not the "dark" cheetos. Jeez, you guys.


As it turns out, this "dark matter" theory is actually fairly plausible, and scientists have collected some convincing evidence of its existence. But what is dark matter? As I have no real scientific training of any kind I'll do what I do best: Make up a plausible explanation out of thin air.

So, gravity is basically a little divot in space time caused by the presence of matter. Objects think that they're still traveling straight when, from an outsider's perspective, they're actually traveling in a curved line as a nearby chunk of matter is bending the spacetime in the area.

So I figure that dark matter, instead of making a divot in space time, makes a bubble in space time. It would have an anti-gravitational effect on light matter, and light-light would be repelled and never reflect off of the matter so that we would never see it. Moreover, the light matter that we see repels dark matter, so from the perspective of dark matter, light matter is, well, dark matter. And dark matter attracts dark matter. The functional effect is that the universe is like a big piece of paper with dark matter on one side and light matter on the other, making divots and bubbles that effect each other even though one side, due to the warping of space time, can't see the other.

Aren't you glad that you asked?

And remember, nothing of what I just wrote is true. Nothing.

Dear EC,

I love the blog. You seem to be a Simpson fan. I'm the biggest Simpsons fan in the world. I'll bet you can't stump me. Go ahead, ask me anything. Jerk.

Smell ya later,

MG


You're one cocky nerd MG, but I'll take a shot.

1. When Homer is daydreaming about the Land of Chocolate in the office of his new German bosses, he passes by the town's welcome sign. On that sign is the population of the land of chocolate. What is it?

2. What is Nelson's favorite fruit? Prove with at least 3 examples.

3. What is Mr. Burns's Social Security Number?

Good luck, MG.

Hey Pauly,

My wife keeps telling me that Heath bars are the best toffee candy bars, but I'm more of a Skor man myself. Opinion?

Willy W.


Heath bars are good in ice cream, especially in Blizzards, but for pure candy bar eating you can't beat a Skor. The chocolate to toffee ratio is exactly right (the Heath is toffee-heavy) and the relatively skinny Skor bar is crispier, and doesn't get stuck in your teeth as much. It is truly delicious. And by the way, Heath knows this to be true. The Heath bar has slowly been turning into a Skor bar. It used to come as two smaller, thicker bars in a single package, but it is now a single bar, and it has gotten thinner. Always go for the Skor.

Also, I'd like to mention that there are now about 4,000 types of Hershey's Kisses, and the best kind is "candy cane." They're outstanding.

Dear Electric Weirdo,

Is it just me, or has it been over a year since Chicago's public transportation has attempted to kill you? Have they improved? Do you owe them an apology

-"L" McPherson


Just the other day I got to the platform and noticed that about 400 people were already there, waiting. This is a bad sign. Normally my L stop has 40-50 people waiting at any one time. A higher number indicates that a train has not been by in quite some time. After a few minutes the Redline pulled up, however it already contained about, oh, I don't know, let's say 4000 people as a conservative estimate. I mean, there were people oozing out of the cracks in the doors. This is an extremely bad sign.

Usually if a crowded Red Line train pulls up, it means that there is an empty one right behind it. If a train is this crowded, it means that these people were desperate. As the door opened, the odor of stale B.O. and Trixie perfume poured out onto the masses like a sweaty, damp tidal wave of humid air. No one dared to push their way on.

As the group and I repeated this scene four times over we bonded. We rolled our eyes together, yawned as one, and when we finally boarded a train 45 minutes later, it took a great deal of restraint to refrain from high-fiving each other. I even got a seat in the last car. The ride was slow as it clearly had been all morning, but at least it moved. That is, until we reached the midpoint between Chicago and Grand, at which point the train directly in front of us had its engine explode. This was problematic.

We did not know that this had happened right away, but after 30 minutes of waiting a CTA worker appeared at the door of our car and we heard the following over her radio:

Explosion ahead.


This caused a bit of a panic, as you would expect. Note to emergency crews everywhere, mentioning explosions around people who have been trapped in a dark tunnel for 30 minutes doesn't help anything.

They eventually got us out and had us walk through the tunnel up to grand. The tunnel has more rats in it than you would expect, and I don't know about you, but I expected a lot.

Eventually I did manage to get a cab to work (in a blizzard, mind you) and I was only 2 hours late. But at least I wasn't on the train that actually had the explosion. This has actually happened a few times in the recent past and the county board has weighed in. Their solution?

Unhappy aldermen, alarmed by the absence of clear directions being given to passengers during subway evacuations, on Thursday called on the Chicago Transit Authority to reinstate conductors on trains, using Homeland Security money.

But a top CTA official said the agency plans to spend its federal grants on technological upgrades, including a network of subway cameras, instead of more employees.


There are already CTA employees on all trains, and most of them are incompetent. (For instance, they mention explosions to panicked riders.) Adding more will not help, the board just wants to hand out more worthless jobs to connected people.

So yes, the CTA has tried to kill me recently (again) and as usual, nothing good came of it, except that I survived. They'll never get me.

New York banned trans-fats the other day. I assume that you're against this. Do you have any good protest ideas?

-Albert


I'm glad you asked. My own city has had a ban on the table for awhile now. I think that if they pass it I might open up a restaurant that only serves Foie Gras fried in trans fats. I think I'll call it "Foie Gras Fried in Trans-Fats." In general, I'm in favor of the makers of unhealthy products turning the deadliness into a feature. Denis Leary's idea for "Tumors" cigarettes probably would have been a good idea (and some indy brands actually did go this route).

I had this idea for an intentionally unhealthy fast food restaurant called "Coronaries, Etc." It would involve a big production, including a mandatory waiver from all customers (funny, but also legally binding, of course), and feature deep-fried everything. We'd have french fries fried in lard, and most of our food would come in buckets. Really, if you serve unhealthy food, buckets are the way to go.

So Albert, if you're willing, go ahead and open one. I look forward to eating there.

That's it for another mailbag! Have a good weekend, and keep on writing.

4 Comments:

  • I've heard you ask the chocolate town question before a couple times. I think it is population "you".

    Mr. Burns ss# is 2. Damn Roosevelt.

    Nelson I'm guessing banana. For some reason that's what I think of. I see him eating one and throwing the over his shoulder. I have no examples.

    Also, I don't know what dark matter is, but your made up explantion is going to stick in my brain and then the sleeper effect is going to occur - I'll forget it is made up and think that is how it really works.

    By Blogger Scott H, at 5:04 PM  

  • while i enjoy your explanation of dark matter, i think you're making it needlessly complicated.

    my understanding is that dark matter is basically just matter which doesn't reflect (or generate) enough energy for us to be able to detect it (or is too far away for the energy it does reflect, etc. rather, we can just assume it's there because of observable gravitational effects.

    maybe that's what you mean too, but i couldn't really follow what you were saying the whole way through. also, i got d's in a lot of my physics classes in college. (shutup! d is passing!)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:07 PM  

  • Nelson's favorite fruit is a member of the berry family. I can't remember which one, however. I'm thinking either blueberries or boisenberries.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:22 PM  

  • 1. 1372

    2. Huckleberries:

    a. Nelson is seen at a table discussing how if the huckleberries are too tart, you can just sprinkle them with some confectioner's sugar. Skinner walks by and he mentions that he's just pounded a guy so as not to look wussy in front of him.

    b. In front of the prison with Bart, Ralph, and the other bullies Nelson gets bored and suggests that they go pick huckleberries.

    c. There is a third, but I can't remember it right now. I'll look it up.

    3. 000-00-0002

    Damn Roosevelt!

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 4:58 PM  

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