The Sciences


Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitAug 14, 2008 7:54 PM


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Oh, it has to happen. At some point, no matter how cool the trip is, you just have to say, "I wanna stay in today". That happened today. Sorta. The trip so far has been magnificent. Yesterday we walked over a volcanic landscape so reminiscent of Mars that I was thinking I was Spirit, roving over the surface. Lava flows had cooled into jagged aa, smooth rolling pahoehoe, layered into fine almost sedimentary structures, and dropped as bombs onto the ground. It was a geologist's dream, and though my knowledge of such things is limited, I have always wanted to learn more (my love of meteorites is spurring me on, too, merging my two great scientific loves). This is a great place to start -- and I'm hoping to find a good book on the Galapagosian geology at the next town we visit on Saturday.

We also saw penguins (yes, penguins, at the Equator; proof is in the above photo of Mrs. BA and two of the cuties), more sea lions, and lots of other creatures. But today, the ship-to-land excursion was at 8:00 a.m., and that was too much for the weary BA family. We were thinking of staying in anyway. I say "anyway" because events forced this on us without our consent. On a small boat -- 100 passengers -- it's all too easy to get some errant virus that has deemed our DNA to be its slave labor factory. One skeptic got ill two days ago, and we were hoping that would be it... but then last night The Little Astronomer succumbed. She's doing much better now, but this morning was no fun. Mrs. BA and I are fine so far, so I'm hopeful. I had a norovirus in Seattle two years ago, and the nightmares have finally subsided; I have little desire to repeat that little slice o' hell. One other passenger was reportedly sick, but I saw her up and about earlier, so this looks pretty much like a wham-bam-thank-you-TAM kinda thing. Still and all, being trapped on board isn't so bad. The coffee is pretty good -- weird, like most of the food is, but I like weird. It's Ecuadorian cuisine, which is different than in the US. A lot of the food is the same, but subtly different. The hamburgers, for example -- they are cow meat, with lettuce and mayo and mustard, the way hamburgers are legally required to be... but they're still different. Odd. I can't explain how, exactly, but they taste a little to the left of what I'm used to. Like I said, I enjoy trying different foods from distant lands, so I'm delighted to eat things I'm used to but are somehow altered in ways I can't precisely determine. That's fun! On the other hand, the margarita I sipped the other night was simply awful. That ain't right. And lest you think this is all milk and honey, I've been doing JREF stuff here as well. We had two meetings of JREF personnel, and one lasted a whole hour! I had to try another magarita after that. And we were forced -- forced I say, at sword point -- to listen to PZ Myers talk about Darwin and the Galapagos for almost 15 minutes! I almost walked off the boat, and sharks had been spotted nearby recently. Seriously, we are getting quite a bit done on this working vacation, JREF-wise. I'm starting to slip into my role as El Presidente, and I think there is much we as a team can do. I'll be happy to tell you more as we progress, but for now I'll say that I see a shining future for us and for critical thinking.

And there are perqs here, too. Randi has been doing some great (I daresay amazing) tricks during meals, and other amateur magicians among the skeptics have been delighting us as well (including TLA, who has one trick she learned recently that is baffling some folks, and she's gaining a repertoire courtesy of The Amazing One generously teaching her). George Hrab has played twice for us (once is a treat, twice is an honest-to-FSM coolgasm). We've been meeting the skeptics at dinner, making sure we get spread around to spend time with all the delightful folks. And may I add, the naturalists on board are terrific. Fun, funny, smart, and very knowledgeable about this remarkable place we're visiting. The whole crew has been terrific, cheerful, and helpful. We have more critical thinking cruises planned for the future, oh yes we do. And if they are even half the trip this one has been -- even counting the virus -- they'll be Amazing Adventures indeed.

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