Hola, folks. It's your friendly, neighborhood editor filling in again, and well-equipped to commiserate with your party-tender head meats.
After my debut column, friends and family asked me why I labeled it "Space Potato." One of them suggested that it sounded like a hybrid of space cadet and couch potato, which is an uncharitable but sadly accurate way to describe me. Hey, call a spud a spud, right? But the real reason I chose that phrase is much simpler: It embodies two of the things I love most.
Starchy satisfaction and glimpses into the unknown are what make life worth living, and I enjoyed a heap of both yesterday when NASA put a spacecraft in orbit around the first-formed and biggest goddamn planet in the solar system, on the Fourth of July no less.
While I was stuffing my face with salty snacks, a room full of Ph.D.s squealed with delight as Juno got to first base with Jupiter. About the same time, across the nation, fleets of tiny rockets were launched into the atmosphere to explode in a shower of star-spangled symbolism. One of the few things that can get me feeling pumped up and patriotic is a shiny, new feat of space exploration. As Weezer put it in a song NASA commissioned for the mission: "Fuck, yeah! This place is great. I love the USA."
Juno (named after Jupiter's sharp-eyed wife in Roman mythology) breezed past his magnetopause, glided over his north pole and swung into a cozy, elliptical orbit from which she can stalk him for a couple of years before she dives in for a suicidal kiss. She joins an illustrious line of other planetary paparazzi. The only planets in the system that haven't enjoyed the voyeuristic gift of a manmade satellite are Neptune and Uranus, but you know we gotta catch 'em all. It's only a matter of time. And this is an invasion of privacy I support wholeheartedly.
Because space is full of nifty things. Like time-gobbling black holes and planets made of diamond or the massive cloud of rum punch floating near the center of our galaxy. That's right, within the belly of the Milky Way spins a 288 billion-mile haze of alcohol mixed with ethyl formate, the substance that helps gives raspberries their flavor and rum its aroma. And this is only the stuff we already know about.
When news of the daily atrocities and politics wear my soul down to the nub, it's easy to forget that humans can, in fact, cooperate enough to build something that would blow the minds of our Founding Fathers. I hold these truths to be self-evident: that people will always be dicks to each other, but our curiosity will never be sated. And the latter forces us to work together and accomplish amazing things — to spy on our universe, to visit other worlds and (one can only hope) to find out what that celestial cocktail tastes like.