Thursday, June 21, 2007

What goes up

Math is all about patterns. For some reason much of today's news centered around space, gravity, and humanity's inability to control them.

In space since June 8th, the shuttle Atlantis crew of seven has been busy: they installed a new truss segment on the International Space Station with a double-winged solar array, repaired a tear in the shuttle's heat shield, and restarted a critical computer system. But getting back to earth may be the toughest part of all. Even assuming the insulation blanket repair job was a success, bad weather may delay their return, pitting them in a race against time before the shuttle batteries exhaust their hydrogen fuel.

I hope their return to Earth is more successful than the Columbia, South Carolina couple whose rooftop love-making was rudely interrupted by gravity as they plunged stark naked 50 feet to their death. In another bizarre rooftop story, a West Philadelphia man was found dead at 49th and Spruce after an all night party. Across the pond, reports of suicide attempts jumped when artist Antony Gormley placed 31 life-sized replicas of his own naked body on central London rooftops.

Meanwhile, United Airlines passengers couldn't even get up in the air yesterday, as the airline's computers crashed and were unable to calculate weight and balance, an FAA requirement for flight. Pilots who fly small planes will tell you the three most useless things in the world are runway behind you, altitude above you, and fuel still in the truck. At least the United Airlines passengers did not have any of those worries. But passengers on an incoming trans-Atlantic Continental Airlines flight did have to cope with overflowing sewage. Now that’s an immigration problem! Not even the stock market could stay in the air: the Dow lost 146 points yesterday.

But staying on the ground may be no safer. New lava flows on Mt. Kilauea began oozing - that's the technical word the scientists used, they might have borrowed it from the Continental Airlines PR department - after hundreds of small earthquakes last Sunday.

I’m hoping this is one pattern that won’t last and maybe things will stay put a little better than they did yesterday.

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