Volume 8 Number 1 -- March 1, 1993

Table of Contents

o October Launch for Space Station

oAnother Columbus Quincentenary Celebration

oScientists, Engineers Clash over Clinton tax plan

oAsk Dr. Staff

oPeanut Dogs



Please submit comments of what you like and don't like in SPRIL Newsletters! Mail comments to tjones@spril.com.

All material in this newsletter is copyright (C) Tom Jones, and may not be transmitted further than the World-Wide-Web or used for any profitable purpose whatsoever without express written permission.

October Launch for Space Station


WASHINGTON DC: Space Station Freedom is intended to do marvelous things once it is in space; to date its most impressive accomplishment has been its ability to overrun any budget while simultaneously decreasing in value.

A representative of the federal office of Graft and Overruns (GAO) stated that her office is demanding that the space station be completely reorganized (again), scaling back thr cost of the project by a full third. The $30 billion project has been cut so drastically that NASA has advanced the schedule--Freedom will now be fully operational in October 1993, rather than March 2079 as previously scheduled. In an effort to streamline the process, NASA has cancelled all existing contracts related to the station, and re-bid the entire operation to a single contractor.

Scheduled for launch October 15 from the space shuttle Discovery, Freedom will start with a crew of eight and supplies to last for six months. A subsequent shuttle mission will return in March, 1994 to check on the condition of the occupants, retrieve data, and replenish supplies.

According to the request for proposals, the prime contractor will be responsible for all aspects of the project except for the shuttle missions required to launch and check on the station. Never before in American history has a private corporation selected the crew for a space mission. The company that received the contract awarded submitted a cost package of $120,000 for the entire project. In an extremely surprising move for NASA, the contract prohibits cost overruns from being charged to the government, and requires the contract be completed on time. A NASA representative stated, "We have realized substantial cost reductions through extensive application of commercial, off-the-shelf technology."

Station Diagram
Space Station Freedom as it will appear with RATSS.

The winning bid, titled RATSS, was submitted by the Habitrail Corporation of Savannah, Georgia. In return for the $120,000, Habitrail has agreed to design and operate the experimental Rodent-operated Advanced Technology Space Station for six months, and train and supply the crew. It is rumored that the training process has been contracted to Ace Pets of Atlanta, which, according to Rodent Week in Review, is the hamster training firm all others are measured against.

The winning bid states, "By staffing the station with hamsters, we will avoid many of the traditional difficulties associated with manned space missions. Hamsters, specially bred and trained, will be able to perform most of the functions that the previous, scaled-down version of the space station was expected to provide. It's not like the station would have been very useful after being scaled back a half-dozen times."

The bid adds that hamster chow can be freeze-dried to last virtually forever, as oppsed to astronaut chow, which lasts only a few months.

"Another RATSS benefit arises from the possibility that hamster fur is a shield against space rays. Perhaps human spacesuits lined with hamster fur will protect their occupants better than current spacesuits. While this concept has never beenb considered by reputable scientists, it is a theory, and thus, it is possible.

"Since hamster generations aren't nearly as long as human generations, the effects of long-term exposure to microgravity will also be measured much more effectively for the hamsters than would be possible for humans. We will also be able to observe hamster impregnation, gestation, and birth, which would be substantially more difficult with human subjects in space. In addition, hamsters are apt to have fewer difficulties adjusting to the station's isolation from mainstream society.

RATSS will have an appearance very similar to previous Freedom designs, but on a smaller scale, It will be constructed of interlocking cylindrical modular parts, of similar design to those manufactured by Habitrail for use in their home hamster networks, but constructed of a space-age polymer ceramic, which is expected to endure the rigors of space, and protect the hamsters from radiation and cold.

GAO intends to use the $10 billion saved by slashing the space station to start a national shoelace subsidy program, which will pay American shoelace manufacturers to permanently deposit half of their annual production in underground bunkers.

Another Columbus Quincentenary Celebration


The Society of Politically Correct Anthropologists (SPCA) has announced plans to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first departure from North America. SPCA founder Professor Crusty Wilson of Ivy College stated at a press conference, "We seek not to celebrate Colon's arrival, but rather his politically correct decision to turn around and leave the next year."

The Spanish name Colon was "translated" to Columbus by English speakers when Ohio was settled. The settlers wanted to name a city after the discoverer, but did not want to also name the city after the large intestine.

The SPCA has scheduled a wide variety of events, including a trans-Atlantic canoe race, dozens of parades, and the largest kettle of Spanish rice in history. Plans originally included an inflatable gossamer Eiffel tower in space, but that idea was scrapped when SPCA officials discovered that the idea had already been unsuccessfully tried.

The SPCA has not announced any plans to celebrate Columbus' subsequent voyages to North America, the earliest of which took place later in 1493.

Fortunately, the quincentenary celebrations of Colon's arrival last year were generally unexciting. North American society is thus ripe for a rousing departure celebration this year." When a reporter pointed out that Columbus left North America on January 16, 1493, and asked why the celebration did not take place in January, Prof. Wilson responded, "It was not until last Tuesday that I came up with the idea."

Scientists, Engineers Clash Over Clinton Tax Plan


President Clinton proposed a new energy tax during his state of the union address in February. Unlike Ross Perot's proposed gasoline tax, the energy tax would be applied to all forms in which energy is sold--gas, oil, coal, electricity, and mule labor. Ross Perot's tax would have been measured in cents per gallon; Clinton proposed that his tax be measured in cents per BTU (British Thermal Unit), the unit of energy of the English measurement system (the one the English don't use anymore). The President's choice has set tempers flaring between scientists, who generally use the metric system, and engineers, who are accustomed to the English system.

A trade organization, the Bunch of Unified Cooperative Scientists (BUCS), issued a statement the day after Clinton's address. "Use of the archaic British thermal unit is a deliberate affront to the metricization of this nation, and to the scientists all over the world who use the Joule as their unit of energy. The President is looking backwards, toward non-competitiveness and ignorance, in choosing the BTU for his new tax.

Last week, the rival Drove of Engineering Specialists (DOES) held a meeting, and vigorously supported the President's BTU plan, although there was a movement among electrical engineers demanding use of the kilowatt-hour. The majority ruled, as the DOES press release stated "We wholeheartedly support Clinton's choice of the BTU for his new tax system. The British thermal unit has a very rich heritage, and, besides, is sixty times bigger than the wimpy little Joule."

Ask Dr. Staff

Dear Dr. Staff: If the universe is, for all intents and purposes, infinitely big, and stars are scattered randomly throughout it, how come the night sky isn't completely bright? It seems to me that if I drew a line from an observer out to any point in the sky, I should eventually encounter a star if I can make the line infinitely long. Every spot in the sky should be lit! --Astral Inquisitor

Dear Astral: You've found an intent and a purpose for which the universe is not infintely big. If you think of the universe as a sphere, then there's a very good chance that the earth is not at the exact center. (Besides, if it were at the center today, then by tomorrow the earth would have moved around the sun so it would no longer be at the exact center anymore.) Since the earth is closer to one edge of the universe than the other, you can see all the way to the end of the universe on the close side. This is the part of the sky that you see as dark at night&--all the dark spots where you don't see any stars are places where you are actually looking past the end of the universe. But the earth rotates every 24 hours, and during the day, your side of the earth is looking toward the far end of the universe--and there is a star every place you look, so the sky is bright. (The light comes to earth white, just like starlight at night, but the atmosphere makes it blue as I describe in the March 13, 1989 issue.) If you don't understand, think of the sun--it's just an especially close star. Stars at night only light up tiny spots in the sky; since the sun is closer, it lights up a lot more, but it still doesn't fill the whole sky. The rest of the sky is lit because of all the stars farther away between here and the edge of the universe.

If you're still having difficulty understanding, consider one of the interesting side-effects of all this. When the sun sets or rises, the stars that are lighting up the sky are those that are farthest away from earth. If you've taken a physics course, you'll know that the farther away a star is, the more red shift it has--so, instead of being white, the stars there look red. That's why the sky is somewhat red at sunrise, and very red at sunset. (It's the other way around south of the Equator.) --Astral Expert

Do you have a question or comment for Dr. Staff? Send it today!

Why you shouldn't be worried about fat in Peanut Dogs

Peanut Dog Health Graph

The United States government recommends that no more than 30% of the calories you consume be fat. The importance of this recommendation cannot be underestimated, since many Americans eat lots of ham, beef, and tallow, leading to a diet with more than 50% fat. We, the company that brings you Peanut Dogs--The Hot Dogs with the Chewy Peanut Butter Centre, are very concerned about the whole issue of fat in our products. We've had consumers ask us if they should stop eating peanut dogs which are, after all, 70% fat. We hasten to assure you, Peanut Dogs are part of a healthy diet!

Some consumers have requested that we reduce the fat in Peanut Dogs, suggesting that we replace cholesterol with synthetic dietary fat (Simplesse) or synthetic fossil distillate extract (Mobil 1). Our research department, Peanut Dogs Laboratories, has determined that these ingredients are unsuitable for use in Peanut Dogs, because they simply do not provide the smooth mouthfeel that our customers have grown to expect when they bite into one of our Peanut Dogs.

Peanut Dogs Labs has conducted a thorough scientific study on the consumption of Peanut Dogs as part of a healthy diet. The results are shown in the scientific graph above, proving scientifically that you can still fall within the government's dietary fat recommendation, as long as you simply drink a cup of honey with every meal.

Each cup of honey contains 1040 calories. You can choose clover honey, wildflower honey, or any other type of honey that suits your fancy. If you now eat a typical American diet (including Peanut Dogs) with 2500 calories, of which 50% are derived from fat, you are well within the Premature Death Zone shown above. On the other hand, if you were to supplement your diet with three delicious fat-free cups of honey a day, your caloric intake is boosted to a modest 5620 calories, of which a paltry 22% are fat, right in the middle of the Happy and Healthy Zone. When you drink a cup of honey at every meal, you can enjoy all the ham, beef, tallow, and Peanut Dogs you want, and still follow the government's fat recommendation!

Peanut Dogs Logo

Peanut Dogs--as Healthy as they are Tasty!

In these recessionary times, there are few things as important to a manager as saving money. One of those things is saving his job.
If your department has been assigned a difficult and thankless project, IncompeTemps has the perfect solution: BumSquad (TM)
For extremely low prices, we will send you a group of idiots, experts at looking busy. They wander around the office, engage in technobabble discussions, and bang on the equipment.
Your supervisor thinks they're getting something done.
The project is under budget.
By the time the boss figures out that nothing has been done, you've already been promoted.
Thanks to the BumSquad.

IncompeTemps--Where nothing is more important than being Cheap.

SPRIL Homepage Dr. Staff's Greatest Hits Tom Jones' Homepage Questions & Comments