In Space, There’s No One to Hear You Sound Dumb
If you know anything about me, you know I’m a big fan of the original Star Trek Series. Not only do I own all of the original series’ episodes on DVD, but I gave my two sons the incredible opportunity to watch each exciting adventure while we ate lunches together during their home-schooling years (and people think home-schooled kids don’t get a good education!)
Ask me about Star Trek and you risk being bombarded with endless trivia and factoids you didn’t even know you wanted to learn.
You can imagine, therefore, how excited I was to learn The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland was featuring a Star Trek exhibit.
I convinced my older sister, my brother-in-law, and my wife that going to the exhibit would not only be fun, but a great chance for them to see Star Trek isn’t just some old ’60s TV show with tacky sets, but is indeed a culture-changing phenomenon based in real science.
I was sure once they dug a little deeper into the show they’d see just how complex and nuanced it was, and is.
When we arrived at OMSI, I could see the various banners and posters promoting the exhibit. I was pretty excited at the prospect of seeing an actual phaser, communicator, and perhaps even a tricorder!
As we made our way through the displays, however, I began to realize the entire expo was designed for young children. Worse than that, my family members were beginning to snicker at what was for me an obviously humiliating situation.
I noticed a short video presentation was about to begin in the building’s theater, so in the hopes the information provided therein would somehow redeem me, I suggested we find some seats, watch, and learn.
A gentleman in a white lab coat appeared at the front of the room — the lab coat obviously intended to project an air of scientist-ness — and he began showing various video clips and explaining what we were seeing.
Did I mention grade-school-level concepts? The things he was pointing out were so elementary as to put to sleep anyone with even a room-temperature IQ.
About halfway into his shtick he showed a short video of a spaceship exploding, complete with an ear-shattering “boom.”
“What is the problem with what you just saw?” he asked in what really was a rhetorical question. “The answer is, in space there would be no sound.” He continued, “Can anyone tell me why there is no sound in space?”
Have you ever heard the expression, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt?”
Since I was bored out of my mind, I wasn’t really concentrating on anything in particular, so I just sort of blurted out, “‘…’cuz there’s no air.”
Mind you, this is the correct answer, and something almost everyone knows. If that was the end of the story, I might have left OMSI knowing I impressed at least one third-grader.
Unfortunately, at the exact same time I was speaking, a young man, who probably was a third-grader, said quite loudly and in a very scientist-like voice, “Because there is no medium through which the sound waves can propagate.”
The juxtaposition of a middle-aged man offering an answer which sounded so lame against a third-grader who sounded like Einstein wasn’t lost on anyone. The room erupted in laughter and my face turned redder than a Photon Torpedo.
I left the OMSI exhibit with my tail between my legs. The good news is, though, it makes a great story at family gatherings, and also provided me fodder for another blog!