2010: The Year We Find Weird Microbes In A Lake

02 Dec

You see, NASA, I just don’t think you’re really understanding the rest of us non-rocket scientists, or what we would naturally expect out of you when you announce a press conference and say that it’s so you can “discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.”

You see, NASA, all we heard was “extraterrestrial life.” 

That’s it.  You’re NASA, and you said “extraterrestrial life.”  You folks are lucky we didn’t go full-blown, end-of-the-world bonkers on you, burn every city on Earth to the ground before your 2pm press conference even got started. 

We were thinking, all right now, you’ve been finding planets with atmospheres right and left, suddenly everywhere you can point a camera you’re finding water, so we figured this was coming. 

You got aliens, don’t you, NASA?  That’s what we were thinking, you know.  You either got aliens and you’re going to bring them out in little sparkly unitards at the press conference, or you’ve got some of them on the phone or on Skype maybe, from some other planet. 

No.  That’s not it, you said.  It’s even better.  We found some tiny little microscopic organisms and get this – they thrive on arsenic!

Well, that’s definitely pretty bitchin’, I had to agree.  Where’d you find those crazy critters, NASA?  Mars?  You found them with your little Martian car, didn’t you?  Or were they on that one moon of Jupiter that was in 2010: The Year We Make Contact? 

Which planet did you find ’em on, fellas?  It wasn’t Uranus was it?  When are you guys going to get around to changing that name, anyway? 

Then you seemed sort of defensive, didn’t you, NASA? 

You said, no, we found them in a lake, in California.  But it was a crazy poison lake, just like some other weeeeeiiiirrrrddd planet might be like.  And the fact that there were microscopic organisms in it, eating arsenic sandwiches, means that we can now…

Hold on, NASA, I’m just going to stop you there.  You said that you found a weird bacteria in California?  Okay, so how weird? 

Ah, I know.  They must be alien bacteria, right?  I’ll bet they crashed here a thousand years ago, and altered the whole lake to be like their own homeworld, and slowly climbed the evolutionary ladder ever since, and probably there are some cows and chickens missing, from the local farms around the mysterious lake, and only a clever teenager and his faithful, plucky dog have a chance to save us from…

No.  No, Tom, NASA tells me, that’s not it either.  They’re not alien – it’s just that they kind of like, could be

Wait a minute, what?

Well, you know.  We found a sort of organism that we didn’t know was possible.  So now, the areas where we can look for life have been expanded to –

To what, NASA?  Poisonous arsenic lakes on other planets?  Is that what we can now momentously expand our search to?



You see, NASA goes on, we were always looking for a specific type of environment, in terms of searching for extraterrestrial life.  We had to work with the type of life which we knew for sure was possible, and this, well this just blows that whole notion out of the water!


It’s very exciting, Tom.

Are you freaking kidding me, NASA?

No, seriously, Tom, it’s really cool.

I have no doubt that the microscopic life form you found in California is super cool, NASA.  It’s just that you’re NASA.   Usually when someone tells me about a new bacteria or a tasty new lizard or whatever, that they found right here on Earth, that person is a biologist or a zoologist.  Maybe a microbiologist, in this case.

We have those kinds of guys at NASA.

For crying out loud.  I’m going to be really honest with you, dude.  I’ve been spending a lot of time the last few years getting excited about your trillion dollar remote control dune buggy on Mars – the second one, that is, not the first trillion dollar dune buggy, which if I’m not mistaken you lost, yes?

Yeah, but that was totally not our fault.

I know, NASA.  Mars is far away.  But lots of people are talking about how maybe since the global economy is in tatters, maybe we could trim several trillion dollars off our domestic budget by concentrating on matters that are right here-

Yeah, NASA says, but these are right here!

Right here, yes, NASA, I know.  But they were microbes, not trillion dollar bills, correct?


You don’t need to pout, you’re the one made your bed, when you built up your press conference like it was from 2010 or something.  Something’s about to happen – something wonderful!  Well, wonderful in microbiological terms.

You know what we call that in layman’s terms?  We don’t call it anything, we just stand there blinking at it like a rock or a turd or something.  Did you guys notice how when you were in Rocket Science School all that time, the rest of us weren’t with you?

Don’t get me wrong, now – I’m all for you.  I love it when you crash things into the Moon just to see what kind of crap flies into space, or when you land little cameras on comets, or of course when you drive little dune buggies around on Mars.  I think you’re cool, and I even think your microbes are cool.

It’s just that nobody knows what the hell you’re talking about, NASA.  I mean, the first thing you had to explain to us was that this microbe was unheard of, and then you told us it’s heard of now.  It’s hard to get shocked by something which someone had to explain to you was shocking.

You know what would have been more shocking?  Well, practically anything. 

You’re not doing yourself any favors with the melodrama.  People don’t like it when they’re expecting giant, shapeshifting robots or something, and they get weird, California microbes.  It’s not a Trillion Dollar Budget kind of thing to triumphantly wave around, you know?  People start thinking, maybe these guys have too much money to screw around with, too much time. 

Get some perspective.  It’s hard enough to continually justify your budget to my skeptical fellow citizens when you got astronauts driving around in diapers and trillion dollar dune buggies stuck in the sand on Mars.  Screwing with our heads in this manner doesn’t help, and from now on, I’d like you to please cut it out.

The next time all of your rocket scientist buddies get all excited about something, try running down to the nearest bar or White Castle or bowling alley, and tell the first ten people you see what you’re excited about.  If any of them know what you are talking about and get just as excited, then go ahead and call the press conference.

If they all just blink at you, then there’s a good chance we’re not going to care.  Save yourself some time and energy and embarassment – knock out a nice scientific paper about it and call it a day.


Posted by on December 2, 2010 in Future Tom Grab Bag, News/Commentary


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6 responses to “2010: The Year We Find Weird Microbes In A Lake

  1. Kimberly Kinrade

    December 2, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    LMAO I saw an article on this earlier today and my first thought was something similar to the lake and cows and the boy with the dog saving us all. It would make a great sci fi premise. Arsenic Microorganism that kills all life it touches and recreates its environment slowly.

    Hey, I’m in California. So this is VERY exciting. Well, it would be if we didn’t have much stranger, alien-like creatures roaming the streets of LA on a daily basis!

  2. sparrow1969

    December 3, 2010 at 3:20 am

    LOL! Tom, you crack me up…

    NASA could have just sent out a press release. This was not embargo worthy…there’s just no good reason that they needed a pre-announcement announcement for this. These cheap publicity stunts have got to stop or people are just going to ignore them by the time they really do have something worthy of keep under wraps while they keep people guessing.

    Silly, silly NASA…

  3. Chip

    December 17, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Just read this – FUNNY! and exactly what I thought. Well, not exactly, but I thought it was pretty anticlimactic.


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