Why we need better science education

Some better science education could have entirely avoided this ridiculous situation:

Florida country radio morning-show hosts Val St. John and Scott Fish are currently serving indefinite suspensions and possibly worse over a successful April Fools’ Day prank. They told their listeners that “dihydrogen monoxide” was coming out of the taps throughout the Fort Myers area. Dihydrogen monoxide is water.

The popular deejays are mainly in all this trouble (potentially of a felony level) because their listeners panicked so much — about the molecular makeup of their drinking water, however unwittingly — that Lee County utility officials had to issue a county-wide statement calming the fears of chemistry challenged Floridians…

Every break we have we’re telling listeners it was a goof, a bad joke,” Tony Renda, general manager at WWGR radio told WTSP-TV. And apparently, the station, the water works, and perhaps the authorities are still trying to figure out if the two hosts could face felony charges for, again, reporting that the scientific name of water was coming out of the pipes. “My understanding is it is a felony to call in a false water quality issue,” Diane Holm, a public information officer for Lee County, told WTSP, while Renda stood firm about his deejays: “They will have to deal with the circumstances.”

Yes, and the rest of us will have to deal with the consequences of a scientifically illiterate society.

Water on the Moon

NASA discovered there is plenty of water on the moon.

Experts have long suspected there was water on the moon. So the thrilling discovery announced Friday sent a ripple of hope for a future astronaut outpost in a place that has always seemed barren and inhospitable.

“We found water. And we didn’t find just a little bit. We found a significant amount,” Anthony Colaprete, lead scientist for the mission, told reporters as he held up a white water bucket for emphasis.

He said the 25 gallons of water the lunar crash kicked up was only what scientists could see from the plumes of the impact.

This is equivalent to roughly a bathtub’s worth of water from this double-impact.

One part of me wants to endlessly speculate at the possibility of microbial life. But all reason and rationality tell me to be cautious. Water does not automatically mean life (especially when its frozen).

…but what if it does mean life, at least in this case? Would the world realize the utter significance of this discovery? Not since Darwin described evolution by natural selection has there been such an important find.

Water may be more recent on Mars than previously thought

For anyone wondering, it’s pretty conclusive that Mars once had water on it. Here we have a new sign that ancient Mars was wet more recently.

“This is an exciting discovery because it extends the time range for liquid water on Mars, and the places where it might have supported life,” said CRISM principal investigator Scott Murchie of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. “The identification of opaline silica tells us that water may have existed as recently as 2 billion years ago.”

Notice that this extends the range of time that Mars is thought to have harbored liquid water – in other words, the point isn’t to show confirmation of water in the history of Mars. That’s been known for quite some time, despite public perceptions.

“What’s important is that the longer liquid water existed on Mars, the longer the window during which Mars may have supported life,” Milliken said. “The opaline silica deposits would be good places to explore to assess the potential for habitability on Mars, especially in these younger terrains.”