It’s so nice of the space robots to fit themselves to my schedule

It’s Wednesday. That means from 9-11 I’ll be in my office, doing some light grading and prepping for today’s lecture, and 11-12 are my official office hours, in which students will stop by and tell me things. And at about 10:30 my time, the Rosetta spacecraft will be bolting itself to Comet 67P, which we’ll know about once electromagnetic waves have taken their own sweet time to cross the solar system about a half hour later. That works for me. I’ll pencil “Rosetta” in for 11ish. I’ll make tea.

I’ll pull up the ESA live webcast and have that running while I’m taking care of other business. This is certainly a civilized way to go about exploring the universe!

I just noticed that Philae is now on the comet, securely anchored to the surface. I’ve also discovered that, my God, watching engineers is the most boring activity on the planet. The entire live feed consisted of bored-looking people staring at consoles, trying to look intelligent while doing pretty much nothing at all, and then everyone erupts into cheers when they get the right beep.

Sticking to biology now. I’ll look forward to learning about the data, but otherwise…yeesh.

What they should have done is turned the camera away from the tedious engineers (and especially the one in the tastelessly tacky and grossly offensive shirt), and focused on the images coming in from the device.


  1. Athywren; Kitty Wrangler says

    There’s an important question in all of this that nobody has even considered!!

    How long until we can have interplanetary snowball fights?

  2. Becca Stareyes says

    I’m teaching at 8 Pacific. Sadly, the students are worried enough about the test that I can’t take more than a minute to acknowledge Rosetta and Philae

  3. consciousness razor says

    I’ll pull up the ESA live webcast and have that running while I’m taking care of other business. This is certainly a civilized way to go about exploring the universe!

    They should’ve made it tea time in my time zone. And I’ll surely be out of coffee by then. This is unacceptable.

  4. anym says

    There was a delightful moment this morning when a British scientist had his few moments of fame of the webcast whilst dressed in a shirt that appeared to be decorated with soft-core comic book imagery of scantily clad ladies.

    I’m all for a relaxed dress code, but it does seem like someone might have suggested he change his top before getting in front of the camera…

  5. chimera says

    Watching the live. They said in 4 more minutes. Hasn’t happened and more than 4 have gone by. People milling around, checking screens. Looking calm, expectant.

  6. says

    Men ruin everything, including the first human-directed remote landing on a comet. Just couldn’t hold the sexism back for your big moment when the entire world would be watching, could you dude? I’m sure all the little girls who were watching the landing really came away feeling like science is welcoming and stuff.

    And people wonder why there aren’t more women in STEM.

  7. pHred says

    How in dog’s name would anyone think that shirt was appropriate in front of a camera ? Or at work ? Or pretty much anywhere you are supposed to be presenting yourself as a professional? I am flabbergasted.

  8. Saad says

    The pictures put up so far as astounding. You get such an eerie feeling seeing them. That’s happening over 300 million miles away. Damn, science is awesome!

  9. opposablethumbs says

    Landing on a comet is in no way less wonderful; the idiot wearing that shirt is the one who fucked up, not the people pointing it out.

    This was always going to be a massively televised, massively viewed occasion – no-one involved could be unaware of that – and somebody who doesn’t realise how inappropriately they are behaving and how shoddily they are representing their colleagues and their institution to the world needs to learn better. They have a job to do in terms of addressing the public too, in addition to the job they’re doing in engineering and science. They are addressing the public, they are addressing schoolgirls and students everywhere … so yes, Sally is right: well done, dude, way to throw in a bit of objectification of women, a bit of disparaging sexist crap, at an important moment with a world-wide audience.

  10. anym says

    #12 PB

    Sally, get your priorities right.
    Landing on a comet trumps fashion faux pas.

    Only it isn’t just a fashion faux pas, is it? Everyone the guy works with, everyone who dealt with the webcast production, they all either though “yeah, that’s just fine”, or felt they couldn’t say anything at all. I’m sure someone could have leant him a jacket or top for the occasion. And yet.

  11. chimera says

    Bad shirt, yeah. But really incredible landing and moment in history! Can’t wait to read about it!

  12. says

    Fucking bite me, PB PB. I got your priorities right here. Yeah, broadcasting your contempt for women in any role except that of boner-popper during one of the coolest things to happen in space science this decade is just a fashion faux pas. Like wearing white after labor day. Fuck you.

  13. Tapetum says

    As if the shitty, suggestive shirt weren’t enough, he went to to describe the Rosetta mission as “Sexy, but not easy”. No way any woman could ever reasonably be put off by that. Perfectly innocent, and a fine environment for women to work in, I’m sure.


  14. consciousness razor says

    PB PB

    I would think that if you wanted to express “dumber than lead” succinctly, you’d go with PB^2 or PB+ or something like that.

  15. rq says

    Which livestream were you all watching?? I saw nothing of the infamous shirt (or else missed it completely), and didn’t see any bored-looking engineers but a set of very worried and often downright anxious looking set of people counting down the seconds for a successful signal.
    (I think I used the same link as richardelguru, which seems to be the specific Rosetta project livestream rather than the ESA link. I saw a picture of the shirt, though – and I am ever so glad that did not pass before my eyes during this amazing event. Seriously bad PR handling there, and… honestly? Bad, bad personal choice on Taylor’s part. I bet he’s one of those who thinks women just don’t have what it takes.)

  16. rq says

    Congratulations to the team who got Philae there, though – great piece of work (mind-boggling to think what went into the tech, the calculations, etc.), and those images are well worth the years-long wait!

  17. anym says

    #34, rq

    Which livestream were you all watching??

    One that was going on at 9am-ish, UTC? It was for the separation of the lander. You’d have to have been pretty keen to be up and watching it live, if you were west of the atlantic!

  18. rq says

    No, I got everything at a decent hour, being actually an hour ahead of the landing. ;) I did a lot of sporadic watching, though, due to various household duties and work.
    So I never saw the shirt, which means either the kids distracted me at just the right moment(s), or they didn’t show it at all. Either way, I’m glad I missed it. *shudder*

  19. says

    Oh gods. I saw a still of that guy in his sexist shirt earlier, but the video is worse. Ew. What made him think that was appropriate clothing at all, let alone in a workplace, let alone on camera? I wonder if someone did say something to him but he blew them off?

    (@rq if you want your day ruined too, you can see it at the link anym posted above @#7)

  20. John Horstman says

    @SallyStrange #9: I second this sentiment.

    Is getting banned from Pharyngula some kind of initiation rite for one of the MRA cesspools? The Slymepit?

  21. C Sue says

    As an engineer who spends a lot of time boringly staring at consoles, I gotta tell you, there is NOTHING more satisfying than getting the right beep. :> Wrong beeps make us scream.

    Oh, and fuck you, sexist trolls; if any of you wore that shirt in my workplace, you’d never be employed again. Yes, there are ways of making that happen. Heyo!

  22. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    didn’t see any bored-looking engineers but a set of very worried and often downright anxious looking set of people


  23. catlover says

    Landing a spacecraft on a comet is mind-boggling! Stunning! Astounding!! Just imagine aiming at a target this is 300 million miles away and is only 2-1.2 miles wide!! What an incredible achievement!!

    It is awesome what we humans can do when we work together to do something worthwhile. That gives me hope — which I really need these days.

    (And I did not see The Shirt — whew! PZ — Thank you for banning that troll.)

    Hooray for the ESA!!

  24. birgerjohansson says

    I look forward to the day we can have probes with “strong” AI, so they can comment their journey themselves, preferably with the odd, flat voice of HAL9000. That way we avoid commentary by ignorant journalists as well as asshat engineers.
    “I am afraid I cannot do that, Dave”