Bad news continues to mount for administration

By Sean Carroll | February 14, 2006 11:50 am

GREENBELT, Maryland (AP) — Bad news continued to accumulate for the Bush administration today, when senior government officials revealed that someday the Sun will go out and the world will end. Despite attempts to classify this sensitive information, whistleblowers at NASA confirm that our planet’s star does, indeed, have only a finite amount of hydrogen with which to produce energy via nuclear fusion.

Evidence of this scandal came to light only slowly, after investigation of comet dust around a white dwarf star far from our solar system.

“We are seeing the ghost of a star that was once a lot like our sun,” said Marc Kuchner of the Goddard Space Flight Center. In a statement that was edited out of the final news release he went on to say, “I cringed when I saw the data because it probably reflects the grim but very distant future of our own planets and solar system.”

This alarming prognosis was quickly suppressed by officials. Senior sources insist that, in a post-9/11 climate, it is the government’s duty to reassure the public of the stability and security of heavenly objects.

An e-mail message from Erica Hupp at NASA headquarters to the authors of the original release at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said, “NASA is not in the habit of frightening the public with doom and gloom scenarios.”

The Bush administration and its allies in Congress have recently been buffetted by a series of setbacks, including the absence of WMD’s in Iraq, the continuing failure to capture Osama bin Laden, a ballooning budget deficit, increasing anti-Americanism abroad, corruption scandals that have forced Tom DeLay to step down as House Majority Leader, an unworkable Medicare prescription-drug plan, fallout from the disastrously inept response to hurricane Katrina, continuing investigations into the outing of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame Wilson, and Vice-President Cheney’s habit of shooting his friends in the face with a shotgun. These troubles were recently compounded by revelations that NASA had been moving to expunge any mention of troublesome scientific facts from its public presentations. Officials insisted that political considerations played no role in the dying-Sun scandal.

Dean Acosta, NASA’s deputy assistant administrator for public affairs, said the editing of Dr. Kuchner’s comments was part of the normal “give and take” involved in producing a press release. “There was not one political person involved at all,” he said.

A high-ranking White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, insisted that the finite nature of the Sun’s fuel had first become known during the Clinton administration, although apparently no action had been taken to deal with the problem.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Science and the Media
  • Uncle Al

    NASA deals in process not product. Let’s discuss a proximate clobbering time.

    Asteroid 99942 Apophis (2004 MN4) is about 320 meters in diameter, masses 4.6×10^10 kg, and enjoys a 323.587 day solar orbit. It sprints past Earth on select Friday the 13ths and will deliver 1480 megatons from 12.59 km/sec (mv^2)/2 impact if it cuts things too close.

    On 13 Friday 2029 Apophis will drift by within 22,500 miles of Earth’s surface.

    Skimming the Earth (and honking the moon on exit) will wildly skew Apophis’ orbit by about 28 degrees. Tides raised in Apophis by Earth’s divergent gravitation could lengthen its 30-hour “day” by as much as 27 hours, or shorten it. The Yarkovsky effect impresses force upon a body by momentum from absorbed solar photons during its “day” re-radiated as thermal photons during its “night.” Diurnal heating and cooling cause large cumulative secular effects in the orbits of spinning small bodies. 2036 hit or miss is a wild card.

    A 22,600 mile miss in 2029 is (un)comfortably close to the 22,300 mile altitude of geosynchronous satellites. NASA (or more realistically the European Space Agency, Russia, or China) should hustle their fat stupid butts. Stick on some radio beacons, take close-in pictures, and grab samples.

    Within Apophis’ range of possible fly-by distances quietly simmer gravitational keyholes some 2000 feet across. Keyholes allow major orbital changes from tiny changes in approach. We want local command and control lest Malibu become Barringer Crater II. Move that a bit eastward to deliver 1480 megatons to belligerents of whom we are grown weary. Asymmetric warfare can be asymmetric in both directions.

  • Wolfgang

    This is clearly a 1st amendment issue.
    The worshippers of Ra do not appreciate NASA interfering with their religion.

  • Dumb Biologist

    This would be a knee-slapper if it weren’t such a plausible headline…

  • Elliot

    So does this mean at the next State of the Union, Bush will accuse us of being addicted to sunlight?

  • Bruce

    Not much point nowq in researching solar energy alternatives, is there? Sounds like another limited resource.

  • anonymous


  • spyder

    we are just waiting for a whistleblower to release some memos and emails documenting the orders from the White House that demand that NASA add the term “possible” to every statement about this issue. The appointed reviewer will reveal that the intelligent designer would never allow the sun to go out, but rather selectively choose only special people to know this secret.

  • John G

    Now now people, be nice, they are after all working on raising your allowance for HEP chores.

  • anonymous

    John: “they” are not giving you the money. Its the americans who are giving it to you. Despite all the american talk about democracy, I guess it will still take a millenium or two for it to really sink into americans.

  • John G

    Since I don’t do HEP chores, technically nobody is giving me personally any of the money. “They” are the representatives of us Americans so “they” certainly play a huge part in the process. You sound kind of Republican which is fine with me since I’m registered as one myself.

  • Dumb Biologist

    Well, there was some commentary earlier (I won’t name names, as I don’t claim to represent others others by paraphrasing in a separate thread) to the effect that biting the hand that feeds you isn’t the best strategy for getting your next meal (however much the hand may deserve it).

    It’s certainly a sensible recommendation, if indeed that’s what it was, but it seems the people running the show already harbor a considerable amount of contempt for academia, as overrun as it is with nihilistic liberals steeped in their own bias, who they feel (not entirely without justification, at least in some circumstances) are equally contemptuous of conservatives.

    This is not in any way to denigrate Dr. Carroll’s rather brilliant satire, but I kind of doubt the subjects really can be bothered to read what “left-wing academics” think of them. I suspect this mild persecution complex is at least part of what allows them to function as the mounting reality of their incompetence sinks in.

  • chimpanzee

    I’ve always termed this Administration “The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight”, with all of its Foulups, Screwups, Messups by the cast of idiots/fools/morons.

    “Who would have thought, that this would have turned into ‘The 3 Stooges Movie’..”
    — Jimmy Kimmel, ABC comedy show host
    [ talking about the Saddam Hussein trial in Baghdad, people showing up in underwear & “take that hammer & hit it on your head” ]

    I was writing this post, & J. Kimmel was joking about Cheney & Saddam Hussein trial. Funny thing..there are 2 “The 3 Stooges Movie” on opposite sides of the world: US administration & it’s Kangaroo-trial for Hussein.

    There aren’t Hollywood writers who can dream up scripts like this: “Sometimes Truth is Stranger than Fiction/TV [ Art imitating Life ]”

    Maybe that Novel about bungling Mafia is a dead-on parody of BushCo:

    As fresh and outrageously entertaining as when it first drew America’s attention to the comic underbelly of New York City’s criminal underworld, Jimmy Breslin’s bestselling first novel focuses on a Mafia turf war (its focus, in turn, is a Brooklyn bicycle race) and introduces the most hilariously unsavory cast of characters that ever tossed a guy into Sheepshead Bay with a jukebox around his neck.
    — The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight: A Novel by Jimmy Breslin

    Not surprisingly, another blog has picked up on “The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight”.

    Another blog has found another factoid related to the incident, “beer drunkedness”:

    Alert reader StickDog at DU caught this tidbit. When first posted, NBC news quoted Katharine Armstrong as saying:

    “There may be a beer or two in there,” she said, “but remember not everyone in the party was shooting.”.

    About an hour later, the quote was deleted from the story.

    The original text was captured by Google and you can see it here.

    BushCo still has major clout as they managed to remove even this small mention of alcohol.

    It begins to make sense that Cheney refused to speak with a deputy until later Sunday morning, if there was a danger of the deputy would smell beer or notice Cheney was obviously drunk.

    Update: DU’s detectives come through again with a screen shot of the actual story before it was scrubbed. This Shotgun-gate gets worse & worse!! SWI: “Shooting while Intoxicated”. I also heard it was illegal, a permit wasn’t accrued..Cheney sheepishly sent in a $7 payment afterwards.


    How many dim-witted cabinet officials does it take to change a light-bulb?
    How many beers does it take before the VP shoots someone in his own party?

    “You’re never sure how many beers you had the previous night”
    — Heineken Uncertainty Principle
    [ this actually belongs under the other thread, “Bad Physics Jokes” ]

  • Urbano

    Probably they knew that as far as Reagan administration, what would explain Star Wars defense program… Rumours now say that Bush will bomb the Sun to avoid this possible catastrophe!!

  • John G

    Well (as Ronnie would say)… so far the Cowboy Dynasty started by Reagan-Bush is outshooting the Confederate Dynasty started by Clinton-Gore by 20 to 8. Kerry unsuccessfully tried to bring back Camelot but at least Arnie and Wife did a little of that on the left coast if not the left ideologically.


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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