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Star Trek Mad Science

jwz
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prokopetz: Random Headcanon:

That Federation vessels in Star Trek seem to experience bizarre malfunctions with such overwhelming frequency isn't just an artefact of the television serial format. Rather, it's because the Federation as a culture are a bunch of deranged hyper-neophiles, tooling around in ships packed full of beyond-cutting-edge tech they don't really understand. Endlessly frustrating if you have to fight them, because they can pull an effectively unlimited number of bullshit space-magic countermeasures out of their arses - but they're as likely as not to give themselves a lethal five-dimensional wedgie in the process. All those rampant holograms and warp core malfunctions and accidentally-traveling-back-in-time incidents? That doesn't actually happen to anyone else; it's literally just Federation vessels that go off the rails like that. And they do so on a fairly regular basis.

Getting a link to a whole thread on Tumblr seems to be an impossibility, but these are some amusing replies:

So to everyone else in the galaxy, all humans are basically Doc Brown.

Aliens who have seen the Back to the Future movies literally don't realise that Doc Brown is meant to be funny. They're just like "yes, that is exactly what all human scientists are like in my experience".

...
Vulcan Science Academy: Why do you need another warp core

Humans: We're going to plug two of them together and see if we go twice as fast

VSA: Last time we gave you a warp core you threw it into a sun to see if the sun would go twice as fast

Humans: Hahaha yeah

Humans: It did tho

VSA: IT EXPLODED

Humans: It exploded twice as fast

...
Klingons: Okay we don't get it

Vulcan Science Academy: Get what

Klingons: You Vulcans are a bunch of stuffy prisses but you're also tougher, stronger, and smarter than Humans in every single way

Klingons: Why do you let them run your Federation

Vulcan Science Academy: Look

Vulcan Science Academy: This is a species where if you give them two warp cores they don't do experiments on one and save the other for if the first one blows up

Vulcan Science Academy: This is a species where if you give them two warp cores, they will ask for a third one, immediately plug all three into each other, punch a hole into an alternate universe where humans subscribe to an even more destructive ideological system, fight everyone in it because they're offended by that, steal their warp cores, plug those together, punch their way back here, then try to turn a nearby sun into a torus because that was what their initial scientific experiment was for and they didn't want to waste a trip.

Vulcan Science Academy: They did that last week. We have the write-up right here. it's getting published in about six hundred scientific journals across two hundred different disciplines because of how many established theories their ridiculous little expedition has just called into question. Also, they did turn that sun into a torus, and no one actually knows how.

Vulcan Science Academy: This is why we let them do whatever the hell they want.

Klingons: .... Can we be a part of your Federation

...
Let's talk about the USS Fucking Pegasus, testbed for the first Starfleet cloaking device. Here we have a handful of humans working in secret to develop a cloaking device in violation of a treaty with the Romulans. They're playing catchup trying to develop a technology other species have had for a century. And what do they do? Do they decide to duplicate a Romulan cloaking device precisely, just see if they can match what other species have? Nope. They decide, hey, while we're at it, while we're building our very first one of these things, just to find out if this is possible, let's see if we can make this thing phase us out of normal space so we can fly through planets while we're invisible.

"But why" said the one Vulcan in the room.

"Because that would fucking rule" said the Humans, high-fiving each other and slamming cans of 24th-century Red Bull.

...
Humans get mildly offended by the way they are presented in non-human media.

Like: "Guys, we totally wouldn't do that!" But this always fails to get much traction, because the authors can always say: "You totally did."

"That was ONE TIME."

There's that movie where humans invented vaccines by just testing them on people. Or the one about those two humans who invented powered flight by crashing a bunch of prototypes. Or the one about electricity.

And human historians go, "Oh, uh, this is historically accurate, but also kind of boring."

...
But when the Vulcans made first contact with Earth - "what the hell is that insane thing these aliens here have built, let's go look at it" - humans didn't look at them as an enemy or a resource or even an asset. No, the very first time humans met Vulcans, they tried to do the Vulcan hand thingy and they couldn't do it so they just offered a handshake, and then said "let's get drunk and party." THIS IS ACTUAL LITERAL CANON, REMEMBER.

Further in this vein:

I will never be over the fact that during first contact a human offered their hand to a vulcan and the vulcan was just like "wow humans are fucking wild" and took it

Note: Vulcan hand / finger touching is a sex thing.

...
My headcanon for startrek is that humans look, to vulcans, like a dog frathouse. Like signing on to a human ship is exactly that thrillingly loud and frustrating and fast and stupid and fun. The humans are going to dash off to a new sector to see if there are friends there and then they will jump up and down with delight and stuff their faces up against their new friends' genital array. The humans are going to bark for ten minutes at a rock. The humans want to chase things they can't possibly catch just because they like running around. The humans are madly passionate about their arbitrary group identities. The humans can be divided into new arbitrary group identities which they will then be passionate about. The humans want to stick their heads out of the window of their starship and go 'wheee!'. If you step on a human's paw they will act like you just killed them for about thirty seconds and then want more headpats. The humans can be immediately distracted from crucial duties by the appearance of a small animal. If you howl all the humans in earshot will howl louder just to show off. A human just humped your leg. 'Don't make it weird bro' the human says. Later the human will dig a weird bug out of the ground and eat it.

Previously, previously, previously.

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Rendin
790 days ago
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popular
791 days ago
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JayM
787 days ago
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Awesome!
Atlanta, GA
skittone
789 days ago
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I absolutely love this. It makes me proud to be human. We'll get to the Star Trek future someday, despite this year's little blip of an extinction bust. We're gonna be okay, folks.
anna_librariana
790 days ago
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lololol
Boston, MA
hansolosays
790 days ago
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ha soo good.
Norfolk, Virginia
satadru
791 days ago
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Comedy Gold-Pressed Latinum.
New York, NY

freckles42: echoboots: minervaish: booksomewench: syncreticim...

11 Comments and 15 Shares


freckles42:

echoboots:

minervaish:

booksomewench:

syncreticimage:

astrotheology:

god hates male dolphins

Fedora for bringing back bronies? ? 0_0

Save me from male freedom of speech.

I’M NOT SAYIN’, I’M JUST SAYIN

God hates White corporations. :-)

IHNJ; IJLS “Moms against white marijuana.” XD

*cries laughing* Mine’s “Moms against white Americans”

Freedom from male Wall Street.

…STOP KNOWING MY LIFE, MEMES

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Rendin
1657 days ago
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Legalization of the eating of people who aren't me.
popular
1657 days ago
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norb
1652 days ago
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Demarginalization of the endangered video games
clmbs.oh
herrmann
1654 days ago
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"God hates black dolphins". Yes, orcas can be cruel.

My wife's: "moms against male children" sounds awful.
Brazil
iaravps
1656 days ago
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The war on the endangered Africa
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
srsly
1657 days ago
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God hates cishet people who aren't me! I KNEW IT I'M THE ONLY GOOD CISHET ONE! :o
Atlanta, Georgia
rclatterbuck
1656 days ago
"Christians for the protection of male corporations." This is repugnant to me in so many ways.
christin
1656 days ago
"Fedoras for Poor Little Wall Street." Oh great, I'm a sarcastic MRA, awesome.
ridingsloth
1656 days ago
"Access to male people who aren't me".... seems a little passive aggressive
dukeofwulf
1656 days ago
"Demarginalization of the protection of racism." FINALLY, a cause we can all get behind!
brico
1656 days ago
"Blame Male Americans." sounds right.
pyrona
1656 days ago
"Legalization of the eating of children." OM NOM NOM! Watch out @WeeSirAlex!
mwclarkson
1657 days ago
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Access to unloved millennials?
Providence RI USA
grammargirl
1657 days ago
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FEDORAS FOR UNLOVED MILLENNIALS
Brooklyn, NY
RedSonja
1657 days ago
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Freedom from wealthy dolphins.
squinky
1658 days ago
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Fedoras for violence against video games and bronies.
Santa Cruz, CA
JoeTortuga
1657 days ago
Blame poor little people who aren't me.
mmunley
1657 days ago
Hmm. Christians for the Protection of Millennials
lelandpaul
1657 days ago
Save the eating of children?! 0.0
ryanbrazell
1658 days ago
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Demarginalization of white corporations. NOOOOOOOOOOOO
Richmond, VA

Is This Anti-Speeding PSA Too Real for America?

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Wow. This public safety spot from New Zealand really brings home how decisions we casually make while driving can have grave consequences.

The PSA questions the whole idea that traffic violence is somehow unavoidable, the result of fate more than human error. In the United States the notion that traffic collisions are nothing but tragic “accidents” remains baked right into the language that most people use to describe these incidents.

We were alerted to this video by Erik Griswold, who asserted that the Federal Highway Administration and the Ad Council “would never allow” such a powerful public safety message about speeding to air here in the United States.

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Rendin
1841 days ago
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1841 days ago
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DGA51
1840 days ago
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Where I live they are called "wrecks" not accidents. As in "There was a wreck." or "We wrecked." I just try to remember that all the other vehicles on the road are driven by people who are actively intent on killing me. So far, so good...
Central Pennsyltucky
jhamill
1841 days ago
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Whoa.
California
ProbablyWrong
1841 days ago
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"Other people make mistakes. Slow down."
RedSonja
1841 days ago
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Powerful.

How Capitalism Explains Why Processed Food is Bad For You

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Originally posted at The Billfold

I make a mean marinara sauce. I sauté onions, garlic and bacon (yes, bacon) for 10 minutes until they sweeten and become crisp, then add a big glass of red wine, a can of chopped tomatoes and generous pinches of salt, basil, oregano and rosemary. Then I leave the room. When I come back two hours later, the sauce is thick, sweet and almost purple. I throw in a handful of fresh basil leaves—done.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my marinara this week because I’ve been reading Michael Moss’s Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Tricked Us. Company after company, product after product, Moss shows how Big Food formulates products for maximum addictiveness and overeatability. Oreos, Cheetos, Lunchables, Wonder Bread, they’re all the same Iowa corn and Brazilian sugarcane, just liquefied, dyed and processed into different shapes and colors.

The same week I read Moss’s book cataloguing how Big Food is trying to kill us, I read David H. Freedman’s Atlantic cover story about how it’s also going to save us all. According to Freedman, big food companies—the same ones Moss accuses of nutritional euthanasia—are actually de-fatting, de-sugaring and de-salting their products one by one. McDonald’s is using whole-wheat buns, Cargill is selling a fullness-inducing tapioca starch, Stevia is fucking everywhere.

It’s a great article, and Freedman’s butchering of sacred foodie cows (Michael Pollan! Farmer’s markets! Granola!) is both essential and effective. But when it comes to his core argument, that America’s obesity problem is going to be solved by better processed food and bigger corporations, I’m not convinced. That’s not because I think it’s impossible to make a healthier Oreo or Pepsi or Lunchable—it wouldn’t actually be all that hard. Nope, corporations won’t make us healthier because capitalism makes it impossible for them to do so. Bear with me, I’ll explain.

 

1. Scale, Speed and Shelf Life

Let’s say I want to start selling my marinara, and I want to turn it into an industrial food megabrand—another Ragu, Hot Pockets, Lean Cuisine. The first thing I have to do is make it in huge batches and make each of those batches taste the same. No more willy-nilly tossing of spices, no more adding whatever veggies are in the fridge. I need to standardize every single element, from the weight of the onions to the heat under the pot.

To keep costs down, maybe I cut the simmering time in half, use salt instead of hours to make the flavors come out. Moss notes that herbs are up to 10 times more expensive than salt in industrial cooking, so that’s the first no-brainer modification.

The next problem is shelf life. Those Lunchables might look all crisp and fresh when you grab them out of the refrigerated aisle, but they sat around at room temperature for at least two months before they got there. Warehouses, wholesalers, truck beds, stockrooms, my marinara is going to need a lot of help not to go bad in all that time. That means preservatives (most of which, according to Moss, are derivatives and modifications of salt), chemicals, coloring agents to save my marinara’s magenta as it trundles across the country.

So now my sauce has been made in huge batches, jarred, shipped and shelved. It’s in the supermarket aisle. I win!

But wait. Thanks to all the preservatives and additives, my marinara tastes like an old sock. I go back to my simmering pot, add a glob of vegetable oil, a dash—OK, a deluge—of high fructose corn syrup, some thickeners and emulsifiers so it has that pasta saucey texture, and it’s ready for the store again.

Before I grew up and started cooking, I thought the pasta sauce I bought at the store was the same as the one I could make on the stove. I was just paying a bit extra so a factory worker somewhere did the chopping, seasoning and simmering for me. This is how our economy is supposed to work, right? I don’t knit my own clothes, I don’t build my own house, I don’t weld my bike together from parts. Why should food be any different?

There’s a scene in Moss’s book where he goes to a Cargill facility and they make him a slice of industrial-scale bread without any salt. The texture, the taste, the color, everything is wrong, Moss says. It tastes like a piece of tin foil.

This scene confused me. When I make bread at home, I use about half a teaspoon of salt for an entire loaf. If you cut the salt out of my homemade bread, yeah, it’s bland and a bit puffier (Alton Brown teaches us that salt counteracts the effectiveness of yeast), but it’s still bread, not some horrifying replicant.

But my bread, the one I spend the better part of a day kneading and proofing, is stale before I can eat about half of it. Wonder Bread, with 27 ingredients, half a teaspoon of sugar and 7 percent of your daily allowance of salt in every slice, lasts on the shelf for two weeks.

Processed food isn’t bad for you because the products—pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese, white bread—are inherently sweet and salty. They are bad for you because they are inherently industrial. Supermarket supply chains are long, slow and and unforgiving. Which means everything you buy at one has to be made in massive batches, perfectly standardized and capable of sitting at room temperature in a glass jar or plastic bag for months on end. If you took that kind of abuse, you’d need chemical assistance too.

 

2. Competition

My marinara sauce is now mass-produced, shelf-stable and OK-tasting. Sure, it’s got some extra salt and sugar, but it’s still one of the healthier brands on the shelves.

The only problem is, no one is buying it. Every other brand of pasta sauce at the supermarket has way more sugar and fat than my sauce, and they taste way better. To get people to switch to my sauce, I’m going to have to add even more sweeteners (sugar) and flavor enhancers (salt).

One of the most tragic sequences in Moss’s book is the story of Kraft in the early 2000s. The company, reeling with power from its huge market share in cereal (Raisin Bran), cookies (Oreos) and packaged pastas (the eponymous mac and cheese), started taking health and nutrition much more seriously. It added extra labels (alongside the miniscule USDA-mandated serving sizes, it listed nutrition facts for the whole package) and stealthily reduced the salt, sugar and fat in its most popular products. It even cut the calories in Oreos and started selling them in 100-calorie packs.

And then Hershey’s invaded. Starting in 2003, the chocolate company launched a line of S’mores cookies that were fatter and sweeter than Kraft’s newly trimmed-down Oreos. Kraft started to lose market share. It had no choice but to retaliate. And that’s how we got Banana Split Cream Oreos, Dairy Queen Blizzard Creme Oreos and Triple Double Oreos. They tasted better than normal Oreos, they had more sugar and fat and, not coincidentally, they sold better. Does Hershey’s even make cookies anymore?

The story of Kraft is one of the reasons I find Freedman’s “How Junk Food Can End Obesity” article so unconvincing. All of the major food companies—from Pepsi and General Mills right down the line to Monsanto—are publicly traded. They’re big, they’re multinational, they’re corporations. This means the only thing that matters to them is profits.

This isn’t a normative description or a moral judgment, it’s just a factual description of their corporate form. In a dilemma between earning more profit and protecting public health, profit will win.  In a dilemma between earning more profit and anything, profit will win. Again, not a judgment, just a description.

Freedman profiles the Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich, a not-fried, not-sugared, not-terrible-for-you sandwich sharing menu space with fries and sodas. With the right marketing, the right “Would you like to try” push from employees, America might just start eating it. And, Freedman argues, just might get a little slimmer, a little healthier.

That’s a nice scenario, and it might even happen, and yay if it does. But Freedman doesn’t walk us through the scenario where Wendy’s or Burger King launches a similar fish burger, one that’s fried, that’s salted and sugared, that has triple the tartar sauce. That because of all these differences (and this is the killing stroke) tastes better. What can Carl’s Jr. do except retaliate in kind?

Two years ago, the New Yorker ran a feature detailing how Pepsi (and its subsidiary, Frito-Lay) were launching a “we’re healthy now” makeover. Less sugar and salt, more vitamins and whole grains. They even hired a guy from the World Health Organization to implement his own science-backed health standards right through the soda-and-potato-chips family.

And then, like Kraft before it, Pepsi buckled. The minute U.S. sales fell to third place (after Coke and—the horror—Diet Coke), Pepsi launched an all-hands-on-deck marketing campaign to go back to selling its old sugar-water staple.

Two years after the healthy makeover, Pepsi’s CEO told shareholders, “We refocused our efforts on our key global brands and categories in our most important developed markets to drive profitable growth,” annual report-ese for, “we marketed the shit out of our unhealthiest products.” Pepsi traded the guy from the WHO for Beyonce. The stock soared.

And that’s how it goes. Processed food companies are like drug addicts, promising “next time it’ll be different, watch!’ when they’re euphoric on market share and rising stock prices. As soon as they crash back down, they’re right back to their old habits. Cheap sugar, loud marketing, bogus health claims.

This is why Moss’s book and, in a different way, Freedman’s article are so depressing. Companies aren’t evil, they’re not greedy, they’re not pernicious. They’re just companies. As Moss points out, they’re as addicted to shitty food as we are.

Freedman’s right that just because a food is “processed” doesn’t necessarily mean its bad for you. And just because something is organic or local or homemade or “natural” doesn’t mean its good for you. But I can’t help but notice that a Starbucks muffin has 500 calories and that the one I make at home has 140. Ragu, the number one pasta sauce in America, has almost nine teaspoons of sugar, more than a day’s recommended amount of salt and as much fat as a milkshake in each jar.

Freedman would probably point out that my marinara sauce is not particularly healthy (wine and bacon, after all, are just foodie forms of salt, sugar and fat) and, serving for serving, must be more expensive than $2-per-jar Ragu. He might argue that in a few years, Ragu or General Foods or Kraft will offer a pasta sauce that’s nutritionally identical to mine, and that I’d be an asshole and a snob not to buy it. And he might be right.

But for now, neither of us can escape the reality that food, like everything else we buy, is designed to be cheap to make, to last forever and to taste better than the next product down the shelf. And also like everything else, after you buy it, you’re on your own.


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Rendin
1989 days ago
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1989 days ago
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lpaulkoch
1986 days ago
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Worth reading. Gets to the heart of the matter on industrial food.
Charlottesville, Virginia
ProbablyWrong
1987 days ago
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Capitalism also gives us healthy food options -- fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, year-round, for example. Who really believes that the American diet was healthier in 1913 than in 2013? Or that the Soviet diet in 1980 was healthier than the American diet in 1980?
omouse
1987 days ago
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This is pretty interesting
Toronto, Canada
jstone13zero
1988 days ago
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It's just business.
kerray
1988 days ago
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"corporations won’t make us healthier because capitalism makes it impossible for them to do so"
Brno, CZ
bronzehedwick
1989 days ago
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Really interesting article.
Astoria NY
pfctdayelise
1989 days ago
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"This isn’t a normative description or a moral judgment, it’s just a factual description of their corporate form. In a dilemma between earning more profit and protecting public health, profit will win. In a dilemma between earning more profit and anything, profit will win."
Melbourne, Australia
samuel
1989 days ago
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"Neither of us can escape the reality that food, like everything else we buy, is designed to be cheap to make, to last forever and to taste better than the next product down the shelf. And also like everything else, after you buy it, you’re on your own."
The Haight in San Francisco