Cosmic Debris

Anti-Matter, Cosmic Rays and Drunken Fruitflies

By the end of this commentary, you'll know how the Fantastic Four super heroes got their powers and the best way to get a fruit fly drunk, but first another little matter, or rather anti-matter...

In describing a space shuttle experiment to measure anti-matter, a newspaper article stated: "If scientists are able to locate anti-matter particles, it could help explain why researchers cannot find about 90 percent of the mass of the universe."

Were you even aware that 90 percent of the mass of the universe was missing in action?

I didn't. But now that I do, it explains what happened to Amelia Earhart, all of those single socks that disappeared in the wash and at least 90 percent of your tax money.

Apparently, the missing bulk of the universe is comprised of this non-substance called "anti-matter." As we all know from watching Star Trek (where anti-matter was first discovered), when matter and anti-matter converge, there is a cataclysmic explosion which rocks the various Star Trek sets to the point of collapse, causing a myriad of lights in the Enterprise to flicker on and off. It also typically prompts an incredible display of overacting by William Shatner, a.k.a., Captain James T. Kirk.

As I recall, on at least one episode Spock theorized that the convergence of even one particle of matter and anti-matter could annihilate the whole universe.

Of course, that is nothing more than science fiction, except maybe to the 18 billion Star Trek fans throughout the galaxy. Real modern-day researchers have determined that when anti-matter and matter converge, the anti-matter alone is destroyed without a trace.

How they have determined this is a mystery since anti-matter doesn't seem to have a trace to begin with. It can be neither seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched or marketed in any way, even by Disney.

I suppose the true story behind this matter, anti-matter business is that the scientists all got together at their annual convention to determine how they were going to get umpteen billion dollars in grants. They really needed something that they could dump a whole lot of money into; something that they could be assured of never finding the answer to but be able to make up enough information about to assure renewal of those grants for perpetuity.

"What if we say that half of the universe is made up of something we're unable to measure?" one asked. "Then we have to find some way to measure it."

Seemed like a good idea to the rest, except they figured it might sound more threatening if 90 percent of the universe were comprised of this non-stuff. As we all know, money flows more freely when there is an element of threat involved, like with AIDS, asteroids or when Three-Finger Louie says, "If ya don't gimme that C-note ya owe da boss, I'm gonna break your face."

I have my own theory. Anti-matter is exactly what it sounds like. Nothing. As we all know, space is mostly made of nothing. Even when you account for stars, planets, moons, comets, black holes, asteroids and hemorrhoids, the universe is still probably 99.9999999 percent nothing, or anti-matter, as the scientists decided to call it. This anti-matter is destroyed when it comes into contact with matter because when something like Earth comes into contact with nothing, it becomes nothing but Earth. The nothing that was occupying that spot in the universe is now something, thus the anti-matter was destroyed by the matter.

Speaking of nothing, there also apparently exists in the universe something called cosmic rays. These are supposedly harmless high energy particles that, according to another newspaper article, "zip through planets and even people," except maybe Mike Tyson.

However, while watching "The Fantastic Four" on TV with my son one day, it was explained that these supposedly harmless cosmic rays, when combined with some other space phenomenon, were responsible for mutating these four humans into a human torch, an elastic man, a guy who looks like a pile of rocks and a a woman who, for better or worse, can be heard but not seen if she so chooses.

Though the same type of researchers who can't find 90 percent of the mass of the universe say that these cosmic rays are harmless except in kiddie cartoons, the article states: "...their passage is not noticeable, although some studies have suggested that cosmic rays may break chromosomes and cause mutations."

Hmmmmmm.

Speaking of mutations, there is another article in the same paper about man's favorite beast when it comes to creating mutations: fruit flies. San Francisco researchers report that by fooling around with fruit fly chromosomes, they've managed to find a "genetic defect" which makes fruit flies unable to hold their liquor.

Dubbing the defect "cheapdate," the researchers found that the affected fruit flies needed 30 percent less alcohol consumption to become "hyperactive, uncoordinated, disoriented and ultimately unconscious." Not reported was that the scientists also observed how the genetically defective male fruit flies were more apt to dance with the female fruit flies, who often have to dance with each other because the non-defective males are too busy standing around talking about sports, cars, female fruit flies and fruit.

In case you're wondering how scientists got fruit flies drunk when they'd surely drown in even a teeny, tiny shot glass of Jose Cuevo, it was done with a device called an "inebriometer," which is a four-foot high glass dome pumped full of alcohol fumes (now avaialbe in fraternity houses nationwide).

The scientists not only discovered the cheapdate gene, but also a drug to control it. No doubt the whiskey and beer lobby is already gearing up for a campaign to "enrich" milk with this anti-cheapdate drug so that there won't be any cheapdate humans around getting drunk on one-third less of their products.

So once again we see how our quality of life is constantly being improved through tireless efforts of the scientific community, even though they managed to misplace 90 percent of the universe.