Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Philae Lander and philander: on comets and contraception

Philae Lander and Philander are two different words/phrases which sounds similar. Philae Lander is a robotic lander that touched down on a comet:
Philae (/ˈfaɪli/[5] or /ˈfiːleɪ/[6]) is a robotic European Space Agency lander that accompanied the Rosetta spacecraft[7] until its designated landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P), more than ten years after departing Earth.[8][9][10] On 12 November 2014, the lander achieved the first-ever controlled touchdown on a comet nucleus.[11][12] Its instruments obtained the first images from a comet's surface.[13] Philae is tracked and operated from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) at Darmstadt, Germany.[14] Several of the instruments on Philae made the first in situ analysis of a comet sending back data that will be analysed to determine the composition of the surface.[15] The lander is named after the Philae obelisk bearing a bilingual inscription used along with the Rosetta Stone to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. (Wikipedia: Philae (Spacecraft))
 To philander, on the other hand, is "to have casual or illicit sex with a woman or with many women; especially: to be sexually unfaithful to one's wife." (Merriam Webster)

If we think of a liken a woman's egg to a comet, then the Philae Lander would be like a sperm.  Sperms are designed to sense an egg, swim to it, and land on it, and in doing so, the egg becomes fertilized and a new human being with its own unique DNA is formed.  Similarly, the Philae Lander was designed to land on the Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  To do this, scientists have to determine the comet's course beforehand and from this find the right time to launch the spacecraft and the lander in order to reach the comet after ten years.  A single mistake in the computations or in engineering would mean that the lander would fail in its mission.

Unlike a Philae Lander, a Philanderer's mission is not to impregnate a woman by making his sperms (spacecraft) avoid reaching the ovum (comet).  And to do this, he employs all the tricks that contraceptive science can offer--withdrawal, condoms, spermicides, pills, etc:
  • Withdrawal is like launching the spacecraft not upward but downward to the ground. 
  • Male condoms are like the earth's gravitational field: the spacecraft does not have the energy to leave the earth. 
  • Female condoms are something else: they are like force fields which prevent the spacecraft to land on the comet. 
  • Spermicides are like alien spaceships shooting on the spacecraft as it tries to land on the comet.
  • Pills are like gaseous fumes or water vapors that obscure vision, making the spacecraft incapable of knowing visually whether it has landed or not.
Thus, if we use the spacecraft lander analogy to contraception, we see that contraception practiced by philanderers are actually frustrating.  It is the difference between sending aircrafts into space just for the sheer joy and pleasure of seeing things fly vs sending aircrafts into space for a purpose: to get to know a comet in the most intimate way.  "Philae has landed!" is a greater news for the scientists and all of humanity than "Philae has not landed!"  In the same way, "I am pregnant!" or "You are now a father!" should be a cause of worldwide celebration and not of dismay.
To Catch a Comet
To Catch a Comet
Spacecraft Dynamics and Control: An Introduction
Spacecraft Dynamics and Control: An Introduction
The Pill: Are You Sure It's for You?
The Pill: Are You Sure It's for You?