Wasting time … professionally | AspenTimes.com

Wasting time … professionally

Meredith C. Carroll

I used to fret that much of my life has been whiled away with next to nothing accomplished. Not anymore. As it turns out, some folks spend their time way more futilely than me.Like the team of doctors in Merignac, France, who took to the skies over Bordeaux last week to create zero-gravity conditions in order to perform a medical operation. You know, just in case someone in space ever needs surgery. So, if one of the, like, four people in the world who goes into outer space every year needs emergency surgery, we’re covered. Of course the French doctors only performed a very basic procedure – they removed a cyst from some dude’s arm – thus, if something more urgent is ever required, like open heart surgery or an emergency appendectomy, we don’t really know what they’d do. But still, at least we can rest assured knowing our astronauts are safe from cysts. In outer space. Phew.Another major breakthrough surfaced at the end of September. Researchers studying 3-D images of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” revealed the painting’s subject might have been pregnant when posing for the 16th-century masterpiece. Infrared reflectography determined the material draped over Mona Lisa’s shoulder was not a shawl, as had been thought for generations, but instead the type of gauzy veil worn by Renaissance women during pregnancy. Just for fun, researchers also confirmed through the scan that Mona Lisa was wearing her hair down, not pinned back. Canada’s National Research Council excitedly announced that much more useless information could be gleaned from the painting, thanks to the advent of virtual copy technology. If only science could also unlock the mystery behind the fluorescent orange hue of Easy-Cheese.A pungent discovery emerged back in July when a professor at the University of Arizona boldly announced that people are essentially too dumb to ascertain the edibility of food, claiming, “Picking fruit is more of an art than it is a science.” As such, he invented a sticker that indicates if a fruit or vegetable is ripe. Again – phew. Because just the other day I was looking at a mushy brown banana and banging my head against the wall wondering if I should slice it into my cereal or chuck it in the trash.In a move likely to excite Harry Potter fanatics and comic book geeks everywhere, a theoretical physicist at St. Andrews University in Scotland recently published information asserting that invisibility might become a reality sometime soon. To illustrate his premise, the Ph.D. used the “Fantastic Four” cartoon superhero, the Invisible Woman, as his example, saying engineers someday hope to emulate the way she guides light around her using a force field. In related news, I’m days away from issuing a press release in which I’ll be announcing that I’m going to try moving stuff around a room by wiggling my nose and blinking really, really hard.The 700 Club’s Pat Robertson posted on his Christian Broadcasting Network website this spring a headline bragging he leg pressed a whopping 2,000 pounds. The religious broadcaster is said to have pulled off the feat that no college football player has ever managed just three years ago, at the age of 73.Just this past Wednesday, a 60-year-old psychiatric counselor in Tokyo spent 16 hours reciting pi to 100,000 decimal places from memory, breaking his 11-year-old record of 83,431 digits. And I thought it was a waste of time when I tried to guess how many peanuts were in a bag of trail mix.But the award for the person who has made the least of his time unanimously goes to Australian computer programmer, Peter Shann Ford, made news late last month when he claimed to have found the missing “a” from Neil Armstrong’s 1969-moon landing statement. Without the “a” before “man” (“That’s one small step for man”), the moon man essentially said, “That’s one small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong has maintained for years that he uttered the “a” but it was muted out by transmission static. Ford presented a graphical representation of Armstrong’s statement using high-tech sound-editing software that supports the existence of the “a.” If Ford has more downtime and Australia can spare him, perhaps he could next look into the punctuation in JFK’s 1961 “Ask not” inaugural speech and the sentence structure in MLK’s 1963 “I have a dream” speech. You know, just to double check.E-mail questions or comments to meredithccarroll@hotmail.com.