Let’s Put On Our Science Hats

THE OTHER DAY the United Nations released a report on global climate change, whose title I don’t recall but I’ll guess is something like OMG We Are So Screwed People, and it concludes that:

– the Earth’s climate has warmed at a rate faster than any other time in the past 800,000 years
– it is 95% certain that global climate warming is anthropogenic
– if global greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions are not reduced to zero by the end of this century, we will miss the below-two-degree-celsius target we need to meet if we’re to avoid volatile and catastrophic weather events.

Okay, now for the rest of this you’ll need to put on your science hat. You have a science hat, right? Good! I’ll wait here until you’re ready.

Since we’ve both got our science hats on, this is a good time to tell you I got my science hat at Winners, and that I’m not actually a scientist in the most strict sense of that word—the sense that scientists use when they’re referring to their university science degrees and their methodologies and peer review and strenuous testing and blah, blah. No, I’m a scientist in the other sense of the word: I read science books, and I’m hoping that one day there will be robots to do my dishes and write these articles for me. And I believe that science will solve the many challenges we face, but if it doesn’t I’m pretty sure nothing else will. So yay science and dish-washing robots, or, conversely, thank-you for trying science! This whole human civilization thing was neat while it lasted.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the awesome power of science lately because I got a craving for mashed potatoes. So I went to the local grocery shop, and I bought all the ingredients to make a pot roast plus the trimmings. The secret to the perfect pot roast, just so you know, is to brown the meat and have the right amount of liquid on hand. Wine is good, and so is beer. No—I’m not talking about adding wine or beer to your dutch oven. I’m saying when you cook you should have lots of beer and/or wine on hand to drink. And this applies to anything you’re making—a hot dog, popcorn, toast. You’ll be amazed how much more fun cooking is when you add liquid! Your guests will be amazed at how much fun you are having, too!

(Note: for this, you can substitute Crown Royal or gin-and-tonic, or whatever.)

When I make mashed potatoes, I like to add roasted garlic, butter, and sour cream. I leave the skin on the potatoes, because I think it adds nutrition and I’m too lazy to peel potatoes. And anyways one day there will be a robot for peeling, but until then screw it. Rather than be a pessimist about stuff, I’ll observe that the glass is half-full of nutritious potato skin, and not half-empty of peeling blog-writing robots.

When it came time to mash, darn it if I couldn’t find my masher. That made me really upset, because mashing potatoes without a potato masher is hard to do. I know this because I tried everything in my kitchen to mash these darn potatoes, and nothing worked quite like my handy potato masher. My partner’s shoe heel came close, for you gourmands out there who one day find yourself in a similar pinch. If you go this route, remember to wash the shoe first and to have some liquid on hand, as I explained earlier. For mashing your dinner with a woman’s shoe I recommend either grappa or a shot of vodka.

Because I’m a scientist, I was theorizing about the missing potato masher whilst trying to make dinner using a baseball bat and one of those old-fashioned metal ice cream scoopers with the thumby lever on it. Within three minutes of empirical-based R&D I had several theories: the It’s-Around-Here-Somewhere theory, the My-Kid-Must-Have-Done-Something-With-It theory and the Maybe-I-Threw-It-Out-By-Accident? theory. I wanted to do some peer review, but my partner was on her iPad watching a movie, and anyways the shoe was working out pretty good, and I figured it was best she didn’t know about that, so whateves.

I’m not saying the mashed potatoes were 100%, but I got the job done. And that’s when I noticed the potato masher had in fact been where it always is—in the utensil holder right in front of my face.

I got wondering: shouldn’t science be studying this? And by “this” I mean a bunch of important and related things, like why I spent ten minutes making mashed potatoes with a Doc Marten and only then noticed the masher? Or how is it that I leave the house with a grocery list that has three things on it and I only remember to buy one of them? Also, how come I have a million personal examples just like this, but I can’t think of any of them at this moment? Any thoughts, science?

The scientist in me has a theory that the solutions to global climate change are likely hidden in my mashed potato story and its clues about our imperfect human nature and the mistakes we make as a result. It’s like that movie with Richard Dreyfuss, where he’s making the mashed potato mountain and no one realizes it’s a sign. I mean there I was potentially unlocking the greatest riddle of our generation, using nothing but the slip-resistant air-cushioned heel of a Nappa leather Corinna, plus a root vegetable, and no one took notice. Except me, being a scientist and all.

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One thought on “Let’s Put On Our Science Hats”

  1. Thanks for the chuckle, yet again, my old friend….I laugh because I can hear your voice telling me this story, sitting in the sunshine over seafood, with another glass of wine/pint of beer, on another day. I laugh because I have done the same things, so many times.


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