What the Cartoonist Reads and Why

A little insight for you.

I tuned in to APOD a moment ago (http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html) and the article was on the Iris Nebula, NGC 7023. There was a link from that article to another article about PAH molecules forming in space.

My first exposure to the term PAH was in Neal Stephenson’s Zodiac, in which the main character is frying bacon and proclaims that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are his favorite flavor of carcinogen. The phrase has stuck with me. Recently I was reading up on PAH molecules elsewhere to try and figure out just how much of a cancer risk the backyard grilling is. Answer: not much. I’m at about 10 times higher risk for all the sunbathing I did as a kid.

This brings us to my recent mole removal, during which the doctor zapped things off of my back, and I commented that the smell of burnt me was not the tasty polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon smell of backyard grilling, but more like the smell of successfully lighting the grill after unsuccessfully lighting it and flooding the chamber with gas (e.g. the smell of burnt me).

So I’m reading this link about PAH in space, and all my current knowledge of PAH gets re-indexed in my head around the concept of stars pumping out molecules long considered the by-product of burnt organics. It then occurs to me that space-borne carcinogens have an infinitesimal cancer danger compared to the radiation blazing off of the star that made them, and I re-ruminate upon all that vanity-motivated sunburning I did as a teenager in Florida.

I’ve read other things today, too. In fact, I think I’ll go read some more of them now.


4 thoughts on “What the Cartoonist Reads and Why”

    1. “According to Star Trek, if you go faster than light, it looks like a bunch of rainbows, but according to Babylon 5, if you go faster than light, it looks like you’re going into an infinitely long ice-cream cone. The truth is, when you go faster than light, it looks like creamed corn, and smells like bacon.” -James “Kibo” Parry

  1. PAH in space

    Heh, well, if we can convince the American body politic that
    outer space smells like a Nice Juicy Steak On The Grill, I may
    be able to send my mom postcards from Jupiter by 2015. 🙂

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