But it ain’t right, either. Mayday! Mayday!
“The science is fixed,” Science Friday host Ira Flatow keeps selling^H telling us.
In the “Robot Sadism” episode of Science Friday, associate producer Christie Taylor went to JPL to find out how to build a wheel that lasts.
In 2013, rover operators had noticed a gaping hole in Curiosity’s left front wheel as it moved across the Mars landscape. After some investigation, they realized “it wasn’t just one little mishap that caused a puncture or one particularly awful rock,” said engineer Patrick DeGrosse. “It was just the first symptom.”
Mr. DeGrosse is a member of the Tiger Team that tests copies of Curiosity’s wheels here on Earth.
In the Mars Yard, a not-even-football field-sized test track in Pasadena, a test rover demonstrated whether the wheels slip or get bogged down or can climb a rock. (Do click the pic to see.) “Physics equations can’t tell you any of that,” Ms. Taylor said about the myriad of tiny interactions with the surface of Mars.
“You don’t sit down at your computer and draw up the complexity of sand grains and rocks and what all those friction coefficients are and how they tumble over each other when a wheel hits them. We’re just not at that stage yet,” Mr. DeGrosse said.
And yet, the science is fixed! We can map the earth and the GPS in our car will always direct us to the next location!
The science is fixed! We can cure the common cold!
The science is fixed! The sun’s corona is millions of degrees hotter than the surface and we don’t yet know why.
The science is fixed! 70-95% or humans are right-handed but we still cannot describe why we use one hand instead of the other.
The science is fixed! The planet Saturn has a massive, continuous hurricane up near the pole. Earth’s hurricanes are powered by warm ocean and wind down as they hit land or cold water. Saturn has no oceans and is really cold. Huh.
The science isn’t wrong. But the political and lay interpreters ain’t right, either.
And that’s the lesson for today.