19 April 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project


My Shocking Admission

Notwithstanding the heading, this is yet a further additional taunt of CNN, although perhaps it can be blamed on NASA, whom they seem to be quoting:

"NASA scientists say the collision should excavate a hole about a third the size of a football field and hurl a plume of debris into space."

The quotation is about crashing a space probe into the moon.  The "SUV-Sized" probe will deliberately crash into the moon at about 5,600 miles per hour to create plume of debris that can be checked for the presence of water ice.

Point one:  Huzzah for CNN!  The speed of the crash, for once, is reasonably numerically estimated:  More than 5,500mph, less than 5,700mph.  But best, they didn't translate it to the preposterous 9012.3264km/h.  Good CNN!  Good CNN!

Now, let's get to the "hole about a third the size of a football field."  My shocking admission:  I am a card carrying United States citizen of the male persuasion, yet I didn't know how large a football field is.  I don't follow football, have never been to a game, and, truth be told, am 100% clue-free about the game.  (Before you find it necessary to torture me into understanding, I do speak Baseball, go to a game at least once per decade, and can usually remember who won the World Series at least until the next season.) 

I looked it up.  A football field is 150 yards by 65 yards.  (Or as CNN would put it, "150 yards (meters) by 65 yards (meters)," another solecism with which I shall charge them on some future date.)  So how big a hole will our "SUV-sized impactor probe" make when it hits the moon?  If it's about a third the size of a football field, it might be: 50 yards by 22 yards?  (Each side is 1/3 the original length.)  Or perhaps a rectangle whose area is 1/3 the area of a football field?  Or, as seems likely to me, a rough circle whose area is 1/3 the area of a football field, i.e., a crater about 65 yards in diameter.  And how deep?  A football field is nominally flat.  Is the hole, too?  Or is it as deep as it is wide?  Or what?  Although I'm not privy to the details of the experiment, I would think that the depth will be one of the most interesting results of the experiment, since its purpose is to determine the lunar composition.

So, instead of saying "a hole about a third the size of a football field,"  why not "a crater about 60 yards in diameter, a third the area of a football field."  Unless, of course, NASA has invented impactors that make rectangular (but very flat) holes.  I wonder what kind of SUV does that!

Richard Factor