We're running a membership drive this month – our goal is 150 new members – and as a part of it we're including this blatant clickbait series... Besides, it's a chance to tell some of the funny stories that come up during cloudy nights at the VATT!
The old astronomer tells the tale... We described yesterday the absorption tube that once upon a time ran the length of the Lunar Lab... a meter wide, several hundred meters long, filled with the sorts of gases that might be found in the atmosphere of Jupiter... scary stuff like phosphine, silane, hydrogen sulfide, not to mention various wicked organics that people like Carl Sagan touted as evidence of life but which were, in fact, quite toxic to most life.
How did the residents of this building feel about sharing their space with several hundred cubic meters of this nasty stuff? Nobody talked about it... though it's notable that the floor with the tube was otherwise used for the offices of graduate students and untenured faculty. (The tube was encased by wooden panels; enterprising grad students put sleeping bags on top of the enclosed tube, making use of what was otherwise unusable space.)
One day, one of the untenured faculty stepped out of his office across the hallway from the spectra lab, only to find the professor in charge of the lab standing in the hallway, peering into his lab. With a pair of binoculars.
"What are you doing?" asked the young prof.
"Checking the pressure gauge to see if it is safe to go into the lab," replied the senior researcher.
(A chamber containing hot gases representing Jupiter's interior, at the relevant high temperature and high pressure, is located on the roof of the space science building at Georgia Tech. It's used by the principle investigator for the microwave telescope of NASA's Juno mission orbiting Jupiter. It is outdoors, housed only by a canvas tent. "If it explodes?" I asked him. "Not if, but when..." he replied.)
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