Nasa / Space

Geek Trivia: What math error was accidentally built into the Pioneer Plaques?

Despite the extraordinary intellects working on the Pioneer Plaques, a math error crept into the design -- one that might prevent our future alien overlords from locating Earth.

This week's quibble comes from the April 20 Geekend listing of the top 10 geek rock artists. (Apparently I'm doing my job too well, as we haven't had a serious trivia quibble in weeks.) Every time I bring up the contemporary geek-specific music genre, somebody demands to know why I don't mention mainstream, prog-rock, third-all-time-consecutive-platinum-record-selling icons Rush. This year's Rush-maker is member robert_b_dittrich, who wrote:

"Rush wrote songs about relativity from a philosophical perspective (Natural Science), black holes (Cygnus X-1), and the forthcoming album is (I believe) a steampunk concept album. Their heyday of mainstream acceptance may have been the early '80s, but Rush is still making music by, for, and about geeks (also by, for, and the snow dog)."

For the record, candidates for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are not niche, cult, geek-rock artists. I like Jonathan Coulton as much as the next nerd, but he's in a completely different universe than Geddy Lee. Even if Geddy and Co. drop a steampunk platter for the fans. Someday I'll write a list of geekiest mainstream music icons that includes Rush (and David Bowie... and Daft Punk...), but until then, lay off the Rush flogging -- but keep those quibbles coming.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

3 comments
Slayer_
Slayer_

Besides, any advanced beings can probably trace the path of the probe to find its origins or at least get close.

emaname
emaname

"Hang a left, relatively speaking, at Alpha Centauri" should read "hand a right, aka your other left."

sboverie
sboverie

This is not the first time, but fortunately it is not as critical as it is embarrassing. I believe it was Kepler who studied the orbit of Mars and made several conclusions. One conclusion was that the orbit was an elipse. Scientists have recalculated Mars orbit and found that Kepler was off a bit but his conclusions were accurate. The more embarrassing math problem and Mars was a probe that failed to land because someone forgot to keep the same standard (kilometers or miles) in calculating the course.