The Mars rover Curiosity will touch down on the red planet Monday at about 1:30 a.m. EST (US) Monday, and I’ll post a day in advance so you can stay up to watch, especially since it will be televised live. To see how the landing will take place, go here and watch the movie “Curiosity: Seven minutes of terror.” It will make you marvel at the creativity of our species.
But amidst all the fantastic science that underlies this project, there’s still a bit of woo. As alert reader Chris informs me, the CNN blog Light Years describes a superstition around the landing:
An hour before the Mars rover Curiosity is scheduled to make its dramatic touchdown on the surface of our neighboring planet, there must be peanuts.
David Oh, lead flight director for the mission, explains that it has been a tradition for decades to open up cans of peanuts and pass them around to the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory responsible for overseeing the landing of the rover. Curiosity is scheduled to land at 1:31 a.m. ET Monday.
“It’s always been a lucky charm for us, and missions have always seemed to work out better when we had the peanuts there,” Oh said. “For landing this, I’ll take all the great engineering we have, and all the luck you can give us, too.”
Of course there’s been no controlled experiment, but I bet these guys aren’t gonna mess with cashews or macadmia nuts come Monday morning!
It’s curious that these scientists, and other skeptics like me, often have our own superstitions. I have a lucky number (I’m not saying what it is), and I used to walk home from school judiciously avoiding stepping on cracks in the sidewalk. Sometimes I still do it just for fun. But my lucky number is nonnegotiable, even though I know in my heart that choosing things (or having a good feeling) based on a single integer is ludicrous.
Does that make me an accommodationist? And do you have any superstitions?