On the other hand...
On July 22, they [planetary scientists] gathered around a screen at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and saw the first detailed pictures of the high latitudes of Titan, one of the moons of Saturn.
The images were eerily familiar. What the scientists saw looked like dunes, hills, valleys and -- most unusual -- rivers running into lakes. If further studies prove that the dark, ovoid features on the vast landscape are indeed lakes, Titan will be the only body in the solar system besides Earth possessing that geological feature.
This is, indeed, an intriguing development and may support the idea that Titan could, perhaps, support some form of life. Of course, the lakes and rivers aren't comosed of water- but rather of some sort of hydrocarbon, most likely methane. All the same, this is a striking development. You can, if you like, find some of the radar photos themselves here.
Of course, the news media couldn't resist at least a little bit of exasperation over this result:
It has taken nine years, hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge amount of effort, but planetary scientists have finally found another place with a topography quite like Earth's.
Ha! Those stupid planetary scientists! They spent hundreds of millions of bucks, and most of a decade, finding lakes?! What idiots! We have lakes right here! We have methane right here! Hell, you should meet my Uncle Earl! You want methane, he's your man. Dumb scientists, there's gotta be stuff we could use that money for here on Earth that would be way better, right?
One thing is certain about the Iraq war: It has cost a lot more than advertised. In fact, the tab grows by at least $200 million each and every day.
In the months leading up to the launch of the war three years ago, few Bush administration officials were willing to comment publicly on the potential costs to the United States. After all, no cost would have been too high if the United States faced an imminent threat from an Iraq armed with weapons of mass destruction, the war's stated justification.
In fact, the economic ramifications are rarely included in the debate over whether to go to war, although some economists argue it is quite possible and useful to assess potential costs and benefits.
In any event, most estimates put forward by White House officials in 2002 and 2003 were relatively low compared with the nation's gross domestic product, the size of the federal budget or the cost of past wars.
White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey was the exception to the rule, offering an "upper bound" estimate of $100 billion to $200 billion in a September 2002 interview with The Wall Street Journal. That figure raised eyebrows at the time, although Lindsey argued the cost was small, adding, "The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.”
U.S. direct spending on the war in Iraq already has surpassed the upper bound of Lindsey's upper bound, and most economists attribute billions more in indirect costs to the war effort. Even if the U.S. exits Iraq within another three years, total direct and indirect costs to U.S. taxpayers will likely by more than $400 billion, and one estimate puts the total economic impact at up to $2 trillion.
Okay, right, well... lemme ask you this?
Anyone wanna find out if there are lakes on Triton? There has to be something better we can spend all that money on than occupying a country that didn't have anything to do with attacking us, right?