An interlude about last night . . .
. . . in which I take an evening off from science andÃ‚ skepticism only to hang out with scientist skeptics and talk about science and skepticism.
I’ve heard I’m not the only one who feelsÃ‚ April is the most vicious stretch of weeks. Pity poor T.S. Eliot, as he probably had no access to the surest cure for a terrible April: sushi, wine, and trivia. I don’t get out much these days, making last night that much sweeter; the first stop after work was good old Trader Joe’s, where I talked my companion out of the fabled two-buck-Chuck in favor of the slightly pricier but miles better four-buck-La Boca. While paying, our Adorable Cashier (AC) took a moment to read over the label and commented, “Ah, La Boca!”
“I heard ‘yesterday’ was a good year for the cab,” I flirted.Ã‚ AC smiled.
“Good choice — most people make the mistake of going straight for the two-buck-Chuck.”
I grinned with triumph at my companion, and then attempted in vain to convey to AC that though I was with my friend, I was not with my friend. Difficult to do as you’re grabbing your $4 wine and heading for the door. Ah,well.
After the drinking of the La Boca, accompanied by the always delicious eating of the sushi, we hit the pub for trivia night. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was our team of just three people (most teams had at least five), or maybe it was the rustiness from not having played in nearly a year, but we weren’t doing so well. The top three teams at the end of the night get prizes (usually a sizable chunk removed from your bar bill), and back in the good old days of last year, our team rarely had to pay for a drink. But this night, despite the fact that I had two Harvard scientists on my team and multiple questions had been in the category of “science,” we were hovering at the middle of the pack.
My drunken researchers pouted that the questions weren’t really about science. The questions, they whined, were “historical”: what was the first weapon to surpass the speed of sound (a question I know I’ve heard before and should’ve got off the bat but still somehow missed) and what did Aleksei Leonov do that no one else had ever done before (we were close, but no cigar). They also complained that if it doesn’t have to do with biology, it’s not “real science.” They pointed out that rarely does a scientist actually stick his nose into any area other than his own, meaning that they would be most helpful at a pub trivia event wherein every question had something to do with the genetic make-up of yeast.
I asked them what they would do for a living if they had to drop out at that very moment, and they admitted they had absolutely no skills to do anything but their current research. They thought about it a bit, tossing out various possibilities like “burger flipper,” before inspiration struck and they happily agreed that there was a chance they could get very good jobs — as brewmeisters. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you . . . the men leading the human race toward enlightenment.
The final question of trivia night is always the biggest, as you can bet a large amount of points to pull into the lead. The category was science. We bet it all.
“What color represents the hottest of stars in the universe?”
Astronomy. Not real (yeasty) science.
“Blue,” I said.
“White?” guessed my friend. “Blue-white?”
“I have this under control,” I said. “If you gentlemen will excuse me for a moment . . .” I hopped off my stool to go into a back roomÃ‚ near the bathrooms.
“No, Rebecca, no cheating,” whinedÃ‚ the scientists. I pointed out that we only had three teammates, we were way behind first place, we were very inebriated, and I wanted to talk to my friend anyway because I miss him. They let me go.
“Blue-white,” said my favorite astronomer.
“Are you sure,” I yelled into my cell phone.
“Where the hell are you?” he asked, as a drunken sorority sister stumbled into me while making her way around the foosball table.
“Pub trivia,” I said. “Are you sure?”
“Well, technically it would be white. So I’d go with white, and if they say something else then they’re just wrong.”
I walked back to my table and my teammates showed me their slip of paper on which they had written, “white.”
“Yep,” I said, and turned it in to the trivia hosts.
A few minutes later, the host took the mic.
“Blue,” he said, and cheers went up from various tables as he went on to announce the winners. The right answer would’ve put us in 2nd.
I walked up to the host and sweetly smiled. “It’s white, you know.”
“Yep, white, and if you want I can call an astronomer friend to prove it.”
I thought about it a second. “A NASA astronomer.”
“Look, I run trivia in Cambridge. Everybody has a NASA astronomer they can call.”
I pouted. “He wrote a book.”
Few are immune to the powers of the sad eyes/pouty lower lip of doom.
“Tell you what,” he said. “Come next week and I’ll buy you a beer.”
So at the end of the night, scientific accuracy may have been lost, but it was in favor of a free pint. I call it a draw.