Let’s take a break from pregnancy and kids and talk for a second about what it can be like to be an engineer watching television. The other day, I saw a commercial for Exxon which started with a shot of gasoline being poured into some sort of container while a sexy female voiceover says something about how Exxon gasoline is special because it “works at the molecular level.” Now I think she went on to claim that the Exxon gas cleans the engine or something, but I can’t be sure because I was too busy mocking the ad to hear what she was saying. It “works at the molecular level,” eh, Exxon? Well that makes YOUR gasoline just incredibly unique! So with Exxon, do the gasoline molecules undergo an extreme exothermic reaction when mixed with oxygen molecules and heat? Funny, because THAT’S HOW GASOLINE WORKS. ON THE MOLECULAR LEVEL.
In fact, I am hard pressed to think of any substance on earth that doesn’t “work” at the molecular level. Take water. Did you know that liquid water flows because the molecules slide over one another, and ice is formed when those very same water molecules stop sliding and crystallize? That’s how it “works.” Take your furniture! You know how you can set something down on the table and it doesn’t fall through? That “works” because the molecules in the wood are tightly covalently bonded.
The Exxon commercial reminded of a news clip I saw years ago, but have never forgotten. The news anchor was talking about a vehicle full of volatile liquid. I forget what the liquid was, exactly, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it was oxygen. We’ll assume she was talking about a fuel tanker full of liquid oxygen. A dangerous thing, no doubt. But that doesn’t make this statement any more true: “But remember, even though the oxygen was in liquid form, it’s still a gas.” Because no. No it’s not. It’s a liquid. That’s why they call it liquid oxygen. Saying that something in the liquid form is “still a gas” is like saying… I don’t know! That two totally different things are the same! It’s like saying you can drown in ice because even though the water is solid, it’s still a liquid!
I have one more from year ago, but this one is more forgivable because it was one of those “But wait, there’s more!” commercials, so you expect them to lie a little. It was a commercial schilling some sort of plastic sealant which is “so air-tight, even water can’t get through it!” Riiiiiight. I think the phrase they’re looking for there is “water-tight.”
Andrew would like me to add a note to the writers of Covert Affairs that you don’t get “infected with radiation poisoning.” You can get “poisoned by radiation” or you can “have radiation poisoning,” but not so much “infected.”