President Obama challenged the "Mythbusters" people to examine the ancient legend of Archimedes' solar death ray -- the supposed use of giant mirrors to reflect sunlight toward attacking Roman ships around 212 BC, setting them aflame:
It didn't work, though. The many, many mirrors, jiggling constantly as the teenagers squirmed while aiming, just couldn't combine into one ray that was focused enough to truly heat up the fake ship's sail. They got it up to 260º degrees Fahrenheit or so, which is pretty hot, but not nearly hot enough for ignition.
They even cheated a little bit, sailing the target so close to the California shore that you could have hit it with a copy of the federal budget. No fire.
Too bad. There could have been a little secondhand smoke, which is apparently all the president is getting these days.
With a new report out on the dangers of smoking, there's evidence that the nation's most prominent smoker -- President Obama -- is kicking the habit.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today he has not personally seen the president light up in at least nine months.
What Gibbs has or has not personally seen is irrelevant. There was a guy I worked with in Michigan City whose wife had not personally seen him smoke for years. But he did, every day. He'd go into the restroom and sneak puffs -- apparently he didn't trust us not to rat him out to his wife, who was the one who had harangued him into quitting. I don't know what he told his wife about all that weekend work, but he was in the office every Saturday and Sunday, too. "I just can't proofread when there are all those distractions, Honey." Yes, children, it is true -- people were once actually allowed to smoke in their workplaces!
I don't know how easy it is to sneak out to the balcony for a smoke at the White House, but, a hint for Michelle: If Barack says he needs time alone to practice his triangulation, I'd start looking through his pockets. Or maybe he has a Secret Service agent keep them for him. They've kept all sorts of sordid little secrets for their presidents.
That report from the surgeon general is a doozy. Apparently, one little whiff of secondhand smoke, and you're a goner:
As little as one cigarette a day, or even just inhaling smoke from someone else's cigarette, could be enough to cause a heart attack and even death, warns a report released Thursday by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin.
I think the anti-smoking advocates have finally crossed the "Reefer Madness" line. You know that story -- the anti-marijuana movie so ridiculously over the top that it's laughed at even by people who aren't especially advocates for the weed. It probably set back anti-drug efforts by years -- if they're willing to tell such obvious lies about marijuana, the thinking goes, why should we believe anything they say about any other drug? The anti-smoking warnings have been ratcheted up so often without much protest from a credulous public that now the advocates think they can say just about anything. But they can't -- they're about at the point now where a lot of people are just going to stop paying attention to anything they say.
Hey, instead of a solar death ray, maybe the president should advocate a secondhand-smoke-of-death plan. Instead of setting up elaborate sting operations to make would-be terrorists show their evil intent, we can just get volunteers to blow smoke in their faces. "Curses, you infidel devil! You have now doomed me!"