Thursday, October 8, 2015

Science is Whatever Scientists Do

Scientists in Antarctica Drink a Lot. Maybe Too Much

"NSF officials in Antarctica told auditors that drinking has created “unpredictable behavior that has led to fights, indecent exposure, and employees arriving to work under the influence.” But the real problem seemed to be an ongoing culture clash between scientists in Antarctica (“beakers,” as they’re known down there) and contract workers.

The divide between the scientists and the contract workers is a long-standing one. They tend to eat, drink, and socialize separately, just like officers and enlisted in the military. “There’s a very big cultural split in Antarctica,” says Philip Broughton, who wintered over at the old dome-covered South Pole station back in 2003. Broughton served drinks as a bartender to both groups when he wasn’t working as a technician on the South Pole radio telescopes. “The beakers have a license to kill,” Broughton says. “There is little consequence for what they do down there.”

And indeed, the auditors found that scientists often get away with breaking the rules more than the contractors who keep the bases running. During a site visit to the South Pole, auditors found a researcher brewing his own beer in one of the science labs. That’s a violation of rules, though it’s true that the South Pole station has a small general store where anyone can buy a six-pack for $6 or $7, as well as the harder stuff, and take it to a small BYOB lounge in one of the base’s fire-proof survival pods. And McMurdo, the largest settlement on the continent, has three bars."
Cultural split? Scientists are better than you. Drunker, too.

"My poor legs were all a-flutter, so I lay down in the gutter
And a pig came up and lay down by my side.
We sang,"Never mind the weather just as long as we're together"
Till a lady passing by was heard to say,
"You can tell someone who boozes by the company he chooses"
And the pig got up and slowly walked away."

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