Apr 042013
 

Long after our civilizations dwindle and decay and our ignorance eventually drives us back into the trees, two new sentient species will emerge.

The noble elephant and the misunderstood rodent. Yep, those two

It’s a symbiotic intelligence that develops between them. The elephant is a thoughtful and patient creature, but with a big bad-ass temper. The rodent is a tireless, long-suffering little worker, with a knack for mechanical cleverness.

Over the millenia the elephants and rodents evolved to work together to gather food. Their primary food source was the regressivly evolving species of human-ape. The elephants devised strategies to encourage human-ape domestication, and the rodents did all the leg work, building enclosures and such.

In time their symbiotic intelligence grew more sophisticated and more complexly linked. The elephants and rodents could speak to each other and understood written symbols. The elephants thoughtful minds created mathematical  models of the universe and the busy and clever rodents tested the models and engineered new technologies. The elephants deductions and the rodents methodical testings honed their understanding of the universe until they became the first species to fulfill the destiny of life- to witness the ultimate perfection of creation.

They discovered the basis of everything, the fundamental nature of all and nothing, they uncovered the will in the void and learned the primal logos. It was a good day for elephants and rodents, and as always, the human-apes didn’t give a shit and just kept raping and murdering each other.

And that’s what happens after humans finally go away.

Feb 232013
 

Apparently you have to pay to apply to die on Mars.

It pains me somewhat to post this because I am a lifelong, radically enthusiastic supporter of human space exploration. But I have deep concerns about the Mars One Project.

I believe that exploration of space is an imperative for human beings. I believe that it is necessary to proliferate our species into space to protect against the possibility of our extinction. Most importantly I believe the overwhelming challenges and threats of space are the only force that could serve to unite us as a species.

Humans are at their best when threatened by nature. Our fears of one another fade against the will-less, obliterating power of a dangerous environment. We communicate, collaborate, invent, engineer, and solve. However brief our existence has been, all the greatness of humankind lay in our collective will to deny, defy, and to challenge nature at every level. We refuse to simply reproduce, die, and adapt our biology based on the whims of nature. We combat the change nature tries to force onto us. We do battle against an eternal and all-powerful enemy, arrogantly sometimes, but we do it, and we’re pretty damn good at it. And when we respect the power of our opponent, nature, we often prevail. We survive, we build, we thrive, and occasionally we do so in style.

We need the challenges of planetary colonization. We need to experience the fear of annihilation by nature, often. That kind of fear brings us closer, and makes us strong, wise, and compassionate to each other. I believe space is the only chance we have to become a race worthy of our own brilliance.

I say all this because I want you to understand the depth of my devotion to human space exploration before I make any criticisms of a space program.

Since I became aware of the Mars One project I supported it, but harbored reservations.

I finally decided I would go ahead and participate in the application process. I was pretty shocked when I found the fee page in the posted image. It solidified my concerns and influenced me to write about them.

Some may consider this an over reaction. Thirty eight dollars is a paltry sum for a chance at such an epic adventure. But I think it represents and/or reveals a massive error in this programs motivations that should be considered.

I’m not naive enough to think our motivations for space exploration will always be pure, but I think our motivations for space exploration are as important as our ability to achieve it and we must always be at least aware of them, and preferably actively control them.

If we are motivated into space by desire to dominate ourselves and Earth, we will destroy ourselves soon enough. If our motivations are for profit, then our returns will be less than we expect, because we will always fail to calculate the intangible benefits of ingenuity, inspiration and cooperation, demanded by space travel.

How did America expect to profit from the moon landing? It didn’t, but it did profit, in ways that could never have been predicted. National and human pride aside, enrollment and graduation in university science curriculums spiked across the nation. How many modern scientists and engineers will tell you that they were first inspired to their track by the space program? How many dreamed of exploration and discovering space? How many dreamed of extracting wealth and profit from it? Are we too grown up to remember what drove us to want to grow up in the first place?

In general the privatization of space travel gives me great pause. It makes space a playground for wealth. Market forces are too fickle and blind to provide the path needed to expand our presence in the universe at all, let alone in a responsible manner. Private ventures in space can disseminate the technology and make it more accessible, but it will not push the boundaries that need to be pushed. Only science and discovery have the brass-balls to push boundaries that don’t clearly have profit on the other side. And it is only the other side of those boundaries that we find new forms of riches and beauty.

The natural and human resources needed to send the mass of a human being in space, and to keep them alive, are enormous. One could do the math and find how many starving children could be fed, clothed, housed, and educated with the money it takes to keeps a human being alive in space for one day. It would probably be a depressing number. I am not an economist and I cannot envision a solution to this imbalance and I imagine it will persist. To a degree, inequality is a fact of life, I make no excuses.

But who should we sent into space then? Me; Mr. Smarty-Pants, because I’m so thinky? Probably not- I’m really not as bright as all that and a flight surgeon would ground me soon as they took my pulse and checked my vision.

Until now astronaut selection has been carried out by nations. These nations created space programs and selected the best and most capable, based on criteria defined by the best and most capable. We placed vast resources in the hands of these brave test pilots and astronauts and they understood that they rose into space as our ambassadors, and caretakers of the vast power and resources that they controlled, but they were not owners. I think we need to maintain this as a sacred tradition at all costs. Reverence for heroes can be dangerous, but it can be a fuel for inspiration if we choose the right ones.

It is not fair or wise to allow wealth to squander the resources needed to propel Earth bound mass into space and preserve is there. Those resources should be reserved for those we deem worthy by thoughtful, rigorous, criteria of physical and mental ability. Fame, popularity, and wealth should determine nothing except who gets the best seats to watch the launch.

My concerns about the Mars One program are primarily that its motivations are vague. The mission goals are simply to put people on mars and watch them be there. It’s admittedly a lot like a reality show. I cannot tell you how disturbing a precedent this could set. In some ways this could end up being some kind of survival sport. I know that’s kind of fucked up to say- but this program could have the unintended effect of trivializing the lives of astronauts, and I that cannot be allowed to happen. I’d loose my shit if I found out about a betting pool on an astronauts survival, but I’m virtually certain there would be more than a few if this becomes a mass-media phenomenon. I’d like to believe most space enthusiasts are much better than most NASCAR fans. (apologies to the 8 or 9 legitimate fans of NASCAR and NASA out there) We root for mission success. We mourn failure with real pain and real tears. No one watches a launch and secretly hopes to see a crash, no one. I know this probably naive, but please let me have this one.

If Neil and Buzz had been stranded on the moon, or if Lovell, Swigert, Haise had been lost, there may have been some cynical bastards that would be goofing on them, but I think the majority of humans on the planet would have felt pain for the loss of true heroes.

Will we feel the same about game-show astronauts if they are in peril and distress? Will we allow ourselves to become an audience in another kind of Colosseum? Can we afford to let a profession and title such as ‘Star Voyager’ become anything less than what it sounds like? (Please nobody say anything about Lisa Nowak. Astronauts are humans and humans occasionally go squirrel nuts… wiring goes bad… let’s move past it)

I’d feel better about the Mars One program if they were aggressively and publicly recruiting the scientific community to present scientific and engineering missions to the public that these astronauts will carry out.

Am I just being nostalgic here? Is this some weird form of astronaut hero worship? Am I trying to hold back progress in space for the sake of an ideal about progress in space? Maybe I am being narrow minded but I see a great deal of peril on this path. I care too deeply about the future the human species in space to allow my obsession with space flight to overwhelm my sensibilities about the future. We can only afford to allow the best of us into space as our ambassadors and caretakers of our powerful and hungry technologies. I am sure the Mars One project has the best intentions, but the road to hell was paved with those. Let us be bold, but cautious, and always be aware of our weaknesses and our demons.

Just to clarify- I have no objection to the ‘one-way’ idea. That’s the nature of colonization and I think it can paradoxically provide some psychological support for the crew since it will strongly motivate them to find ways to make Mars more Earth-like and may make it easier for them to begin to think of Mars as a home. And since that brings up terraforming I’ll also say I have no objection to that as long as we make protections for if/when life is found on another planet. I am admittedly very anthropocentric about space, but I don’t want us to turn into a race of destroyers.

In case you were wondering. yes, I always wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. I sometimes experience childish disappointment when I think about the fact that I will never experience space flight for a multitude of reasons. But I know it’s childish and it’s very fleeting and I celebrate with my whole-heart for those who earn the chance to experience it themselves. And yes- I would absolutely accept a one-way trip to Mars  if I was selected, if I had total confidence in the projects goals. I clearly don’t have that confidence, so I’ve decided not to apply.

I wouldn’t leave Earth behind because I want to abandon humanity, I would because I want to help inspire humanity. I’ve called myself a misanthrope on many occasions because of my pervasive and inconsolable sense of isolation in the world. But the truth is I am in totally and absolutely in love with human kind, so much so that I am overwhelmingly disappointed in our lack of devotion to our true potential (and to my own, if I’m to be perfectly candid).

I love what I believe we could become if we believed it together. I need to know that we can and will become that. That is my perfect knowledge; that human kind has an unlimited future in eternity, because we will someday finally own ourselves and deny natures right to exterminate, as it has or will do to every other species. We will become natures equal. If that is my supreme arrogance, so be it, it’s the only absolute goal of sapient life that make any sense to me. I fully realize this sounds like the most classic hubris of man, to usurp Gods will. But in my mind God is within nature, but also far beyond it. I do not seek to challenge God in any manner. I seek to impress upon God the depth of my gratitude for creation by helping our species become the devoted stewards of it in all its vastness.

So I’ll finish up this semi-coherent rant by saying that I understand and am sorry if I raise anyone’s ire. I’m so committed to human exploration of space that if I read this I might be inclined to think negatively of the poster for the criticism of such an ambitious project. But I feel strongly, so I had to write this, I hope you understand.

Feb 052013
 

It warms my heart to find a human being who has surpassed my own assumptions about intelligent life in the universe and our obligations to it. It’s even nicer to find that human has already found like-minded humans and formed an organization with goals that make perfect sense to me. Looks like I have some catching up to do. A Rational for METI - Alexander L. Zaitsev.

I’ve always found it arrogant to consider that we are the only form of intelligent life in the cosmos given the evidence that:

A) Self-described “intelligent life” exists in at least one known finite space-time.

B) Space-time is infinite.

The SETI Institute has been searching for extraterrestrial signals since 1984 and I have always been highly supportive and interested in their efforts. METI seems to make the assumption that extraterrestrial life does exists and searching for it is less important that taking action to support and encourage intelligent life wherever it arises. Essentially the purpose of METI is to aide and expedite any extraterrestrial SETI that may be as isolated and overwhelmed by the vastness and hostility of the universe as we are.

In my mind METI is the ultimate act of altruism of intelligent life and civilization. The Message to Extraterrestrial Intelligence is essentially the gift of knowledge to another intelligence that “You are not alone.”

METI also argues that isolation of intelligent life can lead to its extinction and so reaching out into the universe to seek mirrors of our our existence is truly the only way to safeguard it.

This all makes absolute and perfect sense to me.

Thank you Mr. Zaitsev. I am humbled and grateful for your ideas. You’re a credit to the species (and I’m finding fewer and fewer opportunities to offer that compliment).

 

Jan 182013
 

With these words this man has summed and totaled my feelings about human existence. I envy and pity this man. His mind was a gift to humanity, and it must have been agony for him to know the powers that would squander his gifts. My life would lack substance were it not for his ideas, the understanding of the elegance of the universe that he helped shape. But were it not for his ideas I might not know the scale of mankind’s will to do harm to himself. What should he have done? What should any of us with a mind do? Should we cherish it alone and hide it from the world so the world cannot misuse it? Should we share it wantonly and absolve ourselves of the responsibility? I don’t know, hell, it’s arrogant of me to ask since my ideas are not profound like his were… anyway… here is what he said.

http://www.aip.org/history/einstein/essay.htm

“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving…

“I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts — possessions, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.

“My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a ‘lone traveler’ and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude…”

“My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and reverence from my fellow-beings, through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire, unattainable for many, to understand the few ideas to which I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware that for any organization to reach its goals, one man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility. But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their leader. In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality… The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the political state, but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.

“This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor… This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how passionately I hate them!

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”

Nov 242011
 

My family
Imagination
Resourceful Teachers
Peace wherever it can be found
Open-Source
Free Speech
Forgiveness
Mortality
Reeces peanut-butter cups
Coffee
The Christmas Truce
What I know
What I have to learn
Unabashed enthusiasm
The Apollo Program
Fallen Astronauts, Cosmonauts, and Tychonauts
Dedicated Engineers
Macgyver
Musicians with day jobs
Artists with soul
The “Not on My Watch” Attitude
Purpose
Solitude
The right tool for the job
The tool that works anyway
Opposable thumbs
Light
Rage against the dying of the light
Honey mustard
Creole mustard
Futurama
Albert Einstein
Sir Isaac Newton
Ton Rosendaal
Ludwig van Beethoven
Jonas Sark
Stomatopods, especially Peacock Mantis Shrimp
Caring Doctors and Nurses
Loyal Dogs
Friendly Ferrets
Tireless Horses
Deadly and beautiful creatures
Cameras with low f-stop telephoto Lenses
Brave but cautious nature photographers
Miester Eckhart
Dreams
Employing my demons for good
Anonymous gifts
SETI
Unselfish prayers
Originality
Luigi Serafini and The Codex Seraphinianus
Copper heat-sinks
Balsa Planes
The stone that missed my head when I was little
The poor Lego-man that was crushed by that stone instead
Model Rockets
Cannabis
Robert Heinlein
Ray Bradbury
Isaac Asimov
Douglas Adams
Firefly
Orsen Scott Card
When truth and reconciliation defeat revenge
When right breaks with law
When reason prevails over violence
Elegant solutions
Unapproachable enigmas
Commitment to quality
Chiropractors
Self-education
Wikipedia
Public Librarys
IEEE and ISO
Those sounds only I can hear
Knowing deep down where those sounds really come from
History
The future
This moment
Protecting something truly precious
The certainty that I am alone, but that we are not
Consequences
Elephants
Logos (The Word)
Wishing for nothing
The infinite, uncountable, and unquantifiable
Unknowable truths
Calculated defiance
Thich Quang Duc
Falon Gong
Tank Man
George Washington
Clair Cameron Patterson
Journalists with scruples
Terry Gilliam Films
Transcendence
Khentrul Lodrö Thayé Rinpoche
Beauty in all its forms
Especially the female form
Bernadette Peters
That girl, whether or not we ever find each other
The fact that the universe is witnessing itself through my eyes
The true belief that vanity is not an inevitable cost of consciousness
The undeserved gifts bestowed upon humanity by Gautama Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth and all those unknown souls that should be recognized as synonymous with those names.

Aug 222011
 

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Some of my early Blinded with Science articles dropped off the internet so I thought I’d post the whole series here, what with the apes about to take over and all. This is actually for their benefit.

Hey future hyper intelligent apes of the future, careful with that hyper intelligence, it can make you stupid.

Jul 262011
 

I’d had the same host for over 3 years, PowWeb. It hadn’t been a charmed relationship but for the most part it was a quiet, functional, utilitarian arangement. In 3 years I’d had sporadic down times, a few support calls for piddly things, nothing serious. I’d never had an enjoyable time with their support department but that’s not uncommon for any support experience.

On July 16th, 2011 I noticed some heavy slowdowns with the site, then occasional outages. I filed a support ticket with their seemingly user-friendly online support forum. Over the next week the problem was marked ‘resolved’ three times with the claim that I had not gotten back in touch with them to discuss the problem. During this period I filed another ticket about not receiving their emails and provided an alternate address.

On July 24th I found my site was completely down. Not only that, but my admin login with PowWeb was inaccessible and said ‘invalid user account’, webmail was the same. The site was the only notice, the frontpage of funkboxing was an ugly PowWeb page screaming that this site had been ‘suspended’ and the admin should contact Pow Web by phone. Nice, very subtle. How about ‘site temporarily down’ is that too diplomatic?

So I call support. After a 15 minute wait for a tech and 5 minutes waiting for the tech to find my file the tech declares that my problem is that my account has been suspended. No kidding.

After that the tech seemed quite satisfied that she was dealing with some kind of criminal worthy of all manner of condescension. Why not, what decent person would have their account suspended?

After hanging up on that tech and finding another, slightly less unhelpful one, I found my account had been suspended due to an overuse of disk space. My account was using some 200Gigs of space which was over the limit.  Interesting for two reasons. First, there was no 200Gigs. I downloaded my entire 2Gig site in a little over an hour to make sure. Second, the limit for my account was- unlimited.

Apparently unlimited in PowWebs terms and conditions means ‘about as much as everybody else’, or probably something more like ‘however much we feel like giving you’.

The mysterious 200Gig file was never found, and a 3rd tech finally approved my suspension to be rescinded, in 24-48 hours. A 4th tech was able to speed things up and get my suspension rescinded while I waited on the line.

Seems the trick with PowWeb tech support is that each tech will only tell you one new piece of information, or perform one task. After that you should just hang up, call back, and get a new one. Of course this takes time because you have to explain the preceding events to each new tech. Good times.

But I was back, admin login was good, webmail login was good- but, my site was gone. Up, but gone. Nothing in the folders. Deleted. No data.

Another call to tech support and I was told it would be back in 24-48 hours. Another call got the same answer.

So I said screw it, closed the support ticket with a strongly worded complaint saying I would restore the site myself and please do not delete it again.

July 26th, sites back up, with a few problems with the restore, but I’m getting there. Unwisely I perform a site backup with a wordpress plugin called Snapshot-backup. It’s a horrible plugin, it’s like an invasion of the blob. It can start multiple backups which keep backing each other up, resulting in a 2Gig site creating multiple files 20+ gigs in size or larger.

Once again my disk-space is growing geometrically, albeit this time with a reason. So like a good little client I file a support ticket explaining what’s going on, that I’ve identified the problem, and please either fix it by deleting the files and stopping the backup process or at least don’t suspend my account while I’m figuring out how to do it.

Then I figured out how to do it. I changed the permissions on the .zip files the backup program was creating to read-only, which caused the process to error out and terminate, then the files were deleted.

It worked. The files were gone, disk-space under control. I got on the wordpress dashboard and deactivated and deleted the plugin with extreme prejudice. I was getting ready to send a concise message to the plugin developer about their product. The the site shut down and the ‘suspended’ page was back. Wow.

Moments later I get a call. It’s the first time PowWeb has ever called me, but it proves they’ve had my number all along so they could have called me about the first suspension or any of the other problems I’ve had with them in the years I paid them to host this website.

The guy begins to explain that my account has been suspended. I explain that I knew that, the problem had been identified, reported, and fixed, and they could remove the suspension. And I told him for future reference they should read and become familiar with a customers support ticket history before taking such action, not to mention stop deleting my website.

The guy told me they wouldn’t be able to revoke my suspension, he was sorry that PowWeb would no longer host my account, but that they’d help me find another host.

PowWeb was breaking up with me… Awww. I like that they’d help me find another host too, like I can’t use google and find the 160 other 5 dollar a month web-hosting services with the exact same features.

I took the time to explain to the guy the events that had led up to him giving me this call, and that PowWeb seemed to have gone to great lengths to insult and offend me, then when I complained about my treatment, their response was to deny me service. I told him this was a total breakdown in support and customer service and that it could be used as a case study to improve their company.

That said, I told him I was perfectly happy to part ways with his company and although the manner was particularly insulting, it just seemed par for the course so I should move on anyway.

I was guaranteed that the customer service people would research this and see what had gone wrong. I’m sure I’ll be reading the tiger team audit on that soon.

That was it. I was too loud, too much trouble. It kind of makes sense; they only charge 5-6 bucks a month so it’s only worth it for customers that just pay and shut up about it, once someone becomes too much of a burden, get rid. Insurance companies have the same business model right?

I had to go through a little rigamarole to get my domains DNS changed because I’d lost my login long ago and the admin-email for the registrar was my old LSU account which is long gone. I had to sign and scan a thing and my drivers license, it was a pain but at least it’s done and I went ahead and got my domain registered with the same company that hosts it so that’s better.

As the final finger, while I was waiting for the DNS changes to go through I found the site still had their ugly ‘suspended’ notice on it despite the fact that I no longer had an account with them. So I thought if I could get PowWeb to redirect the site as one normally could with the admin panel, then I could at get back up and running. I called support and explained the situation, he simply told me that my account had been deleted from the servers and I could manage my domain if I signed up with PowWeb again.

Once again, funny for two reasons. First- they’ll kick me out, then have me back the same day. Second- I wonder if deleting me from the servers deletes my support tickets, meaning the whole thing about the customer service people looking into the incident, which the guy told me just a few hours before, was complete crap.

Thanks PowWeb. You’ve earned this rant and I hope it sways as much business away from your crappy business practices as possible. It probably won’t do much, but hell- you’re willingly getting rid of customers so who knows what you’re up to. Anyway.

It’s all done now, funkboxing.coms back to normal, even upgraded a little, but I left the processing.js banner off for now, still haven’t decided… anyway.

I heartily recommend that if you are looking for a domain host or registrar, there are many, many options. PowWeb is not one of them.

I went with godaddy just because it was pretty convenient and I’d used it before to get a site started for some guys business so I knew it’d be quick. Also their disk space plans were clearly defined. 10G for the economy plan. None of this quasi-unlimited bs.

Godaddy seems pretty good so far. Domain transfer went through quick, sites very fast and FTP seems faster than PowWeb. Godaddy even courtesy called me when I first signed up to make sure I knew how to set everything up, not bad.

I’ll let you know how things turn out with godaddy but in the mean time, stay away from PowWeb, and be careful of ‘unlimited’ anything.

Jul 022011
 

I should stow this until Atlantis is safely back on the ground, but I can’t stop braining so all I can do is write.

Everything is pointing towards this really being the beginning of the end. How many times in human history has a civilization put a mega-scale project down, and then actually picked it back up again?

After Atlantis lands, the U.S. will be unable to put a manned vehicle into Earth orbit, will be unable to performed extra-vehicular activities, and has no operational plans to recover these abilities in the future. The plan is essentially to rely on industry to provide these are commercial services.

Rather than focus on the Richard K. Morgan style sexually explicit gore of this nightmare- I’ll do something else.

I’ll tell you what I believe a planet of almost 7 billion people could do in one year.

We could effectively end hunger. With the cooperation of industrialized nations we could begin a systematic campaign to eleminate malnutrition world-wide. Beginning with focused internal national efforts to a) provide baseline nutritional needs to every human being within national borders b) begin massive peace-corps like employment/works campaigns to recruit those willing to bring this to the rest of the world. Beginning in the least-dangerous countries, work will begin to produce environmentally and economically sustainable crops locally using scientifically tested techniques. Moving to more difficult areas will require the potential use of intially overwhelming physical presence and economic force followed by sustainable presence and estabilishment of transparent, world-sanctioned food distribution practices to avoid the potential for local abuse. The absolute most difficult areas such as those in extreme isolation and repression as N. Korea will of course be a persistent problem that could make the goal of 1 year unachievable. However, as the credibility of a world-wide, well-supported anti-hunger movement grows, it may be more and more difficult even the most repressive regimes to deny the potential benefits to their people.
Those countries invested in ending world hunger must first end hunger in their own borders. This is crucial, but this really is the easy part. America has the resources to end hunger now, the only logistal factor in some cases would be finding it, but as the effort became established and sustained this would be less and less of a problem. I don’t feel I have to get into the possible political problems involved in getting this done in  the US, because those problems boil down to the fact that starving children cannot contribute campaign funds. One year, hunger has been defeated in N. America and Europe. Hunger in the rest of the world is getting really scared.

We could end the war on drugs. Actually this one is sort of wrapped up with ending hunger. Basically drugs from marijuana to lsd, cocaine to heroine will be regulated and taxed. Taxes will be used to fund drug rehab, education and
houseing for the non-violent drug offenders that will be released from prison, and of course, ending hunger. Additionally hemp will be re-intruduced as an industrual and food-crop. Hempseed will be used extensively in malnurished areas as it is a complete protein food. Once again special interests such as commercial prison services providers can suck eggs.

We could return to the moon, and launch a mission to mars. Okay, this ones a stretch I know, and I would rather not push a moon landing or mars launch date. I’m gung-ho but I want safe flights, rugged, tested hardware, and extensively trained crews, and I know that takes more than a year even for a return to the moon. Maybe 3 years for a moon return and 5 for a mars launch. That would require a total rededication of funds at least on the order of Apollo. It took 10 years from virtually nothing. For the return to the moon we could have a spacecraft designed in a year, built and tested in another year, and another year for more flight tests and crew training. Then the mars mission could build on that. So why should we? because last time we grew a pair we got ourselves a whole treasure trove of cool new technology out of it, plus a boat-load of science nerds that run university’s and big companies and fuel our economy.

[PRE-LAUNCH POST]

[tminus t="08-07-2011 15:26:46" omitweeks="true" style="carbonite" id="STS-135-Liftoff"]— LIFTOFF ATLANTIS!!! —[/tminus]

This really could be titled STS-1 – STS-135, but this is about the last flight of Atlantis OV-104.

Her first flight was on October 3, 1985. She was the last built of the original orbiters. The Endeavor was commissioned to replace the Challenger. Atlantis service time and flight record was second only to Discovery, with very similar statistics.

In 33 missions she helped repair Hubble and build the ISS, deployed 14 satellites including the Magellan and Galileo probes that surveyed Venus and Jupiter.

In a few days her engines will fire and she’ll ride 2,800,000 pounds of thrust into orbit one last time, carrying a crew of veteran astronauts
Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim.

This crew will dock with the ISS, deliver equipment and supplies to the ISS, then return to the Earth.

Then the United States of America will forfeit its capability to put human beings into orbit.

For the first time since Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Mercury Mission, America will have no flight-ready manned orbital spacecraft, and none in production.

Gus Grissom has something he’d like me to say for him:
“Hey you latte sucking gimps! I died so you yuppies could enjoy satellite radio and talking GPS in your goddamn BMW? Fuck that bull-shit! No fucking way. I died so that Neil, Pete, Dave, Eugene and all my buddies could be your eyes and ears in a place you dream of but cannot reach. I died so that America and the world could look at the stars and see a world waiting for them. I died so that we could begin a new age. Now you fucks have apparently decided the age I died to help create is a little too enlightened and you’d rather wallow in fear and consumption. You’d rather worry about patenting genes and making sure space is profitable.
Space is profitable – you fucks just don’t know how to count.
Grissom OUT!”

Ed White, Roger Chaffee, Vladimir Komarov, the crews of the Challenger, Colombia, and Soyuz 11 share similar sentiments as Gus.

t: +10:00
That’s what manned spaceflight is all about. Unfortunately that’s all there is. The human race will now crawl back into caves and trees and contentedly throw poo at each other. Sentience was fun, wish we could have made more of it.

t: +8:30
15,000mph. 3 good main engines, 3 good APUs, 3 good fuel cells. Standing by for MECO. MECO. ET sep good.

t: +4:30
Gimme MECO baby.

t: +1:40
21 high, 24 downrange, standby for SRB sep. Good sep.

t: +0:30
Roll program complete.

t: -0:10
Main engine start.

t: -0:30 – resuming
Good to go.

t: -0:31 – hold
Some kind of failure here. Doesn’t seem too substantial. Something with a camera? Did’n't retract from the SRB or something?

t: -1:30 – counting
Florida’s seagull population is cowering.

t: -3:30 – counting
Gimbal check, I love that. Big ole bells, ring baby ring.

t: -5:00 – counting
Retracting that arm. Last time we’ll see that beauty on the pad. Such a calm leviathan, but no gentle giant.

t: -9:00 – resume count
Weather looks good. This is going to happen. Commander said this is only the end of a chapter of a story that will never end. I hope so, but what’s with the frequent and lengthy intermissions?

t: -12:00
Weather looks good from here, but I’m in Baton Rouge…

t: -05:00:00
I probably shouldn’t watch this launch. It’s very upsetting as it is. It has to be a perfect launch. It will be a perfect launch, a perfect flight, and a perfect landing.
I’m trying to stow my despair for now and concentrate on appreciating the people who are doing their finest work to manage this flight. But it’s hard not to think about what this means and get really pissy about it.
Makes you feel like we just don’t stand a chance. We didn’t care that much when they shut down Apollo either. If spaceflight can’t inspire us, we’re totally fucked. How is money supposed to inspire us more than this? Little kids aren’t supposed to dream about becoming millionaires, they’re supposed to dream about becoming doctors, scientists, astronauts.
I think maybe a society can be judged by what the majority of its kids want to be when they grow up. Ask around, see what we’re headed for.

May 272011
 

Today I commend one Giorgio A. Tsoukalos. The first sentence of his wikipedia page says it all.

“Giorgio A. Tsoukalos (born March 14, 1978) is a Swiss born Greek writer and television presenter specializing in ancient astronaut theory.”

Not that I don’t think ancient astronaut theory is fun and interesting, even Carl Sagan suggested it deserved a serious look.  I just think this guy is like the Tommy Chong of space advocacy.

Then again maybe I’m worse- he’s just telling a fun story. I’m saying if we don’t start building spaceships like Noah on steroids then we’re all going to die. Yeah, I’m worse.

So I hereby rescind the ‘Kook of the Month’ award. That was quick.

May 222011
 

I used to get lots of spam comments until I put a captcha thing on. Most of it was crap but there was a gem…

“We are Dyslexia of Borg. Fusistance is retile. Your ass will be laminated.”

Now that’s good spam.