Bloggus Interruptus

I was over at the California Science Center this afternoon to hear a panel discussion with Buzz Aldrin and several other speakers, moderated by Howard McCurdy. And I’m on a red eye back to Florida tonight, so probably not much until sometime tomorrow.

[Friday morning update]

Back home, but sleep deprived. Maybe more later.

Apollo Memories, And A Modest Proposal

…from Iowahawk:

Today, America still has a space effort, but sadly it just doesn’t inspire like it once did in the heady days of Apollo and Gemini. Unmanned probes and orbiting space labs are fine, I guess, but where is the glamor? Where are the crewcut astronaut he-men with names like ‘Deke’ and ‘Buzz’ and ‘Gus,’ driving around Houston in matching big block Corvettes and Ray-Bans? Nowhere, that’s where. They’ve all been outsourced by space computers and floaty-haired National Junior High Science Teacher of the Year nerds. You tell me — do we really want dorks like these as Earth’s first line of defense against invading intergalactic aliens? No wonder my brother and I have to be half-blotto before we play pretend astronauts anymore.

If America wants to get back on the right track, scientific space mission-wise, we need to once again pick an inspiring, audacious goal, and man it with the kind of inspirational crew to make it happen. At long last, let us realize mankind’s most cherished dream — sending the entire United States Congress to the Moon by 2010.

When I mention this proposal to my space engineering friends at Meier’s Tap, they are often skeptical. They’ll argue it’s impossible, that even NASA’s most powerful booster rockets never anticipated a payload of 535 people including Charlie Rangel and Jerrold Nadler. Look man, I’m just the idea guy, and I’m sure those details can be worked out. When John F. Kennedy first proposed going to the Moon in 1961, did you people expect him to already have a formula for Tang? The beauty of my proposal is that our Astro-Congress is already on payroll — and chock full of crisis tested problem-solving engineers. If they can take over the entire US auto industry and re-engineer the American heath care system in two weeks, surviving a Moon mission will be a snap!

If only he’d been elected president last year. I’d be space czar now.

When Do We Die?

While I was waiting for my mythical piece in The New Atlantis to come on line (Real Soon Now) I was looking over the spring issue, and found this piece on the legal definition of death. His purpose is to define when it’s morally acceptable to harvest organs, but I don’t think that it will work as well for cryonicists (a subject I discussed several years ago). The problem with the legal definitions is the word “irreversible.” It’s not really possible to know prospectively whether or not a given biological state is irreversible, because this is an ever-moving target and a function of available technology, whether in your geographical or temporal location. As I noted in my cryonics piece, many conditions that would have been considered “irreversible” in the past (e.g., cessation of respiration after drowning) can now be routinely reversed, without even special tools–just knowledge of CPR.

The only truly definitive definition of death is the concept of information death, in which the ashes of the brain are scattered to the winds. And the fact remains that death is a process, not a discrete event, and as technology continues to advance it will be possible to reverse it as we go deeper and deeper into the process.

Because Unemployment Isn’t High Enough, Yet

Michigan Democrats want to raise the state minimum wage to ten bucks an hour. This is economically criminal behavior. It will further devastate black youth in Detroit, Flint and Saginaw. Flint’s official employment rate is almost thirty percent.

And meanwhile, the red fox has returned to Detroit. Moose won’t be far behind, if they want to walk across the Mackinac Bridge.

The More Things Change

The more they remain the same:

…the masses are morons who respond only to simple messages repeated thousands of times (a perspective I discuss at length in my book).

Seventy-some years later, this belief is as popular with the powers that be as it was in 1933.

You know, like Hope! And Change! And we can spend our way out of bankruptcy. And that you’ll get to keep your private insurance.

Apollo Thoughts I’d Missed Monday

From James Lileks:

As I’ve said before, nothing sums up the seventies, and the awful guttering of the national spirit, than a pop song about Skylab falling on people’s heads. “Skylab’s Falling,” a novelty hit in the summer of ’79. It tumbled down thirty years ago this month, and didn’t get much press, possibly because of the odd muted humiliation over the event. But it wasn’t end of Skylab that gave people a strange shameful dismay. It was the idea that we were done up there, and the only thing we’d done since the Moon trips did an ignominious Icarus instead of staying up for decades. So this wasn’t the first step toward the inevitable double-wheel with a Strauss waltz soundtrack, or something more prosaic. Wasn’t that the way it was supposed to work? Moon first, then space station, then moon colonization, then Mars.

If a kid could see that, why couldn’t they?

…Robot exploration is very cool; I’d like more. As someone noted elsewhere, we should have those rovers crawling all over the Moon, at the very least. It’s just down the street. But think how much grander we would feel if we knew that our first mission to Jupiter was coming back next month. (Without the giant space-fetus.) How we would imagine our solar system, how each planet would feel like a blank page in a passport waiting for a stamp. Perhaps that’s what annoys some: the aggrandizement that would come from great exploits. Human pride in something that isn’t specifically related to fixing the Great Problems we face now, or apologizing for the Bad Things we did before. Spending money to go to Mars before we’ve stopped climate turbulence would be like taking a trip to Europe while the house is on fire.

I had forgotten that Skylab fell a decade after the first landing. What a metaphorical fall, in only ten brief years (though they seemed longer at the time, I being much younger).

Oh, and the astronaut punching the guy in the face thing? As long-time blog readers know, it was a hoax. Never happened.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!