Saturday, July 18, 2015

Interstellar travel not likely, but we can still observe the universe

Where are the star ships? Well, interstellar star ships are not likely in the future of humankind. At least according to author Kim Stanley Robinson who was recently interviewed on NPR Science Friday. The stars are just too far away. It would take several human generations to get to any star system even within 50 light years. The amount of energy it would take to get up to just 10% of the speed of light would be stupendous. Then it would take lots of energy to slow down again at the destination. A star ship couldn't be very large as more mass just means more energy needed to get it to speed.

Science is also discovering that over 80% of our DNA is shared with other earthy creatures. We are of Earth and the Earth environment goes through us; like jellyfish in the ocean. We may not be able to spend long periods, like generations, in the small environment of a star ship.

In my own opinion, this doesn't preclude space exploration, however. Curiosity can lead to great astronomy as well as space missions to places like Pluto. Even human space exploration and colonization could be in our future. (My own opinion not mentioned in this article). We could build large colonies in our solar system and bring much of the earth environment with us. These colonies could be larger than the star ships we could build as they wouldn't have to accelerate so fast because they would not have to go beyond the solar system. They could be larger and more earth like; which is something our species needs.

Philosophically, to me, it is interesting to note that science seems to pull us in two directions. It gives us technology to get farther into space than any other earthly creature, yet at the same time it tells us that we are mere animals, ourselves. Made from the same DNA and needing the same environment as other creatures of Earth. Science seems to be dethroning the image we have of ourselves as being in the realm of the gods or being able to live beyond an earth like environment.

Now, some other type of intelligence, like artificial intelligence, could supersede us making for a different situation, but barring that we are still of earth. Faster than light travel (warp drive) could change this prediction also, in my opinion.

Barring something like faster than light travel, we can only look beyond our solar system and look we do. Even just looking inspires us to great achievement.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Light sticks replace sparklers as Fourth of July traditions evolve

I noticed lots of kids were waving colored light sticks at the Fourth of July celebration on Bellingham's waterfront. Personal fireworks are banned in Bellingham, WA. I got to thinking that the light stick can be viewed as the sparkler of the modern era. Fourth of July Traditions are changing. Light sticks are safer than the sparklers that my generation had as kids, but the modern events can still create fond memories. Just different memories.

Watching the city's giant fireworks display is a part of the tradition. We didn't have a city display in the town of Pullman, WA. where I grew up back when I was a kid at least. We did have quite a neighborhood tradition where folks gathered on a hillside for a picnic. After the food, kids would set off personal fireworks on the road below. Parents watched from the hillside that worked like an amphitheater. There were found memories, but also nerve wracking moments; like the time a pinwheel shot into the audience and almost set Mrs. Powers stockings on fire.

Some people lament the loss of the personal fireworks. They feel the Fourth has been denuded; like a cat that's had it's claws removed. I'm okay with the ban and the evolving traditions. At the same time, I notice why some of these changes are happening. For instance, it seems like folks are a lot more finicky about their pets, these days. Back in my childhood days, dogs and cats would cower, during the Fourth, but their owners seemed less worried about it. Folks are more fussy about their pets these days. Safety standards seem higher these days also.

So the traditions keep changing and the Fourth continues to make memories. I also notice that many of the light sticks are rainbow colors. Some hardcore conservatives might lament that the Fourth is becoming too, what they would call "sissy."