Flying was a major part of his life from the age of six when he took his first flight with his father, all the way up to that landing on the moon and beyond. In many ways he was the embodiment of everything that was best in the U.S. NASA space program and deserved the honors he received while alive and the tributes since his death on Saturday.
Like more than five hundred million others, I was one of the lucky ones who saw that “one small step”. I was only six, but my parents allowed me to stay up way past my regular bedtime to see it live. After all these years I still remember the excitement and sense of awe as Armstrong descended the steps, touched the moon’s surface and spoke his famous line.
Imagine the immensity of that moment:a person, someone just like you or me, actually standing on the surface of another planet! Even at the age of six I understood how special that was. It captivated as it did countless others and was one of the key events that drove my love of space, astronomy, physics, and science as a whole. From that day I, like humanity, would never be the same again.
Neil Armstrong changed everything. My respect to him, his family,and all the other astronauts who showed just how far we, as a species, can reach. As I look around it’s clear that now, more than ever, we need similar people to reach even further.
We’re all so busy, so embedded in just keeping up with life that we can so easily lose the ability to dream. It’s often hard to maintain the vision that we can be better than we are, that humanity can reach out from the dirt and squalor we often find ourselves in to reach out to the stars.
It takes bravery and a sometimes unnerving arrogance to Continue reading
It was with great sadness that I read about Anne McCaffrey dying. Another creative giant has gone, leaving the world just that little less rich.
Although probably best known for her Pern/Dragon series, they weren’t among my favorites. This doesn’t diminish the books in any way, of course; we all have our own unique likes and dislikes which is what makes life so incredibly vibrant. Anne McCaffrey added to this with everything she wrote. Continue reading
“In 2020, the vast majority of adults in America will be overweight or obese and
more than half will suffer from diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions, according to
new projections.” Source: Science Daily.
“The world is likely to build so many fossil-fuelled power stations, energy-
guzzling factories and inefficient buildings in the next five years that it will
become impossible to hold global warming to safe levels, and the last chance of
combating dangerous climate change will be “lost for ever”, according to the most
thorough analysis yet of world energy infrastructure.” Source: The Guardian.
This is the end
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes…again
So Rick Perry, guardian of religious insanity and memory loss, would abolish the Depts. of Commerce, Energy and Education…
I suppose it makes sense really. The banks and financial services markets are
allowed to behave in any way they want and bailed out with public money when they screw up, so why do you need anyone to watch them?
The U.S. steals most of it’s energy reserves from other countries through unfair
trade agreements and allows its citizens to squander them at will, so no need for
any energy regulation either.
And as for education? Well, hell, we know for sure the U.S. doesn’t need any of
that high-falutin nonsense…
Today would have been Carl Sagan’s 77th birthday. My first introduction to him was, like so many people’s, through watching Cosmos in my teens. I was already completely obsessed with anything space, science, or science fiction related when the show aired, and its combination of stunning visuals, atmospheric music, and exploration not only of what makes us human, but also how we relate to the Universe around us, had me hooked immediately. Sagan’s passion and enthusiasm was truly infectious and couldn’t help but overflow the confines of the small screen. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I have to highly recommend it.
Carl Sagan was a scientist, an explorer, skeptic, humanitarian, and visionary; he is sorely missed. One of the strongest memories I have is his “Pale Blue Dot” speech, which is as poetic as it is humbling. I present it here in tribute to this great man:
“”We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.”
“The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
R.I.P. Carl Sagan. 1934-1996
So heaven is a ‘fairy story’, declares Stephen Hawking in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. In the interview he relates how he regards the brain as merely a ‘computer’ that stops working when its parts break down, and that belief in heaven is a comfort for people afraid of the dark.
I can hardly wait for the mumblings, accusations and attacks to begin. Although this particular viewpoint has been stated many times in the past by many people (including myself), the fact that someone as high profile as Stephen Hawking IS saying it will no doubt have every religious extremist and nut-bag ’alternative living’ zealot in the world up in arms.
I remember discussing religion with a devout Muslim, during which I was asked what I believed in and answered simply “nothing”. My acquaintance indicated disbelief at this and suggested I must believe in Christianity or a number of other religious possibilities. I then explained that, as far as I was concerned, anyone who believed in such things was clearly both delusional and insane – “you’re all mad”.
I knew the person well enough to know that they were a gentle person and would not get upset by the expression of my opinion; though I would have said much the same even if I didn’t know that.
When I was younger I read a lot of books about myth and legend from multiple sources – Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Scandinavian, Indian, North American and more. They were always interesting and often had a lot in common with each other.
One of the things that struck me, even at such a young age, was that almost all of these tales were, at one time believed to be real; people actually worshipped, gave sacrifice, planned their lives on the basis of these screwy tales of god, giants, flying horses etc. and again which were clearly pure unadulterated rubbish.
So then when I looked at the ‘modern’ religions, it was clear that this was just more of the same. If these ancient legends were all wrong, how could the modern versions be any truer? Again it’s just nonsense of the highest order.
Apparently we are pre-disposed to believe in god and the afterlife, but I guess in my case the brain-washing didn’t take. Though, as the person leading that research describes himself as an ‘observant Christian’ and believes that God is ‘all-knowing, all powerful’, he can hardly be classed as an impartial observer.
Let the mud-slinging commence!
In Canada we’re on the verge of a Federal election and all the parties are going full steam to explain why you would be better off voting for them, while simultaneously avoiding classic foot-in-mouth syndrome by saying absolutely nothing of consequence.
I’ve experienced various elections, national/federal, local/provincial, in two different countries and been an ‘observer’ of many others in nations all around the world, so I think I can consider myself a bit of an ‘expert’ on the process. This allows me to predict the result of this current election with absolute confidence.
Nothing will change.
By that I don’t mean that the current government will necessarily stay in power. What I am predicting is that regardless of who wins, the big picture will stay pretty much the same. Here’s three reasons why – pick the explanation that you like best.
- The “timid’ explanation
Politicians and political parties are about getting votes. To win any election you are basically chasing as many votes as possible and this means that you will say anything to achieve that end. To maximise votes it’s necessary to present yourself and party as being all things to all people. Taking a stand, courageous actions, strong leadership and dealing with real issues are all fundamentally risky activities. So each party squabbles incessantly over minor differences around the central ground and occupies the same middle-of-the-road, say-nothing, do-nothing territory. The only cure for this is for someone to actually grow a pair, and that would immediately disqualify them by upsetting someone somewhere.
- The ‘generous’ explanation
When your party is in opposition, you really don’t have access to all the information and financial picture of what’s really going on within the government. You’re like a schoolkid with their ear to the door trying to understand what the parents are really talking about, but not really ever quite fully catching what’s been said. You see certain things that the general public sees, you know a few more things through internal rumours and whispers – but you really don’t know the true picture. All those ‘behind closed doors’ trade deals, the you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours arrangements, that contract for jets that the current incumbents screwed up big time, it’s all outside your knowledge. As you don’t know those things and also don’t have a full set of economic information, you’re forced to make guesses about what you are going to be able to do in power. Then bing! You’re elected, few of your guesses turned out to be very good, so now you have to back-track. The only cure for this is for the current government to let all its rivals have full sight of everything that goes down. Yeah… right…
- The ‘cynical’ explanation
Politicians are not interested in the general public. They really only care about one thing: lining their own and their friends pockets (the two usually run side-by-side for some strange reason). The net result of this is that they only need you and I, the public, at times of great emergency, i.e. when they want to be elected/re-elected. At any other time they don’t even want to acknowledge the public exists and they sure as hell don’t want to talk to them or listen to them. So, having convinced you to vote them in (or back in) to power, they find great comfort and solace in forgetting that the ‘unwashed masses’ ever existed; and go back to work on the next trade deal that will sell off yet another national asset to foreign buyers while they enjoy the kickbacks. There is no cure for this scenario.
Any one of these scenarios ensures that my prediction is accurate. To many people change is something to fear and dread. People say “‘everything could change” in hushed tones as though this would be the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it(TM). My fear is simple; that nothing will ever change.
Now that is a really frightening thought.
You would think that raising kids would be pretty easy by now, wouldn’t you? After all the human race has around 200,000 years of doing just that fairly successfully (if we weren’t successful we wouldn’t be here of course!). But it seems in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that this has become suddenly complex beyond belief.
Children, we are told, must be cosseted, protected from any possibility of ‘harm’, no matter how slight. They must be indulged, served, pandered to and every waking moment must be filled with just the right mix of ‘structured activities’ that will guarantee that little James or Jemima turns into the next Einstein/Beethoven/Pavlova/Williams.
Recent research also shows that our children are unable to deal with just 24 hours without access to media and technology. After a short time they start to suffer symptoms of what is very obviously addiction withdrawal. One of the interesting conclusions was: “Particularly noteworthy was the short attention spans of the students – how quickly they became bored and lost interest in the alternative activities they did try.”
It seems clear to me that there is a connection between this and early development. This addiction starts in early childhood, encouraged and indeed fostered by parents. James/Jemima are given a TV and cartoons, electronic puzzles and toys; a little later it’s a PlayStation or similar. It’s very easy to fool yourself that your child is doing well if you can just sit them down in front of something electronic that’s labelled ‘educational’.
The problem with all of these things is that they are entirely passive, not just in a physical sense but also in a mental sense. James and Jemima don’t need to imagine a cave with monsters, they’re spoon-fed the whole visual experience. There’s no need to imagine a spaceship and aliens from another world, it’s provided for them. Not just that but in toys too, why imagine what anything looks like when they can just be given a detailed example where all the imagination has been done by the (adult) designers?
When I was young, my parents didn’t try to fill every minute of my time. In fact they used to just tell me to ‘find something to do’. The idea was that left to my own devices I would figure out a way of keeping myself occupied, whether by reading, inventing imaginary worlds, playing (physically) with friends. As long as we weren’t getting in to ‘mischief’ there was no problem and if we did we were *gasp* punished!
But think about this. All of that play, all of that imagination, all of that ‘unstructured time’ permitted and required that we use our minds, that we used our imaginations. By doing that we were training ourselves to think, to focus, to concentrate and develop our independence of thought. Sure, we didn’t know we were ‘training’ anything; we were just playing.
It seems obvious that we need to rediscover this idea. By providing everything in spoon-fed, predigested form we take away the tools and processes our children need to develop their minds (and bodies) fully.
Studies by the University of Michigan reveal the devastating trend – since the 1970s, “children have lost 12 hours per week in free time, including a 25 percent drop in play and a 50 percent drop in unstructured outdoor activities.” Not only that but “homework increased dramatically between 1981 and 1997″. The amount given to 6- to 8-year-olds increasing 300% .
We think by giving them everything, that we are being ‘good parents’, when in reality we are harming their overall development and raising people who can’t think for themselves, who suffer from ‘attention deficit’ and who believe that anything in the media is ‘real’. We’re breeding sheep for the exploitation of whoever controls the channels pumping non-stop drivel into our children’s heads.
Don’t handicap your kids by denying them the value of being bored. Boredom stimulates both imagination and activity, both of which are highly valuable and make people what they should be: intelligent, focused, adaptable and valuable.
Let them play.
“The main conservative opposition party, Fidesz, insists that the government must find the money.”
How is it that so many people manage to miss the most basic, fundamentals of how governments work, including those actually within those circles? Let’s all take a deep breath, that’s it, now repeat after me.
“Governments don’t have any money.”
“Governments don’t have any money.”
The only money that any government ‘has’ is what they’ve taken from the public in taxes, fees, more taxes, more fees, taxes on the taxes etc. In other words, yours and mine, or in this case the population of Hungary. They can’t just ‘find’ money. They can only take it from us, and if you vote to prevent that, guess what? They have no money.
Oh and if you think somehow they could dip into their own (undoubtedly well lined) pockets…
Governments don’t do that either. Perhaps they should.