Yesterday I found myself watching a Nova documentary (Youtube) on the Hubble Space Telescope. Though a Canadian, we still have PBS feeds (along with everything else american) though our cable companies. Though much of what else is piped in from south of the 49th parallel is garbage, PBS has always had quality programming. Whether it was Sesame Street as a child, or Frontline/Nova as an adult.
The Nova program I was viewing explored the history of the Hubble telescope. From the conception of the idea, to the uphill battle to bring it to fruition, to the billion dollar public disaster that was reaped when it was found that parts of its internal mirror were shaved just a hair to thin (think the equivalent of half a human hair!), causing blurred and distorted images. Though this was later resolved with the installation of a mechanism that essentially gave the telescope glasses. Resulting in this.
The images are breathtaking, beautiful and awe inspiring. They helped humanity solve some of its previously most debated questions (how old is the universe?), and officially debunked some of our oldest and most long standing assumptions (the only universe that exists, is ours), and was (and still is) the source of all sorts of scientific discoveries to this day.
Being somewhat of a philosopher by interest, I have to acknowledge the limitations of this data. Here we wade into the waters the the Science VS Philosophy divide that I never even knew existed before a year or so ago.
As is usual when humans bicker over something, many tend to stick primarily within their boxes of choice. Those with interests in Science (be they personal or tenure) tend to see philosophy as useless mind games. While people on the philosophy side point out the inherently useless nature of forwarding sciences like Astrophysics, while also acknowledging the problems caused by science proceeding unchecked (climate change?).
This was not always the case, as at one time science was widely accepted as a branch of philosophy (known as the philosophy of science). But as tends to be the case with stupid humans, people feel the need to pick sides. I don’t care how arrogant that sounds (considering I just labeled some of the most brilliant and intellectual people on earth as stupid), if you think in boxes, your just as much of an idiot as the vapid social media morons I often find myself correcting.
Another thing about this whole separation between philosophy and science, is that its dangerous. People love to jump behind science over philosophy because of where it put humanity. Because of science we are not only living longer than ever before, but also living far better than ever before. But at what cost?
The biggest factor in the explosion of human dominance on this planet hands down, was tapping into the power of fossil fuels. Everything stems from there.
And yet, there was a danger in this from the very beginning. Long before we knew about the dangers of billions of tons of carbon in the air, or millions of tons of it in the oceans (in the form of plastic). We knew from observation, the checks and balances of nature. We knew that a species only flourishes to the limits of its ecosystem. This is where the reason and rationality of philosophy could have been very handy.
It is the job of science and the scientists to continually observe and explore, bringing the species forward one discovery at a time. But at the same time, philosophy should serve as a check and balance to the forward momentum of science.
By utilizing these fossil fuels for purposes such as pesticides and fertilizers, we are indeed making the species more prosperous. But what is the long term picture? Is it really prosperity? Or is it a blind march into the biggest crash of human history?
Also notable here, are developments such as megaton nuclear weapons. Weapons with literal apocalyptic potential. While milestones of scientific development, when confronted from an angle of reason, the obvious question is “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!”.
To be fair, science is not alone in its seeming misuses. People could point to people like Adolf Hitler and philosopher Martin Heidegger as examples of the pursuit gone awry.
Here I have to be careful. Being NOT a student of philosophy officially, I can not say whether or not Heidegger’s work was totally separate from his environmental Nazism or a part of it. But what I can say is that even if it did play a part, its not a reason to throw away the baby with the bath water.
Both Philosophy and Science are tools. Like any other tool in the wrong hands, they can both be potentially misused.
Watching that episode of Nova, like watching Cosmos or any other science program dealing with the world outside of our spherical planet, is really an interesting journey. The consumption of most any knowledge and information (the desire to understand, and educate when possible) drives me. But like many other people, space and the alien world beyond our atmosphere is a source of awe and fascination.
It was when I was young and thought that space beyond the observable universe was made up of various layers (like an old video game). And it remains so now that I have a more agnostic view of space beyond the observable universe.
Now, speaking of understanding and education (and around the topic of our planet), I recently was made aware that some people seriously believe (and argue that:
A.) The Earth is flat
B.) The universe revolves around the earth
Okay, its not hard to believe that some people take that shit seriously (the internet is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to lowering the bar). But its baffling, when both of these should have been addressed by even the most primitive of public education classes.
I correct myself.
Now that have a bit of an understanding of how the conspiratorial mindset works, this phenomenon makes perfect sense. When you default to “You can not trust the authorities!”, you won’t get very far citing official (yet factual) information. Which is where real world information (anything that references physics and other behaviors that are visible and available to anyone) comes in.
I will rebuttal both claims using that tactic
a1.) Doppler Radar and its implementation for detecting storms. Its widely utilized on the ground and in aircraft to track storms. But its also an invaluable tool in tornado ally for early warning, due to its detection of the hook echo (telltale sign of the vertical wind vortex that makes up a tornado).
But the technology is limited by its its range. Past a certain point, the radar beam may be to high in the clouds to detect tornadic activity below it. Otherwise known as the horizon. A hardly logical problem to run onto, on a flat surface.
It seems illogical that one could lose a jumbo jetliner ANYWHERE on earth if the earth were flat. Yet to date it has happened at least 3 times in the history of aviation.
Everyone knows about MH370, the missing Malaysian jet that captivated the media. And many may know of (but have forgotten about) Air France 447, the A330 that stalled and remained lost in the Atlantic for 2 years. Then there is South African 295, a 747 that caught fire and was in the Indian Ocean for many years.
In theory, with an earth that is flat as a table top, one should not lose something the size of a small building. Because it should not be difficult to cover a flat surface with full radar coverage.
But that is not possible.
Since the aircraft radar system suffers from the same horizon problem as Doppler radar. As such, communication and radar dead zones are present over all of the world’s ocean’s. And so thus its possible to lose a commercial airliner for years, without conspiratorial intent (a nod to the MH370 theorists out there).
Onto the earth is the center of the universe theory. . .
First of all, a lesson on the air we breathe. It is fluid. I turn to Google for a quick explanation:
A fluid is any substance in which the molecules are free to flow. This includes both gases and liquids. A liquid is any substance in which molecules are free to flow, and volume is fixed or nearly fixed. Liquids are a subset of fluids.
Since fluids and liquids are similar in nature, they behave similarly. As this Father shows with a simple balloon experiment.
All of this matters, because of many atmospheric phenomenons. One is prevailing winds. Another is storm rotation (hurricanes, meso-cyclones and such). All of these are at least partly driven by the rotation of the planet (fluid air behaving the way physics dictates it should). As with any hypothesis, one must account for this when considering the flat earth argument. If this were the reality, I suspect the planet would look very different than it does. And I suspect it would be very climatically different than it currently is (would it have the same life support abilities as earth of now?).
Arguably, making those arguments may not have been necessary. For the flat earthers, it should be apparent enough judging by our inability to find the edge of the cube. But I enjoy exploring these things. So we all benefit.
Moving back to where I left off, science has its place in my world. Astrophysics and the study of the past has a place in my life. But at the same time, it is not everything. Though one would never know this with how many in astrophysics are regarded (the highest of the high).
Many big names in science and astrophysics (including Neil Degrasse Tyson) do not view philosophy as much more than navel gazing (to quote a university professor I am friends with from afar). Essentially, a waste of time and energy.
Its a funny accusation to come from anyone in a field like Astrophysics due to the nature of the field. Studying the stars, the origins of the universe (and by extension, the origins of us).
While their work indeed adds to the vast array of human knowledge, one has to consider the purpose of the work when compared to the standard that is what is helpful to the forward motion of the species.
Philosophy is seen as a waste of energy, an endeavor of the foolish.
But what then, is astrophysics? The study of the universe, its origins and by extension our origins . . . .who cares!
Does an astrophysicist help investigate or mitigate the climate crisis?
Does astrophysics research help feed a growing world populace?
Does astrophysics research contribute to helping eradicate disease?
And speaking of wasted energy . . . Astrophysics has a FUCK of a bigger budget then philosophy ever has. NASA alone . . . let alone every other dollar spent elsewhere. All to study a subject that is essentially pointless. As unless as knowledge of current popular culture trends.
That’s a great investment of BILLIONS if I ever saw one!
Alright, before you hit the comment section and flip shit based merely on this, know that I do not really feel that way about astrophysics. That should have been clear earlier in the post, but none the less, I don’t hate the subject. It is interesting to me. But I can acknowledge the valid points of its critics.
The nova program referenced earlier (as well as Astrophysics in general) also made me think of a whole new area of wonder.
As you stare at the stars, as cosmos may have taught you, your staring into the past. What your seeing are the ghosts of stars that have likely gone dark millions or billions of years before. All of this light and radiological activity created by interplanetary phenomenon is the product of, the universe. The natural world.
Before humans, its safe to say that pretty much no creatures or organisms made any impact on the universe that could be considered everlasting. I am not talking about evidence that is just tied to this planet (such as fossils), I mean the universe as a whole. Life comes and life goes, in the cosmic blink of an eye.
But humans will not go (whenever and however we do) so quietly.
Indeed we will leave a giant mark on this planet when we go (plastic will be part of our fossil record). But unlike all other life, our technologies take our footprint well beyond this.
The artificial light that floods our towns and cities in the nighttime hours travels outward. Though not as intense as any star, the fact that we are able to project light into space is a feat in itself.
But louder than this, are the radio communications that permeate our lives. Like light, these communications do not just stay in and around earth. These also radiate upwards and out of the atmosphere, into the vacuum of space.
Something that is tied into this, is the question of extraterrestrials. Are there aliens our there somewhere, and do they visit our planet on occasion?
Were we visited by ancient aliens that gave us a head start into the technical progress we have achieved?
Will any of the lights or signals we generate ever going to be seen or heardby anything else of intelligence?
Even if its just a weird light source unfitting to the rest of the area surrounding it, or a bunch of weird static unfitting to that of the background static, will we ever be heard?
On the subject of ancient aliens, the first thing that comes to mind is . . . . stop watching the history channel. If it seems crazy and irrational, its likely because IT IS crazy and irrational.
As for if aliens exist, I really do not know. I am agnostic to the concept.
It is not out of the realm of possibility. Maybe luck of the draw on some other far off planet has spawned creatures of great intellectual ability. Possibly of such an ability that they would master the dynamics of space travel, making light years akin to our kilometers (or miles, to the imperialists of the world). To visit us, they would have to have been created in our timeframe (a big if). Hell, it would even be a big if to DETECT our presence in the grand scheme of things. Think of looking for the tip of a needle in a haystack, when your not even looking for a needle to begin with.
But even if I think the odds are greater than winning every lottery in the nation without even buying a ticket . . . you never know.
Though it is nice to have our heads in the clouds (or beyond, in this case), one must be weary of the pitfalls and problems of reality.
We all do this at times, particularly now with the dominance of social media. Looking down the road at distant or hair brained solutions to big problems (“Solar Freakin Roadways!”). Acts that feel as though they are making a difference, but are really just an exercise in positive thinking. You don’t have to worry. . . technological innovation and progress will fix that!
Not to long ago, I happened upon a few items that were relics of a decade past.
Whilst inheriting some paper’s from a lady who tasked them be gone though (check for important documents) and then destroyed or recycled, I came across 2 interesting items. Amongst some of her sons old college papers and work, was a copy of Rolling Stone Magazine (dated late December of 2003) and a publication of the University of Regina called “The Carillon”, dated August though September of 2002.
While many would likely have just tossed both into the recycling and moved on, I put them aside, interested in a trip down memory lane later.
The Rolling Stone Magazine proved interesting.
I came across an ad promoting the premiere of the long forgotten show The Simple Life.
Remember that show? Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie went to live the lives of simple people for a whole season or so?
Yes, i did watch. And yes, I did laugh at a few episodes. Like that brief time period where I liked According To Jim, I blame it on youthful ignorance.
Other than that (and a few other reminders of popular culture of the time), there were also some articles that were very critical of then president Bush. One was an outline of his environmental record, painting him to be one of the worst (if not THE WORST) presidents in the history of the United States. And the other piece was covering the efforts of a few celebrities whom were attempting to use their status to ensure Bush was a single term president.
So much for that.
The little U of Regina publication was also interesting. When you first open the thing, the first articles you see are 2 about former Prime Minister Chretien and the liberals, and one about Bush needing to lay off Iraq and find a better solution. If hindsight were foresight . . .
Ah, those innocent days before Stephan Harper combined the right and progressively brought the whole nation 12 steps backwards.
Turn the page, and there is an article called “Humanity Is Overdue For A Reformation Of Its Own” written by a pre-journalism student named Matt Barton. Though its a fairly lengthy piece, the meat and potatoes can be grasped from this paragraph:
When society falls, and it will, there will be a wakeup call for every single human left alive who can remember what a dark time we live in. Materialism won’t make you happy, and it won’t solve your problems, but it will let you ignore them long enough until you die. After death your possessions cease to have any use to you at all.
Being that this publication is 13 years old, I would be curious to see how this contributor is doing. Have they stuck to their principals as quite obviously illustrated here? Or have they just said “FUCK IT!” as have many other past proponents of a better tomorrow.
Its a question that I have and am curious of, because its a question that I have been pondering lately. The question that is, should I care about the path of our species?
The author of the piece above correctly noted materialism as a big distraction. I would have also added popular culture to that mix, since they both go hand in hand.
Back then, the biggest distraction for the most part was the boob tube. Singers and celebrities famous for little more than consumption. Though the names have changed since then, the formula remains the same.
A HUGE change that we have today that was not a factor back then, is social media and mobile technology. The switch to the internet has revolutionized everything, including the depth of our distraction. Though Hollywood and MTV tabloid and television popular culture was once the force to be reckoned with, its been kicked aside by advancements enabled by high speed broadband. Facebook effectively serves up anything that a person desires enmass, whether its news and information (for someone like me) or vines (for the sheep). A distraction that can block out nearly everything, due to mobile phones and other devices enabling the addict anytime access.
But one does not just have to deal with distractions. A wide open internet and an undereducated populace (in terms of critical thinking skills) has now given rise to a whole new foe . . . the conspiracy theory.
Your right, this foe has existed long before the first code of the modern day internet was typed. However this open medium has proved invaluable in both giving such viewpoints a pulpit, but also relentlessly spreading them far and wide. Now, its one thing to have people wondering about the technically complex or the ambiguous (like the JFK assassination, 9\11 or MH 370). But its a whole new ball of wax when your dealing with things like, flat earth theory.
Yet, social media not just spreads this stuff, but also (in a sense) amplifies it. Since the way to keep a user clicking is go keep them fed with materials that are of taste to them, you taylor the liked (based on interaction) content. No matter how ignorance inducing, or paranoia breeding the results.
I have been looking at this for sometime now. Not being a very social or people person, I tend to avoid crowds like the plague. Being an outsider compels a clearer view inside than one would otherwise have. And having a clearer view of problems, means I can communicate them to those on the inside.
The problem comes when those on the inside either just see what they want to see, or can’t be bothered to heed your words. Though this would bring to mind a specific group for most people (the group varying by their background), for me it tends to encompass damn near ALL OF THEM. And at all levels to.
From religions, to social movements (including pseudo religious), to communities big and small, to companies and the people toying within their many branches. What is logical, what makes sense, what is efficient. . . . often end up being moot points. Because this is the status quo. Do not question it, just obey it.
I have enough sense to know that an iceberg (or a cliff!) lies in the distance, on the status quo train. And I have the sense to know what must be done to alter this crash course. And yet, so to have many MANY others before me. Activists, scientists, musicians and others that spent tons of their time trying to make a difference in our world. And yet, here we are today with some of the same problems, or at times previously solved ones (as the populace gets stupid and allows the reversal of past progress, only to regret and remember WHY the progress was made later. When its to late).
Many people say things like “I give up on humanity”. But people tend to be a stupid bunch, reacting to any bit of news that is revolting to them (Paris 2015?).
Its not just the stupids that have given up enmass (giving up on mankind after a tragedy or promoting trump to finish off America. Hilarious, since those stupid fucks will likely be the first to drop when their anticipated crossfire begins). Even the highly intelligent or idealistic seem to often end up on this route. Namely the intellectual comedians that the societal dissidents love. People like Doug Stanhope, George Carlin. They did not (at least, later in their careers) mince words about where they thought we were headed.
“Pack up your shit folks! Were going away!”
When you have the bored mind that I have had for a long while, you play with and analyze (or overthink, as some have accused in the past) all sorts of ideas. One of them being the rationality of caring, of trying to make a difference.
For example, I am an avid recycler when its possible. But there are many that don’t, simply because they cant be bothered. Sometimes my efforts are even thwarted by my own apartment houses residents, due to their inability to figure out that organic waste (like grass clippings or BOXES of waste potato’s and onions) are NOT recyclable. Which results in either my correction of the contamination by dumping everything (including MY and other’s otherwise reclaimable material) into the trash. Or risk the whole truckload being dumped.
This little struggle between good and stupid is a great example of the conundrum faced by many in my position. The knowledge and the drive to know misdirection and impending disaster to see it. And the drive to want something better. But also, the reality that working for the better is a bit like pissing out a forest fire. Or at this point (considering the failed attempts of many others), the definition of insanity.
Okay fine, that’s the urban dictionary definition of insanity.
But none the less, its an apt fit.
And so here I am, in a world divided, trying to figure out my place. Trying to decide if I should nurture my gift of sight for the good of all, or stand aside. Be akin the the Miami resident whilst a category 5 is on the horizon. Helpless to stop it, so destined to just, adapt to the threat.