Planetary sciences, Science Fiction, Star Trek and Instant Gratification (lack thereof)
Interest in space exploration has, for many, died the death of a thousand episodes of "Star Trek". The motto: to explore strange new worlds... to seek out other civilizations... to boldly go where no man has gone before has soured science for those suckled up to television's tit or wacking off on the web.
The real world - real science - hasn't the instant gratification that we expect no matter how fascinating the universe remains. Exploring the real world takes patience, dedication, and thought - all things in short supply in our ADD'd world.
I spent two days at last week's planetary sciences conference in Monterey. Fascinating paper after fascinating paper was presented on every topic of the universe. Everyone
I met was enthusiastic, interested, brilliant, with a name number one on google. Steven Ostro was awarded the Kuiper Prize. Ostro did amazing things with radar on imaging the solar system. He gave a great speech summarizing all that - talking about about everything from early radar to the space probe Muses-C.
I came home early friday night, outlined a half dozen talks I wanted to write about, and checked the news sources to see if anyone else had scooped me. The outlines grew longer, and longer. I kept checking the news sources. Nothing... Nothing... no coverage at all. Cool
, I thought, maybe I will get something into somewhere....
Passive voice attacked my writing ("was presented","was enthusiastic","had done") - and I'm still shaking off the assault.
I reached a stumbling block on my first piece - my notes were unreadable - and I went back to the website to see if that talk was available so I could make sure I wouldn't make a mistake. No luck. Only the abstracts
are available. An abstract is a real tease, I want the conclusions right here in front of me so I can think and write about them coherently and... no way...
I realized that of the twenty-something talks I'd seen, only 3 were on the web. Fine, fine, I remembered one talk's title off the top of my head - so I searched altavista for: Dynamics of the Kuiper Belt and the origin of the Planets
. Altavista - literally - told me to go fish.
I found it on google, but I have to say that the real strength of this presentation was Hal Levison
himself. I would have liked to have had an mp3...
I kept checking the news outlets... No coverage. No coverage. Hmmm. I kept writing, but my pace slowed to a crawl, and I got discouraged. Most meetings I've attended recently A) - I could look up things up on the internet in real time - and B) I have a copy of the presentation right in front of me.
There were few laptops in the audience. There wasn't working wireless except within a few feet of the computer cafe'. I didn't see any recording devices in use except at the plenary sessions. The sound-guy said they hadn't asked for a tape recording off the board, either. I guess that electronic distribution of anything in planetary science but the abstract remains the province of for pay services, and the researcher.
The value of making recordings is outweighed by... what?
Three days later - 13 stories on google. Maybe there's a link?
So, anyway, today Spider Robinson posted an editorial on the decline of science fiction, and doc talked about a link to a study that unsurprisingly found that (three otherwise random events in the web/blogosphere)... and I figured I might as well get the above, and this, off my chest, before I struggle to turn another abstract into english.
SF's central metaphor and brightest vision, lovingly polished and presented as entertainingly as we knew how to make it, has been largely rejected by the world we meant to save. Because I was born in 1948, the phrase I'll probably always use to indicate something is futuristic is "space age."
About the only part of our shared vision of the future that actually came to pass was the part where America just naturally took over the world. But while it's prepared to police (parts of) a planet, the new Terran Federation is so far not interested enough to even glance at another one.
Inconceivable wealth and limitless energy lie right over our heads, within easy reach, and we're too dumb to go get them[..]