Tag Archive | science

Lost In Space

Yesterday Elon Musk launched a rocket with a car at the top into space and I’m curious about where he got the idea from. I mean, when you’re a kid playing with Lego and hot wheels cars sometimes imagination led to putting a car on a spaceship but that kind of lateral thinking is often laughed at. I guess I admire his creativity as much as his daring vision to get to Mars and make re-useable rockets. Ok there are some actual reasons a car was launched – they needed to have a test payload, something that could mimic sending up a big, heavy object. But people have been critical, worried about space junk, concerned about this being a publicity stunt. It got me thinking about what criteria people filter their assumptions.

I also think people didn’t like him having a laugh while doing it. He played music (tribute to David Bowie) made references to books/movies like (Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy) and made history. Ok so a slight error – overshot Mars orbit and is heading a bit further out but there is no risk of the cherry red Tesla Roadster speeding through our atmosphere and exploding in a flaming ball worthy of any Hollywood movie…unless there is some gravity anomaly that sling shots it back. So people need to chill IMHO.

Much of the criticism I have heard is about ‘spacejunk’. People are really passionate and quite emotional about it online and sure – there are concerns about the amount of stuff accumulating and hurtling around just above us.  So why do things like this, irk people? I think it has a lot to do with our belief in ‘common sense’ and how we view success and failure. Elon Musk is an entrepreneur, a risk taker and is very successful – it could be a bit of envy. As a species we have a tendency to cut down people who stand out. Also he is focussed on the future, which tends to reach for things beyond here and now so it can seem like he is not interested in ‘earthly’ type stuff – which is far from accurate (just see what he has been up to trying to develop clean energy). I also think we think too highly of our own understanding of things – yes – we don’t bother to read, understand, think and look at context. Our tendency is to rush at our first impulsive though and believe our opinions are accurate.

So next time you hear and ‘adulty’ person say to a kid ‘you can’t put that on there it wont work – it’s not rocket science’ well…no…it just might be. Finally I love that there is someone in the drivers seat of the roadster – otherwise that would just be weird.

Humour me

Language is interesting. Humour is something we all might recognise in the modern world as describing something amusing, that might make us laugh. But understanding where the word humour comes from gives insight to how language is connected to the ways knowledge is constructed.

Humour comes from Latin and means ‘moisture’ which then passed into English to mean bodily fluids – humours, of which there were 4 and were connected to moods and functions of different organ systems.

For a long time, there was no distinction between the sexes, there was one human template. There were variations on humours and degrees of temperature that defined the spectrum of difference. Male was at the hot end and female at the colder end of the spectrum.

The science and medical profession of the time found ‘evidence’ of the inferiority of women and other cultures and used it to maintain social order. What I find interesting, I suppose, is while modern anatomy and physiology have moved on since the 17th and 18th century, some of the assumptions and ideas live on. I mean, just look at how hard women had to fight just to be able to compete at the Olympics –they weren’t able to run in the marathon until 1984, nearly 100 years after the start of the modern games. You can’t tell me that it was a misprint in the programme.

Scientific knowledge has a level of power to it, to define the truth about something and this is what is interesting to think about and notice. That is, how various branches of science over time have categorised people and other species, given them particular qualities, limits and justified practices of exclusion, exploitation and mistreatment.

I wonder what science will look like in 300 years. What truths and facts will be as laughable to that generation as the idea of blood being turned into semen by body heat. Now that is humorous.

Big shoes to fill or just find a better fit

I got thinking a lot after I saw this pop up on Facebook.

As long as human beings have been conscious of their own existence in the universe there has been wonderment about the meaning of life and the place we have in it. There are traditions, rituals and beliefs that stretch back to the ‘dawn’ of our species. Indeed, how our collective ‘sun came up’ is one of the most contested and debated ideas of all time. Religion has been around longer than science (I think), but for its short time in our cultural landscape, science has weighed in just as much into the debate and for some it has turned into arguing two sides ‘evolution vrs creation’.

But we cannot ignore the fact that a very large percentage of the worlds population follows one form of religion or another. I did a quick google search (as you do) and was pretty amazed at the incredibly diverse faiths, traditions, beliefs and religions of the world. Some have emerged in more recent times to dominate in terms of numbers of followers but within Christianity alone there are so many denominations it kind of makes my head spin. I suppose one of the things that really interests me is the way cultures shift and change through migration and colonisation, especially for indigenous cultures.

I was watching Avatar recently (for about the 10th time) and aside from the futuristic offworld giant blue people and crazy scary flora and fauna, the parallels of one group trying to impose its beliefs and values on another are pretty clear. There is a pattern we shouldn’t ignore or be afraid to examine because it might help us understand and possibly reclaim some different ways of relating to nature and each other.  Read More…