Science-Fiction^H^H^H^H^H^H^HReality

Science-Fiction has always been an interest of mine, but in recent weeks I have been slowly turning my attention more and more to Science-Reality. It started when I happened to TiVo Nova's presentation on the Opportunity and Spirit Rovers we sent to Mars. One video in particular got my heart racing as it began to sink in exactly what we were endeavoring to accomplish with these two rovers, and the hurtles we had to overcome just to get those two puppies to land safely on the planet's surface. Now we are close to discovering water (or traces of) on Mars, which I believe will take us down the inevitable path of discovering life on another planet; and if you have ever read Contact you might get an idea for the potential meaning for us as a society when the eventually happens. But I digress.

Then I happened to watch Apollo 13 this weekend and then a cheezy video celebrating the 20th Anniversary for a still operating micro-satellite we (the world, not the US) created using Apple IIe's; both of these videos reminded me just how far we have come. But at the same time, how far we have to go... not technically though - spiritually.

What happened to the days when the public was excited by the thoughts of discovering new worlds? Do we really need an adversary to justify investing in exploration and discovery? I realize that I must be pushing the envelope of everyone's patience by linking to so much multi-media, but that is my style, and I only have one more reference to make... to a West Wing episode entitled Dead Irish Writers sums up my feelings well:

ENLOW
I'm a Democrat, Sam. How's a 20 billion dollar astronomy lecture gonna help the President get elected?

SAM
It won't. "We've discovered a seamless, intellectual framework for the universe" isn't a good 30-second spot.

ENLOW
If only we could only say what benefit this thing has, but no one's been able to do that.

MILLGATE
That's because great achievement has no road map. The X-ray's pretty good. So is penicillin. Neither were discovered with a practical objective in mind. I mean, when the electron was discovered in 1897, it was useless. And now, we have an entire world run by electronics. Haydn and Mozart never studied the classics. They couldn't. They invented them.

SAM
Discovery.

MILLGATE
What?

SAM
That's the thing that you were... Discovery is what. That's what this [a supercollider] is used for. It's for discovery.


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