'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The role of the Space Programme (and other thoughts.)

I'd be very interested to read your reaction to this clip from Neil deGrasse (no relation).


  1. I have to say that I thought that it was an enthusiastic but essentially superficial and non-sustainable sales pitch. Talking in financially emotive terms like that is meaningless. The same money could make inroads into universal health care in the US just as stopping universal military action could. When a country is driven, and politics is financed, by financially motivated self-interested pressure groups and businesses I find sales pitches such as this mean little or nothing. Which is a shame if he really believes it.

  2. Started off well, but goes too far. To a certain point (being a bit of a NASA fan myself), I like what he's saying, that really this money is not so much, and humans can achieve our dreams etc. However, I wouldn't place so much emphasis on making out that going back to the moon will suddenly re-generate our dreams, our hopes, and our economy! I wouldn't do away with NASA but I wouldn't make it out to be so important. Maybe humans need a single visible dream before we wake up, but perhaps our lives could be much better improved if we made an effort to improve schools and hosp├Čtals? But, how do you sell the idea of increasing the % of children with a satisfactory educational outcome as being a 21st century dream, compared to the idea of flying cars or elevators to the moon?

  3. Going back to the title, We Stopped Dreaming ... did we? Looking back at old text books, they talk about a future with robots and flying cars etc. Where are they? I think we've all grown up, for better or for worse, and no longer foresee a Star Wars / Star Trek type future, but more or a Bladerunner city - without the flying cars! I don't think many people nowadays think going to the moon or Mars is going to be of much benefit (as I said, I do, I think it's a great idea!) to us. We've become cynical? Does that mean we've stopped dreaming, or our dreams have changed? Maybe our dreams no longer involve meeting little green men, but I'd like to believe we still dream ...

  4. I think the video is right on. I was in elementary school when Spudnik was launched. What a wake-up for the nation. America started to achieve by leaps and bounds. I can't remember a more exciting time in my lifetime than when the space program braved new in-roads into the space. Our family would get up in the middle of the night to see a launch or a landing. Nothing touches the night we watched Neil Armstrong take..."one small step for man; one giant step for mankind." Science and math became so much more important in school, and students wanted to be astronauts, even Hillary Clinton, a girl. Now, the goal of our students is to make the NBA, the NFL or get discovered on American Idol. Too many of those who go for higher education seek careers that bring in the most dollars with the least effort instead of careers driven by their passion. Not that I think Nasa is the sole answer; but, I do think it is an investment that promises big dividens for the future.

  5. I think the video is right on. I was in elementary school when Spudnik was launched. What a wake-up call for the nation. Schools started requiring much more from their students, and students set new goals for their future. Many boys wanted to be astronauts, and even Hillary Clinton, a girl. That just wasn't a girl's option when Spudnik came along. I can't remember a more exciting time in my lifetime than when America was achieving in space. My family would get up at night just to see a launch or a landing. Nothing matches the thrill of the night Neil Armstrong made..."one small step for man; one giant step for mankind." Not that I believe the space program is a cure-all, but I do believe it is an investment that provides great dividens in the future for our ecomony and our country. It's cost don't come close the the waste of all our wars. Wouldn't it be nice to watch our girls and boys want to dream of something than the NFL, the NBA and being discovered on American Idol?

  6. Well, what long, well-considered comments so far.

    GB - there was a strong element of 'advertising' simplification, indeed. The alternatives to the space race in motivating a country, young etc, were only touched upon.

    Brian - The space travel dream is certainly a very alluring image. Strongly visual, appealing to our drive to expand and conquer, filled with seemingly limitless possibilities for 'free stuff' without effort...? But speaking generally, I really don't think young people are as optimistic as we used to be. I think they are quite depressed and overwhelmed. (as revealed in the high level of youth suicide). I blame too much choice and the incredibly fast pace of life. It's all in Alvin Toffler's 'Future Shock'.

    Judy - I know there is overlap between your two comments, but I could really relate to the idea of passion driving a career. Although perhaps now the passion of many young (men?) is to make lots of money in computers somehow... like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

    Any more thoughts out there?

  7. I'll check out the book. It's something I often ponder on, working all day with teenagers. I don't want to fall into the "yeah, younsgters today ..." rut, but I think they are "different" than we were. Less innocent for sure, and probably less optimistic.

    Apparently the dream/ambition of 60% Spanish/Catalan youngsters is to be a "funcionari", i.e. a public service/admin worker!! (explained by the words "job for life", "guarantees pension and holidays", and "long coffee breaks") . And I seem to remember a statistic saying 50% of UK kids wanted to be a "celebrity" when they grow up. Ehem.....

  8. As the video points out NASA was founded on fear, the fear of being left behind by the USSR - it was this motivation plus the money that created the context for a race that the USA pretty much won - The question is - if the NASA budget is increased without a similar context or imperative, would a space programme be as successful? who knows? - But fund it they should - not because of the slick talk of this video but because the trajectory of human kind is always outwards, onwards, exploring creation and using our intelligence and ingenuity as we go - How do you fund it? first you slash the military budget - use the bulk of it fund proper health care and housing for those in need in the USA and then get on with exploring this amazing universe - that's my humble opinion.

  9. Brian... I want to be a celebrity when I grow up too :-)

    Alden - that is a good point - the fear/ competition factor. It was a very strong motivator in the space 'race'. The desire to explore and learn is enough of a motivator fro me, but would it do for a world of people who seem to have less drive and just want easy money?

    What *do* the young people dream about now? Do they believe striving will get them something worthwhile?