“After his girlfriend ran off with [L. Ron] Hubbard, he decided to create his own girlfriend and summon an elemental.”
This WIRED article features a brief history of rocket engineer Jack Whiteside Parsons, a founder of Jet Propulsion Laboratory who “developed the first castable solid propellant used to power aircraft.” Parsons came at a time when space exploration via rocketry was still considered science fiction (and science fiction was considered extremely silly).
According to the article, Parsons’ interest in rockets was inspired by SF literature. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t mention his inspiration for his bat-shit insanity.
From Parsons’ Wikipedia page:
“There was a widely used astronomy textbook published in the early 1930s which said that rocket flight was impossible. It was something that was really not even on the fringes, even beyond the fringes of respectable science.”
While the subject of Neal Stephenson’s speech is our culture appears to be moving away from big innovations (increasingly taller buildings, space exploration, faster jets, constantly pushing the limit of what’s physically possible etc.), what really struck me the second time I watched the video was his prediction that, a hundred years from now, 99% of the population might believe the moon landings were faked. People who know otherwise would be marginalized as “conspiracy theorists” in such a scenario.
That’s a pretty dark vision of the future if you ask me.
For the record, I don’t think that will happen. Certainly not in the next hundred years. Feasible? Sure. I’ll give him that. Nonetheless, the statement illustrates an important point. As Stephenson puts it: there are people actively trying to make that kind of future a reality. Maybe engineering big things will be sufficient enough monuments to remind people why human achievement matters and why real science should be trusted. Maybe not. Either way, it’s some interesting stuff to think about.
Like I’ve tried to tell so many people who don’t get Reddit, it’s pretty useless if you don’t sign up for it and subscribe to only the subs you like. Indeed, the first thing I saw on my personalized feed this morning was this post. Comet ISON, for a short time last night, was thought to have been burned up by the sun.
As you can see, at least some of the comet made it.
It made me wonder just how fast this sucker’s moving. Phil Plait calculates it’s moving 1500 times faster than a commercial jet or 0.1% the speed of light. He originally calculated it was moving twice that speed, but posted a correction with the following message:
“making mistakes are a part of life. The best thing to do is own up to them… and then use them as an excuse to talk about physics. Yeah, I think that’s for the best.”
Words to live by. See this website for more on the comet’s predicted trajectory.
Here is a video that shows Asimov knew a thing or two about predicting the future:
The problem is the video only shows the predictions Asimov made at the 1964 World’s Fair. Even so, his predictions are 600% more impressive than any purported psychic who ever lived and not nearly as vague. For the full list of Asimov predictions, click here.
Here’s a documentary that reminds us of an “Albert Einstein quote” that I thought Mark Wahlberg made up in The Happening:
Right off the bat I’ll mention we haven’t worked on our little movie in a while. All I can say is that’s been a relief. We probably won’t be working on it this weekend either, which means things have more or less returned to normal lately. Honestly, making a movie can suck. It takes far too much time from my writing… and, uh, video games.
Radiolab is my favorite show on NPR. It alone is a solid reason why any politician who wants to defund public broadcasting
must never be taken seriously is a fucking moron. In the latest episode of the incredibly entertaining and informative show, the investigators find the most important piece of science literature on dreams in the last forty years focuses on the Tetris effect, the phenomenon in which gamers see Tetris pieces in their sleep. A researcher found that 60% of his test group dreamed about Tetris after playing it for prolonged periods of time.
My friend and I played several hours of Civilization 5 last Saturday and both of us had dreams about the game. My girlfriend admits to experiencing the Tetris effect when she played a lot of Bejeweled. I’ve gotten it from Minecraft and paintball among other things.
It would be an event on the same sort of scale as the impact that drove the dinosaurs extinct 65m years ago. If it really is that big, and if the comet were to hit the side of Mars facing Earth (it seems that it might do, but it might also hit the far side), then the blast could well be visible to the naked eye, even in daylight.