A Rant about Science, Space and Culture
So this comes after watching Star Trek for the fourth time in under a week. See, I love these movies, not necessarily because they’re freaking awesome in their own right; but they expose a world of science and scientific concepts to the masses. I can leave a movie theatre and discuss the possibilities of the potential of warp speed, how it’s probably improbable and how movies are slowly but surely moving in the right direction of scientific accuracy. (that’s right.. things float in space and sound is not heard.. although we’re still working on fire and lasers)
How can people cry out for accuracy when portraying cultures, countries and stereotypes but nobody gives a shit that the laws of physics even in their basic sense are completely broken?
Anyway, today I left the movie theatre with my father and as we were walking home I was hit by the overwhelming sensation of sadness and anger at the human culture as it stands en masse. Because Star Trek at this stage, will never happen. We will never explore unchartered space. We will never have that technology or communicate with alien life forms not because they don’t exist or we don’t have the capacity to invent that technology; in today’s society, we no longer have any interest in doing it.
Between about 1903 and 1940, the idea of the pistol engine not being efficient enough was proposed and thought out and the jet engine that is relatively similar to what we use today was invented. Planes with jet engines were first put into the air in the early 1940s. Scientists then began to use their engines to create a vertical lift, hoping that they could propel somebody into the earth’s atmosphere, the rocket engine used to power the rockets was used on the 1969 landing on the moon.
Since then, we have modified, updated and changed a few things, but with the exception of scramjets, there hasn’t really been a huge push to change our engines work.
In fact, comparing the rocket that was sent to the moon in 1969, not that much has changed in the rockets that are still being used today.
In 40 years, scientists changed the face of the engine industry and paved way for space exploration. The space race began in 1957, coinciding with the cold war, and culminated in 1975. Whilst probably one of the most childish of wars (my penis is bigger than yours etc), the push for technological advances and the national pride taken in the intellectuals in their culture allowed the advances to jump significantly.
In this time there are books written about how if science change THIS much in that short amount of time than surely by 2001 we will have a sort of Star Trek utopia. By 2015 we will exist in a world where cars float and we travel on skate boards. These works of fiction were based upon the faith that they had in the scientific community to continue to make these leaps and bounds and push the boundaries of what we know.
The last 40 years have seen the internet being born, televisions becoming thinner, phones becoming smaller. We have created a global community so we may share our ideas in real time. I am certainly not diminishing the scientific advances that have occurred in our generation’s time. My city alone right now has two hospitals with human trials competing to be the first to perfect the bionic eye to make humans be able to see again.
What we have achieved is amazing, but there is no national pride any more. Science never makes the front pages and so science is only seen as fictional stories in the entertainment industry. Star Trek is a fantastic adventure rather than something that we could actually achieve. (Maybe not warp speed), but we could actually exist in that sort of world.
We used to pride ourselves on what our countries could do in space. NASA used to be seen as a source of pride for America, not something that had to justify it’s spending so it would continue to get support from the Government. Australia does not even have a space program, although we have major science facilities.
For years we spent reaching for the stars, literally. We were spell bound by what we could achieve as a species. We achieved flight and exited our world and returned. We proved that there was something out there. Now we improve our gaming systems. We improve our telephones so that they can run faster so our apps don’t freeze as often. Don’t get me wrong, we continue to evolve our science, but I miss the days of science as a community.
The idea of GPS was thought up in a pub where a group of people thought if you could track something on the moon from earth, could you track something from space to the earth.
Countries so rarely take pride in their scientific achievements. We value movies, entertainment, sporting, war above science. Star Trek makes me sad because in the past few decades we have become complacent in this area. We’ve been to the moon. We can put something on Mars. We’ve got a giant telescope that can see amazing things. And that’s enough for us.
But we could potentially have more.