Saturday, August 15, 2015

Space Exploration Is Worth It

When people question space they question education, science, economy, glamour, prestige, political and nationalistic advantages, and the entrepreneurial spirit. Space exploration is a package deal with all of the above. It's hard for many people to accept space as significant, but curiosity and exploration are vital to the human spirit and accepting the challenges of going into space is just a part of our human journey. Exploration is what we do because its a natural function of the mind, like an artist who thinks of ideas. This is exactly what Michelangelo Buonarroti would say when people asked him how he thought of his ideas. He told them it was a natural function of the mind, as is curiosity. 

For another thing, space exploration should treated with respect because going into space is not easy. There are only a few highly capable people who can do it and go beyond a few moments of wonder at the universe. People involved with space, have unique skills and mental attitudes to brave unknown perils. They are an elite breed of warriors who represent the best that we have on this planet. This is sort of a given in my opinion, so when people question the importance of space exploration, I tend to think it's probably because they don't care. They are only marginally interested at best, and don't think its worth it to go beyond our daily agendas. Part of human nature is that people focus on themselves, and human nature is largely self- absorbed and dictated. Psychologists call this "selfish altruism" which is why some people don't want to invest in anything that doesn't directly benefit themselves. I think its sort of a hypocritical attitude though because cell phones are connected to a satellites and GPS systems which are in fact an invention of space programs.

Also, space is not a quid pro quo. I think its important to understand space exploration is not a case of having a space program or feeding the poor. Those who advance the line of how space is too expensive are not interested in the well being of the poor. In my opinion, that person is just trying to get the votes of the "poor" by convincing the naive that the rocket program is keeping food off their tables somehow. For instance our dropping the space shuttle program did not divert a single dollar to the "poor." All that happened was that a lot of people who worked in the shuttle program lost their jobs. 

So the argument that diverting funds or depleting funds, or even removing funds from space exploration programs is ridiculous. Space funds won't solve any of the worlds problems because before space programs, there were still world problems. There will always be world problems with or without space exploration. 

Don't forget about a long list of space jobs listed online which pay well - like SpaceX Spacelinks, Spacejobs and Space Careers who all post thousands of jobs which is not taking from the poor, it's supporting families. Jobs are the beginning of a livelihood and these "space" jobs are not just for rocket scientists. 

I haven't even gotten to the part about the importance of understanding our planet, our own species and and our relationship to the Universe. Could there be life out there? I think that's something worth knowing. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why People Like Science Fiction

Someone once said, "The Devils In The Details," and the older I get the more I have to admit there might be some truth to that. Its not that I like details. In fact I hate details, yet in the same breath I am also driven to find explanations and understand why some people like something and why they don't. could say I'm into the "big picture." Let's take for instance science fiction.

After doing the research, and drawing from a few of my own personal experiences I think there is a wide range of reasons why people do. For instance, about a year ago now, I gathered some information at a party about my trilogy. One of the women at the party, who I noticed had a a thick (sounding)  Russian accent, tugged at her fur shawl, and told me she didn't like science fiction. I guess I wasn't fully prepared for her answer so I took in a breath and simply asked her, "Why not?" She shrugged with bored look on her face and had no answer. "Romance?" I questioned hopefully?  She shook her head, "I don't read." "Oh I see," was all I could manage. Before I could regain my senses, her younger Russian counterpart,  snatched one of my book marks out of my hand before I could blink, and told me she loved science fiction. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I managed a smile and told her I hoped she would enjoy it. As far as the other women though, could this have been a smack down because I gave her boyfriend - my divorce attorney - a friendly hug a few seconds beforehand? My mind's eye flickered back in time, but it was too late to test out the theory. Maybe if I had asked her before the hug she loved it. 

She had stood up by now,  and began tp complain about a lot other things she didn't like as well -  like football, and that she wanted to leave the party.  Suffice to say the host - a close friend of mine, who had been closely watching her antics, leaned into my ear with a sour look on his face, and said loud and clear - "I don't like that bitch."  I stood firm, trying very hard not to smile. I saw her blanche out of the corner of my eye, as he continued. "Just a whore after his money,"  he continued. ( I found out later my divorce attorney had been recently divorced - and this was his new friend - and I was right about her accent)  "Sorry to hear that," was about all I could manage and found a quick exit from the unfolding drama. Its not that I was offended.  I admire anyone who has the nerve to speak their mind. Ah well. Too bad I didn't ask her before the hug but the latest research will tell you one in five people do enjoy science fiction. So in a flash I met one. 

The steps of science research are: 1. Ask a question. 2. Do background research. 3. Construct a hypothesis. 4. Test the Hypothethis. 5. Analyze the data and communicate your results.

But back to the details and to the party. The good news is I did find a few people at the party who were genuinely interested in my stories, which concluded the research that one in five will. Science fiction readers are also about 60% male and 40% female. They are often young, or older but the in-between ages fade away from the market for a time. According to a blind research project by a writer named Mark Neimann-Ross they also make good money with the average income at about 50,000 to more than 80,000 a year. Another piece of interesting news is - it is thought, but not confirmed that science fiction readers use both sides of the brain, able to combine the analytical and the intuitive visual sides at the same time. Although this is only extrapolation it seems only a percent of the population are able to "think" like an S/SF reader.

Although that might be true, my least favorite research has to do with social stigma. Despite overwhelming evidence that science fiction is a genre of mature ideas and intelligent writing, mainstream society still hold this as "Nerd" cool, or for 12-yr olds with overactive imaginations, and not for women. As usual these perceptions don't seem to come into play as people hold up the movie line for Avatar, The Time Traveler's Wife or Harry Potter. Sigh. I can't fight against perceptions and don't care to. Life is just too short.

As for me, I like science fiction because the here and now is a little bit boring to me. We already have the here and now, and the real world can be a bit disenchanting, predictable and well, boring.  Rational. Systematic. Even cold. Where is the wonder and magic in that? Lets re enchant the world and spark young imaginations. Let's reinstate the unknown into the scientific process. To me it offers a hope, a dream a future that we just haven't seen yet. The devil may be in the details but according to the numbers, 21% of people in the USA do like science fiction which adds up to 64 million people in this country alone.