August 26, 2012 Comments Off
‘…and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.’ It is not the phrase for which Neil Armstrong, who sadly died this weekend, will always be remembered. But it is the one that perhaps best sums up not just Armstrong’s vision but also the sense that to be human is forever to be reaching out to grasp what may seem beyond us. And that once we stop doing this, we diminish ourselves as humans.
The moon landing was one of the defining moments of twentieth century, which was, as Phil Platt puts it on the Bad Astronomy blog,
a defining, crystallizing slice of time that confirmed that we humans had become a space faring race. One world could not and would not contain us, and the sky itself was no longer the limit… The end of homo sapiens terrestrialis and the birth of homo sapiens cosmos.
Few people more embodied, or better articulated, the sense that ‘One world could not and would not contain us, and the sky itself was no longer the limit’ than Armstrong himself. ‘The important achievement of Apollo’, he once suggested, ‘was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that and our opportunities are unlimited.’ It was an optimism he expressed well at the end of a 1970 BBC interview with Patrick Moore, just ten months after the moon landing, when asked ‘Do you think, from your knowledge of the moon, having been there, that it is going to be possible in the foreseeable future to set up scientific bases there on anything like a large scale?’: « Read the rest of this entry »
March 21, 2011 § 5 Comments
Two catastrophes have hit Japan over the past fortnight. The first was the earthquake and tsunami that struck on 11 March, devastating parts of north-east coast of the island of Honshu, destroying communities, leaving thousands dead, tens of thousands more homeless and creating a crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. It is a catastrophe in the face of which Japan has shown remarkable resilience and in the course of which its technology and organization has proved highly effective.
The second catastrophe is the one to be found in the Western media. In this catastrophe a proud, modern high-tech country has been humbled by the irresistible force of nature, a nation lies gripped by fear and on the edge of collapse, reduced to begging for aid from foreign countries. Most of all, it is a catastrophe dominated not by the earthquake or the tsunami but by an apocalyptic drama at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant. « Read the rest of this entry »