Ungrounded

Threat to Our Dream
of Living Among Stars

In the concert of nations, Russia holds little sway. That is, if one discounts its nuclear stocks and storied past as a fierce competitor with world power credentials, its influence is now mostly regional. That’s not how President Vladimir Putin sees it, though.
So, despite all the hyperventilation about its imperialistic moves against its neighbors, which it never really ceased to control, and the phony indignation displayed by U.S. and Europe, the world doesn’t really care much about it. Except when it comes to space.
Specially, in what the International Space Station, that marvel of global scientific cooperation, is concerned. Aloft for over 10 years, with a steady stream of technological achievements to boot, the flying lab has done more to world harmony that many a peace talk ever could.
That positive outlook is what has been seriously challenged this week when the Russian president issued a not-so veiled threat to bar the launch of American satellites by Russian-made rockets, and even ban the use of the station itself by the U.S. after 2020, which, to be sure, is a qualified ruse.
The ISS hasn’t been projected to be fully operational much beyond that date anyway, and only recently its decommission got a reprieve, as the bitter reality that it’s been reduced to become the only game in town, or rather, space, has sunk in for nations still interested in exploring it, including the U.S.
Which is also at fault in the whole thing, for the record, and not for trying to upset Putin’s campaign to destabilize Ukraine next door. But because the U.S. has withdrawn much of that once unwavering support to its own space program since the last Shuttle left the assembly line.

WORLD, WE’VE HAD A PROBLEM HERE
After the great conquests of the 1960s and 70s, NASA, the agency in charge of firing up the imagination of Americans still starstruck, has frankly come up with mediocre plans to follow up the Apollo, the Hubble, the Shuttle programs, and even the ISS, of which it was a crucial contributor.
Instead, lacking the funding and epic ideas needed to go ‘to infinity and beyond,’ to use Buzz Lightyear credo (if you have to ask…), after folding the Shuttle program, NASA decided to count on the aging and unreliable Russian Soyuz rockets, to lift its ambitions to orbit. It couldn’t couldn’t work.
Why? Haven’t you noticed where they all land, and eventually depart from? You’re right, Ukraine. That in itself granted Putin a free ride, and power over the aspirations of millions of Americans who wished we still had a first class ticket towards the future.
The space card was bound to be played also when a misguided bet was placed on the market’s ability to carry our dreams aloft, on board Continue reading

Lady Parts

The Botched & the Rumored,
the Unwritten & the Plain Bizarre 

It must be that red star that’s devouring a planet. Or the shortest northern summer on record. In just a few weeks, we’ve heard of an amateur who disfigured a century-old painting, a pen found in a woman’s gut, fears that bears like menstrual blood, and nails growing in someone’s head.
We don’t know about you, but it can’t be good when the most uplifting story in the news cycle is the one about a pen that still works after 25 years inside somebody. And that without even discussing the most abysmally ignorant and staggeringly cruel quote of the week, though.
That ‘honor,’ of course, belongs to Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s medieval ideas about women’s anatomy and right to equality. The only benefit that came from that pseudo-controversy was to bring back the issue of reproductive rights as a way to gauge a politician’s real stand. Now, can we go back to tax havens and the destruction of the middle class?
To say that there’s a wave of obscurantism and irrationality threatening to cloud the brightest minds of our time, is not just inaccurate; it’s also to lend too much credence where there’s none. As a society, we already had this debate some three hundred years ago, and it’s settled: speak only if you know everything that’s been ever said about it before. Period.
If there’s one thing that the Enlightenment still speaks volumes about human nature and its innate aim at constantly improve itself, despite even nature, is that it doesn’t really need any magical thinking to do it so. No supernatural beings, no set of beliefs, no ‘spiritual hierarchy’ needed to be followed.
If you don’t know, experiment with it, as many hundreds, thousands of times that it’s needed, until you can retrace your steps and reproduce the same result. Nevertheless, or exactly because of this vast randomness we live in, each time we get it right, there’s no way back.
And the same holds true when what happens lies even beyond our unruly imagination. The proverbial, you can’t make this stuff up. That’s enough to keep us guessing, wondering in awe, no ghosts or apparitions necessary. Which doesn’t mean that one may not see or Continue reading