Friday, April 27, 2012

Driving Update:

This may irritate some, but it is my personal driving philosophy, like it or not.

When the speed limit is posted at 55MPH, there are speed cameras out on the freeway in town, and police are out doing regular checks, it seems to me to be logical ot adhere to the limit, or at least close to it - say 60MPH max.  I refuse to go above 60, and I refuse to budge from the turn lane I need to get off for my exit to go to work.  No matter how much they tailgate and swerve around me.  What is wrong with people?  Did they check their brains at the DOT when they got their license?

There are vans that tailgate me and then swing around me, only to rush ahead and get off at an exit 100 yards ahead.  One the other day had a christian cross and people praying as a window emblem - must be in a hurry to meet their maker, I guess.  They can't wait and go at a speed of 55 to 60 MPH for thirty seconds, oh no.   Pickups and other gas-guzzlers seem to be the worst offenders - are they in a hurry to get to a gas station?  I don't know and don't care.  I refuse to budge and get a ticket on their selfish, mindless behalf.  F--- them all, the speed limit is the speed limit and I'm going to stick close to it.  If they want to pay the price in tickets and accidents, let them.

- end of rant for today.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The New Voyages

      Thinking about our human-crewed space programs these days.  The problems are daunting.  Radiation spewing from the Sun, bathing every object in harsh particle baths.  Long periods of isolation and boredom for prospective astronauts.  Bone density losses and other physiological changes will have to be endured.    The problems are there, and not easily dismissed or defeated.   And then there is the everpresent issue of funding.   (At least the private operators are committed to their programs for the long term.) 

     But the hardy explorers of the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries give an example of how difficulties were overcome.   They had to travel in fragile, tiny ships across vast distances.  They had to endure deadly storms, huge waves, and near-starvation conditions.  They travelled in cramped, uncomfortable quarters.  They had to stay in tiny cabins, or in some cases, the hold at the bottom of a ship.   And yet they persisted.

     They endured harsh voyages of several months to a year.  And then occupied wild new lands, and hacked out a living for themselves.  They created vast new areas of wealth.   In the end, they payoff was enormous.

     The first voyages to a place like Mars will be difficult, no doubt about it.  But, in the intervening years, propulsion methods will improve, just as they did for sailing ships over the years.  (better sails, better navigation, better ships, and finally, steam power.  Then, diesel engines made it routine)     The space craft will get faster, more durable, more efficient as we grapple with and eventually solve the problems of long-distance space travel.  It will come to us, just as it always has. 

     As long as we do not stop, give up, turn inward or succumb to silly superstitions.  Careful observations and deliberate scientific methods have taken us from demon-infested cities swamped with plagues, to sending spacecraft to the edge of the Solar System  (Pioneer and Voyager probes,  and New Horizons probe).   We should not hastily discard all we have learned in favor of any kind of religious or superstitious psycho-babble.   Here is hoping we keep going, and make the incredible efforts of people from Galileo to Sagan and Van Allen count for something.  

     Let’s keep the voyages going outward.  Keep sending those fragile craft out to new worlds, new lands.  It is part of our condition, who we are.    And someday they will bring back splendid, amazing news.   It will be worth it.  I only wish I could be there to see it all.