Sunday, November 30, 2014

To Explore Strange New Worlds

I saw this video here at Slate, which explains more about it.  Using the words of Carl Sagan and images of other worlds (which I wish were identified), it speaks to one aspect of the soul of Star Trek: the urge to discover, to explore.  Sagan talks about its evolutionary efficacy, and that's also the impetus for the voyage in the new movie Interstellar.  I have my doubts about whether humans will ever travel to other planets, in person.  We may have waited too long.  The immense costs may be too high and not available, as resources are increasingly needed to deal with the causes and effects of the climate crisis.  There may not be the political and societal will to see it through.  I'm not sure what will change that.  Not even the discovery of life elsewhere is guaranteed to do it (even though my bet right now is that some form of life will be confirmed on Europa within a generation.)

I just watched again the middle section of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  In this 1968 dream of the year 2001, humans have evidently been on the Moon continuously for awhile, with permanent bases.  They discover a "deliberately buried" object, that suddenly sends a signal out into space.  This part of the movie is based on Arthur C. Clarke's short story, "The Sentinel," about aliens who visit the Earth millions of years ago, sense the potential for intelligent life developing, and bury an object on the Moon that when uncovered, will signal their faraway civilization that humanity is sufficiently advanced and moving outward for further contact.  It's sort of the equivalent of  a "warp capable" species that the Federation can contact in Star Trek.

This procedure makes perfect sense  Watching this section of the movie in 2014, I realized that although humans made it to the Moon in 1969, none stayed long enough--nor ever returned--to find a buried sentinel.  One may be up there, waiting.  But we may never find it.

 It's also not clear to me that humans actually can live indefinitely anywhere but on the Earth. We don't really know how dependent we are on being replenished by the constituents of our air and water, minerals and microbes and so on.  It may turn out that our urge to discover must be turned to aspects of our own planet.  We must discover new resources, new ways to survive with our planet, rather than by using it up and deforming its ability to foster life.  We must discover how to live together.  But the dream of exploration will remain.  And who knows, by the 23rd century it may return humans to space.


flamur muja said...

Did you see "Interstellar"? We'd love to hear your comments on it - even though you blog is ST....Please do a post on it. Would love to share with you about it, from a Trekkie perspective, of course.

Captain Future said...

Thanks for your interest and request. Haven't seen it yet but I will post when I do.