Monday, April 29, 2013

Beyond Apollo, Sixth Seminar

Taurus in Pleiades

Science, Art, Communication, and Cosmology

“We are stardust. We are billion year-old carbon. 
And we have to get ourselves back in the Garden.”
                                (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young 1969)

Almost a thousand years ago, Chinese astronomers saw a new star burst forth in the heavens. Half-a-world away, amid the arid beauties of the American Southwest, this same star was watched by Pueblo Indians and marked on sandstone below a crescent moon. It has taken a millennium to decode the message of its passing. For what its light was bringing across 6,000 empty light years to their eyes was the death throes of a mighty denizen of heaven, a funeral pyre so immense that in its seething heart would be created elements for countless minds unborn, as had the elements within those very watchers been conceived amid the dying of still more ancient suns. 

It was a cycle framed of elegance: from dust to star and in the end to dust again. For one brief planetary moment, consciousness would flourish on the hearth of many suns, to disappear too soon into the interstellar night, swept outward with the atoms of its dying star. But in-between – a proton of the universe would gaze out upon itself and ask the question:     

Participants in discussions for the Sixth Seminar include:

Isaac Asimov, author, bio-chemist

Donald Davis, artist

Robert Duncan-Enzmann, Fellow, New York Academy of Sciences

Gilette Griffin, Director Princeton Museum of Meso-American Art

Norman Mailer, author

Frederick Pohl, author

Burgertt Roberts, poet

Topics include: 

Cro-Magnon Man and Ice-Age observation of the moon – the beginning of civilization and   the earliest wedding of art and science 

How the process of observation changes the observer

The identity of energy and information and the universe

The process of science: are there limits?

Science and art – complementary objectives

Apollo Seventeen

I hope you have enjoyed this series. What a sight it must have been to sit on the water and watch Apollo launch into the stars. Powerful and magnificent. This is the last seminar of the Voyage Beyond Apollo. It is also the most elegantly described. The questions of discussion were potent then, and they are still so now. Taken together, the seminars pose crucial questions for thinkers of today to reflect upon, and to ponder why? Why are we not colonizing? Why are we not looking for a way to preserve the human race for all time? Why has it taken decades to crawl ahead and then stall out, when in one short decade we raced into the sea of stars? Technology went from radio to rockets in less than 100 years. Rolling forward exponentially in many areas, our technology has unfolded rapidly. Except in space. Why? The inventions of necessary technology for space exploration benefit all areas of human life on earth. Energy, medical, convenience, travel, research, economic growth, jobs.

…… So what happened? Who is out there that is willing to pick the flag up again and run?

One for the money
Two for the show
Three to get ready
Four --- GO!
Just GO.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Beyond Apollo: Fifth Seminar

The overwhelming presence in the night – the stars. They fill the sky, those icy glints of silver, the burnished gleams of gold, the ghostly specter of the Milky Way. These timeless constants across a million revolutions of the Earth around his sun have left their mark and shaped the soul of Man.
What universal symbol adorns the artifacts of cultures spread around the Earth, on art which seeks to draw all men together, and on banners of nations keeping them apart? And where have most men placed their gods if not amid that star-flecked awesome majesty which has come to symbolize the highest aspirations of the human race, the quest for truth and justice, sometimes as out of reach as are the stars themselves?

But pause…..For men are on the threshold of a Dream, the culmination of an odyssey that stretches from the cave. Within this generation they will leave the nursery of the Earth and make that long dark crossing to the stars.

That act, fulfilling, as it will, Neil Armstrong’s prophecy, will be only the beginning. Energies that have been harnessed, from the sun, to launch a starship can also solve on overwhelming crisis for the world – availability , for all, of pollution-less cheap power from the stars. Of lesser things are revolutions made..And what of those who sail from star to star? What will they find? Is life as common in the Universe as stars themselves, or is it rare, more priceless because the distance separating cultures ifs so vast? We do not know.

Perhaps the star lights in the night are beacons marking civilizations resplendent with a thousand Michelangelos, Shakespeares, and da Vincis. A flowering of art to dwarf the best of Earth amid the interstellar suns. OR, again, the lights that light up heaven in that vast celestial city we call the Milky Way may be, without the spark of Mind that seeks to know its origins and communicate with kind across the dark light-years.

Only one thing is certain: if, out of indolence of fear, we do not seek the answer, then our heritage was faulty and the Earth, in no small way, has sapped our essence of humanity which is the Grand Design!

Participants in discussions for the Fifth Seminar include:
  • Cassandra Boell: author, illustrator
  • Eric Burgess: author, editor, science writer Christian Science Monitor
  • Robert Dunan-Enzmann: Fellow, New York Academy of Sciences
  • Robert Heinlein: author
  • Richard C  Hoagland: science adviser, creator of “Voyage Beyond Apollo”
  • Janet Jepperson: psychologist, member New York Academy of Sciences
  • Marvin Minsky: Director Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Carl Sagan: Director Center for Radio-physics of Technology
  • Linda Sagan: artist
  • Richard Sternbach: artist
  • Sara Meltzoff: cultural anthropologist

Topics include: 
  •        The influence of the stars on the cultures of mankind
  •        Detection of suitable destinations for interstellar probes
  •        Construction, energy requirements and instrumentation of unmanned galactic   probes
  •        Objectives, planning and launching of first manned interstellar expedition
  •        Pioneer 10 – the first interstellar messenger and its message to Earth and the stars
  •        The ultimate meaning of the Grand Design and the future of human civilization

See prior articles: