Monday, October 15, 2012

Bill Nye Needs Your Help

Just about the only thing I can sort-of agree with the current Republican party about is that they consider the Space Program to be one of those government programs that, like the military, "doesn't count" for some reason in their no-government-programs rhetoric.

I don't buy for a second that they're actually "committed" to it, of course - there's no way the party of Creationism and Climate Change-Denial is really devoted to the idea of expanding human knowledge of space, and with private space-travel companies coming into their own I'm sure the GOP's make-believe affection for NASA will dry up at roughly the same pace.

Either way, for now the question of whether or not to restore federal funding for space exploration is up to whoever is President in 2013. And Bill Nye wants your help in convincing them to do just that:



The thing is, public-pressure is really the ONLY way this is going to get done. I'm sure a President Romney ::shiver!:: would make a nice show of being pro-NASA, but don't kid yourself - he and his party are whole-hog on the side of the guys who want First Contact to be made by some corporate-sponsored junker covered in Doritos sinage (and before anyone brings it up, YES, I do in fact think that Felix Baumgartner's big space-jump yesterday is rendered significantly less awesome than it otherwise might have been by the fucking Red Bull logos all over his spacesuit.)

Obama, meanwhile... I dunno. Democrats, obviously, are better friends to science on-average because they actually acknowledge that it exists, but I don't detect any special affection for space travel in Obama and frankly he seems very much like he'd be a "Why are we paying to collect rocks in space when PEOPLE HERE are STARVING you guys!!??" bleeding-heart about it.

But WHOEVER wins is going to come out of the election looking bloody, dirty and in need of some easy pandering... and if they can be convinced that re-funding the space program can BE that easy pandering, then I'd call that a win.

28 comments:

Lido said...

the day we stop exploring, stop questioning, stop looking up into the night sky and seeing the future, that's the day we stop moving forward as a people and start standing still and just letting the whole damn universe pass us by

Anonymous said...

I know you have your priorities, Bob, but saying you don't care about suffering and starving people proves you're an uber-douchebag.

Robert Mock said...

I wouldn't say that's the message. There is a necessity to solve the problems of the world, absolutely. But on top of that, it's also important to strive for something. To try to progress somehow. It's worth a little bit less patching to have some building material.

Luna Manar said...

"YES, I do in fact think that Felix Baumgartner's big space-jump yesterday is rendered significantly less awesome than it otherwise might have been by the fucking Red Bull logos all over his spacesuit.) "

God, I'm glad SOMEONE agrees with me. I woke up to the SpaceJump stuff, yawned, went back to sleep. It's cool and all, but the fact people are acting like the guy who jumped and the company that helped sponsor it (rather than the scientists behind the technology) were our heroes of the day was just phenomenally depressing.

Anonymous said...

Bob, you might want to check this out - Penn & Teller's "Bullshit" episode discussing the problems with NASA, and how they could be resolved.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NvRx5ucFM8

Anonymous said...

Bob, you doubted the "party of Creationism and Climate Change-Denial" would fund space exploration. But the only part I would see them not funding would be SETI as creationists don't believe in aliens.

בזינגה said...

You should listen to the latest "startalk" http://www.startalkradio.net/show/real-science-with-bill-maher-part-1/ where they argue about the subject and Neil Degasse Tyson said that by what he thinks that counts(that is funding) the republicans are pro-science and pro space.

Hawkeye In the Sky said...

I actually think the "space program" would benefit more from a research and development focus point. Start focusing less on the big-budget superprojects like sending rovers to Mars, and focus more on the tech. Build better shuttles in a greater capacity. Just my thoughts

Megabyte said...

Funny, Bob... the attitude I see in the area (Im in a heavily Dem area myself) tends to be "screw NASA... do you have any idea how many teachers we could get with that money?"

It doesn't seem to ever be about "starving kids" but instead about getting more people in the teacher's union.

And frankly, even if Im being cynical, I'd rather NASA then more teachers, because I'd rather find more things we can teach then get more people parroting what we already know (along with their own political agendas).

And PS... I'd rather write on my own instead of as part of this asshole's movement... my ex had the unfortunate chance of meeting him... and from how he acted, I'd rather not be involved with him.

PS: Telling me we cant put troops on an island because it might capsize... isn't... very science friendly... just sayin.... :)

Gordy said...

This wouldn't be the first "just when you thought he was dead" moment in a Marvel movie. Remember how they brought Xavier back in the post-credits scene in 'X-Men: The Last Stand'?

That movie has its flaws (though I've never understood quite why so many regard it as an unwatchable piece of shit other than hatred for Brett Ratner) but I liked that bit. :)

Gordy said...

Okay, this is fucking weird. Was on the "Coulson Lives" page but my comment's ended up on here. Damn google chrome.

xaszatm said...

@Anon 4:57 AM

You know, you're right! How DARE NASA ask for more money! How much waste for "useless" space travel! How much money is wasted...wait, what's that? NASA only uses 0.05% of the ENTIRE NATIONAL BUDGET? That since its creation in 1958, it only went over 1% of the national budget during the Moon expeditions? NASA usually has a budget less than 1% of the National Federal Budget!

Any you're right! HOW DARE WE TRY TO ADVANCE MANKIND! It's not like that we have to thank NASA for nearly every comfort in the modern world today! Insulation, Satellites, Internet, Water Filters, Cordless Tools, Shoe Insoles...and many more inventions? Bah! We could have discovered them all by ourselves...wait a moment, we WOULDN'T.

My goodness! Are you honestly that thick? OF COURSE WE NEED TO PURSUE SPACE FLIGHT! THINK ABOUT HOW MUCH TECHNOLOGY IS NEEDED FOR AN EXPEDITION FOR MARS AND REALIZE THAT TECHNOLOGY CAN HAVE MORE USES! REALIZE HOW MUCH ARE ECONOMY CAN CHANGE FOR THE BETTER UNDER A PROGRAM THAT USES LESS THAN 1 FREAKING PERCENT OF THE NATIONAL BUDGET!

Sorry for bursting out like that, that is just a big pet peeve of mine... Good for Bill Nye

Joe said...

Republican support of NASA, such as it is, is mostly about votes in states with space-related jobs (mostly Florida) and military spin-offs. Likewise, Republican support for science is mainly due to the fact that over half of all scientific research in the US is at least partly sponsored by the military or intelligence communities.

The privatization of space isn't all bad news, either. Frankly, it's long overdue. NASA could have been doing far more interesting things for the last 3 decades instead of shuttling commercial and civilian satellites into orbit. And as for first contact--well, the initial English settlement of the United States was mainly carried out by the Virginia Company, so it's not like there isn't precedent.

Shoumik Hassin said...

@ Joe

Well, you know, that didn't exactly work out great for some of the people.

biomechanical923 said...

RE: All the people pointing out that shouldn't worry about a space program when there are starving people on earth.

You know what would be a good way to create a lot of jobs? Creating a new industry that a large sector of society could devote itself to.

Particularly, I prefer an industry that doesn't involve digging up oil, or maintaining a military-industrial complex designed to enforce our extortion of other countries for oil.

Steven said...

"We are talking about western attitudes that are five hundred years old. They began at the time when Florence, Italy, was the most important city in the world. The basic idea of science that there was a new way to look at reality, that it was objective, that it was rational that idea was fresh and exciting back then. It offered promise and hope for the future, and it swept away the old medieval system, which was hundreds of years old. The medieval world of feudal politics and religious dogma and hateful superstitions fell befor science. But, in truth, this was because the medieval world didn't really work anymore. It didn't work economically, it didn't work intellectually, and it didn't fit the new world that was emerging."

"But now, science is the belief system that is hundreds of years old. And, like the medieval system before it, science is starting to not to fit the world any more. Sciencehas attained so much power that its practical limitsbegin to be apparant. Largely through science, billions of us live in one small world, densely packed and intercommunicating. But science cannot help us decide what to do with that world, or how to live."

"At the same time, the great intellectual justification of science has vanished. Ever since Newton and Descartes, science has explicitly offered us the vision of total control. Science has claimed the power to eventually control everything, through its understanding of natural laws. But in the twentieth century, that has been shattered beyond repair. First, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heisenberg%27s_uncertainty_principle) set limits on what we could know about the subatomic world. Oh well, we say. None of us lives in a subatomic world. It doesn't make any practical difference as we go through our lives. Then Gödel's theorem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_incompleteness_theorems) set similar limits to mathematics, the formal language of science (http://xkcd.com/435/). Mathematicians used to think that their language had some special inherent trueness that derived from the laws of logic. Now we know that what we call 'reason' is just an arbitrary game. It's not special, in the way we thought it was."

"And now chaos theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory) proves that unpredictability is built into our daily lives. It is as mundane as the rainstorm we cannot predict. And so the grand vision of science, hundreds of years old, the dream of total control, has died, in our century. And with it much of the justification, the rationale for science to do what it does. And for us to listen to it. Science has alkways said that it may not know everything now but it will know, eventually. But now we see that it isn't true. It is an idle boast. As foolish, and as misguided, as the child who jumps off a building because he believes he can fly."

"We are witnessing the end of the scientific era. Science, like other outmoded systems, is destroying itself. So what will happen? a change, but all major changes are like death. You can't see to the other side until you are there."

Steven said...

Also from Ars Technica

http://arstechnica.com/staff/2012/10/editorial-meet-a-science-committee-that-doesnt-get-science/

Zeno said...

@Steven:

"But in the twentieth century, that has been shattered beyond repair. First, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heisenberg%27s_uncertainty_principle) set limits on what we could know about the subatomic world."

That's only a problem for people who believe hidden-variables theories are categorically impossible, which they aren't. De Broglie-Bohm Theory allows is one, but it is non-local which is undesirable, John Bell noted that superdeterminism allows for local hidden variables, and the Kochen-Specker Theorem doesn't invalidate non-contextual hidden variables. The question of whether reality is ultimately probabilistic or deterministic is meta-physical and any theory of physics that claimed to prove one position or the other would be overstepping the bounds of empirical testability. However, I side with Einstein in believing that a scientist should take determinism and realism as assumptions, even if they aren't necessarily philosophically true.

"Then Gödel's theorem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_incompleteness_theorems) set similar limits to mathematics, the formal language of science (http://xkcd.com/435/). Mathematicians used to think that their language had some special inherent trueness that derived from the laws of logic. Now we know that what we call 'reason' is just an arbitrary game."

That's only a problem for people that aren't Intuitionists or Platonic Realists(as I interpret Platonic Realism. I may differ from what the term conventionally means.)

Zeno said...

Before you can paint this issue as about being pro- or anti- science you have to answer quite a few questions:

Is manned space exploration the best way to advance science?

Is space exploration in general the best way to advance science?

Are NASA's current plans for space exploration the best way to do things?

Is NASA the best organization to conduct space exploration?

Is scientific research best conducted by small teams and individuals or large organizations?

Should the government fund scientific research?

No answer to a single one of these questions is inherently pro- or anti- science.

Anonymous said...

It should say something that Bob doesn't care about people dealing with hunger and other problems. More proof that he's a narcissistic, misanthropic borderline sociopath.

Anonymous said...

It says a lot Bob doesn't care about people dealing with hunger and other problems. More proof that he's a narcissistic, misanthropic borderline sociopath.

Zeno said...

Apparently the system ate two of my comments, so I'll recreate them in a more succinct form:

Anonymous:

Interestingly on that episode of Bullshit! they interviewed Bob Park, the author of Voodoo Science. In that book he criticizes LENR(in the form of the Patterson Powercell, more on that below) and Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct plan. Now I'm not knowledgeable enough about astronautics or health physics to address those arguments(and I don't have a copy of the book), but if you haven't heard of them before I would recommend watching Zubrin's videos concerning Mars Direct and VASIMIR available on YouTube. I certainly like his proposal for a Nuclear Salt Water Rocket.

In one of those videos someone in the audience inquired about LENRs during a Q&A session with Zubrin. Now apparently he doesn't know anything about the subject because he ignored the question, but NASA is funding research into that very topic*.

Examining Hal Puthoff's experiments** regarding the RIFEX kit and CR-39 radiation detectors(used in the SPAWAR experiments), among other investigations into this field, has made me somewhat skeptical of LENRs. However, I think labeling the entire field as "pathological science" is unfair. While research into this topic obviously very speculative, the potential rewards mean that it may not be a waste of money.

DARPA*** is getting behind this too, and there was recently an article published in Discover magazine on the subject. I worry that this technology, if LENR phenomena turn out to be real and useful, will be coopted by those more interested in power, prestige, and money than human welfare, which would be an indefensible tragedy given the dividends such power over nature could yield. I believe it is the exception, rather than the rule, that the real inventors and creative geniuses receive the recognition they so rightly deserve.

*First read this: http://futureinnovation.larc.nasa.gov/view/articles/futurism/bushnell/low-energy-nuclear-reactions.html
Then this: http://news.newenergytimes.net/category/nasa/
Keep in mind that Widom-Larsen theory is not the only potential explanation for LENR phenomena.

**http://earthtech.org/experiments/

***http://www.darpa.mil/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=2147484865&ei=ggz-T9OQHoLjrAG8vIGMCQ&usg=AFQjCNF5FYEcO9HPUxK1Hsr1vV-q1KmmPQ
Read everything under "Fundamentals of Nanoscale and Emergent Effects and Engineered Devices".
Note the "palladium microstructures with large
deuterium loadings", and that Pons and Fleischmann used deuterium loaded palladium in their experiments. Also note the "excess heat generation and life expectancy of power cells in collaboration with the Italian Department of Energy. Established ability to extend active heat generation time from minutes to 2.5 days for pressure-activated power cells." and that there are a few groups researching LENRs in Italy(though I think Rossi is an unregenerate con artist.)

Zeno said...

"You know what would be a good way to create a lot of jobs? Creating a new industry that a large sector of society could devote itself to.

Particularly, I prefer an industry that doesn't involve digging up oil, or maintaining a military-industrial complex designed to enforce our extortion of other countries for oil."

Broken window fallacy.

People don't extract natural resources just to create jobs. Projects that exist just to employ people are no different than welfare. Space exploration must have some positive effect other than providing employment, otherwise we might as well just save ourselves the trouble and give handouts to aeronautical engineers. Either you don't understand macroeconomics or you think we need to redistribute wealth to college educated, middle age, white collar workers.

Though, I will agree that having people employed by the military is worse than those people not being employed at all.

Anonymous said...

Bob, still waiting for you to explain why you don't care about the suffering of others.

JDude said...

"Bob, still waiting for you to explain why you don't care about the suffering of others."

Fuck off, he never said that. That's not what he's saying, that's not what ANYONE is saying.

What's being said, is that rather than taking the shortsided view of trying to tackle our current problems in these safe, samey ways, we actually go long, and advance the species itself. We open up more options, more industry, we stimulate the economy in ways we couldn't before.

People opting against space exploration aren't looking at the long term, nor do they understand the actual cost involved. They don't understand what we could gain, they see Curiosity on Mars looking at rocks, they see the ISS floating around the planet, and they don't see how it affects their lives. They are as mistaken as the college student who thinks politics don't affect them.

The mining operations alone could create an influx of wealth and material never before seen. The Moon along has vast quantities of Helium 3, which could help greatly with our energy problems.

Bob is pointing out the necessity for humankind to avoid stagnation, and press onward, to take risks in search of greater reward. Playing safe never broke any barriers for us. We shouldn't expect things to get better by hunkering down and weathering out a storm that is only getting worse.

Zeno said...

JDude:

"The mining operations alone could create an influx of wealth and material never before seen. The Moon along has vast quantities of Helium 3, which could help greatly with our energy problems."

No, no it can't. There are no currently known schemes under which He3 could be used as an aneutronic fusion fuel. Fusion reactions where most of the energy leaves in the form of neutrons cause the reaction vessel to deteriorate and become radioactive, but more importantly because one can only use thermodynamic means to extract electricity from them they are less than a third as efficient as aneutronic reactions that use direct electric conversion. Tokamaks are a waste. It's been fifty years and magnetic confinement fusion researchers have still not solved the problem of particle transport across field lines. Programs like ITER, the NIF, and the MIT Plasma Fusion Center are basically just entitlements for magnetohydrodynamicists.

If you are interested hot fusion I might recommend looking into more alternative approaches like the Polywell, POPS, the dense plasma focus, the Migma, and the Field Reversed Configuration. Controlled Thermonuclear Reactions, by Glasstone and Lovberg, is a great book on the subject. It was written before the advent of the tokamak on American soil, and so has investigations of many alternative approaches, including the Astron, the Ixion, levitated dipoles, cusp confinement, and radio frequency confinement.

http://atomicengines.com/Atomic_Socialism.html

However, unless the best predictions for something like the Polywell+POPS or DPF pan out, it seems that hot fusion may not be more economical than the clever use of fission. Fission has the potential to be cheaper than any other currently employed energy source, but since its inception it has been suffocating under such a heavy wet blanket of stultifying regulation that companies like this one* fail. As far as I know, the only form of energy that would be significantly cheaper than fission is LENR, and that's a long shot. That, or perhaps some form of ZPE machine, but those are another order of magnitude more speculative.

*http://atomicengines.com/

Zeno said...

I'd also like to point out, as an example, that the current demand for platinum is too low to support asteroid mining operations for it in an elastic market.

Gordy said...

Hate to say it but I'm almost with Anonymous on this one. When you use expressions like "bleeding heart" you do kinda come off as an uncaring douchebag.

Also, I don't quite see how space exploration "advances" the species in sense other than the superficial. We'll still be the same inherently irrational, inherently flawed and frequently unpleasant creatures regardless of what scientific and technological achievements we have under our belts. I'm not particularly convinced the human race deserves the right to colonise space.