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Category: Humans

New Old Sayings
Make love not war, but always use protection.

Let a smile be your umbrella unless it’s hailing.

Give ‘til it hurts, and take 'til it feels good.

Be yourself until you find something better.

Reach for the stars, but always use an oven mitt.
Love or Something like It
Today’s meditation: If Jesus were alive today, would he be a secular humanist?
E.T. or Bust
I was all ready to get snarky about the Mars One project. It presents such an easy target: a mission that will send its adventurous volunteers on a long, cramped, unlikely journey to establish the first human settlement on Mars. None of them, according to the ambitious plan, will return. Ever.

This certainly qualifies as a goofy plan, but somehow, I’m just not feeling the snark. For starters, you’d think it would be easy to poke fun at the martianauts themselves, but it comes out feeling a little cruel. These people, after all, have signed on to an enterprise that seems fated to end badly. And when you hear their stories, you find that they have some very admirable traits in common: curiosity, a love of challenges, and, of course, a huge payload of optimism.

This is not to say that they aren’t also a little odd — but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Over 200,000 bright-eyed nerds from around the world applied for this opportunity, and that number has now been winnowed down to 100. They will begin training this year for the first scheduled launch in 2024, when four of them will head out for the red planet. Two years after that, four more will lift off to join them, then four more every other year until the last of the chosen twenty-four disembark from Earth forever.

Forever — I just can’t get past that. It has the flavor of suicide about it, and yet everyone is so upbeat. The martianauts are all fairly young, so you’d figure that the best case scenario would put them in their little airtight Martian hives for over forty years. Communication with Earth would be possible, so they could keep up with culture here and witness our unfolding history, but they wouldn’t have much of a stake in what happens. Except for their fellow volunteers, they would be truly alone. They would be on a planet where it’s eighty below outside, the wind is howling all day long, and you can’t breathe the air. That’s not death, exactly, but I wouldn’t call it living, either.

That should be a sobering thought, but it doesn’t seem to have ruffled the cheerful fatalism of everyone connected to the project. Gerard ’t Hooft, a Dutch Nobel laureate in physics and official ambassador for project, sees the whole undertaking as “unrealistic.” Still, he’s happy to be a Mars One booster. “Let them be optimistic and see how far they get,” he says. Not much of an ambassador, but charmingly candid.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for all that optimism, or maybe there is a part of me that wishes I were one of the chosen. I am, after all, a member of the space travel generation. I grew up with the expectation of colonies on Mars and have always assumed that they would happen relatively soon. I want those colonies, and I want all the other futures promised to me by science fiction. I want a universe in which there is at least the possibility of a Captain Kirk, an Obi-wan Kenobi, or a Commander Buzz Corey of Space Patrol (and his sidekick, Cadet Happy).

I guess that sounds a little childish. Indeed, the venture itself is not much more than an adolescent fantasy gone wild. It does, however, have a business model, including technical and business partnerships, sponsors, crowdfunding, and broadcast rights (just imagine “Survivor Goes to Mars!”). The kids these days!

I will even go so far as to say that childishness might be the way of the future. Adults have been screwing things up for eons here on Earth. Maybe a few quasi-adults with arrested development in some key areas can accomplish something that mere grown-ups never could. Perhaps curiosity, daring, and optimism (and a viable business model) can boldly go where no one has gone before.

Or not. Either way, I can’t bring myself to fling any snark at the Mars One project. As Professor ‘t Hooft suggests, let’s see how far they get.
Look! Up in the Sky!
Try to imagine, for a moment, that you are Tippi Hedren. You’re in the sleepy little town of Bodega Bay, where things have suddenly turned ugly on a massive scale. There are birds everywhere, and they seem intent on murdering every human they can get a peck at. You think you have found shelter from the slaughter in a glass phone booth, but the seagulls come at you kamikaze-style, smashing themselves against the glass on every side.

Yes, I agree… this scene will never happen in real life. Ms. Hedren and her perfect blonde bubble would never really be in such danger. Birds have plenty of cause to be mad at us, but I don’t see them massing by the millions for an attack on civilization.

But what if we make a small alteration to the premise? You’re still Tippi, and you’re still cornered in that fishbowl phone booth, but what if it is not birds that are menacing you, but drones. Millions of them, filling the sky and bent on destroying all human life. Are you still feeling confident that this movie could never come true?

No, I do not think drones are out to get us. Unlike the birds, they would not harbor any animus toward humans. It’s worse than that, I’m afraid. Those drones are in the hands of our fellow citizens, God love ‘em. I don’t think they’re out to get us, either, but that’s not what concerns me. When it comes to technology, the greatest danger isn’t intentional wrongdoing. It’s human stupidity.

Okay, maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe common sense and good government will combine to save us. In this case, it wouldn’t be Rod Taylor rushing in to whisk Tippi out of danger. His hunky role will be filled by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has been tasked with the responsibility of protecting us from drone abuse by creating some thoughtful regulations of their use.

Last weekend our heroic agency released some tentative suggestions for such rules for all of us to chew over. Among the highlights:

1. No flights higher than 500 feet above the ground
2. No craft weighing more than 55 pounds
3. No speeds over 100 miles per hour

There is more, but let’s just talk about these three. While I applaud the FAA for trying to strike a balance between safety and fun and commerce, I have to say that they may have come up a bit short on safety.

To illustrate my point, why don’t we get back in the phone booth with Tippi? When we saw her last, the gulls had gone all ISIS on her, smashing that thick glass with their bodies and looking like they would soon overwhelm her. Now imagine what would happen if those living missiles weigh 55 pounds and are traveling at100 mph. Unless she can somehow get that booth 500 feet in the air and do it pronto, there would be nothing left of her for Rod Taylor to save but that fabulously coifed French Roll.

All I’m saying is that I don’t want to live in a world where I have to put on a Kevlar suit to go pick up the mail. I’ll take my chances with the birds; it’s my fellow stupid humans that worry me.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon