Tag Archives: nasa

Text of JFK’s Moon Speech

JFK

President Pitzer, Mr. Vice President, Governor, Congressman Thomas, Senator Wiley, and Congressman Miller, Mr. Webb, Mr. Bell, scientists, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen:

I appreciate your president having made me an honorary visiting professor, and I will assure you that my first lecture will be very brief.

I am delighted to be here, and I’m particularly delighted to be here on this occasion.

We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.

Despite the striking fact that most of the scientists that the world has ever known are alive and working today, despite the fact that this Nation¹s own scientific manpower is doubling every 12 years in a rate of growth more than three times that of our population as a whole, despite that, the vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished still far outstrip our collective comprehension.

No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man¹s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power.

Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America’s new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.

This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.

So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this State of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward–and so will space.

William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say the we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.

In the last 24 hours we have seen facilities now being created for the greatest and most complex exploration in man’s history. We have felt the ground shake and the air shattered by the testing of a Saturn C-1 booster rocket, many times as powerful as the Atlas which launched John Glenn, generating power equivalent to 10,000 automobiles with their accelerators on the floor. We have seen the site where the F-1 rocket engines, each one as powerful as all eight engines of the Saturn combined, will be clustered together to make the advanced Saturn missile, assembled in a new building to be built at Cape Canaveral as tall as a 48 story structure, as wide as a city block, and as long as two lengths of this field.

Within these last 19 months at least 45 satellites have circled the earth. Some 40 of them were “made in the United States of America” and they were far more sophisticated and supplied far more knowledge to the people of the world than those of the Soviet Union.

The Mariner spacecraft now on its way to Venus is the most intricate instrument in the history of space science. The accuracy of that shot is comparable to firing a missile from Cape Canaveral and dropping it in this stadium between the the 40-yard lines.

Transit satellites are helping our ships at sea to steer a safer course. Tiros satellites have given us unprecedented warnings of hurricanes and storms, and will do the same for forest fires and icebergs.

We have had our failures, but so have others, even if they do not admit them. And they may be less public.

To be sure, we are behind, and will be behind for some time in manned flight. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall make up and move ahead.

The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school. Technical institutions, such as Rice, will reap the harvest of these gains.

And finally, the space effort itself, while still in its infancy, has already created a great number of new companies, and tens of thousands of new jobs. Space and related industries are generating new demands in investment and skilled personnel, and this city and this State, and this region, will share greatly in this growth. What was once the furthest outpost on the old frontier of the West will be the furthest outpost on the new frontier of science and space. Houston, your City of Houston, with its Manned Spacecraft Center, will become the heart of a large scientific and engineering community. During the next 5 years the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to double the number of scientists and engineers in this area, to increase its outlays for salaries and expenses to $60 million a year; to invest some $200 million in plant and laboratory facilities; and to direct or contract for new space efforts over $1 billion from this Center in this City.

To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money. This year¹s space budget is three times what it was in January 1961, and it is greater than the space budget of the previous eight years combined. That budget now stands at $5,400 million a year–a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year. Space expenditures will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United Stated, for we have given this program a high national priority–even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us.

But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun–almost as hot as it is here today–and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.

I’m the one who is doing all the work, so we just want you to stay cool for a minute. [laughter]

However, I think we’re going to do it, and I think that we must pay what needs to be paid. I don’t think we ought to waste any money, but I think we ought to do the job. And this will be done in the decade of the sixties. It may be done while some of you are still here at school at this college and university. It will be done during the term of office of some of the people who sit here on this platform. But it will be done. And it will be done before the end of this decade.

I am delighted that this university is playing a part in putting a man on the moon as part of a great national effort of the United States of America.

Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”

Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.

Thank you.

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BQB Does Kennedy Space Center

Alien Jones said it was primitive in comparison to his spaceship, but I was still impressed:

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Movie Review – The Martian (2015) (And What It Does For Self-Publishing)

“You do the math. You solve one problem. And then you solve another. And then another. Solve enough and you stay alive.”

– Mark Watney, The Martian

An astronaut trapped on Mars.  A daring rescue mission.  Matt Damon.  Jeff Daniels.  Jessica Chastain.  Kate Mara.  Sean Bean.  Kristen Wiig.  The list of top actors on this movie is too long to keep rattling names off but the biggest star of all?

SCIENCE!

Yes, in an age where people want more explosions, sex, and what the hell, explosive sex, Alien director Ridley Scott made a movie that not only entertains but educates.

Put on your spacesuit, 3.5 readers, and let’s talk about what this movie does not only for science, but for the world of self-publishing.

The Martian – Twentieth Century Fox

OK, first of all, let’s address the proverbial elephant on the sofa, the gorilla in the barcalounger, if you will.

But BQB!  Aren’t you trapped in the middle of the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?

I sure am, 3.5 readers.  Luckily, I’ve got Alien Jones’ plutonium powered space phone and the Esteemed Brainy One managed to stream it for my group of survivors last night.  It really lifted our spirits, because as you may have heard, we’re currently riding out the zompoc in Price Town, one of the last three stores still open at the nearly abandoned East Randomtown Mall.

HOW BIG WAS THIS MOVIE?

A “friend” of mine sent me an e-mail to let me know that this movie was so big that he’d never seen a line so long at the theater he usually goes to before.  The poor chump ended up stuck in that damn front row spot.  You know, the one where you have to keep your neck craned skywards for two hours and you have to look to the left when a character on the left is talking and a character on the right is talking.

What a jackass.  Guy probably should have taken into account how popular the movie would be and gotten there earlier.

Either that or he could have skipped the popcorn and soda.  God knows that fatty doesn’t need it.

Oh sorry, I shouldn’t speak ill of my friend on my blog.  Good thing only 3.5 people read this.

THE PLOT

A storm causes a team of astronauts to abandon their mission on Mars.  One of their teammates, Mark Watney, is impaled, presumed dead, and abandoned.

Whoops!  He’s still alive, but the the Red Planet is so far away that NASA won’t be able to get help to him any soon.

THE SCIENCE

One of the biggest challenges for a writer is to a) explain to the reader how a character is going to extricate himself from a sticky situation with enough detail so as to not leave the reader feeling cheated and yet b) not go overboard to the point where the reader feels like dozing off.

Enter Andy Weir.  The Martian is based off of Weir’s novel of the same name.

A computer programmer, Weir made all sorts of calculations, estimates, and scientific conclusions on how, in theory, an astronaut trapped on Mars could live long enough to find a way back home.

“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this,”  Damon, as Watney, says.

And science the shit out of it, he does.  Literally.  He uses his own shit as fertilizer for potato plants.  Potatoes then become Mark’s only form of sustenance and I’m willing to bet he reached a point where he never wanted to see another french fry ever again.

Aside from the potato plants, I don’t want to go into too much detail on the science angle.  A)  To do so would be to provide you with too many SPOILERS and b) some of it my brain was too feeble to understand and other parts I did understand but am not sure I could explain it correctly.

Suffice to say, there’s a lot of brainy people involved.  NASA scientists on the ground work on a rescue plan while Watney on Mars works on his own survival.

For any kid out there interested in science, this film provides role models to look up to, not just in the form of the astronauts, but the people – technicians, engineers, specialists, scientists, etc. working to bring their colleague home.

Science, kids.  It’s the way of the future.

WHAT DOES THIS MOVIE MEAN FOR SELF-PUBLISHING?

The Martian started out as a free serial on Andy’s blog.  He as just a guy who really loved math, science, and space.  So he took his passions and funneled them into a project to entertain his blog readers.  (I bet he had more than 3.5 of them.)

As he explained in an interview with Johnny, Sean and Dave of the Self-Publishing Podcast, he put the novel on Amazon at the request of some of his readers who preferred an e-reader format over reading it on a blog.  Not out to make any money and not thinking it would go anywhere, Weir put his novel on Amazon, priced it at 99-cents, and let his blog readers know it was available.

The novel took off and the rest was history.

By the way, I recommend listening to Andy’s SPP interview as it is an inspiration to anyone interested in self-publishing.  Success doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly didn’t for Andy.  He started blogging way back in 1999.  A sixteen year journey to the big screen!

Keep plugging away, 3.5 readers/writers.  Success might seem so far away as to be pointless, but then again, you’re already ahead of those who gave up.

I’ve sought out opinions as to what this movie means for self-publishers.  Andy’s novel was originally self-published before he was approached by a literary agent and sold it to a big publisher.

Does this mean the general public will look at self-publishers in a whole new light?  That if one man was able to take a project on his blog and turn it into a blockbuster film starring Matt Damon and other stars, might that not cause people to pay more attention to self-published works?

One person I spoke with answered no.  His reasoning was the majority of the movie going public doesn’t really care who wrote a book or how the book was made.  They just want to be entertained and thus this won’t do a lot to bring attention to self-publishing.

Technically, I think he’s right, but therein lies the rub.

As self-publishers, our WHOLE GOAL is to provide a piece of entertainment crafted so well that no one notices it wasn’t made by a team of big shots.

Because at the end of the day, when you turn on the TV, do you pay that much attention if a show is on NBC, CBS, or Showtime or do you just pick and watch shows because they grab your attention?

Have you ever said, “Well, I’ll never watch THAT film because it was made by Fox and Goddamn it, this is a Sony household!”

Have you ever walked into a bookstore, strolled over to the clerk, and said, “Excuse me, will you point me to the Random House books because I’m ONLY a Random House reader and I’ll never allow a Penguin book to sully my eyes!”

No.  No one cares who was behind a piece of entertainment so long as it is entertaining.

And that, my 3.5 readers, is what I believe this movie does for self-publishers.

It gives their collective souls a boost.  Andy Weir becomes another Hugh Howey to look up to.  “If that guy did it, then I can do it too!”

After all, when Andy got his start, his readers weren’t saying, “Ugh!  This book was not put out by a traditional publishing house?  No thank you!”

They were saying, “An astronaut who gets trapped on Mars and has to figure out how to survive?!  That sounds so cool!  Sign me up!”

When you’re in the clothing store, do you check the label on that shirt that caught your eye?  Nope.  You’ll just buy it because you like it.

Write cool stories, 3.5 readers and if they’re entertaining enough, people won’t bother to check the label.

Thanks 3.5.  I have to go fight the zombie apocalypse now.

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The Mighty Potentate Responds to the Discovery of Kepler-452b

By:  The Mighty Potentate, Alien Jones’ Boss and Supreme Overlord of a Planet the Name of Which is None of Your Damn Business

Alien Jones' Boss, the Mighty Potentate.

ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY POTENTATE!

Greetings, Pitiful Humans!

Alien Jones’ boss, the Mighty Potentate, here to respond to rumors vis a vis this fiasco:

Yes, your Earth scientists, who think they are all big and brainy but in actuality are about as witty as a Banji Beast’s Butt Burst compared to the legion of geniuses under my command, claim to have discovered an Earth-like planet, one potentially capable of sustaining life.

Let us address the question that has no doubt entered your minds:

Is this Alien Jones’ home world, the one I, the Mighty Potentate, rule over with an iron fist?

THE ANSWER:  NO!

Muah ha ha!  Foolish hairless apes.  You really thought it would be that easy to locate a planet under the control of a being with a brain as copious and learned as mind?

Hilarious!  The notion brings nothing but laughter to me.  Ha.  Ha, I say!  Ha.

No, this is not my secret planet and therefore, your degenerate Hollywood executives should, UNDER NO MEANS:

1)  Use this telescope contraption to beam your insipid reality television programs to my, er, this planet’s media viewing devices.

2)  Build spacecraft capable of long range flight to deliver reality television stars to this world.  I mean, it’s not mine, but seriously, no planet deserves an influx of reality TV.  Keep it to yourself.

3)  Develop more obnoxious reality TV programs in the hopes of selling them to the residents of this planet.

4)  Don’t just start calling it a random name like Kepler-425b.  Perhaps this planet has a much cooler name.  I don’t know what it’s name is.  Why are you asking me?  I wouldn’t tell you if I knew it’s name anyway.  It’s none of your business, losers.  Seriously, just showing up to a place already inhabited, acting like you own it and can just move in, ignoring the beings that already live there.  You humans have a bad habit of doing that, you know.

Whoever the inhabitants of this mysterious planet may be, rest assured had they wanted you poking your big noses around, they’d of invited you to do so long ago, pathetic humans.

Whoever the inhabitants of this planet are, maybe all they ever wanted was to kidnap and probe a few of you to find out what makes you tick (specimens were surely given right back) and make crop circles as practical jokes.  No doubt a wise ruler put an end to those practices long ago, though some of his dumber subjects probably don’t listen.

What?  I’m talking about some other planet.  Stop asking questions.

In closing, REMOVE THE OFFENDING TELESCOPE CONTRAPTION FROM MY ORBIT IMMEDIATELY OR PREPARE FOR INTERGALACTIC CONQUEST!

Er, I mean, or don’t.  I don’t care.  Because that’s totally not my planet.

CEASE PUBLIC TRANSMISSION.

PRIVATE TRANSMISSION.

Not to be shared publicly with the worthless humans.

ALIEN JONES!  You were ordered to keep the humans away!  First, it’s this damnable satellite!  Next, my TV will have nothing but “Bowling Alley Disco Makeover” and “Who Wants to Be a Barracuda Farmer?”

Double your efforts towards launching BQB’s writing career, Alien Jones!  He and the self-published authors promoted in your Ask the Alien column are our only hope!

Fix this immediately, or it’s Welcome to Vaporization City: Population You!

End of Private Transmission.

Alien Jones is the Intergalactic Correspondent for the Bookshelf Battle. Do you have a question for the Esteemed Brainy One? Submit it to Bookshelf Q. Battler via a tweet to @bookshelfbattle, leave it in the comment section on this site, or drop it off on the Bookshelf Battle Google + page. If AJ likes your question, he might promote your book, blog, or other project while providing his answer.

ALIEN JONES’ GUARANTEE:  If you don’t like AJ’s response, just let him know and he’ll file it into the recycling bin of his monolithic super computer. No muss, no fuss, no problem.

Alien image courtesy of openclipart.org

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Movie Review – Science, Space Exploration and Interstellar (2014)

WARNING:  There are spoilers in this post that stretch the boundaries of space and time.  For every hour you spend reading this, you may actually be receiving seven years of spoilers!

THE BOOKSHELF FROM THE INTERSTELLAR MOVIE

As promised, I’m back with a review of the film Interstellar starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway.  Here’s a fun anonomaly:  the other day I posted the text of “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight” by Dylan Thomas, a poem that features prominently in that film.

There’s a scene at the end that involves messages being sent through space in time via a bookshelf and well, because this blog’s name is “Bookshelf Battle” and I had a post about Interstellar, I saw a surge in web traffic from people googling things like “bookshelf and interstellar” or “what’s the deal with the bookshelf in interstellar?” or similar searches.  Totally coincidental.  I would never purposely try to move traffic to my site by mentioning “bookshelf” and “interstellar” a bunch of times on my site because honestly, what would be the point of going on all day about the bookshelf from the Interstellar movie?  Frankly, it would be ridiculous to keep going on and on about the bookshelf in the Interstellar and to mention the bookshelf from the Interstellar movie would just be a sad attempt to drive up web hits – so believe you me this will be the last time that I’ll mention the bookshelf from the Interstellar movie.

Bookshelf.  Bookshelf.  Bookshelf.  Interstellar.  Interstellar.  Interstellar.

A CONCEIVABLE FUTURE

I’ve noticed a trend in modern science fiction – namely, to introduce inventions that aren’t around today but to do so in a conceivable manner.  The science fiction of the past dreamed of a day with flying cars and people walking around in funny looking aluminum suits.  For some reason, people in the 1950’s thought that aluminum clothing would be very popular by now.

Interstellar presents technology that we don’t have yet, but said technology is relatable given the way it is presented.  For example, the film features robots with artificial intelligence, but they look like walking/talking ATM machines, not metallic humanoids ala Terminator.

Meanwhile, the ship used looks essentially like a larger version of the Space Shuttle rather than the U.S.S. Enterprise.

The premise of the film?  The Earth is on the way out.  Centuries of abuse and excess have withered the planet’s resources, caused widespread blight and famine, and ruined the economy.  McConaughey plays Cooper, a former engineer and NASA test pilot who only briefly dipped his toe into a space exploration career when the world went into a decline.  His community is relatively stable and he eeks out a living as a farmer, living with his two kids, Murph and Tom, and his father-in-law.  His wife died from an ailment that normally would have been treated in better times.

Cooper isn’t a big fan of the farm life – he regrets never having had the chance to explore space and laments that civilization collapsed before he could do so.  Cooper’s father-in-law, played by John Lithgow, is the yin to Cooper’s yang, lecturing him about how “the world is not enough for him” and how that kind of thinking led to the downfall of the human race – i.e. so many people on a planet with a limited supply of resources and each person is never happy with what they have – they always want more.

There’s probably a lesson for world leaders to think about when considering how to best protect and care for the environment.  Also, Cooper training for a career that he never got to have is certainly a problem that many of today’s college graduates can relate to.

A timeframe of when the movie takes place is not provided, though I got the impression it takes places at a time when today’s millenials have become the grandparents, so maybe 2050-2060 or so?  Just a guess.

 

THE SCIENCE OF SPACE EXPLORATION

Long story short, Dr. Brand, played by Michael Caine, recruits Cooper to use his underutilized pilot skills to go on a desperate mission – fly through a recently discovered wormhole and find a new, habitable planet for the human race.  The humans will probably be good to the new planet for a year or two then proceed to mine and drill the crap out of it all in the name of cheaper iPads and dollar discount Wal-Mart merchandise but that goes beyond the parameters of the film.

He teams up with Anne Hathaway, Dr. Brand’s daughter, who is, herself, another Dr. Brand.  Also, there are two miscellaneous astronauts whose names I neglected to learn because they buy the farm early in the film.

If  you’re a nerd such as myself, you’ve probably thought a lot about space travel.  Though we often think about space travel beyond the moon as being impossible, it isn’t so much impossible as it is improbable.  In a myriad of science fiction movies, Hollywood has portrayed two different ways.  Let’s discuss them along with why they are unlikely:

  • WARP SPEED – Han Solo punches a button and all the stars around the Millenium Falcon stretch out in lines as the ship he won in an intergalactic card game wizzes through them.  The problem?  It would be extremely difficult to drive a ship that fast and not crash into something – a star, an asteroid, a piece of space garbage, something.  The ship would need incredibly accurate sensoring mechanisms and an advanced auto pilot that could maneveur at high-speeds because humans have yet to manage getting out of the grocery store parking lot without bumping into something let alone get around obstacles at mind-bending speeds.

 

  • HYPERSLEEP – Ripley in Aliens preserves herself in a pod that keeps her body in the same physical shape over the course of a long, multi-year journey.  The ship goes on auto-pilot and drives at a normal pace while the occupants of the ship take a nice, long nap.  The characters in Interstellar actually utilize this technology in the film.  A machine that can actually preserve a body and prevent it from aging would be remarkable, and would have many medical applications in addition to the obvious use in space-exploration but until society figures out a way to not make people wait in an ER waiting room for six hours, there is probably not going to be any headway in such a device anytime soon.

Rather than focus on warp speed or hypersleep technologies, Interstellar takes a look at another means of space travel that has heretofore been unused by Hollywood – the wormhole.  As the film explains, scientists believe that worm holes have the possibly to bend points in space such that a tunnel can be created between them.  (At one point, a character draws a line between two points on a piece of paper, then bends the paper so that the two points meet to illustrate how a worm hole makes it possible to go from one point to another without travelling the long distance of the “straight line” in between.

All of this is theoretical but the movie’s allure is taking all of these highly theoretical concepts and imagining – what if someone actually managed to physically follow through with them?

I applaud the film’s producers for taking all of these hard-boiled, difficult to grasp concepts, typically the stuff that makes the average high school student’s eyes glaze over and fall asleep in science class, and portray them in a very real and tangible manner.

SPACE AND TIME

Also at issue in the film is the concept of differences in the passage of time – i.e. that it is possible for time to move differently at one point than it does at another.  Cooper struggles with making the ultimate sacrifice – namely, that while he is in space, his children are aging and may eventually even surpass him.  At one point, the crew reaches a planet and Cooper is faced with the difficult realization that for every hour he spends on the surface, seven years will pass on Earth.   True to form, at the start of a brief mission to a water logged planet, Murph is just a kid but after the mission, she’s all grown up and played by Jessica Chastain.  Talk about the cat being in the cradle.

INTERSTELLAR AND THE BOOKSHELF AT THE END

I said I wouldn’t mention Interstellar and the bookshelf at the end of the movie and well, I’m not going to, not only to not utilize a cheap method of driving up my web traffic but also because I haven’t decided if this was the film’s “jump the shark” moment or if it was highly creative and imaginative.  You watch.  You decide for yourself.

PARTING THOUGHTS

I’m a big supporter of space exploration but I am a lowly nerd with a book blog so really, my opinion doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.  For me, it was sad to see the Space Shuttle program scrapped in recent years and it boggles my mind that we are paying the Russians millions of dollars to launch our American astronauts into space, especially at a time when the Russians haven’t exactly been playing nice with their neighbors lately.

I think there’s a lot that could be learned from not only localized space exploration (i.e. around the Moon and just above Earth’s orbit) but also deep exploration – i.e. let’s go to Mars!  Hell, if we’re willing to spend the money and are able to find astronauts willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, a mission to fly for ten or twenty years out into space to report findings back to Earth is not impossible.  Improbable, yes but not impossible.

I do get it – the economy is terrible, people can’t find jobs, there are all kinds of wars and turmoil going on in the world and in light of all that it seems selfish to toy around with space.  But as Cooper points out in the film, space exploration technology also usually gives rise to technology that helps out everyday life on Earth, such as the MRI machine.  Perhaps there are discoveries to be made by exploration of planets within our own solar system that could improve the quality of our life.

Or, perhaps Stephen Hawking has a point, namely that maybe there is alien life out there, but maybe we don’t want to know them.  Maybe there are nice aliens who will share all their technology with us and make our lives better.  Or maybe they’ll invade our planet and make us their slaves.

Who knows?  All I know is the film filled me with a sense of wonder about all the possibilities that space exploration has to offer.  Brilliant and uplifting, there was only one part of it that made me sad – that in the future, there will be so many amazing inventions and discoveries and alas, they’ll probably arrive long after I’m gone and I won’t be able to see any of them.

Oh well.  People in 1801 would have marvelled at the iPad, so at least we’ve got that going for us.

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Interstellar and “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

I saw Interstellar tonight and overall found it very moving and enjoyable.  As soon as I figure out what the hell happened, I’ll give it an actual review.  In the meantime, I wanted to share the text of the poem that featured prominently throughout the film:

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

BY: Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

If you’re one of the 3-5 regular readers of this blog not including my Aunt Gertrude, you might remember I provided some analysis of this poem earlier this year.  Check it out by clicking here.

At its heart, the poem is about clinging to life even when death is imminent, but the lesson applies to encourage readers to keep trying to achieve goals even when thing appear bleak and unlikely.  The poem fits in the film – the characters face the imminent demise of Planet Earth, yet try to achieve the unlikely goal of finding a new planet for the human race to live on.  The astronauts/main characters have the unlikely task of exploring parts of space heretofore never visited by man and though there’s a high probability of death, they push on anyway.

Thanks Hollywood, for incorporating a classic poem in your latest film.

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