Thursday 12 January, 2023

Quote of the Day

””Life would be so wonderful if we only knew what to do with it”

  • Greta Garbo

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Schubert | Die Forelle, D550


Long Read of the Day

The Mars Religion

Terrifically caustic essay by Maciej Cieglowski about the current obsessions about going to Mars…

When you hold on to a belief so strongly that neither facts nor reason can change it, what you are doing is no longer science, but religion. So I’ve come to believe the best way to look at our Mars program is as a faith-based initiative. There is a small cohort of people who really believe in going to Mars, the way some people believe in ghosts or cryptocurrency, and this group has an outsize effect on our space program.

At NASA, the faith takes the form of a cargo cult. The agency has persuaded itself that re-enacting the Moon landings with enough fidelity will reward them with a trip to Mars, bringing back the limitless budgets, uncomplicated patriotism, and rapt public attention of the early sixties. They send up their rockets with the same touching faith that keeps Amtrak hauling empty dining cars across the prairie, dreaming of the golden age of rail.

Outside of NASA, the Mars faith shades darker. It is part of a transhumanist worldview that holds mankind must either spread to the stars or die. Elon Musk, the Martian spiritual leader, has talked about the need to “preserve the light of consciousness” by making us a multiplanetary species. As he sees it, Mars is our only way off of a planet crawling with existential risk. And it’s not just enough to explore mars; we have make it a backup for all civilization. Failing to stock it with subsistence farming incels would be tantamount to humanity lying down in its open grave.

That is some heavy stuff to lay on a small, rocky world…

It is.

Thanks to Charles Arthur for spotting it. I enjoyed his acerbic take on it too:

The difficult and unglamorous problems of a Mars mission — how do you wash your socks? What is there to eat? — get no love from Elon Musk. Once you get beyond “rocket factory go brrrrr,” there is no plan, just a familiar fog of Musky woo. The Mars rockets will refuel from autonomous robot factories powered by sunlight. Their crews will be shielded from radiation by some form of electromagnetic handwaving. Life support, the hardest practical problem in space travel, “is actually quite easy”. And of course Musk dismisses the problem of microbial contamination (which I can’t emphasize enough is governed by international treaty) as both inevitable and no big deal.

My commonplace booklet

Study Finds That Buttons in Cars Are Safer and Quicker to Use Than Touchscreens


As some Tesla owners (including this one) will confirm.

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