Delight Springs

Monday, August 29, 2016

Walking to the stars

What a gorgeous, beckoning crescent moon out here in this morning's pre-dawn.

In CoPhi we're talking walking today, with side-orders of space-faring and belief-sharing.

We'll discuss the first two chapters of Frederic Gros's Philosophy of Walking, and Christopher Orlet's Gymnasiums of the Mind

We'll also consider these old posts and  this one on walking and believing (and the ongoing This I Believe franchise), Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot, and Sagan heir Neil de Grasse Tyson's Why exploring space still matters. The common thread? Some of us fervently believe, with Nietzsche, Rousseau, and so many others, that the best ideas first come while walking. Some of us also believe we should expand our range to include more distant turf, over the Terran horizon. I'm a believer.

Given the vast scale of the cosmos, and the fact that we've really only just learned to walk, "we" means future humans. But the horizon just came a lot closer, with the discovery of our sister planet at Proxima Centauri. By present propulsion technology, of course, Proxima Centauri is NOT in such close proximity. It's 80,000 years away. If that Russian billionaire figures out how to boost those iPhone-size probes to a fifth of the speed of light they'll get there in 20 years. This is less about us getting there, than about us getting excited about our great-great...grandchildren getting there, and for that even to be possible we have to get excited about sustaining this planet, here and now. An Exoplanet Too Far

Neil Tyson believes a redoubling of our efforts in space would be the most practical investment we could ever make in our species.
'We need to double NASA's budget because not only is it the grandest epic adventure a human being can undertake, not only would the people who led this adventure be the ones we end up building statues to and naming high schools after and becoming the next generation's Mercury 7 as role models, not only will there be spinoff products from these discoveries, but what's more important than all of those, what's more practical than all of those, is that he will transform the economy into one that will lead the world once again rather than trail the world as we are inevitably going to be doing over the next decade.'"
And it'll give us peripatetics a lot more room to roam.

The cosmic perspective need not lead to resignation and existential despair, of the sort hinted in Bertrand Russell's "A Free Man's Worship" - "For countless ages the hot nebula whirled aimlessly through space..." -and made light of in his "Why I Am Not a Christian" - "Nobody really worries much about what is going to happen millions of years hence..."

Some do, actually. But others, reflecting on a mote of dust with Carl Sagan, dream.
We humans have set foot on another world in a place called the Sea of Tranquility, an astonishing achievement for creatures such as we, whose earliest footsteps three and one-half million years old are preserved in the volcanic ash of east Africa. We have walked far
It all began with one small step. Between now and the end of eternity, we have countless more steps to enjoy. Let's go.

And bring a book. I recommend Five Billion Years of Solitude: the Search for Life Among the Stars by Lee Billings.

5:45/6:18, 73/90, 7:17

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