Saturday, February 16, 2013

Where Did Our Curiosity Go?

     Were you alive back when President Kennedy ensured that the U.S.A. reached the moon before the U.S.S.R.?  I remember being in grade school and seeing news reports of a renewed emphasis on Science and Math in U.S. schools, and how the entire nation was gripped with excitement, breathlessly following the reports of trial and error so inherent to scientific exploration of the space beyond our own tiny ball of mud and water in space.  I remember thinking that if we could have astronauts walking on the moon and I was just a kid in elementary school, imagine where astronauts would be walking once I was an adult!
     So now, almost 50 years later, where are we walking?  Not on the moon anymore.  Not on any other planets.  And if you ask most people what's going on with NASA and the space exploration programs, you will get blank stares or heated lectures on how we need to stop funding such "nonsense" and instead put tax money to work solving the problems we've created for ourselves here on our home planet. "After all," the speaker will opine piously, "What benefits have we ever gotten from wasting all of that money on the space program?"
     Indeed.  Just thinking off the top of my head, I can name things we take for granted like Velcro, thin fabrics that hold heat in without bulk, disposable diapers, dehydrated foods, microwaves, and technology so small that the computers that used to fill entire rooms with punch-cards and moving dials, are now held in the palm of a hand while toddlers play endless on-line games to keep themselves amused while Mom and Dad ignore each other to text other people or surf the web while they wait for their fast food in the restaurant.
     In his book, The Demon-Haunted World, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17349.The_Demon_Haunted_World, Carl Sagan talks about being a passenger in taxis all over the country, and invariably if the driver recognized him, he would be asked his opinion of the various "scientific" ideas the driver was interested in...things like, "Did aliens really land here in the 40s and their bodies and technology are being kept secret from us?", and "How can you say there's no such thing as magic and ESP?  I just read in (name any national tabloid) about someone who can..."
And Carl Sagan would sigh heavily, sometimes attempting to explain that these things are all the work of charlatans, and that if the person really is interested in science, they should try reading about what NASA is doing these days, about the exciting things being discovered through our participation on the International Space Station, or the miracles of modern medicine discoveries, etc.  At that point the driver would invariably get angry or quiet, upset that the famous Carl Sagan really didn't know anything about "science" after all...at least not about the stuff he was interested in.
     The statistics these days tell us that the U.S. is 14th in the world in student achievement in Science, and 18th in Math.  This, from a country that used to lead the world!  But I'll bet today's students can all identify "Honey Boo-Boo", and navigate quickly on their smart phones to the Twitter feed from the Kardashians, which they follow religiously.  Sigh.
     Years ago Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Simple minds talk about other people.  Average minds talk about events.  Great minds talk about ideas."  Yet here we are, in the western world, many of us taking for granted the knowledge of the whole of humanity available on the internet, and what is the primary use for this access?  Downloading extreme porn and chatting on social networks about other people.
     All of my observations here are to introduce the second of my Mayan Vampire novels, Mayan Prophecy Fulfilled.  What?  How can a fiction novel, an erotic vampire romance at that, have anything to do with such lofty ideas?  In my fictional world of these two novels, I present a reason that curiosity has faded in humanity, and why despite our inherent desire to learn, instead we wallow in the ordinary, celebrate the sub-human (hello, reality TV), and more people vote for American Idol than vote for the U.S. President.  In my books, the aliens that visited our planet before brought vampirism with them, along with directions: encourage humanity to propagate, but don't let it evolve so far that independent space travel is achieved.  Keep the masses well-fed but dumbed-down, so they won't present any problem when the aliens return in 5,000 years to take more humans back to their planet with them.
     The first book, Prophecy of the Undead, introduced my ideas.  The second book, Mayan Prophecy Fulfilled, ends with the aliens returning to find a world changed in ways they didn't expect.

 To learn more, please visit my website, www.fionamcgier.com.
Both books are available at the usual places, like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romances Ebooks.com., and Coffeetime Romance.com.  But the best price is usually at the publisher, and if you go to: www.eternalpress.biz, log-in to prove you are over 18, and use the code 289snake when you check out, you will save 28% off your purchase of my two eBooks.

And to answer my question about Curiosity, that's the name of the space exploration vehicle currently sending back spectacular data from Mars.  Go to this site to watch some interesting short videos explaining various issues about space travel.  The one I've linked to is the one from NASA telling us why the planet didn't end on December 21, 2012, at the end of the Mayan long-count calendar's 13th Baktun.


Tina Donahue said...

We gained so much from the space program and then neglected it to build more nukes and weapons. We have the $$ for military stuff the Pentagon doesn't even want, yet none for the space program and for infrastructure. We could employ thousands just fixing our roads and bridges.

Love your covers, Fiona, they are so hot. :)

Sarah J. McNeal said...

When they ended the Space Program with the last flight of Atlantis, I wrote a blog about the important changes the Space Program had introduced into our lives. If you want to see the whole list, here is the tag. http://sarahmcneal.blogspot.com/2011/07/last-flight-of-atlantis.html
Not the least of these changes was kidney dialysis. Can you imagine the people whose lives have been saved by kidney dialysis?
I don't know that curiosity is gone, but I think the ability to explore and use that curiosity has certainly been dampened. There are still young people who are interested in more than fashion, texting and reality shows about people doing things badly.
The thing I miss about the Space Program is the feelings of hope, adventure and pride in a program that rose above politics and mundane life on Planet Earth.It gave us all a sense of unity, excitement in discovery and the hope that we really could find out what was out there in the stars.
I know that some private investors have continued some space trips, but it's mostly a circus act and not about science any more.
Great post, Fiona.

jean hart stewart said...

You certainly pinned the way I feel. Science is so essential and we are slipping behind all the time. There are young people today who are the hope of our world, however. It's so hard for them to get the education they need though.

Pat Brown said...

It's not just that science has faded from the lives of the very people who are most addicted to what it has brought us, but there's no respect for science or for intelligent people who question things. There are Senate committees of science and education who know less science than a five year old who's watched the latest Star Trek movie. They believe in Creationism, that the world is 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs and men co-existed. How can they support an emphasis on science when most of their beliefs rely on denying scientific facts.

People find it easier to believe that the ancient Mayan calendar's end meant the end of the world. None of them went to the people who would know about such things, instead relying on charlatans who had nothing to back up their 'facts'. Nostradamus is seen as a great seer, the greatest minds in MIT or CalTech are viewed with scepticism.

Smart people are called elitists. Educated scientists talk about theories and are dismissed because they won't say anything is definite. They're theories. Well, gravity is a theory. Anyone out there who doesn't believe it's pretty definite? But it's this weakness the ignorant use to throw doubt on science. And as long as we elect people who distrust science and put them in positions over the field of science, technology and education then it's not going to change.

Fiona McGier said...

I guess I'm preaching to the choir here! What really bugs me is that as you say, Pat, no one respects intelligence. The nerd gets no respect, until he/she invents technology that changes lives. Then they are still called "nerd", but not to their faces anymore.

I saw a business card once that said, "I'm the nerd you used to beat up. Look at my car and my clothes. And yes, I'd like fries with that."
Sad, but true.

Maybe we need a bill of rights for smart kids and adults, so they begin to get some respect? I'd blame the Simpsons and the idea of celebrating the under-achieving Bart except for the fact that if you aren't intelligent and well-read, when you watch the show you're just laughing like a child at the "funny yellow people". The wit, puns and yes, intelligence behind that show is amazing, especially considering how long it's been on TV!

That being said, we don't get cable and I haven't watched a new show (only exception, Dr. Who from BBC) on any channel in many years.
I prefer Sci-fi because it stretches the brain to imagine what might be possible some day. But certainly not now, while we celebrate mediocrity.

Rent the movie, "Idiocracy". I own it. It's funny and prescient and sad that it's so true, yet it's supposed to be set 500 years in the future.

Thanks for the comments. I just got home from an overnight with my daughter at college, so that's why my response is delayed.

Faith said...

OMG, when my youngest dau puts Honey Boo Boo on TV I yell for her to turn it or shut the TV off. I cannot tolerate that useless, pathetic show in any way, shape or form.

Snookie and JWow will set me off too. Grr!

I recently heard on a coupla dif TV programs that science is focusing more on the oceans now. Word is that we know more about the moon than we do what's in our deepest oceans.