And Now, a Martian Sunset

It’s going to be a light day, since for whatever reason I couldn’t get to writing until late and nothing jumped out at me to get all good and mad about.  So here are a few things, in no particular order.

First, I started working out a few months ago.  Five days a week, alternating between upper body and abs / lower body, with leg work being done using an elliptical machine on high resistance.  I’ve managed to tone up fairly well, but I haven’t gained or lost a pound.  (I refuse to eat until I’m sick; that just misses the point.)  The relative response of all of my muscle groups is roughly like this:

  • Chest:  “All those push ups you’re doing are great!  Let’s tone up!”
  • Abs:  “Look!  You’re on your way to a six pack!  Keep up those crunches!  Obliques!!”
  • Arms:  “You weren’t able to do one pull up, and now you can do three sets of five!”
  • Legs:  “Remember that hill you had trouble hiking last year?  No problem now!”
  • Back:  “BEHOLD. I WILL CRIPPLE YOU WITH NIGHT SPASMS.”

Seriously, back.  Get with the goddamned program.  All you do is complain.  You don’t see my biceps complaining and I didn’t even have any before I started this crap.

Topic two:  I’m a fan of Triscuits. They’re crunchy, they go well with a lot of snack foods (cheese, fruit, sardines, soup, stew, etc.), and they’re not as bad for you as stuff like the Doritos and potato chips I normally used to get.  Anyone who’s been to the supermarket recently must have noticed that the creative division of Nabisco has absolutely lost their minds. Take a look at this shit:

Today, the snack section … tomorrow, the WORLD.

Seriously, I’m not sure what happened.  One day there were Regular and Low Sodium varieties.  I turn around, and I see a total of fifteen different brands, including things like sweet onion, cracked pepper, roasted tomato and basil, dill, red bean(?), garlic, and rosemary.  The ones on the top are cooked with brown rice and sweet potato, in case you felt as though a flattened mesh of what is basically Shredded Wheat doesn’t give you quite the excess volume of  roughage you need on a daily basis.  Like an idiot, I bought some of those with the sweet onion because I just had to try them. I mean, sweet onion.  Come on.  Personally, I thought they were great.  My colon has no comment thus far.  I see this as encouraging news.

Finally, I give you the only material relevant to the theme of my blog, and that’s a Martian sunset.  It doesn’t really have anything to do with atheism, since it’s obviously not a prerequisite for being in the sciences … but I tend to think about where we would be if our entire culture were satisfied with the neatly packaged answers given to us by religion, such that we never bothered to ask the tough questions about how the world works and whether we could predict its phenomena ourselves one day.  It’s these questions that eventually allowed us to break the sound barrier, treat cancer, split the atom, and put us on the surface of another planet … at least by proxy.

As sunsets go, I admit it looks pretty unremarkable.  The color is kind of drab, the sun is a pale whitish color, and the sky is just … grey.  And then I pause for a moment to consider that this isn’t from anywhere on Earth, but from Mars … looking from a vantage point where no human has ever stood … coming to us by way of one of the machines we sent there through the combined knowledge and ingenuity of thousands of scientists and engineers spanning countless disciplines … and the picture suddenly becomes breathtaking.

I remember watching Babylon 5 a number of years ago when one of the secondary characters asked the commander of the station what the point of all of this really was.  Why do any of this?  Why not stay on Earth and take care of ourselves?  His answer – and I’m paraphrasing – is that one of the things we have come to know with certainty is that whether it happens in one million or five billion years, our sun will eventually expend its fuel, turn into a red giant, and burn out.  When it does, it won’t just take all of the inner planets; it will take the Pyramids, the Greek tragedies, Shakespeare, Hollywood, Einstein, I Love Lucy, and everything that made us who and what we are.  It will all have been for nothing.  The only way to survive, persevere, and to continue our existence in a way that transcends the cycle of stellar evolution is to leave the cradle and go to the stars.

I’m fairly sure that I won’t live to see us get to another star system … but I nevertheless consider myself lucky to be living in a time in human history where we’ve made the first step into our inevitable future as a spacefaring race.

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This entry was posted in Freedom from Religion, random musings, Science Marches On, Society Marches On and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to And Now, a Martian Sunset

  1. Creativerealms says:

    I know they are going insane with all those cracker flavors right now. Wheat Thins is just as bad. So many different choices. Nabisco is going nuts with choices and verities, just nuts. I can’t argue though as I like the Buffalo wing Wheat Thins.

  2. Richard says:

    We might want to confer about what we think the far future of spaceflight will look like. Bob Park has killed Star Trek and equivalent for me, but I think the narrative constraints arising from the physics of a universe in which warp drive really is impossible would be quite interesting.

    • I was literally thinking about this very thing last night. Assuming that FTL travel is impossible and that we are, in effect, the only intelligent race within a reasonable area of space (say, 1000 light year radius or something), how would we manage an interstellar society? Could we even do it? How long would it take for evolutionary forces to take hold on different worlds and turn us into physically distinct “Martians”, “Europans”, “Centauri”, and so forth as a result of differing gravity, radiation, sunlight, food, and nutritional intake? When would speciation take place? Communication would be possible, but it would take place on such a large scale of time that we could really only have practical conversations with our closest stellar neighbors. The rest, though we knew they were out there, would be more legend than real because whatever we learned about them would have end up being filtered through every other star system along the way over the course of decades.

      I personally think FTL travel will be possible, but I also think any future without it would be just as interesting.

  3. I like how people think that the idea of aliens or other intelligent life in the universe is silly yet believe in a god or gods based on a single book or an old mythology. Somehow I think the possibility of other life out there is theoretically at least as possible than the existence of an invisible being that makes planets and people and expects them to bow down to Him.

    This is especially true in light of the idea that any technology sufficiently above someone else’s will appear to be magic or supernatural. I think the idea of aliens seeding the earth and building the pyramids is a bit much, but I don’t think it’s any more implausible than God, really. In fact, God in technical terms actually IS an alien as He is certainly not human, right? People.

    I do hope our descendents make it out to the stars one day, before either the sun dies or we destroy ourselves. I’m not especially hopeful, though, considering the majority of people would rather just make a thousand varieties of Triscuit and call it good.

    • I’ve spoken with a few people over the years who attempted to “challenge” my position on God by attacking the fact that I believed in the possibility of alien life. The stark contrast obviously being the fact that we’re sitting on one giant floating data point in support of the “life” position, while we haven’t had any proof of God to date.

      I’m convinced we will go to the stars … if it takes 100 or 10,000 years. As you said the tricky part is making sure we don’t kill ourselves first. I’d like to think we dodged the Big Bullet after the Cold War ended, but time will tell whether that was our most important test.

  4. Erin W says:

    That monologue from B5 and Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot’ are two of my favourite pieces on the potential of humanity. “If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.”

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