Monday, September 24, 2007

The Decay of Science into Fiction

Posted by goatchurch at 10:50 AM
Skepticality Podcast (minute 28) interviews a contributor to the astronomy cast:
This is a change in direction that NASA is taking. There has been a mandate put out that we're going to the moon, and we're going to Mars, and to fullfill that Presidential mandate that doesn't come from the scientific community we have to reshape what NASA is doing. We have to start building extremely heavy-lift vehicles. We have to basically take our old idea of how the Saturn rockets work and amp them up so that we can start getting big things to the Moon and start building construction platforms so it's not a big deal to build something in space that can take humans on interplanetary missions...

For a while we were looking to the decadal studies: the long term well-thought-out-by-the-entireĀ­-scientific-community studies that stated, "Here are the questions that we want to answer. Here are the needs in order to do it. This is what has to be accomplished to answer these questions."... That way to define programs has been set aside.
In other words, the guys setting the policy are following Science Fiction rather than Science, or even recognizable Mundane-SF. It breaks my heart to see Science Fiction being used as a tool to suppress science.

Happily I've just discovered the Space Cynic blog:
"We are NOT anti-space. We are anti-Koolaid."
If they come good on their promise to say all the right things about the Google Lunar Prize, it'll save me a lot of time.

I got onto this today because Colin Pilinger, our modern day Heath Robinson, is getting the go-ahead to do a Lunar lander. This man is the world expert at doing ambitious space projects at bargain prices. The point is it's got absolutely zero to do with the ideological source of funding, and everything to do with whether the people advocating it are just BS-ing and proven that don't care about the known technicalities.


Blogger John Michael Greer said...

Just found this blog -- may I say it's a welcome breath of fresh air. It still astonishes me, though it probably shouldn't, how many people assume that advanced technology is a genie in a bottle that can be summoned at will to solve any problem you care to name. NASA is simply going with the flow; their new mission is to provide spectacles to confirm the faltering faith of believers in the religion of progress. I wonder how soon they'll start talking about "electricity too cheap to meter" again, as they did in the 50s...

Oh, and you might consider putting Edgar Pangborn into your list of authors accused of committing mundane SF. His stunning future history novels (Davy (1964) was probably the best) are set in a future with no technologically improbable bells and whistles. He also got widespread coastal flooding and climate change due to anthropogenic global warming down cold, pun not intended, in 1964.

9/29/2007 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Weaseldog said...

I'll argue that NASA's real purpose is to serve the communications and military industries. There's profit in that.

Pure science is hard. The technology of living in space is difficult and expensive. Is it worth it? Is it our destiny?

Or are we doomed as Carl Sagan suggests, to just blink out here on Earth? To use up our fossil fuels in an orgy of self flagellation, then burn out?

I think that is our fate. But I'm still bummed that I have a spark in me that says we could've done better.

10/01/2007 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger goatchurch said...

Greer: Thanks for the tip. I'll go look for Edgar Pangorn in the second hand bookshop up the road. Never heard of him before.

weaseldog: I have a lot of optimism. Our elite clearly knows exactly what we want, which is how they give us so much bad Science Fiction disguised as Government policy. All it requires is for us to demand that they live up to these expectations and stop selling us their pig in a poke. We can handle the truth, but can they?

10/10/2007 02:54:00 AM  
Blogger Shubber Ali said...

Greetings from the Space Cynic!

It's great to find another voice of reason in the crowd of muttering masses that mistakes the Sci Fi channel for real life, and actually believes Scientific American when it runs "the future in space" articles... you know, the ones that defy any grasp of basic economics and just assumes that unobtanium can be purchased in bulk at Wal-Mart..?

10/10/2007 02:00:00 PM  
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