Archive for the ‘The Known’ category

TAG-ALONG SCIENCE: Following The Money

November 16, 2010

With spurts of government boldness, great moments in science have been born. With spurts of corporate courage equally great breakthroughs in science have occurred.  Our global history of scientific, engineering and technical achievement relates the endless struggle by new discoveries and new ideas to receive the financial support they need to reach their goals. Fickle government budgeting and the absence of vision by corporate leaders are the key barriers to progressive and successful scientific progress. Miraculously humankind has progressed this far because of those spurts of boldness and courage. We need more and we need them consistently.

Saving Science: Right now, the key dependence of science and technology (S&T) for funding support is upon the political system and the budgeting process. This is an extreme variable that depends on too much politics and too little attention to S&T input.

Within our government there are a host of Congressional committees and subcommittees involved in various ways in the process of providing funding support for S&T. Additionally the Executive Branch of government has its own advisory staff that makes recommendations on what the priorities should be for funding these research efforts. For example:

“Almost every congressional committee is in some way involved in S&T policy decision-making or uses the scientific and technical knowledge currently available to help them make decisions.” (From: Science and Technology Policymaking: A Primer by Deborah D. Stine – Congressional Research Service. (http://bit.ly/9wvcAA)

Taking S&T out of the lobby: In line with the various committee involvements in the funding for S&T, there is, of course the interactions of lobbyists to seek to direct that funding toward the organizations or corporations they represent. In some cases this helps certain, but limited S&T programs, but it also can deprive other critical areas of needed funding. You may click here to get and example of the lobbying process and how funds are diverted to select organizations (Data related to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act [ARRA] -2009). These activities are costly and produce well paid lobbyists at the cost of a more equitably and better funded S&T community.

Is there a better and definitely more equitable way? We think there is, and in this two-part presentation we will offer our idea of how that can become a reality. What we are looking at is a way for all S&T programs to have increased access to all funding resources. This would be within a setting that brings to bear a more focused assessment process of S&T programs that use much broader and definitive measures to make funding decisions. The key consideration is public benefit. In stating this we acknowledge the challenge it will be to clearly and universally (politically and ethically) define public benefit. Right now, the majority of  S&T goes unnoticed or discredited by the public. One of the key aims ,therefore, of our presentation is to directly address the publics’ “opinions about science and technology.” Additionally, what we will avoid in our presentation is relegating the S&T/Public interaction as a dispute between science and religion.

In closing this first part of our discussion on this topic we emphasize that we absolutely dislike categorizing people who have a weak grasp of S&T as stupid (lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; dull.). We find this demeaning and we find it a common reaction to those persons who openly display their confusion or misunderstanding of parts or all of S&T. Yes, unfortunately, there are some of us who through a variety of physiological causes suffer cognitive dysfunction. These people have our understanding and compassion. The rest of those often called stupid have, instead, extreme shortages of formal education, especially in basic science, as well as having experienced cold rejection by some in the S&T community. In our opinion this latter situation must be changed if we want increased public awareness and support for S&T.

Coming Soon, Part II: S&T, A Common Cause and Benefit.

CREDITS:

Header Image: Original photo-art by Waddell Robey (c)2010

Lab researcher: Modified clipart from Microsoft. Modification (Traffic sign) added by Waddell Robey.

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BONDING WITH “WHY”: The Citizen-Scientist

November 12, 2010

“We are unlikely to survive if we do not make full and creative use of our human intelligence” The preceding and prophetic observation was made by astrophysicist Carl Sagan in his book,The Dragons of Eden. We quote it here to emphasize the increasing need for the citizen-scientist as an evolutionary energizer.

It is usually a very rapid event after a young child begins to talk that he or she will, one day, use the why word. This is the vital and first step of both an inquisitive mind and a potential, future citizen-scientist. Oh yes, some of those children will go one to become professional scientists, but many, many others will follow different life patterns; however, in each case that inquisitiveness exists and if properly cultivated lives on as an agile mind.

Oh dear, this is one of those techy talks that expect the reader to run and gather up scientific paraphernalia in preparation for some unique little experiment, right? Actually no, although some of those programs or exercises can be both interesting and instructive. We are writing this blog to acknowledge the value of appreciating those who chase why and the benefits it can bring to all of us.

The basic, all-purpose citizen-scientist: Becoming a citizen-scientist is a nurturing process that, as we have indicated above, begins in childhood. That natural curiosity is encouraged by parents and later by teachers to the point where the youngster feels very comfortable asking why and following its implications. As we also stated, some of these youth will go on to become scientists or teachers of science. We, however, want to consider those followers of science not as an intellectual pursuits, but as ongoing delights in their exposure to the revelations and issues that come from answers to why. Just like the child that gets responsive explanations or demonstrations from a supportive respondent, the basic citizen-scientist looks for and responds to the products of scientific exploration.

The amateur anthropologist, archaeologist, astronomer, biologist (ecologist), botanist (horticulturist) and so on are specific and highly defined examples of the citizen-scientists that go beyond the basic stage. We are talking about the individual or even family that takes a very broad interest in science in different ways. They can be described as generally responsive to all scientific revelations and are usually eager to share this information with others. Their excitement comes from both reports of the exploration process and generalized reports of results. They identify with the explorers and often regard them as heroes. On the other hand, they can often become disappointed, even losing interest, when there is a stifling of the flow of science progress’ exciting exploration stories. We write more on this issue, below.

Simple joys from personal discoveries: The broad, general, scientific interests we are discussing here often encourages its followers to explore on their own. This can produce stunning and memorable moments and rewards. The image included in our blog header for this issue is an example.

Walking along a narrow trail in a deep, shadowy forest the citizen-explorer follows a trail that leads to a sunlit patch of wildflowers. There, in bright humility, a jewel of nature shares its breathtaking beauty. It is an awesome moment that is never forgotten. Most importantly,  the encounter exposes the citizen-scientist to the same kind of exultant reactions that the professional scientist often experiences. This is when his or her research yields breakthrough results. Both are “eureka” moments.

The scientists share their discoveries in very formal and careful ways with colleagues and the science community. The citizen-scientists with a generalized interest tend to share their discoveries or new information with friends and family and usually with a handful of fellow citizen-scientists. The more specialized citizen-scientists listed above tend to officially present their findings within an organized group. A group that can be global in size and reach. Regardless, the products of chasing why are shared and invigorated by this extended, public interest.

The art of sharing: So why is there not more of those exciting citizen-scientist discovery exchanges, and why are there not more generalized citizen-scientists? Now, we are considering two interactive why’s. A common factor is the need for broadly effective and interesting information exchanges. In some cases the exchange is too tightly wrapped in the learned vocabularies of the special interest citizen-scientists. These tend to either overwhelm or even coldly exclude the general interest citizen-scientist. This can be quite off-putting.

In the public venue, the media (print, radio and television) have produced some totally astounding science programs that capture both the generalist and specialist citizen-scientists. The problem is, these highlights are random and vary in the quality of their content and accuracy. This problem is confounded by some presentations that are more editorial than informational. The results in these latter instances distract the audience with sociopolitical issues forcing their followers to lose their link to the basic scientific content. Informational and inspirational outcome is shut down! This can cause more than an incidental reaction it can, sometimes, push a fledgling citizen-scientist away.

For many of us, finding answers to why has taken on spiritual connotations that offer soothing but also often inexplicable answers. At the same time, either through a fear of science with its direct statements asserting it does have an answer or our needs for reassurances about life on Earth, we turn to the orderly structure of a religion. This should not prevent our desires to follow the why’s in life while also getting many answers from the sciences. The net personal effect is peace of mind and personal fulfillment as we understand more about all that surrounds us. We also come to find that although we are not eternal as humans, we are forever eternal as a glorious composite of energy that goes on, and on long after our human shell has expired. We are, and always will be one with the universe.

Let science abound: The more involved with science, to any degree, that we become the greater evolutionary strength and progress we make as humankind. As this happens, and as Carl Sagan has advised, our awareness of a host of issues that threaten that progress inspires us to unify and speak-out.

Oh no, you mean we have to become political activists? I don’t like that at all. No, activism in that respect can be expressed in one simple act – voting. The political system looks to dominant influences (dollars, political theories, and even public interests). A unified electorate that have a large population of citizen-scientists can gain important influence that serves to both save our home planet, and assure that humankind will continue to evolve. In short, we become more comfortable with our neighborhood; the Universe.

We are so busy. Family life is scattered and demanding. How can we do this too? It seems just too difficult. Yes, it can, but within a family, an ideal starting place is with your children. The younger they are the better, but age should not be a barrier. Let science come to dinner, let it also join the soccer, or baseball or football team your child is involved with. As you, the parent, look for general science links to share, you are on your way to becoming a citizen-scientist too.

Science is not drudgery. Visit a science museum, a planetarium, an aquarium, or even watch good (not wacky) scifi TV or movies that don’t necessarily educate, but do stimulate questions. In this latter case, your responsibility is to have or know where to find the correct answers.  Guess what? Your family is becoming a citizen-science enclave.  See over there, Einstein is doing a happy dance.

Well, that is interesting and I agree possible. My problem is our kids come home telling us their teachers got angry with them when they tried to use their new science awareness to correct the teacher. Yes, that will be a challenge, until you as citizen-scientist, parents take positive action to improve education in our schools.  No, don’t cry about not having enough time. If your child is gravely ill you rush to the doctors or hospital. Likewise, when your child is suffering from cognitive starvation you must rush to your school systems and get them fixed.

Science seems so remote and distant from our daily lives. We suggest that is wrong, and urge you to think about it obviousness and simplicity as did Galileo when he wrote:

” The Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do.” – Galileo Galilei

Get started today on your journey to becoming a citizen-scientist. When you hear or read the word why, follow through and seek the answer or if not that seek those who seek the answer and follow them.

On that wonderful, day-off,  fishing trip, while you wait for that exhilarating moment when a fish takes the bait, let your eyes follow the flight of a bird. There before you is nature’s mastery of what we still struggle to perfect.

Be amazed; seek answers; share answers, and welcome science into your mind and heart.

CREDITS:

Cartoon Image of Child with Questions: Courtesy of Parents in Education: Link>>http://www.pieinc.org/QandA.html

Wildflower image in header. From photography collection of Waddell Robey (c) 2007

“PUSHING THE ENVELOPE”: Exploration’s Focus!

November 3, 2010

“Pushing the envelope” is not a new phrase to most of us. Upon hearing it, we usually immediately envision daring test pilots, like Chuck Yeager, or all the equally daring and courageous astronauts such as Alan Shepard or Eileen Collins. In reality that phrase pretty well describes the focus of all exploration activities. It is a vital focus that turns curious wanderings or speculations into positive breakthroughs and discoveries.

We selected the image on the left above as our view of what pushing the envelope looks like. It also directly appeals to our belief in the importance of humankind’s efforts to explore deep space; however, these are big, dramatic efforts, and the process or focus is at all levels of human inquisitiveness and endeavor. That is right, most likely every one of us has challenged the status quo, or the rules to advance. When we do it with a high element of personal risk we are truly at the edge of the envelope. Additionally, this focus does not advocate or include recklessness. It does include definite risk taking, and challenging known boundaries as we search the unknown, but it is done in a way that the risks are considered solid investments for the future of humankind. Here are some examples of what we mean:

  • Life Sciences: Certainly a clear example is the current research into the understanding and therapeutic use of human stem cells. The risk is an ethics issue that if left unresolved will ignore one of the greatest potentials to revive and support human health and homeostasis. Another current example is a breakthrough discovery by researchers of a way to strengthen a weakened or weakening heart muscle.
  • Astrobiology: Yes this is related to the Life Sciences group above, but represents a broader and deeper view into the existence of life within the universe. Recent research emphasizes the importance of energy in the beginnings of life here, and essentially throughout the universe.
  • Human Spaceflight: The risks and dangers are both obvious and serious, and we have already seen the benefits of this exploratory focus. A classic and important example is the ongoing International Space Station program that is providing important research in a variety of critical areas. Most importantly the research into what happens to humans as they spend extended periods of time in space where weightlessness and cosmic radiation exposures are critical issues.
  • Personal life challenges: We may not consider these critical, but the simple acts of personal weight control, stopping smoking, making a dramatic career change, stepping forward to speak out against illegal and/or inhuman actions are all examples of personal challenges we accept and carry out. Depending upon the individual, the elements of risk and hazard will vary, but the exploratory focus to find solutions for change is common. In most cases, acts of courage unique to the person are present.
  • All Science: Scientific research regularly pushes the envelope. Now not all scientists push, but within their respective disciplines there are many bold, courageous risk takers carrying forward the exploratory focus. The risks vary from total failure to unexpected and sometimes dangerous outcomes. (a) The physicist Marie Curie was at great personal risk of radiation poisoning. (b)Professor August Raspet of Mississippi State College gave his life to improve our understanding of boundary layer control and laminar air flow in aircraft design. (c) Antarctic Explorer Sir Robert Scott, shared vital data on this polar region and lost his life and that of his fellow explorers in the process. The list is endless and rich with major contributions to all areas of the sciences and, most importantly, to the well-being of humankind.

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” This quote by writer and social philosopher, Kurt Vonnegut, in our mind, clearly defines the exploratory focus. Our schools, our families, our corporations, and our very lifestyles should at least include acknowledgement of this focus, and ideally should make it a central functional theme. This, however, is not enough. Parents, schools, leaders must teach, encourage and support the exploratory urge. In the process we learn about risk, how to assess it, and when to accept it as a partner in our search for new discoveries, new explanations, and a growing body of science. This is how we as humans, have moved forward, and it is vital to us in our efforts to understand the origins of life here, and forever beyond.

Go now to the edge, take a long, deep look, and then “push the envelope.”

CREDITS:

The image of the Heliosphere is courtesy NASA/JPL/CalTech

EVA Image: Astronaut Mark Lee testing EVA safety and rescue systems. Courtesy NASA/JPL –  STS-64

BIRD BRAIN? Well, Thank You For The Compliment!

October 30, 2010

I see you, I hear you, I know you.

Brains, regardless of their hosts, are immense organs of great power and facilitation. The bird brain title for this blog acknowledges that relative power. If you have doubts, take some time and birdwatch. Watch small birds, big birds, seabirds, raptors and of course the great Bald Eagle. All are examples of the majesty of coordinated movement and navigation – while flying under their own power. Something not one of us can do; unassisted.

This blog article seeks to honor science’s explorations of the brain, especially the human brain. Most importantly, we need to understand we are still groping. Really? How so?

The work of neurologists, neuro-psychiatrists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists and philosophers all contribute, on a constant and ongoing basis, to our knowledge about the brain. As we learn more we discover one revelation after another of the amazing uniqueness and power of the brain, regardless, as I have stated, of its host organism.

Like our exploration of the universe, the cosmos of the brain constantly teases us to look further and deeper. It can be coy, confrontational, demanding, illusive, and always in power. It rumbles with laughter as we, with our brains, seek to discern brains in general. Who is in charge here? Personally, I remember how I stunned a radtech after I had an MRI of my brain by stating: “Hmmm, here my brain is looking at images of itself. What can it be thinking?”

Brain Recovery: My own experience in working with clients who had suffered traumatic brain injuries confirmed, on a daily basis, the power of the brain to not only survive, but to restore itself into full power.  Yes, in some cases there were memory and motor deficits that needed therapeutic assistance, but in most cases the brain responded with vigor and renewal of lost functions. Two classic examples: (a) The brain injured young man in a deep coma who physicians were now advising family to consider pulling the plug and agreeing to organ donations. That same afternoon, the young man is found sitting upright in his hospital bed asking a nurse why he was here and what had happened. This was five months after his initial injury, and (b) The young man seriously brain injured in a motorcycle accident. Staff writes him off as a candidate for placement in a permanent custodial facility. He fights it, both unconsciously and consciously and begins to return to full function. A thorough screening including an IQ evaluation reveal he had a recovery IQ of 135. This young man is now a successful auto-electronics systems specialist.

Despite these natural and assisted recovery efforts, sometimes the damage is so extensive and so deep that even the die-hard brain gives up. Tragic and sad? Yes, but also a reality. The important thing is that the research (explorations) of brain function and recovery continues, and as mentioned above, provides bountiful insights and surprises. It is possible that in the future there will be fewer cases where the brain gives up. One of these future breakthroughs, in my opinion, is the research associated with stem cell therapy.

Brain Death: Brains never want to die, but deprived of their vital nutrients and oxygen filled blood they begin to collapse and slowly shut down their host’s life support systems. Regardless, in reality, I believe they are the last to go. When they shut down because their host’s life support systems (heart, lungs, kidneys, etc) have failed they are still the last to go, albeit quickly in most cases. Well, what about deep comas? The host’s systems still function with external help, but the brain seems essentially shut down. This is where, in my opinion, we will find Stem Cell therapy may come to the rescue.

We still do not know fully how the brain exercises its repair and recovery process, but research in this area that involves the use of Stem Cell therapy may open entirely new pathways for recovery. Exciting and rewarding research awaits us. Additionally, in a great many cases, persons who have suffered traumatic brain injury have also suffered spinal cord injuries which puts them in a very limited lifestyle. Again, application of Stem Cell therapy to address both the brain and the spinal cord damages could produce stunning recoveries.

The Exploration Theme: Stem Cell research in this case fully utilizes the exploration theme. Scientists are exploring how and why stem cells work, and in doing so they are and continue to make discoveries. They seek to explain these discoveries and in so doing they are and will continue to find applications that both repair and enrich human life. Right now, we are just on the first leg of our explorations, With a fully expanded research program the discoveries and results could easily become one of the most important and vital medical outcomes affecting all humankind. Dare we not venture forth?

For bird brains and human brains and all others, expanding our understanding of the immense complexity and power of the brain can only enrich all of us. Add to this an increased supplementary process to aid the brain in its resilience shines light into the darkest corners of its miraculous functions. Most importantly it will be the brain, not us, that finally puts to use our efforts to aid its glorious and amazing existence. So, there we are, our brains, aiding ours and other’s brains. Again, who is really in charge here?

REFERENCES:

Neural Stems Cells in the Adult Human Brain http://bit.ly/dtKV6g

Stromal Cell transplantation for traumatic brain injury repair. http://bit.ly/9fw9PX

Stem cell therapy in central nervous system injury. http://bit.ly/aqxsUr

CREDIT:

Image of Common Egret, from photo collection of Waddell Robey (c)1969, 2010 All Rights Reserved

Cartoon Image of the inquiring brain: From: http://bit.ly/WzA4H

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: The exploration of us.

October 18, 2010

Caveat: Before starting this blog article I need to carefully inform my readers about my background and expertise regarding this topic. It is very Limited in comparison to medical and psychology professionals who have devoted their entire adult lives to their practices. I do offer 6 years experience as a researcher and program coordinator at a Medical University, and I also offer an extra 25 years in health and human services as an administrator, researcher and direct client services professional. My chief sources are you, Homo Sapiens. You are the reality that stands, sometimes nakedly, before any practitioner’s eyes. It is you who teaches, demands, and weeps when we fail you. I have experienced all from you, unforgettably.  That said….let’s open the door.  Oh! lest I forget, I acknowledge humbly, that I am just like you; I must never forget that.

This is about the science of human evolution? No, this is about all of us working to help each other realize our own potential. This is the only way that humankind can hope to move forward as a civilization on Earth and as an evolving galactic civilization. Until we can resolve our immediate difficulties, we are unfit to venture across our galaxy and beyond.

We are gifted, but too many of us have various barriers that limit our realization of who we really are and what we are capable of achieving. What I present here is a personal experience and one man’s concept of human empowerment. In that regard, I maintain each of us can be like psychosocial locksmiths that help spring open true life for our fellow humans on this planet. This is the true next step in our evolutionary journey – to the stars!

The exploration paradigm: There you are, at the door, a real-life, shape-shifting human. Today, you are very self-protective so all your shields are up. You are smiling, guardedly. You introduce yourself, as do I. We shake moist hands; that’s right I am nervous too. We sit across from each other and (a) I immediately subject you to a series of imposing, but vital questions that will tell me why you are here , or (b) I say a few words to help you relax and then say nothing; looking, with calm interest, directly at you. There is full eye-contact unless you or I look away. If I am a physician then option (a) is mandatory. If I am a psychologist of the type I always wanted to be, then option (b) puts the ball in your court – gently.

The bridge, dammit, go to the bridge!: If I am using option (a), most likely I am so busy filling in the blanks with your answers that I am missing the brief and intermittent peeks you display of the real you. If I am using option (b) and wait too long for you to open up a bit I could learn little more than your tolerance for the silent treatment. So how do we really get started on this mutual exploration? It is up to me, and if I am really interested in you then I jump to the bridge. Compassion is the bridge! Oh, oh this is dangerous ground regardless of which option I am using. I could cross the emotional boundary and trip over into a personal affiliation that blinds clinical assessments. This is true, but I know this and in the knowing I have the option to exercise the needed controls. Tough duty, but both essential and highly effective when controlled. Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Body language and eye contact: I must loosen up, keep good eye contact, and with a sincere and open look.  I smile, really smile. When you are giving answers, I clearly show that I follow you and I silently nod and smile encouragingly.
  • If I am using option (a) I run the risk of being detoured away from getting a true personal history from you. I know it is critical to get to know you in as much time as this session will allow. So I make the questions highly relevant that encourage more openness from you. I respond to your revealing responses by directly encouraging your comments or questions. I must resist the temptation to supply my own explanations to your questions. I must seek your answers and explanations.  I show both interest and definite evidence that I care. If I am using option (b) all the above equally applies; every one of my reactions and responses can help you open up more. I cannot fake this. I must feel compassion, I must care else my false self will betray me to you.
  • Keeping the ball in play and in the right court; yours: The last thing I need to hear is an explanation of your problem or concern from ME! I am failing you if I take over, trying to read your mind and emotions, thus stifling you. Most likely you will slam shut the window to your true self leaving both of us floundering in the darkness of missed communications. You might as well excuse yourself and go home, and I need a good spanking.
  • When the tears start to fall I will suffer if I have achieved the caring and compassionate link with you. Most likely I will have the urge to cry or at least moan. If I do, I immediately steal your grief, making it mine, and breaking the link we both have worked to build. This is very hard, delicate work. I must let you know I feel your sorrow and that I want to know more about it. I need to do this warmly while I still control my own emotions. I may take your hand briefly to emphasize my compassion while I insert a soothing question, but no hugs.  Hugs are absolutely marvelous and therapeutic. If I reach out and hug you in your grief I offer an immediate relief to it, and that takes us all the way back to the start. It will be extremely difficult to start over, at least during this meeting, and possibly never again. I have given you another relief door to hide behind. Am I saying you must suffer for us to make progress? No, but in reality you will and that is part of the process of bringing out all that causes you anguish.  All the more reason not to put you in a position where that has to be unburdened again.

Well, that is all very interesting and helpful, but how can any one of us do this with one another? The details above are essentially clinical, but the basic process of establishing good communications with a friend, a spouse, an offspring, a co-worker, or a perfect stranger are there and are the essentials I advocate. Compassion, careful and helpful listening, placing the other person first, and downplaying yourself are just good human interactions – nothing clinical. If you have achieved a caring approach then you have enabled yourself to begin to help the other person discover themselves and the ways they can begin solving their own problems.

Good grief, that is time-consuming and calls for a major commitment on my part for maybe someone I really don’t know. Yes you are right, and it does take a commitment. I see the lack of these kinds of compassionate commitments between each of us for one another as the major impediment to our achieving real peace among humankind. If we continue to fail at this, then it is doubtful we will get very far in our next evolutionary journey. We will instead, just be another one of those failed galactic civilizations.  Oh yes, they are out there, and we will learn their tragic histories if we avoid our own tragic history.

Is this some kind of theological process; an organized religion of some type? No, however, most religions that are practiced here on our planet espouse and teach many of the elements we are discussing here. The difference is that we do not need to be dependent upon an organized theology for us to start and practice these powerful and helpful human interactions. If you wish to include a specific theology as part of your efforts that is fine so long as you keep your focus on the basic goal of promoting and encouraging the act of self-exploration. Like all forms of exploration, this will produce discoveries, and with your compassionate encouragement, the other person will begin to make explanations of those discoveries. When this happens they are throwing open all their windows and most importantly, they are the first to look inside.

Oh, oh, what if that person looking in his windows does not like what he or she sees? I could be blamed, even hated, for what I have helped them do to themselves. I won’t deny the risk that can be involved. It depends upon who the other person is. Obviously the perfect stranger would be someone who might react negatively. Friends and family, may initially struggle, but will come to welcome your caring compassion. You are helping them become truly alive and free. As this settles in, you should experience their gratitude, admiration, and affection. They are now gaining the strength and the confidence to begin to move forward and to explore beyond themselves which is exactly what must happen. Now, give them those hugs.

Well, I will think about it. In fact, I am thinking I could probably use some of that compassionate, caring, help myself. Exactly and now you are at the threshold of the kind of human bonding that we must carry out to reach out across the universe. We learn that selflessness in our relationships is neither weakness nor meek dependency upon others. It is exactly the opposite. We are stronger, we are confident, we can look beyond ourselves and begin to consider all that surrounds us and the exciting revelations that will offer. Our evolution becomes a happy dance of new discoveries that enrich all our lives and our future.

CREDITS:

Cartoon image of people. Courtesy of U. S. Centers for Disease Control, via Bing.

Happy Dance cartoon, from Flutter of Hope Blog  http://bit.ly/cS8vUt

THAT IMAGINATION THING: An Exploration Seedling

October 12, 2010

Esteemed scientist, Albert Einstein once stated, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination circles the world.” We add that imagination now flies humankind to the Moon and beyond. Author and social philosopher, William Somerset Maugham expands on imagination when he states, “Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.”

We are not alone in our view that imagination sparks dreams and that our dreams lay the groundwork for exploratory thoughts and plans.  Most importantly,  this kind of dreamthink is not reserved for just scientists. Great artists, authors, and inspired leaders have all been motivated by and have become explorers as the result of the imagination process. Is this an exclusive gift of the highly intelligent or is it a power that resides within each of us? Imagination is power for every one of us.

Like the exploratory urge or inquisitiveness, imagination begins at an early age, but as we mature it gains in both scope and strength. The more inspiration and support we receive in our imagination and related dreams the stronger it becomes and the more productive we become as explorers. The most critical and earliest source of that inspiration and support comes from within the family. An attentive parent is the most powerful force that helps imagination grow and expand its scope. Similarly, teachers and school curricula that promote and reward products of students’ imagination further aid its development and strength.

Would you believe that jealousy and envy are often active enemies of imagination? Rarely is it expressed openly. Most often it takes the form of discouragement or indifference which tends to limit imagination’s development. In this setting it takes an unusually strong and self-assured person to persist regardless of any discouragements. The history of humankind holds many instances of where this brave persistence has won, giving to all of us an immense array of discoveries, artistic masterpieces, and overpowering musically artistic expressions. We are blessed by all of it, but we are now in need of a new abundance of such blessings.

We are standing before the gateways of many new discovery areas. These gateways lead to: the origins of life here on Earth and in the universe, the universe itself, and the challenge of an expanded humankind that reaches far beyond the confines of our sweet planet. In order to address these challenges and to open and cross those gateways we need to revive and strengthen our imagination, the dreams it inspires, and the explorations that will give us new discoveries and their explanations. We must not let the jealous, the envious, the misinformed or the superstitious stifle this process. If we do, then we stifle the ongoing and rewarding evolution of humankind here and throughout the universe.

Yes, we know, we selected the modern music of the Beatles to emphasize one of our points. We see the Beatles musical imagination as very relevant social commentary to the issues we have presented here. We close this blog article with one more of their creative observations. Please, believe in your dreams, and by all means reach out and give support and courage to all those dreamers that abide here with you. This is the power that will move us forward.

CREDITS:

Image of Albert Einstein by Andrew Zimmerman Jones from About.com:Physics.

Image of artist Vincent Van Gogh – self-portrait. British Royal Academy and the London Evening Standard

SAILING THE CELESTIAL SEA – A Reprise.

October 9, 2010

This is a reprise of and earlier editorial blog which seems very relevant to today’s times.

Yes, we have celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the science of modern astronomy and the telescope, but we are also celebrating our bold steps across the threshold of the space sciences. We have stopped crawling and are now considering our next real steps into the space environment. We should reflect and rejoice.

As spectacular as our accomplishments have been they are furtive when compared to where we shall be going. Like youngsters taking their first steps, we need to be mindful of that parental warning: “Don’t Rush It.

What’s Ahead? In the “mid-distant” future, manned space exploration will be limited to this solar system.  Now, that is not a bad thing.  Not only are we going to find important answers to how life develops on planets, but we are also going to learn about the entire process of planet and solar system formation.  Yes, man will land on Mars, and probably one or more of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.  We will also explore the asteroid belt and actually develop mining operations on some of them.  None of these activities are overnight events.  We are talking trilllions of dollars and millions of hours for the design and development of efficient and safe space exploration systems. All of this is incredibly healthy for we Earthlings both financially and intellectually.

Going Deep Into Space: Well, what about deep space?  Is the Kepler Mission a waste of time and money? The answer should be obvious, it certainly is not.  Our exploration of deep space is going to not just blossom it is going to explode when we finally find life bearing exoplanetary systems.  There will be that dreamed of and prized “first contact.” It will be entirely and uniquely robotic, and will remain that way for a long, long time. Don’t despair, the kind of contact I am talking about will represent almost unimaginable breakthroughs in robot design. It is time to use the science-fiction concept of cyborgs to understand this process.

A New Improved HAL: With apologies to that legion of science fiction writers, I predict we completely discard those ideas of a “pasted” together man and machine cyborg.  In reality we will develop totally safe and sane “Hal-like” robots that are directly, intimately linked to a specially selected and trained astronaut team. The team are astronauts because they are in space, but not deep space.  They reside in a satellite complex located in, for example, the L1 or L2 orbital points around the Sun. These astronauts are the command, control and communication unit for the robot team in deep space.  This is necessary to escape the communication and control barrier of the Earths atmosphere. It also allows the full usage of an expanded Deep Space Network (the key space communications network).

To listen to what the robot team in the image above are playing, you may click here.

How that program will work is the topic for another My Celestia article.  The image on the left above is simply an example of a real robot team that was developed by Toyota as a demonstration.  Are they playing music?  Yes they are.  Are they playing in a coordinated manner?  Yes they are.  So, in this respect it is a very limited example of the kind of robotics we will develop for our deep space visits.  We can venture this. The robot team will operate on the most advancedneural network artificial intelligence that, like HAL, is very human and beyond in its capabilities and response to the ET environment they are visiting.

The Bottom Line: There is always a bottom line and in this case to bring this multiple space exploration program into reality there needs to be some big, big changes.  First the NASA team needs to become a full-fledged NASA-Industrial Complex.  Don’t let that frighten you.  This coordinated activity is the only way we are going to really get out there properly, safely and soon. For this to happen, NASA needs to get its act together.  Please, they have done marvelous, amazing and courageous things in their history, but now they have stepped into a much bigger role that needs an entirely new program and fiscal management paradigm

The above is not going to be an easy process, and there are many out there who rather shoot NASA down than realize that NASA and its industrial/scientific partners are one of the key elements of both our growth and future stability.  Space is the next (not the last) frontier and we are a nation that has built itself on our exploring past frontiers.  It has worked well, and this time we stand to move humankind far more forward and beneficially than has ever been done before. Most importantly, the new partnership is an international one that is far more comprehensive than the ones NASA has now.  This extends the growth and stability factor around the world.  In short, it spells FUTURE.

Now, who among us wants to deny the future?  Come aboard and let’s go sailing. The universe awaits us.

IMAGE CREDITS:  Robots: Toyota Corporation and REUTERS May 4, 2008

Astrophoto: Waddell Robey/Slooh.com 2008