Learning Fear

The arguments in science usually produce effective theories and more work to be done in the direction of a research programme core.  In the process, we usually discover that our previous views were drongo of some sort.  Our best theories lag behind the evidence.  Physics, as it stands at the moment, is pretty sure our notions of ‘what is real’ focus on only 4% of ‘what is there’ – hardly a full deck.

As a kid, with my mate Frog, I watched the night sky.  He was into astronomy.  We knew from his dad that patient observations were necessary and heard great stories about Tycho Brahe.  I remember the silver nose.  We had a telescope (borrowed from his dad’s work), a red notebook, sandwiches, a flask and determination.  It was England’s Northwest, so our results were largely disappointment and friendship.  The heavens were grey and we got cold.  It was like waiting for a slip catch in cricket – all the concentration just for a tiny percentage moment.  One day, in an art class more boring than the last hour of any going-nowhere cricket game in the rain, Frog started jumping about in a eureka dance.    He generally reserved these for the times he emerged from the scorebox to celebrate a particularly vicious over from me, or inspire one if he thought I was slacking.

He’d painted Jupiter and a couple of its moons, low in the sky.  Several times, against a graph, showing it move across the heavens.  The red notebook was whipped out.  Our teacher, stirred from the depression of her recent failed affair with Dobba (he other art teacher), came to quell the fuss.  A bad decision, as every time she moved her gorgeous body, all the male students, including limp-wristed Chris, our token not-yet-gay, could not contain themselves.  Furore ensued.  Frog was explaining how he’d plotted his chart from the numbers in our booklet.  We found ourselves hugging.

Teacher could not understand.  She never did get why we didn’t give a flying fuck about delicate shades of poster paint.  She was threatening to send us to the headmaster for the cane.  She didn’t mean it, but we went anyway, plotting our next observations.  The Beak, a really decent cove, invited himself along.  Grey as the sky was that weekend night, our headmaster played his role in encouraging us to university to study science.  We thought Frog’s dad invited the art teacher out of hospitality and apology, until our wandering telescope found her with the head at the bottom of the long garden.  We had a joke about the moons of Venus for a long time afterwards.

Sometime after this, our headmaster allowed a few of us (with parental notes) to be excused religious education and formed a group doing general studies with him.  He was interesting, something we weren’t used to; yet the key thing was that he let us wander off together to report back in discussion.

My learning started in this.  Our society, of course, has time all wrong.  A few dominate our time through enforced work for their profit.  The ‘mechanisms’ of this involve classrooms, as surely as dumping kids in front of television or video games.  We fear free time, for the devil has work for idle hands to do.  This is because we live in drongo and our systems are built in its fear.  Rationality is all rationalisation of this.  What we are scared of.

Free-love style eduction is not what I’m on about.  There needs to be something that stops us doing what we want with art teachers.  Mine is not the villain of this piece, much as I would love to pin my lack of representation on someone!


A Sea-change from science

We have finally found a habitable planet ‘out there’.  At the moment, this is a bit like noises about a great land out to the west.  Yet I regard it as the possibility of a sea-change.  This planet is only 20 years away at light speed, or 300,000 in today’s spaceflight speeds.  This brings it within the bounds of possibility, without having to hope for ‘relativity flight’.  300,000 is a number we can do business with, without hoping we can bring that physics that makes distance an illusion reality in day-to-day terms.

I find the idea that a species could propagate to other planets through technological advance intriguing – we are otherwise merely awaiting a catastrophic end, or left with god stories.  The possibility of life knowing what its purpose is comes into the focus of Reason.  This rather makes us babies in evolution, a bit like the societies found pre-warp in Star Soap.

I suspect the technological challenges of overcoming ‘space friction’ and the like may well turn out less bothersome than finding a decent way of going about things other than our current religion of economics, the religion of the rich and powerful.  Previous explorers were largely funded on promises of booty, direct and indirect.

Start by dividing 300,000 by ten and you can see the problem is not intractable.  Columbus’ voyage was about 35 days out.  He didn’t use steam, but the putative technology wasn’t far off.  Biology was much of the problem back then – stocking up on food and water was difficult.

I feel rather religious about this!