Saturday, September 15, 2012

8. Curiosity - September, 2012

I don't want to sound like too much of a nerd.

I mean, I'm NOT a nerd, am I? I play soccer every Saturday. I've been talking football with some friends since the new NFL season started.


But really....I sort of am one.

I have fallen totally and completely in love with a robot.

When I last wrote in this space, two months ago, it was a silly little thing about aliens from outer space. since I wrote it, NASA has landed one of the most amazing pieces of machinery -The Curiosity Rover - on Mars. the machine is driving around our neighboring planet, taking pictures.

Curiosity has more charisma, to me, than a Movie Star. It flew thousands of miles through space, dropped onto an alien planet, and just started driving around.

The pictures - bleak, barren, empty - are absolutely stunning to me.

When I look out my bedroom window now, at the view of distant mountains circling the north and east of Los Angeles, I no longer see Los Angeles, or California, or even the United States of America. that's too small.

I see Planet Earth, hurtling through space around a hot burning ball. We are all along for the ride, with absolutely no control over our destiny.

It wouldn't take much to snuff out our entire species, to crush our little cosmic bus. It has happened to bigger balls in space.

And now we have visited another ball.

There isn't much there. No plants, no creatures. Maybe there is some water, or ice. Maybe a few of us will visit in 30 years.

I find the whole adventure invigorating.

It is a welcome distraction from the small problems we take so seriously on this little ball; who will be the next President of one of our little pieces of land; will the next little gadget be faster than the last one?

I was reading an article recently that described the next iPhone as "technology."

No, I said, almost out loud. That's not technology. That's a gadget.

"Curiosity" is technology.

I have been re-reading Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles." I had to pick it up again, especially after NASA named the spot where Curiosity landed, "Bradbury Landing."

Visiting the NASA website, I also looked up the Cassini Probe, which has been flying around a pretty big ball, Saturn, for eight years now. It is telling us a lot about a very interesting smaller ball, Saturn's moon Titan, which may have a sub-surface water ocean.

It makes you realize that all the little squabbles betwen us and our brothers and sisters (all the other human beings who may or may not look different from us) are really quite pety and small-minded.

So someone believes some religion or other. Someone hates someone else. Some country thinks they are the best country ever.

As a species, I think we need to just get over ourselves.

Quit arguing about who deserves the best seat on the cosmic bus, settle in with our family of 7 billion brothers and sisters, and enjoy the ride.

-Peter Wick
September 15, 2012