I had a conversation recently with somebody (no names) about the Mars rover and some of the groundbreaking things that NASA are attempting to shed light upon during the mission. Let me point out, this isn’t a dig at the person I had the conversation with, not at all, more a musing on whether we are becoming collectively complacent in what we think we know, and that maybe, we think we now know enough.
The conversation mainly consisted of me rambling on like an excitable child about how the Mars rover had observed rock and sedimentary evidence that pointed strongly towards the existence of water on the planet at some point in the past. If that isn’t fascinating enough, the sheer fact that we the human race have developed and mastered the ability to explosively propel a robot off our tiny blue and green planet, through the vacuum of space for 8 months, and to land it on a freezing cold, dusty red rock, roughly 36 million miles away, is pretty mind blowing. Not to mention it got there without a scratch. Just imagine telling that to everyday folk back in the 1950’s, you’d have spent your next 15 years in a straight jacket, rent free in the nearest nut house. The conversation about the Mars rover eventually came to an end 10 minutes in after I was confronted with the question “Well, what’s the point of going up there anyway?” I was honestly taken aback by it, and even more concerning, it was definitely not the first time I’d heard that question/statement in relation to a topic like this. I sarcastically responded with “Yeah, what’s the point, we already know everything we need to know, might as well buckle up and wait for the apocalypse” and changed the subject to something a little less frustrating. I didn’t have the patience at the time to discuss it any further, but it’s something that has kept rattling around inside my fragile little head ever since.
Just imagine, Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein, after hours of pondering problems and possible fixes to their dilemmas and equations, they just came to the conclusion “Ah sod it, what’s the point” and put their feet up and flicked on the TV. (Please refrain from actually contemplating whether they would have actually had televisions as it was a purely hypothetical anecdote and this may distract from my intended point. I’ll come back to this later.) Where would we be now if it wasn’t for minds like these that endlessly inquired and asked the questions how and why. I think it’s a very dangerous attitude to adopt given the progression the human race has made in the last 100 years, if you take war out of the equation of course. I read recently that it took us 200,000 years to get to a world population of 3 billion, and that it took only 40 more years to get to 6 billion. This statistic alone highlights the dramatic advancements in the field of medicine, or that people generally started humping like obsessively compulsive rabbits from the 1950’s onwards. Either way, we have either become ludicrously horny or remarkably more efficient in keeping each other alive.
There are so many things to occupy our minds these days, entertainment is everywhere, as is distraction, but so is information and enlightenment. As far as I’m aware, our brains don’t have a definable capacity that we should be cautious of approaching, but it seems like there is an attitude emerging of taking the outstanding achievements of others for granted and feeling as if we are reaching the limits of our comprehension of the world around us. In truth, we have only just started to scratch at the surface of what we think we know.
Knowing that our planet is running out of natural resources and the sea levels are rising, as is the global population, and faster than ever might I add, I find it amazing when I hear people say things like “What’s the point?” Especially when it comes to trying to understand and learn new things about the world and universe we inhabit. I’m not sure why the world needs to know which designer brand Kim Kardashian has been rocking lately or who Justin Bieber has been sleeping with. But for some reason nowadays this kind of mundane and irrelevant information tends to generate a much greater level of fascination compared to say, stories of scientific discovery or technological advancements. To any wire tapping, internet monitoring alien life forms conducting intergalactic reconnaissance, these would be exactly the kinds of trivial topics we as a species seem most intrigued by.
Imagine if that same life form had stumbled across the Voyager 1 space probe on their way to Earth, the only recognisable things from the ingenious golden record attached to the spacecraft would be the “Sounds of Earth” recordings or the languages. I can imagine them intelligently scanning our internet and coming to the conclusion that we couldn’t be the same beings that created the Voyager probe, theres no penis enlargement advert engraved on the record.
Being asked “What’s the point?” of exploring Mars with the use of the NASA rover is all the more ironic when you point out, the name of that robot is Curiosity. It is our nature to ask questions and to wonder, not to question why we should bother wondering.
(If anybody knows who won celebrity big brother, could you please let me know? I missed it.)
*Not sure you are what is wrong with the world, that’s a little harsh :-)*
For the record…
Isaac Newton – No.
Albert Einstein – In later life yes, from around 50 years of age onwards.