Space isn’t big enough for Philosophers

The easiest academic job is in mathematics.  If you’re lucky enough to land a tenured job in that ivory tower in math, your life will be filled with joy.  At that point you’re required to be creative, and the work you do is measured by an absolute standard that everyone in your discipline understands.  There is no ambiguity, there is no room for personality or psychology.  If your work is published, then you can contributed.  Congratulations.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.Not so for other types of academics.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are supposed disciplines of Philosophy and Economics.  In these, almost nothing that is published can be considered as improving the human condition.  It’s rare enough that a small group of them agree with definitions or methods, but impossible for the entire community to agree on anything.

Example: Go to any symposium filled with some large number of economists or philosophers, and see if they can even agree as to when coffee hour should be called, or where the next meeting is held.  And then hold your breath.

The implications for space colonization should be clear.  If there is ever going to be a virtual ivory tower built on the moon, the first line of academics must be in mathematics and the HARD sciences.  Results count, at every stage.  Slackers are NOT welcome.

Philosophy and Economics, on the other hand, must STAY OUT.  Until those academics learn how to communicate using common language, simple concepts, and consistent definitions, there’s no need for the confusion they would sow.

Ask a philosopher what his discipline means for the world, and prepare to sleep.  The correct answer is that they “think about thinking.”

Don’t even bother asking the economist, even for fun.  It can get ugly.

So the next time you watch a space show, be on the lookout for any academics in the cast.  If they teach philosophy or economics, you’ll know you’re watching a fantasy show that’s light on science.

 

 

Grumman Human Experiments

During the years of 1940 to 1945, there was a great war.  We call it the second great war, or World War Two, WWII.

During this war, a company that made aircraft took their jobs very seriously.  So seriously, that the Navy asked them to slow down.  They were making about 600 aircraft every MONTH.  Since they were working around the clock, that means about 20 aircraft came out every DAY.

The plant manager knew he had about 20,000 people working in the factory, and thought about one of the great maxims of behavior.  If you have 20 people, there’s a good chance that one or two of them don’t work as hard as the others.

He asked his managers to choose one person out of every 20 so that they would be fired.

Word of this got around, fast.  And as a result everyone started working harder.  Jobs back then were scarce, and people in general had good work ethics.

Still, one of every 20 people were let go.  Guess what happened next?

Everyone else was working so much harder, that production went UP.  The Navy complained again.  Grumman was delivering too many HellCats.  (That was the name of the aircraft, the most successful airplane of WWII.)

So the plant manager did it again.  He went to his managers, and asked them to fire another one thousand people.

The result surprised him.

Production went up again!

When his bosses asked him if he was going to fire any more people, he said he couldn’t.  He didn’t think the Navy could handle the increased production!

That’s the funny side.

On the serious side, he probably knew that his people were working hard.  They cared, and they wanted their jobs.  They also knew there was a serious war going on.  Many of the workers were women, and that made a difference as well.  They had more personal stakes, because their husband’s and children’s lives were on the line.  Declare it a sexist statement, but in general women seem far more aware of the costs of war than men.  Perhaps that’s why most wars are started by men.

Anyway, it’s a good story showing that people do work at different levels of competence, and that organizations can produce more with fewer people, when necessary.

We should think about that the next time we think about how many government workers it takes to screw in a new light bulb.

PS – If you are at all interested in the HellCat (the forgotten warrior of WWII) please visit the site hosting the above image.

Space isn’t big enough for: Soft Science

You’d think that living in infinite space with only a few other people on the entire surface of the moon meant you could do whatever you wanted, believe whatever you wished, and have no restrictions because there’s nothing around.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.Here’s the rub.  There’s no room for mistakes, no room for wishy washy, no room for fuzzy and no room for ambiguity.

Am I making myself clear?

So, for all you wannabee spacers, think about what you’re going to take up there in terms of knowledge.  Because you want to be useful, what?

What are the soft sciences?  Anything that has to do behavior.  Economics comes to mind.  Psychology, sociology, even law and religion.  Go ahead, you can name a few.

What? you say.  How can you make such crazy outlandish claim?

I’m not.  I’m repeating something Richard Feynman once said.  He was a truly smart guy who thought about a lot of things.

Here’s what he said about understanding living things.  He came to this conclusion after spending hours watching paramecia under the microscope.  He decided its behavior was far more complicated than anybody recognized.  How then can we ever hope to understand humans if we cant even understand the behavior of such a simple animal.

Here’s a quote from his book, “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman”

So my impression of these animals is that their behavior is much too simplified in the books. It is not so utterly mechanical or one-dimensional as they say.  They should describe the behavior of these simple animals correctly.  Until we see how many dimensions of behavior even a one-celled animal has, we wont be able to fully understand the behavior of more complicated animals.

So, if you plan to head for the great beyond, plan accordingly, pack light, and for heaven’s sake, take only hard science.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

Space isn’t big enough for: God

Yes, you heard it here first.  As infinite as outer space is, and as powerful and willfully teeny tiny any god can be, there is no room for it.  Or him.  Or her, as the case may be.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.

Are you shocked?  Are you a true believer who also has dreams of seeing humanity colonize the big bang?

Then, consider this.

 

God, or gods, or powers that be, are fine and dandy when you need to explain the unexplainable to those who can’t handle much explaining.

God is great for kids.  God is great for people who don’t have time or energy for deep thoughts.  God is great for trying to keep families together, especially during times of crisis when everything seems to be going wrong.

On Earth, that works fine.  There is time for those kids to grow up and find their own answers.  On Earth, even if every last possible thing goes wrong for a family, they still have themselves, and at the very least they still have air.

Those don’t come free on the moon, or anywhere else in space.  There is no time for anyone to pray that a solar flare might miss.  The stakes are much much higher than they ever have been for the human species.  Anyone who thinks they can mitigate the risks by taking time out for prayer is fooling themselves.  And by association, increasing the risks for everyone else.

To be clear, if a Moonster (or Lunite?) wants to pray on their own time, and invoke a deity on the sly, that’s their business.  It’s not like god will be outlawed.

But anyone who is hoping that the almighty intervene in lieu of doing actual work to protect the colony, that’s what this is all about.

The colony is going to be filled with the smartest people this planet can collect.  And if they can’t make it on their own, then there isn’t a god on Earth who can make up the difference.

Strike me now if I’m not telling the truth.

Amen

 

Space isn’t big enough for: Big Sports

Imagine that you’re one of the first colonists on the moon.  Go ahead, enjoy the feeling.  Now, add in your love of big time sports.  What happens next?

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.

If you’re lucky, you might get to watch the big game beamed to the moon especially for you.

If you’re not lucky, no game.

Let’s get real.  The only way someone will send you the big game is if there is money in it for them.  After all, major league sports is no longer about the sport; it’s all about the commercials.

If the population of the moon is less than 100, or 1000, or 10 000, oh heck, if it’s less than a million, why should a sponsor send you the transmission?

Wait a minute!  That’s the wrong logic.

Even if there will a hundred million people on the moon, why would a sponsor want you to look at their commercials?

Because you would be buying their products.

Let’s face it.  There’s little chance you’ll find any Nestle products on your moon-shelves.

Now let’s look at sports in the other direction.

What are the chances that YOU will be playing those sports on the moon?  Or anyone else for that matter?

Pretty much zippo.  For one thing, you’re going to need room.  And as we’ve already covered, there isn’t going to be much room up in space.  I know, sounds crazy, but there it is.

For another thing, all the rules will have to change.  After all, gravity on the moon is less than on Earth.  A lot less.  Baseballs and golf balls will travel kilometers.  In a rugby scrum, a single player might be able to pick up the entire scrum and move forward.

So, what will you do up there on the moon?

There’s cards, maybe some chess.  Perhaps you can enjoy some virtual wrestling, or even real wrestling.  Finally, there’s going to be the most interesting sport of all.

Survival.

Go Team!