Since the dawn of humanity our ancestors have been able to look up at the night sky in its untainted entirety with respect and awe. The night sky must have been the biggest source of guidance, comfort and storytelling to those accustomed to only having campfires as a source of light. We may owe much of our cultural evolution to the night sky. Religion and civilization in general are likely the results of our wonderment over various astronomical events. Imagine a world where every sentient being has had an equal opportunity to view the splendors of the night sky unaltered. Today this is not a possibility. Many people in modern times haven’t had the chance to travel anywhere remote enough to view the sky without being inhibited by what is known as light pollution, or “skyglow”. Nowadays, we walk outside of our city homes on a crisp, clear night and see only a handful of stars. Light pollution is the byproduct of our modernized world. The technological advancements which have provided us so much security and visibility may actually be disconnecting us further from our natural selves. Not everyone has the time or inclination to drive so many miles outside of the nearest city just to see a more wholesome night sky; even when in a seemingly remote area, light pollution from large cities still tends to dampen the sky to a degree. The loss of our night sky could result in our downfall, but to bring back its undiluted brilliance could mean a boost in our sense of self and fascination in the natural world.
Posts from the ‘Science’ Category
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As appealing as the idea of deep space exploration sounds, we as humans may not actually be at the most advantageous point in our abilities to undergo exploration at a larger scale. Not only is space travel technologically challenging, but we humans in our current biological form aren’t necessarily equipped to handle the conditions of space or the celestial bodies we wish to explore. We are susceptible to the harsh radiation in the vacuum of space, we cannot respire in most atmospheres, and we probably couldn’t handle some of the unfamiliar physical conditions on most planets such as variations in gravity, or extreme variations in temperature. This however should not stop us from thinking creatively about how we approach space travel. There are many alternative “modes of transportation” for example, and there is always the possibility of uniquely altering ourselves in preparation for conditions that are not familiar to us.
We need to focus more on space. Exploration, colonization, and the planetary sciences need to be a higher priority of the general public. Humanity’s future depends on how dedicated we are to exploring the solar system and other stars. The benefits to humanity are immeasurable, and we can imagine what some of those benefits might be. We already know what benefits our current space industry has produced. Many technologies and medications used in space decades ago have already trickled down to everyday humans on Earth. This trickle-down effect bolsters our economy and jump-starts technological innovation. There are also the more intangible mental effects space exploration has on us as a civilization. Exploring space has altered and expanded our cosmic view. The various types of space telescopes and robotic probes represent an extension to our biological senses. Through these instruments we are constructing a more complete picture of the cosmos and our place within it. Studying the various asteroids, planets and moons in our solar system also help us to know how we came to be and where we should go in the future. We can even see how our current understanding of the cosmos affects culture. Artists from various disciplines tend to include modern space science concepts, terminology and themes in their works; it is also a sign of how much the desire to learn more about space is embedded in our DNA.
Earth’s population is projected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. This brings into question how much real-estate and how many resources Earth can actually provide for humans in the long run. There are many Earth-based answers to overpopulation ranging from regulated birth-rates to utilizing unconventional real-estate such as oceans and air. While the idea of creating ocean or air-based cities is tantalizing, I don’t believe they will be the best long-term solutions, and regulating birth-rates inhibits freedom. By staying on Earth we are only putting the continuity of humanity at risk by not creating alternatives. Tech billionaire Elon Musk has recently unveiled his plan for putting humans on Mars. His primary argument is that we need to create a “backup” of Earth in the event that a catastrophic disaster wipes out its population. Water and air-based cities are wise and should be considered for the near future, but there are additional options we need to consider. Musk has already set into motion the most obvious option, and that is to get humans on the next best candidate planet for habitation. In the meantime, we will need to boost public interest in his mission. But for those (like myself) who are not ready to venture to the red desert planet, we should consider closer, more comfortable options, such as Earth-orbiting space colonies. And for those who want more options than Mars, we should consider the many other planetary bodies within the solar system such as the Moon, asteroids, or other planetary moons like Jupiter’s Europa.
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Determining what is considered “natural” is important in solving many ethical dilemmas we face today, namely those surrounding urbanization and technology. We constantly hear talk of how unnatural and cancerous human civilization is, or that we as humans need to “return to nature.” New techniques in medical and biological sciences, like with genetic engineering, commonly illicit negative responses from people claiming them to go against nature. Likewise, urbanization is slowly eradicating forest land via deforestation and city expansion; wild animals are seen roaming urban landscapes as they try adapting to new homes. Industry lays concrete over green fields and carves out mountains for the purpose of resource gathering. Some may wonder if one day the entire planet will be covered in concrete and metal, like the fictional world of Trantor in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Humans also tend to engineer synthetic chemicals that will sometimes pollute our air and poison our drinking water.
Is aging just an unnecessary evolutionary technique to keep the human population balanced? With the proliferation of anti-aging studies and the prospect of space colonization I’m beginning to think we should consider the pursuit of life extension for the sake of preserving an individual’s experience of life. I personally don’t really give in to the philosophical or religious arguments against it. Some species reverse their own aging naturally and some don’t age at all, and we all share the same genetic possibilities.