Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Like many adults interested in science, I’ve never worked where complex math and science skills were needed. It may be a drawback of our highly specialized workforce, automated mass production and globalization that few of us understand even the basic science required to produce modern goods, gear and gizmos. Maybe this is also why a movement seeking contact with food and natural environments flourishes. I may not understand the botany of sunflowers, but I can have relationships by planting, nurturing, watching and harvesting fruits and flowers. The science and economics of making and marketing spark plugs? Forget it.
I’m not by nature a Luddite, but I am wary of complex, pricey tech fixes sold as solutions to personal and global problems. We’ve read how many planets like Earth would be needed for resources if developing countries try to mimic our consumption lifestyle and population doesn’t stabilize. Some engineers and scientists must see this as a challenge to develop space travel and reach those resource planets for mining, colonization, casinos, fast-food franchises.
Fracking and high-tech offshore drilling give a boost to the possibility of science solving energy problems without social disruptions or challenges to consumer societies. Safer, cleaner and cheaper nuclear power may also be right around the corner, even as wind, solar and gas-fuel from cow flops or moon beams continues development.
But even friends who drive old pickups, dress always in blue jeans and know how to milk an organic grain-powered cow are wired to watch TED talks online. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences operating under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” TED opened up tech world even to those of us not grounded in science. It’s encouraging seeing and hearing techies who don’t look or talk like robots, technocrats or aliens from another world. Maybe techies and corporate sponsors are not determined to take over this green and growing planet from math- and science-challenged artists, tie-dyed hippies and liberal arts degree holders, like me.
Remember, it’s only the combination of Captain Kirk’s gut feelings, humor and quick fists — alongside the logic, discipline and lack of emotion of Mr. Spock — commanding the Star Ship Enterprise that saves, on the big screen, this fragile planet from destruction.
As a friend reminded following my rant about consumerism, “Science has given us a lot to be thankful for.” From understanding germs to the creation of complexities under the hood of the beautiful, crazy fossil-fuel cans we roll around in, scientific discoveries grow and multiply at an alarming rate. There’s even a term: disruptive technologies.
Wikepedia suggests, “The mass-produced automobile was a disruptive innovation because it changed the transportation market. The automobile, by itself, was not.” Texting, Twitter and Facebook are disruptive until batteries die or we get too fat from sitting around not using the body.
There’s a gut feeling I get, a Captain Kirk moment, that we may be not just off course, but moving into whole new dimensions of reality. Will churning out excessive engineers and high science grads create an ever-expanding laminated, glossy, sci-fi world of robots, smart houses, moon colonies, drive-in sky theaters for personal flying saucers? George Jetson meets “Blade Runner”?
Another interesting possibility is in a recent movie, “Elysium.” In this not-so-distant dystopian future, an elite class leaves this planet for a green, pretty people, healthy environment, tech world orbiting a troubled Earth. Robots keep security tight and classes separated, shuttles fly regularly into space, digital-enhanced weapons become even more capable.
Isn’t it odd believing we can keep blowing stuff up — buildings, cars, cities, battleships, robots, bridges, mountains, countries, cultures, planets, each other — expecting stuff will just keep getting put back together, like that’s just the way it is? Is it really possible to take complex technology into space for a Sunday afternoon cruise for trillions of miles, have exciting space-invader battles, then pull the ship into Jon’s garage for a quick tune-up? Even my master mechanic working mechanical miracles is challenged by those little computers embedded in cars. Digital components go crazy, too, costing mega dollars to replace.
I want to understand basic science and economics. But as part of the great balancing act, maybe science and economics promoters also need a beer, a burp, a booty-shaking dance to “Get Lucky” and time to watch a sunflower seed grow to full flower. One tiny planet could run out of iron, steel, oil, spark plugs, batteries and Spam. Imagination, expanded consciousness, ideas, love, things that grow, are possibly unlimited. Unless we mess things up or the heat death of the universe happens ahead of time.
Weather JournalBreather before next wintry system