beyond the boundaries

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Nick Denton says:

Exploration is driven by greed and rivalry: the quest for gold; trade routes for spices; rivalry between European powers; the superpower conflict.

Maybe. But exploration starts well before greed and rivalry set in. Exploration starts when our children start to crawl, and begin to push the boundaries of their known world. Exploration is as much--if not more--the curiousity of a child as it is the conflict between adults.

He also says "When it comes to space, even the most rational of writers put romance over return. They're wrong."

I hope they're not. If we stop putting romance over return, if we live our lives driven by the bottom line rather than by enthusiasm and emotion, we lose the joy in what we do.

When my son asks why he should bother going to school (not just the physical building, but the participation in an ongoing learning process), it's the ability to explore that brings his motivation back. To explore worlds of thought, worlds of words, worlds outside of worlds.

Some time back, I talked about boundaries. And after I did, I thought a lot more about outlines, edges, boundaries, and how the most interesting things seem to happen at the edges. The edge to edge linking of blogs...the interdisciplinary ideas that emerge at the boundaries of traditional thought...and the excitement of crossing boundaries--whether they be physical, intellectual, or emotional.

Manned space travel gives us surrogates who cross boundaries in a way that stirs people, and inspires them to learn, to challenge their boundaries.

I heard a story this morning on NPR about students at a high school in Syracuse, NY, who had designed an ant farm experiment that was aboard Columbia. For three years, students at this school worked on the experiment...selecting materials for the farm, hypothesizing the behavior of the ants. They corresponded regularly with professors at Syracuse University, the scientists at NASA, and the astronauts themselves. During the 16 days of the voyage, they studied the live feeds of data, and continued their correspondence. They were vested in this mission, in these people, in the process of learning and exploration.

There are so few heroes in our world today, but those kids in Syracuse had seven. Seven men and women who were doing something that they could ream of doing themselves. Seven who could share not just the "data stream," but also the emotion and romance of the journey.

What's the "bottom line" in inspiring hundreds of disenfranchised inner city teens? What's the bottom line in making millions of kids' (and adults') eyes light up when they see a real person go beyond the boundaries of our world?

We all know that the "anyone can be president" dream is a crock. It takes money, connections, all the things that most of us don't have, to make it to the top of the political heap. But becoming an astronaut--that transcends economic and cultural barriers. The multiracial, international group aboard Columbia showed us that this dream is a reachable one--that these boundaries are permeable--for those who want it badly enough.

That's a message I want my kids to grow up with.

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Exploration is driven by the two most deadly emotions in the world.

Curiosity and stubborness.

Why go to Mars?

'Cause nobody has done it. 'Cause you want to see if you CAN do it.

Why do people write books, climb mountains and dive in the ocean?

To see if they can.

If greed was the sole motivator we'd still be inbred, brutal, chimpanzee-like animals in the jungle.

Space exploration is advance research. The whole point of advance research is to try and find stuff out solely because you haven't found it out yet.

It is the foundation that the later, practical and greed-driven research builds upon.

Without pure curiosity and the stubborness to follow up on that curiosity we would not have advance research and not any of that greed-driven progress Nick speaks of.

Poetry, drama, religion, and experimental music would have been extinct for a hundred years now had the capitalists been right about greed being humanity's sole motivator.

He's right, though, about the fact that something needs to change in how we approach the idea of space exploration.

But he forgets that greed-driven ambition, in exploration as in science, is always the second wave.

They let the mad buggers go out first, get killed, and find new places.

Then they go out and make money.

Greed drives colonisation and industrialisation. It's what motivates people to build infrastructure.

But first you have to get there.

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This page contains a single entry published on February 3, 2003 3:15 PM.

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