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What tech hasn’t learnt from science fiction
Rambler 1 day ago
If you want to know what will happen in the distant future, read history.

For the shorter term future, try poetry and popular music.

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history  letters_to_the_editor  novels  quotes  Ray_Bradbury  science_fiction  Silicon_Valley  from notes
april 2019 by jerryking
Heading East: Ray Bradbury
"INTERVIEWER
How important has your sense of optimism been to your career?
BRADBURY
I don’t believe in optimism. I believe in optimal behavior. That’s a different thing. If you behave every day of your life to the top of your genetics, what can you do? Test it. Find out. You don’t know—you haven’t done it yet. You must live life at the top of your voice! At the top of your lungs shout and listen to the echoes. I learned a lesson years ago. I had some wonderful Swedish meatballs at my mother’s table with my dad and my brother and when I finished I pushed back from the table and said, God! That was beautiful. And my brother said, No, it was good. See the difference?
Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad—you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year."
action  optimism  quotes  life  ray_bradbury 
january 2017 by earth2marsh
The Ray Bradbury Theater (Complete In HD) - YouTube
The Ray Bradbury Theater (Complete In HD)
thecloudchamber65 videos39,442 viewsLast updated on Nov 14, 2014
People ask, "Where do you get your ideas?" Well, right here. All this is my Martian landscape. Somewhere in this room is an African veldt. Just beyond perhaps is a small Illinois town where I grew up. I'm surrounded on every side by my magician's toyshop. I'll never starve here. I just look around, find what I need, and begin. I'm Ray Bradbury, and this is... The Ray Bradbury Theater. Well then, right now, what shall it be? Out of all this, what do I choose to make a story? I never know where the next one will take me. And the trip? Exactly one-half imagination, exactly one-half terror. The Ray Bradbury Theater anthology series features 65 adaptations of the works of famous S.F. author Ray Bradbury, including such stories as "Marionettes, Inc.", "The Veldt", "A Sound Of Thunder", "Mars Is Heaven", "Usher II", "The Jar", "The Long Rain", and many more. Featured actors included William Shatner, Drew Barrymore, Elliot Gould, Jeff Goldblum, Peter O'Toole, Shelley Duval, and many others.
video  Ray_Bradbury 
august 2016 by Quercki
Five Billion Years of Solitude: Lee Billings on the Science of Reaching the Stars
Lee Billings, author of the upcoming book “Five Billion Years of Solitude”

Like many geeks of the post-Sputnik generation, I grew up hoping that space travel would be common by the time I reached middle age. Weaned on a youthful diet of speculative fiction by the likes of Ray Bradbury and Arthur Clarke, raised on Star Trek and The Outer Limits, and thrilled by real-life hero Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” onto the gravelly surface of the Moon when I was in elementary school, it never occurred to me that humankind’s manifest destiny in the stars would be undone by changing political winds, disasters like the Challenger explosion, and a mountain of debt to pay for misguided military adventures like the War in Iraq.

It’s true that, in some ways, we’re living in a new golden age for space nerds. Bard Canning’s gorgeously enhanced footage of Curiosity’s descent to Mars — made instantly available by the global network we built instead of a Hilton on the Moon — certainly beats  grainy snippets beamed down from Tranquility Base. A newly discovered exoplanet that “may be capable of supporting life” seems to make headlines every few months. Cassini’s ravishing closeups of Saturn regularly put the fever dreams of ILM’s animators to shame. But wasn’t I supposed to be “strolling on the deck of a starship” by now, as Paul Kantner’s acid-fueled hippie space epic Blows Against the Empire promised me when it was nominated for a Hugo award in 1971?

The problem, it turns out, isn’t just a loss of political will to finance manned space flight. Rocket science turns out to be rocket science — not easy, and constrained by some very real limitations dictated by material science, the physics of acceleration, and the unwieldy economics of interstellar propulsion. Until a real-life Zefram Cochrane comes along to invent a practical warp drive, I may not be sightseeing on any Class M planets anytime soon.

One of the best briefings on the state of the art of interstellar exploration is Lee Billings’ essay “Incredible Journey,” recently reprinted in a wonderful new anthology called The Best Science Writing Online 2012, edited by Scientific American’s Bora Zivkovic and Jennifer Ouellette. I’m very honored to have a piece in the anthology myself: my NeuroTribes interview with John Elder Robison, author of the bestselling memoir of growing up with autism, Look Me in The Eye, and other books. When SciAm’s editors suggested that each author in the book interview one of the other authors, I jumped at the chance to interview Billings about his gracefully written and informative article about the practical challenges of space flight. Billings is a freelance journalist who has written for Nature, New Scientist, Popular Mechanics, and Seed. He lives outside New York City with his wife, Melissa.

“The Best Science Writing Online 2012″

Steve Silberman: Before we even get into the meat of your piece, I want to mention how impressed I was by the power and lyricism of your writing. Phrases like “the cosmos suddenly becomes less lonely” and “the easiest way the Daedalus volunteers found to fuel their starship was, in effect, the industrialization of the outer solar system” make vast and highly abstract concepts immediately comprehensible and visceral to lay readers. What made you want to become a science writer, and who are your role models for writing, in any genre?

Lee Billings: My attraction to science preceded my attraction to the act of writing, perhaps because, like every child, I was intensely curious about the world around me. Science, more so than any other source of knowledge I could find, seemed to change the world into something at once eminently understandable and endlessly mysterious.

I became interested in science writing, science journalism, at approximately the same time I realized I would make a poor scientist. I was midway through my college prerequisites, thinking I was on a path to a career in neuroscience. I’d been having a lot of trouble with the more quantitative courses — calculus, organic chemistry, and so on. Many of my friends would ace their assignments and tests after sleeping through lectures and rarely cracking a book. I would study hard, only to receive poor grades. Meanwhile I was breezing through courses in English, literature, history, and art. After a particularly fervent all-night cram-session for a final exam that I still almost flunked, I decided if I wasn’t destined to excel within science itself, perhaps I could instead try to make my mark by helping communicate the world-changing discoveries scientists were making. So I switched my academic emphasis from neuroscience to journalism, and became something of a camp follower, scavenging and trailing behind the gifted few at the front lines of research. I’ve never looked back, and have no regrets. The job never gets old: Rather than being at best a mediocre, hyper-specialized bench worker, being a science writer lets me parachute in to varied fields on a whim, and invariably the brilliant individuals I find upon landing are welcoming and happy to talk to me.

As for influences… I still have a long way to go, but if my writing ever comes to possess a fraction of Carl Sagan’s charisma and elegance, John McPhee’s structure and eye for detail, Richard Preston’s depth of focus and cinematic flair, Stanislaw Lem’s imagination and analytic insight, or Ray Bradbury’s lyrical beauty, I will be a happy man.

Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”

Silberman: Several times a year now, we hear about the discovery of a new exoplanet in the “Goldilocks zone” that could “potentially support life.” For example, soon after he helped discover Gliese 581g, astronomer Steven Vogt sparked a storm of media hype by claiming that “the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent.” Even setting aside the fact that the excitement of discovering a planet in the habitable zone understandably seems to have gone to Vogt’s head at that press conference, why are such calculations of the probability of life harder to perform accurately than they seem?

Billings: The question of habitability is a second-order consideration when it comes to Gliese 581g, and that fact in itself reveals where so much of this uncertainty comes from. As of right now, the most interesting thing about the “discovery” of Gliese 581g is that not everyone is convinced the planet actually exists. That’s basically because this particular detection is very much indirect — the planet’s existence is being inferred from periodic meter-per-second shifts in the position of its host star. The period of that shift corresponds to the planet’s orbit as it whips from one side of the star to the other; the meter-per-second magnitude of the shift places a lower limit on the planet’s mass, but can’t pin down the mass exactly. So that’s all this detection gives you — an orbit and a minimum mass. That’s not a lot to go on in determining what a planet’s environment might actually be like, is it?

Now, get up and walk around the room. You’re moving at about a meter per second. Imagine discerning that same rate of change in the motion of a million-kilometer-wide ball of plasma, a star many light-years away. Keep in mind this star’s surface is always moving, in pounding waves and swirling eddies, in rising and falling convection cells, in vast plasmatic prominences arcing above the surface, often at many kilometers per second. At any particular moment, all that stellar noise can swamp the faint planetary signal. Only by building up hundreds or thousands of careful measurements over time can you get that crucial periodicity that tells you what you’re seeing might be a planet. So the measurement is quite statistical in nature, and its interpretation can change based on the statistical assumptions being used. This is further complicated by the fact that planets are rarely singletons, so that any given stellar motion may be the product of many planets rather than one, requiring careful long-term study to tease apart each world’s contribution to the bulk signal. It’s also complicated by the instability of astronomical instruments, which must be kept carefully, constantly calibrated and stabilized lest they introduce spurious noise into the measurements. In the case of Gliese 581g, not everyone agrees on the putative planetary signal actually being caused by a planet, or even being real at all — the signal doesn’t seem to manifest equally in the handful of instruments purportedly capable of detecting it.

So it’s very difficult to just detect these things, and actually determining whether they are much like Earth is a task orders of magnitude more difficult still. Notice how I’m being anthropocentric here: “much like Earth.” Astrobiology has been derisively called a science without a subject. But, of course, it does have at least one subject: our own living planet and its containing solar system. We are forced to start from what we know, planting our feet in the familiar before we push out into the alien. That’s why we, as a species, are looking for other Earth-like planets — they probably offer us the best hope of recognizing anything we might consider alive. It’s not the strongest position to be in, but it’s the best we’ve got. Calculating the probability of life on an utterly alien world outside the solar system for which we know only the most basic information — its mass, its orbit, maybe its radius — is at this stage a very crude guess. The fact is, we still don’t know that much about how abiogenesis occurred on Earth, how life emerged from inanimate matter. There are very good physical, chemical, thermodynamic reasons to believe that life arose here because our planet was warm, wet, and rocky, but we really don’t yet know all the cogent occurrences that added up to build the Earth’s earliest organisms, let alone our modern living world. A warm, wet, rocky planet… [more]
Exoplanets  Interview  Journalism  NASA  Politics  Science  Science_Fiction  Science_Writing  Space_flight  Travel  Ray_Bradbury  from google
october 2012 by jmkeiter
Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury: Three Unpublished Poems and a Meditation on Science vs. Religion
“It is a small thing, this dear gift of life handed us mysteriously out of immensity.”

On Monday, we took a trip back to the day before NASA’s Mariner 9 mission reached Mars in 1971, when Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury — who would’ve celebrated his 92nd birthday today and whom we lost just a few short months ago — joined New York Times science editor Walter Sullivan in a remarkably prescient conversation about Mars and future of space exploration, later released as Mars and the Mind of Man (public library). Among the day’s many gems were three unpublished poems by Ray Bradbury, which he shared with the audience, alongside a poignant meditation on science vs. religion — a subject we have far from put to rest since:

In the last few years, I have found myself returning again and again to the problem of science and theology. This problem has thrust itself into the center of a series of poems I have written. I have for some time now thought that the conflict between religion and science was a false one, based, more often than not, on semantics. For when all is said and done, we each share the mystery. We live with the miraculous and try to interpret it with our data correctors or our faith healers. In the end, survival is the name of the game.

One upon a time we created religions which promise us futures when we knew there were no possible ones. Death stared us in the face, forever and ever.

Now, suddenly, the Space Age gives us a chance to exist for a billion or two billion years, to go out an dbuild a heaven instead of promising one to ourselves, with archangelic hosts, saints waiting at Gates, and God pontifical on his Throne.

This second* poem of mine is titled ‘Old Ahab’s Friend and Friend to Noah Speaks His Piece.’ It is written from the viewpoint of the whale speaking to future men, telling them they must build a whale and live inside it and go out into space in it and travel through time to survive forever. Here is the conclusion of the poem:

I am the Ark of Lie. You be the same!

Build you a fiery whale all white.

Give it my name.

Ship with Leviathan for forty years

Until an isle in Space looms up to match your dreams,

And land you there triumphant with your flesh

Which works in yeasts, makes wild ferment,

Survives and feeds

On metal schemes.

Step forth and husband soil as yet untitled,

Blood it with your wives, sow it with seeds,

Crop-harvest it with sons and maiden daughters,

And all that was begat once long ago in Earth’s strange waters

Do recall.

The White Whale was the ancient Ark.

You be the New.

Forty days, forty years, forty-hundred years,

Give it no mind;

You see. The Universe is blind.

You touch. The Abyss does not feel.

You hear. The Void is dear.

Your wife is pomegranate. The stars are lifeless and bereft.

You smell the Wind of Being.

On windless worlds the nostrils of old Time are stuffed

With dust and worse than dust.

Settle it with your lust, shape it with your seeing,

Rain it with your sperming seed,

Water it with your passion,

Show it your need.

Soon or late,

Your mad example may imitate.

And gone and flown and landed there is White Whale craft,

Remember Moby here, this dream, this time which does suspire,

This kindling of your tiny apehood’s fire.

I kept you well. I languish and I die.

My bones will timber out fresh dreams,

My words will leap like fish in new trout streams

Gone up the hill of Universe to spawn.

Swim o’er to stars now, spawning man,

And couple rock, and break forth flocks of children on the plains

On nameless planets which will now have names;

Those names are ours to give or take.

We out of Nothing make a destiny,

With one name over all

Which is this Whale’s, all White.

I you begat.

Speak then of Moby Dick,

Tremendous Moby, friend of Noah.

Go Go now.

Ten trillion miles away,

Ten light-years off,

See from your whale-shaped craft;

That glorious planet!

Call it Ararat.

(The poetic picture of the phoenix-whale Bradbury paints is reminiscent of the beautiful Whale Fall cut-paper animated short for Radiolab.)

* Bradbury shared another poem, which remains his best-known, earlier in the discussion:

IF ONLY WE HAD TALLER BEEN

O, Thomas, will a Race one day stand really tall
Across the Void, across the Universe and all?
And, measure out with rocket fire,
At last put Adam’s finger forth
As on the Sistine Ceiling,
And God’s great hand come down the other way
To measure Man and find him Good,
And Gift him with Forever’s Day?
I work for that.
Short man. Large dream. I send my rockets forth
between my ears,
Hoping an inch of Will is worth a pound of years.
Aching to hear a voice cry back along the universal Mall:
We’ve reached Alpha Centauri!
We’re tall, O God, we’re tall!

Lastly, in the “Afterthoughts” section of the book, in which the panelists revisit the subject a year after the Mars mission, Bradbury shares one final poem, touching once again on the subject of the mysterious:

THAT IS OUR EDEN’S SPRING, ONCE PROMISED

What I to apeman
And what then he to me?
I an apeman one day soon will seem to be
To those who, after us, look back from Mars
And they, in turn, mere beasts will seem
To those who reach the stars;
So apemen all, in cave, in frail tract-house,
On Moon, Red Planet, or some other place;
Yet similar dream, same heart, same soul,
Same blood, same face,
Rare beastmen all who move to save and place their pyres
From cavern mouth to world to interstellar fires.
We are the all, the universe, the one,
As such our fragile destiny is only now begun.
Our dreams then, are they grand or mad, depraved?
Do we say yes to Kazantzakis whose wild soul said:
God cries out to be saved?
Well then, we go to save Him, that seems sure,
With flesh and bone not strong, and heart not pure,
All maze and paradox our blood,
More lost than found,
We go to marry stranger flesh on some far burial ground
Where yet we will survive and, laughing, look on back
To where we started on a blind and frightful track
But made it through, and for no reason
Save it must be made, to rest us under trees
On planets in such galaxies as toss and lean
A most peculiar shade,
And sleep awhile, for some few million years,
To rise again, fresh washed in vernal rain
That is our Eden’s spring once promised,
Now repromised, to bring Lazarus
And our abiding legions forth,
Stoke new lamps with ancient funeral loam
To light cold abyss hearths for astronauts to hie them home
On highways vast and long and broad,
Thus saving what? Who’ll say salvation’s sum?
Why, thee and me, and they and them, and us and we…

And God.

He concludes with this exquisite meditation on mankind’s timeless quest for immortality. (Which leads one to wonder whether today’s singularity set is any different from history’s religious cults, grasping at promised lands underpinned by little more than the very human and very vulnerable fear of mortality, of ceasing to exist and refusing to believe in nonexistence.)

The universe is full of matter and force. Yet in all that force, amongst all the bulks and gravities, the rains of cosmic light, the bombardments of energy — how little spirit, how small the decimal points of intelligence.

Dumb, sometimes — yes. Awful, quite often. Dreadful apish brutes on occasion following occasion. That’s how we things that represent intelligence seem to ourselves, and quote often truly are.

And yet I would not see our candle blown out in the wind. It is a small thing, this dear gift of life handed us mysteriously out of immensity. I would not have that gift expire. Crossing the wilderness, centuries ago, men carried in covered cows’ horns the coals of the previous nights’ fires to start new fires on the nights ahead. Thus we carry ourselves in the universal wilderness and blow upon the coals and kindle new lives and move on yet once more.

[…]

Why, sweet Jesus, what’s the use of looking at Mars through a telescope, sitting on panels, writing books, if it isn’t to guarantee, not just the survival of mankind, but mankind surviving forever! Good God in heaven, we were born to live, and live in mystery, which crowds all about and would smother us if we let it.

[…]

Some of you will immediately say we go to pollute Mars. You are the people who see a partially filled glass as half empty.
I see the glass as half full.
I say we go to save Mars from itself.
And do ourselves favors, meanwhile.

Paradoxically stated: what is not polluted is elevated. I live inside the last word.

Hear Bradbury read in this short excerpt from the panel:

More than three decades later, Bradbury revisited the subject of space exploration in this rare 2003 audio interview.

Complement with Bradbury on doing what you love — some of the best life-advice you’ll ever receive.

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culture  science  history  literature  poetry  Ray_Bradbury  religion  space  from google
august 2012 by jmkeiter
Mars and the Mind of Man: Carl Sagan, Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke in Conversation, 1971
“It’s part of the nature of man to start with romance and build to a reality.”

On November 12, 1971, the day before NASA’s Mariner 9 mission reached Mars and became the first spacecraft to orbit another planet, Caltech Planetary Science professor Bruce Murray summoned a formidable panel of thinkers to discuss the implications of the historic event. Murray himself was to join the great Carl Sagan (♥) and science fiction icons Ray Bradbury (♥) and Arthur C. Clarke (♥) in a conversation moderated by New York Times science editor Walter Sullivan, who had been assigned to cover Mariner 9′s arrival for the newspaper. What unfolded — easily history’s only redeeming manifestation of the panel format — was a fascinating quilt of perspectives not only on the Mariner 9 mission itself, or even just Mars, but on the relationship between mankind and the cosmos, the importance of space exploration, and the future of our civilization. Two years later, the record of this epic conversation was released in Mars and the Mind of Man (public library), alongside early images of Mars taken by Mariner 9 and a selection of “afterthoughts” by the panelists, looking back on the historic achievement.

Arthur C. Clarke — who, in a 1945 article entitled “Extraterrestrial Relays” had proposed communications satellites long before they became an active government project and who had previously predicted the techno-future in general and even the iPad in particular with astounding accuracy — offers a prediction regarding Mars that is, ultimately, inaccurate but wrapped around it is an insightful and timely meditation on the larger subject at stake:

We are now in a very interesting historic moment with regard to Mars. I’m not going to make any definite predictions because it would be very foolish to go out on a limb, but whatever happens, whatever discoveries are made in the next few days or weeks or months, the frontier of our knowledge is moving inevitably outward.

It has already embraced the Moon. We still have a great deal to learn about the Moon and there will be many surprises even there, I’m sure. But the frontier is moving on and our viewpoint is changing with it. We’re discovering, and this is a big surprise, that the Moon, and I believe Mars, and parts of Mercury, and especially space itself, are essentially benign environments — to our technology, not necessarily to organic life. Certainly benign as compared to the Antarctic or the oceanic abyss, where we have already been. This is an idea which the public still hasn’t got yet, but it’s a fact.

I think the biological frontier may very well move past Mars out to Jupiter, which I think is where the action is. Carl, you’ve gone on the record as saying that Jupiter may be a more hospitable home for life than any other place, including Earth itself. It would be very exciting if this turns out to be true.

I will end by making one prediction. Whether or not there is life on Mars now, there will be by the end of this century.

Following Clarke is Carl Sagan, who does what he does best in discussing the issue of how rigorous we need to be in sterilizing spacecraft that makes contact with other planets — taking a scientific particularity, linking it to the universally human, then circling back to the science having engendered a whole new understanding of its context:

We can be emotionally predisposed as pessimists as well as optimists. Actuarial procedures provide a guide to situations of this sort. How careful you have to be in a given situation and how much premium you have to pay is not only a question of how likely the event in question is but also how important the event is. Suppose, for example, we’re concerned about carrying terrestrial microorganisms to Mars, depositing them there, and having them survive and multiply so that the next generation of space vehicles finds the next generation of microbes. How do we then distinguish Earth’s life from Mars life?

He follows that with one of the most eloquent portions of the entire conversation — an insistence on the value of embracing ignorance, learning to live with ambiguity, and choosing the unknown over answers that might be wrong, alongside a call for balancing skepticism with openness — something he’d articulate formally more than a decade later:

Is it possible that there is life on Mars, Martians? Now, just as there have clearly been excesses in the direction of prematurely concluding that there is life on Mars … there have also been excesses in the other direction, in prematurely concluding there isn’t life on Mars. We have a certain intolerance for ambiguity, saying, ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts, just give me an answer.’ Well, I think that’s where we are on the question of life on Mars. There is, as far as I can tell, no more reason to conclude that Mars is lifeless than there is to conclude that it is inhabited. There is water, there is carbon dioxide, there is sunlight — these are the prerequisites even for parochial forms of green plant photosynthesis.

He echoes the same sentiment a few minutes later, in an insight that applies to the Mariner 9 mission as much as it applies to all of life:

I think the proper attitude is to keep an open mind and see what the observations uncover.

But by far the most beautiful meditation comes from Ray Bradbury, who transposes his passionate advocacy of writing with joy and excitement onto space exploration as well:

I think it’s part of the nature of man to start with romance and build to a reality. There’s hardly a scientist or an astronaut I’ve met who wasn’t beholden to some romantic before him who led him to doing something in life.

I think it’s so important to be excited about life. In order to get the facts we have to be excited to go out and get them, and there’s only one way to do that — through romance. We need this thing which makes us sit bolt upright when we are nine or ten and say, ‘I want to go out and devour the world, I want to do these things.’ The only way you start like that is with this kind of thing we are talking about today. We may reject it later, we may give it up, but we move on to other romances then. We find, we push the edge of science forward, and I think we romance on beyond that into the universe ever beyond. We’re talking not about Alpha Centauri. We’re talking of light-years. We have sitting here on the stage a person who has made the film* with the greatest metaphor for the coming billion years. That film is going to romance generations to come and will excite the people to do the work so that we can live forever. That’s what it’s all about. So we start with the small romances that turn out to be of no use. We put these tools aside to get another romantic tool. We want to love life, to be excited by the challenge, to life at the top of our enthusiasm. The process enables us to gather more information. Darwin was the kind of romantic who could stand in the middle of a meadow like a statue for eight hours on end and let the bees buzz in and out of his ear. A fantastic statue standing there in the middle of nature, and all the foxes wandering by and wondering what the hell he was doing there, and they sort of looked at each other and examined the wisdom in each other’s eyes. But this is a romantic man — when you think of any scientist in history, he was a romancer of reality.

Arthur C. Clarke follows up with a crucial point about science and whimsy — something Richard Feynman would articulate in uncannily similar phrasing exactly a decade later in his famous words from The Pleasure of Finding Things Out:

There are some not-very-bright and/or badly educated people who complain, with apparent sincerity, that scientific research destroys the wonders and magic of nature. One can imagine the indignant reaction of such poets as Tennyson or Shelley to this nonsense, and surely it is better to know the truth than to dabble in delusions, however charming they may be. Almost invariably, the truth turns out to be far more strange and wonderful than the wildest fantasy. The great J. B. S. Haldane put it very well when he said: ‘The universe is not only queerer than we imagine — it is queerer than we can imagine.’

Reflecting upon the unprecedented amount of imaging data that Mariner 9 promised to provide, Sagan captures the strange tension of exploration and ignorance, all the timelier as NASA’s Curiosity has pushed us to make sense of a new precipice of knowledge today:

Now we have moved from a data-poor, theory-rich situation to one that is data-rich, theory-poor.

In the “Afterthoughts” section, Sagan makes a case Neil deGrasse Tyson has passionately echoed four decades later:

[Space exploration] is in financial trouble. Yet by many standards, such missions are inexpensive. Mariner Jupiter/Saturn costs about the same as the American aircraft shot down in Vietnam in the week in which I am writing these words (Christmas 1972). The Viking mission itself costs about a fortnight of the Vietnam war.

I find these comparisons particularly poignant: life versus death, hope versus fear. Space exploration and the highly mechanized destruction of people use similar technology and manufacturers, and similar human qualities of organization and daring. Can we not make the transition from automated aerospace killing to automated aerospace exploration of the solar system in which we live?

Alas, we’re making the transition to “automated” space exploration, but we haven’t made — nor do we seem to intend to make anytime soon — the transition away from automated aerospace killing. (Sagan would no doubt have been appalled by this infographic portrait of human priorities as well.)

Mars and the Mind of Man is a cultural treasure — though long out of print, you might be able to score a used copy with some digging around, or look for it at your local library.

* Arthur C. Clarke had co-written the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 … [more]
culture  science  technology  Arthur_C._Clarke  books  Carl_Sagan  history  interview  NASA  Ray_Bradbury  space  from google
august 2012 by jmkeiter
Ray Bradbury – Andy Ihnatko's Celestial Waste of Bandwidth (BETA)
Dammit, Ray Bradbury died this morning, at 91. It’s the second time that the death of a science fiction/fantasy author knocked me off my pins early in the morning.

The first time, it was Douglas Adams, and the surprise came because he was just so damned young. Bradbury’s death took me by surprise because…well, it’s weird, but it seemed like Ray Bradbury was never going to go away, you know? I wasn’t expecting him to die, for the same reasons why I don’t expect to come home after a week of travel, walk through Copley Square, and find that Trinity Church isn’t there any more. It’s just so big, and familiar, and prized by so many people, and nobody can remember a time when it didn’t have this incredible presence…nothing could ever blot it out, right?

Ray Bradbury was one of the very first fantasy authors who really clicked with me. As a kid, I kept having science fiction thrust at me because, statistically speaking, it was a safe bet for someone of my obvious nerdy proclivities. I dug “2001″ and checked out Arthur C. Clarke’s other books, but he kept disappointing me with livid explanations of how alien doorknobs worked while allowing the drives and personalities of human characters to go largely undocumented. Harlan Ellison was seriously unbalanced, capable of meh-inducing lows and massive highs that more than made up for them. I didn’t make it very far through a book of Richard Matheson short stories, though I couldn’t tell you why; maybe I ought to give him a long-overdue second look. I loved “The Hobbit” but abandoned “The Lord Of The Rings” early into the second volume.

Then I read “Fahrenheit 451″ and that set the bar for me. It was a “Star Wars” moment…exciting, but with a powerful, human, emotional core. Ray Bradbury was smart enough to hold on the wide shot of Luke Skywalker as he encountered the bodies of his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, allowing us to watch, silently, as a farm kid’s world collapsed around him.

I think Arthur C. Clarke would have spent nine pages talking about the peculiar chemical composition of the Tattooine atmosphere caused by the planet’s twin suns. “…Which is why the smoke billowing from her skull had a purplish tinge to it. It flashed quickly to orange as it erupted from her eye sockets into the quinone-rich air…”

You might wish to argue with me about any of these opinions, and I will only say “Yes, of course, you’re right.” I can only speak about how these authors affected me.

The most important Bradbury book wasn’t one of his novels or short story anthologies. It was “Zen In The Art Of Writing.” “The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” showed me that writing could be fun. Bradbury’s book showed me that I could be a writer. I don’t think any other book about writing can top it.

The three takeaways from this slim book of essays are easy to understand and manifestly correct:

Love what you do.
Write in your own voice.
Work, work, work. This isn’t magic.

The whole thing is just Ray Bradbury telling stories about how he got into writing and what the process is like for him. Reading this book is like watching someone build a rowboat. Even if they’re not bothering to list the materials and the measurements, the experience of watching the pieces cut and assembled demystifies the whole process. By the end, you think “Gee, maybe I should try building a rowboat, too.” Start with a cool, two-word title and just see where that takes you.

“Zen” was one of several pushes that got me moving towards being a writer. It’s one of the reasons why my English grades dipped a little in high school, as I stopped just writing the essays that I knew my teachers wanted and experimented with different styles and opinions.

(And before I create the impression that I was penalized for my rebellious courage…many of those essays were awful. That’s why they’re called “experiments.”)

When I learned of Bradbury’s death, I went downstairs to the analog /usr/lib/ repository and retrieved my old copy of “Zen In The Art Of Writing.” I belatedly wondered if it was available as an ebook. Alas, no, but in searching for it on the Kindle store I encountered an interview with Ray Bradbury that amplified my appreciation for the man even more:

David Boyne: You’ve written how when you were a kid you wanted to be a magician, then a carnival performer, and then at an early age you settled on being a writer. What do you want to be now?

Ray Bradbury: Oh, God Almighty! I just want to go on being me! I’m on very good terms with myself. I’ve had a wonderful life, a terrific life. I’ve done all the things that I’ve wanted to do. When I was just out of high school I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t write a decent poem, I couldn’t write a short story, I couldn’t write a play, I couldn’t write an essay, I couldn’t write a screenplay. So one by one, over the years, by staying in love, I became a poet, I became a short story writer, I became a novelist, I became a screenwriter—but it was all love, you see?
yellowtext  Ray_Bradbury  Writing  from instapaper
june 2012 by jmkeiter
About Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury: ‘by God there was a room with 12 typewriters…you cd rent for 10c a half-hour’. V happy 2 find this again.
Ray_Bradbury  2012  typing  writing  typewriters 
june 2012 by Preoccupations

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