Saturday, August 11, 2012

Curiosity: This Is What's Next

When the Voyager spacecraft were launched in 1977, they carried golden record containing "sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth" that would serve as a message to any "spacefarers" who might find them.  (Seriously.)  Amongst the recordings are three works by J.S. Bach, including the Prelude and Fugue #1 in C Major from the second book of the Well-Tempered Clavier; I can't listen to this piece without imagining a solitary bottle drifting in the vast, empty ocean of space.

Science has never been my forte.  I'm a humanities girl all the way, which is why I completed Columbia's requirement of two science courses with a psych intro and a slightly more advanced version of the Earth Science class we were taught in the eighth grade.  (Actually, they were both fascinating.  Maybe I've missed my calling?  Nah.)

So science has always been sort of mystical to me.  I don't understand a lot of it, but I respect it deeply - in fact, I'm in awe of the men and women who pursue scientific aims, be they discovering new species of insects in the jungle or researching the consequences of melting glaciers or exploring the vast void of space.  It takes immense curiosity to look beyond one's own patch and pursue what's beyond.

I think that Aaron Sorkin explained it best on The West Wing in an episode about landing an unmanned spacecraft on Mars:

- Do we really have to go to Mars?
- Why?
'Cause it's next!  'Cause we came out of the cave and we looked over the hill and we saw fire and we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the West and we took to the sky.  The history of man is on a timeline of exploration and this is what's next.

And now here we are: we're on Mars.  We're on Mars!

Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers.  Go explore!


  1. I know what you mean about mysticising science as a 'humanities girl'... ;) I have found a happy balance to be History & Philosophy of Science. Because it's all the big questions, with all the period costume. Perfect combination.

  2. I remember that West Wing episode! So what's next? :)

  3. Heh, the day Curiosity successfully landed on Mars I was woken up by someone else to celebrate (well, by celebrate I mean shout "yes!". :D).


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