Month: December 2017

Shoot the Moon: Apollo’s inspirations

Forty-eight years ago, two astronauts took the most expensive selfies ever shot – on the Moon. Those now-famous pictures of two Americans posing with their flag on the lunar surface were the key deliverables of a program started by President John F. Kennedy only eight years before to prove the American democracy was superior to Soviet communism. Thus, when some see Apollo as a dead end, I do not. Those hundreds of thousands of people who bent their will and their minds to place a man on the Moon “before this decade is out” did exactly what they had...

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Deep Space: The Philosophy of the Overview Effect

When the shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, the nation entered a period of intense soul-searching. We had become accustomed to these spacecraft routinely lifting off from Cape Canaveral and going into orbit for a week or more, then safely returning to Earth. The process seemed so routine that Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher, was on board, as the first “teacher in space.” This mission was intended to herald a new era of ordinary citizens going into orbit and beyond. The accident killed all the astronauts and also destroyed “the old space program” that had been born in the 1960s and...

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Why am I here?

  Why am I here? This question, of all questions, is the most important of all questions ever asked. It is the most important question we ever ask, that you ever ask, no matter who you are. And like all of the deeper questions of life, although it is central to your being, it is not one that actively consumes you, as it is usually buried by the thoughts and actions that make up our days and nights. Yet, it can be argued that those thoughts and actions we call life are themselves driven by a set of cultural...

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Leonard Cohen passed away last year at the age of 82. Perhaps no other musical artist brought together more musical genres in their lifetime. Considered by many to be the Godfather of alternative rock, his tribute albums include artists as varied as U2, Nick Cave, Tori Amos, Don Henley and Elton John. In one of his more famous songs “There is a war” he discussed all of the ways we create conflict with each other. In one verse Cohen says, There is a war between the rich and poor, A war between the man and the woman. There is...

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Cosmism and Cosmocentrism

As I have been exploring the notion of cosmocentrism, I have been drawn to a group of space philosophers I discovered while writing The Overview Effect. These Russian thinkers in the 19th century developed the idea of cosmism, an idea that included not only the exploration of outer space but also the perfection of humanity. I wrote about the Russian Cosmists in The Overview Effect, but primarily to demonstrate the philosophical roots of the Soviet space program, as compared with the American. Nikolai Fyodorov, chief librarian in Moscow, espoused ideas so similar to my own that I no longer consider my concepts to be at all radical. Here is a passage I quoted in the book: The nineteenth-century  Russian philosopher of space,  Nikolai  Fyodorov, developed  the  idea  of the com­mon task, basing it on a series of striking concepts: “The root idea … is that human beings do not have their natural horne on Earth;  rather they are organisms whose ecosystem is more properly the whole cosmos… In Fyodorov’s view, everything is alive, from the gigantic suns of distant galaxies to the smallest pebble under our feet here on Earth. Everything is organic: the biggest difference between the life of rocks and the life of human beings is that they live at differ­ent  velocities in time and at different degrees of consciousness in space. Because  people  have consciousness in the highest  degree,  it is their  task to...

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