Bush’s Moon/Mars Plan is Dead

It’s been a while now since Obama’s NASA budget came out, but it’s pretty clear that manned spaceflight has been put on the back burner. This means that Bush’s Moon/Mars plan is probably dead.

Of course, I said that a long time ago, here and here.

“Neuroenhancing” Drugs

I was just reading Margaret Talbot’s article in this week’s New Yorker about so-called “neuroenhancing” drugs, titled “Brain Gain: The underground world of ‘neuroenhancing’ drugs.” I am struck by what seems to be an underlying assumption among many of those who find these drugs useful, that life in general works a lot like college. Anyone who’s been out of college for a couple of years quickly realizes that most of the real world doesn’t work like exams and papers that are due on certain dates and that you could pull all-nighters to complete.

When I was an undergraduate, I never pulled an all-nighter. I always felt that the facts that I might cram into my head during the extra time would be offset by the lowering of my level of functioning due to tiredness. It is true that I did sometimes stay up all night writing papers, but that’s because you got the thing onto paper and didn’t have to then perform the next day. It wasn’t until grad school until I stayed up all night writing a paper that I then had to read out loud in a seminar the next morning. Now that was gruelling!

I can’t help but think about recent activities with my viol consort, The Teares of the Muses. We just gave two concerts (last Saturday and just last night, on Tuesday), and the group is a nice mix of players ranging in age from 20 years old to mumble mumble mumble over 50. I’m 47, but I can say that I am able to absorb more in a rehearsal than the college kids in the group. This is not because I’m mentally more acute, but because I have a much greater store of musical experience to which I can connect new musical ideas that come up in rehearsal. When I first play a new piece, I already have a store of musical experiences playing other pieces that I can connect the new one to. The student players are much newer to this repertory, and are very often encountering the musical style for the first time. They don’t have any background of musical memory in which to contextualize what they are playing, and the result is that they are less reliable from rehearsal to rehearsal in terms of what they absorb and retain.

This is no criticism of them — they are very talented and work extremely hard. It’s just that experience really does count for something that couldn’t possibly be overcome by them by simply enhancing their native memorization or cognitive abilities — they lack the store of experience and knowledge to connect new musical experiences to, and thus are at a disadvantage in comparison to the oldsters (I’ve been playing viol for 20 years). They might be (and are) more technically adept, but that doesn’t make up for long experience of the musical style and the ability to play with others in an ensemble.

That’s why I’m not so worried about losing out to youngsters on these new drugs — they lack the foundation to truly be able to capitalize on the enhanced mental acuity.

Headline in 2030: “Republicans Killed the Planet!”

Kevin Drum is writing about the frightening ways in which recent climate change research shows that things are going bad much more quickly than our most pessimistic models forecast:

It would be nice to think that perhaps our current climate models are too pessimistic; or even that they’re right but maybe we’ll end up at the low end of the predicted warming ranges; or at worst that the models are right and we’ll end up right at the center. But that just doesn’t seem to be the case. What it really looks like is that our current models aren’t pessimistic enough and that the growth in greenhouse gas emissions is exceeding even the modelers’ highest estimates. We are fast approaching a point of no return that will likely kill hundreds of millions of people, destroy much of the world’s food supply, and spark resource wars that make Rwanda look like a mild family quarrel.

I read this and immediately wondered what difference it might have made if we as a nation had gotten serious about climate change in, oh, I dunno, about 2001 or so, within the first year of President Gore’s first term. What if we had a chance back then to turn things around, an opportunity that is now long gone because of five moronic judges, members of what was, until Bush vs. Gore, the most respected institution in our US governmental system?

Will we someday look back and declare that Republican partisanship killed the planet?

Bush the Liar

Bush’s space initiative is a huge fabrication of lies, since it can’t possibly be done for the amount budgeted. The facts are considered by Gregg Easterbrook, absolutely destroying the slim credibility of Bush’s Moon/Mars space plan, on the simple basis of cost alone. And, of course, the first casualty of the redirection of $12 billion of NASA’s budget, is the Hubble Space Telescope.

George Bush’s “Kennedy Moment”

I hear on Mike Malloy’s Friday night program (MikeMalloy.net, with archives at WhiteRoseSociety.org) that some in the media are calling George Bush’s space initiative a “Kennedy moment.”

What will really happen is, of course, that the whole proposal will be abandoned after the election (should he, unfortunately, win), and never funded, just as was the case with “No Child Left Behind.” If it isn’t, it’s because, as Malloy suggests, the real agenda is military: to create the first military outpost on the moon.

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate these people in the Bush administration (or the “Bush crime family,” as Malloy likes to call them)?