Walking to see the fireworks last night and gleefully telling many people I encountered on the way about Juno’s successful orbital insertion which had just occurred, I remarked to one person how extraordinary it is to be able to navigate a spacecraft to such a distant location. I mentioned the Huygens probe which actually landed on and sent back pictures of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon and he seemed to not remember it. He kept referring to the more recent ESE Philae lander which landed on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and indeed was an amazing achievement.
But I distinctly remember when Huygens successfully traversed through the atmosphere of Titan and sent back the first ever image from the surface of a moon orbiting another planet.
Last night I was telling my Mom about the upcoming NASA TV live broadcast of the Juno orbital insertion and tried to find a station on her cable TV service that carried NASA TV. As I browsed through the dozens – no hundreds – of channel listings, seeing the copious amounts of drivel and bullshit, it was really sad to me that such a monumental human achievement as the Juno mission is relegated to virtually nothing.
Part of being healthy – in fact I would argue the most essential part – is in knowing what to seek and what to avoid. I have a theory that all diseases are ultimately diseases of taste or, more generally, discretion or preference. In other words, its not that diseases can’t be prevented and cured, its that people willingly choose to engage in activities that cause and promote disease, rather than activities which prevent and stop disease.
Its not like any of the knowledge on how to do so is particularly complicated either. I think its generally clear to any person with a mind what is healthy and what is not. But people continue to eat harmful things. They continue to engage in activities which are harmful and to not engage in ones that are healthy.
So what can you say or do? Do you just repeat over and over the same messages about what is good and bad to people? Or maybe its better just to step back and let them injure themselves which might actually, in the long term, result in less severe consequences than if they were allowed to proceed under delusion?
As for great scientific achievements, I’m all too aware of the dangers of scientific triumphalism and certain kinds of self-righteousness, bigotry, and bias which can arise from believing in science as being superior. But I do not allow such awareness to detract from the fact that human beings are capable of accomplishing these great achievements of which we should all be proud.
Its also useful to remember that every one of us is just a traveler through this world. We are only here for a time. I witness frequently people who are so passionate about, so caught up in various agendas that I’m afraid they may sometimes forget this fact. I also believe its important to advocate for what you believe is right. No doubt. But, beyond it all, its even more important to not forget that this world is not you. You are only passing through it. So, during the time you are here, at least don’t forget every now and then to smile and try to make happy the other souls who are here with you, no matter how passionate you feel about anything.
In a way the Juno mission and the 4th of July are similar, they are times when we can just be happy that we humans can come together happily and accomplish amazing achievements, whether such an achievement is putting a spacecraft into orbit around a planet over a billion miles away or just enjoying the community of people coming together on a warm Summer night to watch fireworks together.