Monday, June 16, 2008

Lost Dreams and Utter Foolishness

When I was a grade school kid, I dreamed of going into space and being an astronaut. I remember watching one of the Gemini flights launch on a black and white TV screen and I remember watching Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon. The whole family stayed up and watched that moment in history. I watched every Moon shot after that. I can't remember Apollo 7, 8, 9 and 10. I probably watched them, but for some reason I have no memory of them. I would have loved to be a pilot, and I could have been, but not a military pilot. At some point, I knew it was all a fantasy due to my poor eyesight. The best I could hope for was mission or payload specialist on the space shuttle. The shuttle got farther and farther behind schedule and it didn't launch until 1981. I was into my first year of college by then. I've been watching the Discovery Channel program When We Left Earth. The show brought back all of those feelings of pride and loss. Pride in what we Americans had accomplished and loss when Nixon crippled, if not killed, NASA.

Nixon started his War on Drugs and War on Cancer, wasting mammoth amounts of money on the DEA and National Cancer Institute. To be fair to NCI, the money wasn't entirely wasted, research got done that led to breakthroughs, but we are only now making progress due to molecular biology, genomics and computer science. We cured cancer in mice multiple times only to see the treatments fail in humans because our immune systems are different than mouse immune systems. So, a great deal of money was wasted. And cell biology isn't cheap. It takes a lot of money to keep cell line cultures going. The money might have been better spent going to Mars. I would love to try to cultivate cyanobacteria that survive and grow in a Martian environment, but NASA doesn't do great biological research. It takes too long to get the experiments into orbit, and space is limited. There was talk about crystalizing proteins in microgravity environments in orbit, but that was before the crystallographers got their own Human Genome like project and they learned to crystallize diverse proteins quickly and efficiently here on the ground, so all the previous talk was a fantasy.

Government seems to have pretty much failed us as citizens since the 1980s. I suppose if you are a businessman you don't see it this way, or if you are interested in becoming wealthy, you'd disagree as well, but I never wanted to be a salesman or wealthy. I wanted to be a scientist and an explorer, and explore another world. I loved the ARPANET when I was introduced to it in 1992. It was a fantastic fount of knowledge. Now, it's mostly used for selling people goods and services, mostly pornography. I came to the conclusion a while back that perhaps we turned inward away from space in order to grow up as a race. After watching the show and seeing all of my heroes as old men, and hearing the disappointment and sadness in their voices, I feel that I might be wrong. Perhaps we Americans are just utter fools, especially after the last seven years of violence and watching oil prices go up as I knew they eventually would. (The oil business is boom and bust - even my brother knew that and he didn't graduate high school.) What have we to show for our war on terror? We don't seem to be any safer, and we've lost 4,000 men trying to bring democracy to the Middle East, while the people who supported the terrorists who destroyed The World Trade Center in New York are slowly reclaiming Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the people who sold us Get-Rich-Quick schemes by telling us to buy houses and flip them during the Housing Boom are now selling us Get-Rich-Quick schemes by telling us to buy foreclosed houses and resell them - repackaging the same crap. It's not just late night television commercials either. A lot of politicians spout the same old crap. We are bombarded by people trying to sell us something all the time, be it goods and services, or themselves and their public or military service record. I despair because everywhere I look things could be better if we'd just be kinder, or try harder, or think the problems through instead of slap band-aids on them and ignore them.


You've been tagged John


Hi John

Reading your Lost Dreams post I'd say that there is always alot of bad in the world, but there are elections - perhaps vote for Obama - he may be more level.

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