Re: truth in space-vertising
- Hi David,
Great theme for discussion! It would have fit perfect in the agenda here in
Tenerife at the Starmus Festival.
It has been an amazing week so far. I can't imagine this line-up people ever
being assembled again.
I hope the talks and discussions get posted afterwards.
- <What I'm suggesting is that as our knowledge evolves, so too should the discourse and communication surrounding the viability of human space flight and habitable regions of space in relation to other contingent aspects of human needs and endeavors.>
I agree that planetarium programming is skewed towards astronomy and space travel, and planetarians Ought to be more focused on Earth science and the many global challenges facing humankind. What a great way to promote STEM - get a degree, save the planet, do breakfast.
GIS datasets like SOS abound now - a "god's eye view" of our biosphere - and are readily accessible to digital planetariums (and infinitely more powerful than the simple earthrise photo that changed the world...). Let's get with it, people! (And Kudos to those producers who are working on such programs!)
How about a roll call of existing and in-production Earth/climate change programs?
Here's where I still have a beef of sorts.
While "discourse and communication surrounding the viability of human spaceflight and habitable regions of space in relation to other contingent aspects of human needs and endeavors" is healthy, the notion that challenges of human spaceflight are too great, or unworthy, or are receiving too much attention is not, in my opinion, the issue. It is the lack of focus and attention on the other sciences and more pressing human needs. I understand that David is frustrated by naive visions of spaceflight that detract from global concerns, but let's keep our eye on the ball - it is the lack of focus on these concerns that needs to be addressed.
I suspect that the most fruitful way to understand global warming would be to send scores of geologists to Mars to collect rocks, sift through the sand and dig not inches into the ground, but dig Mars cores thousands of feet deep and bring it all home for analysis in universities and research labs. What happened to Mars? Imagine what we could learn from this! We have learned so much from doing this on Earth. What odd correlations might we find between Mars and Earth climate changes? We would also immediately solve the "life on Mars" issue - these cores would tell it all, no? (Disclaimer - I'm not a geologist...)
So rather than making this a "manned versus unmanned" spaceflight debate, my suggestion is to focus on what we want more of - accelerated planetary science research (especially Earth/Venus/Mars) and greater focus on solving global issues of all types.
Regarding the need for realism regarding the challenges of human spaceflight, every lofty endeavor has such challenges, including the mitigation of climate change. One futurist recently told me that, even if humans suddenly stopped producing CO2 gas today, it could take 1,000 years for the global temperature to peak and settle back down (I am not an expert on this, but if you look at the geological record, global temperature has made some amazing swings between extremes in the past - we could be in for a wild ride!). The science and engineering challenges of safe human spaceflight could be a cake walk compared to the mitigation of carbon emissions and, ultimately, solving the many crises raised by global warming! Fortunately, scientists and engineers thrive on big challenges like these, and we will solve them, bit by bit, as long as they remain on our radar.
As a closet futurist, I am also very much in favor of speculation about the future. In fact, I believe that we often gravitate towards and manifest the future that we envision. SciFi writers have been very influential, and you might say that SciFi is the leading (or bleeding) edge of science. The dome is a great place to indulge in "what if" scenarios as long as we do our best to remain science-based and qualify that we are speculating (so as not to confuse it with facts).
Which brings us back to the dome - our "spheres of influence." We have, I believe, a moral imperative to address humankind's global challenges in our programming. Period. Any educator, or corporation for that matter, that is not contributing to making a better world (in their own way) is probably helping to destroy it. We are approaching a crossroads where humanity will need to decide whether we will work together to build a green earth, or go forth blindly and possibly end up with a charred earth. Essentially we are a carbon-based lifeform choking in our own waste. We need a visionary 50-year, 100-year and 1000-year plan for humanity (which ought to include space colonization for reasons already stated).
Now is the time to educate and inspire our young to go forth and invent, engineer, explore and solve our global challenges. The digital dome is a powerful medium. Let's use it to make a difference in the world!
Visual Bandwidth, Inc.
From: david mcconville <id@...>
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2011 17:36:01
Subject: [fulldome] Re: truth in space-vertising
On Jun 23, 2011, at 12:21 PM, Mark C. Petersen wrote:
> I've not been to any such presentations; perhaps I need to get out
I was specifically thinking of a planetarium show I saw recently at the Pink Palace in Memphis (using an analog starball) in which the presenter suggested that we may be headed to the exoplanets soon, as well as the previously mentioned ways in which the accessibility of habitable zone exoplanets are deceptively portrayed in the media.
>> But I'm curious about the degree to which the scientific reality
>> is glossed over in science centers to perpetuate science fiction fantasies?
> In lieu of a quantifiable study, I'd say -- probably not much. I
> seriously doubt many science centers have specific "gloss over
> science, promote fantasy" agendae in their mission statements.
Let's hope not, eh? The pre-history of 'fulldome' in the 20th century is chock full of space travel being promoted using decidedly fantastic speculations. Even seminal and brilliant shows like Cosmos took plenty of liberties in the name of a good story (not that I would ever suggest changing one iota of Carl's floating new age love craft). But as our understanding evolves, the onus is on us to communicate new insights. And since clever narrative tricks used to entertain audiences don't necessarily need to conform to mission statements, I'm throwing these questions out to this list of practitioners...
>> it's little surprise
>> that recent findings concerning the diminishing prospects for long-term human
>> spaceflight would be slow to trickle into the official mythology of
>> space geekdom.
> In the immortal words of Wikipedia, "" :-) The
> commercial sector is gearing up, not diminishing.
Indeed - the commercial sector pushing human spaceflight has considerable financial incentive to avoid discussions of the negative ecological impact of the industry. As we have come to better understand the interactions of Earth systems (thanks in large part to satellite observations), doesn't it make sense to use launch options for maximum immediate benefit?
Regarding citations, there's quite a bit of material from the nascent field of space physiology available. Of course most of it is about the effects of short-duration trips, particularly the detrimental effects related to the loss of bone density and muscle atrophy.
These rather unglamorous physical side effects seep into many narratives of science education or sci-fi (as opposed to the tried and true psychological deterioration of space travelers). Could make for one hell of a dome show: Space Travel Ain't What It Used To Be...
> True, we're not going to be traveling to exoplanets *today*. We are
> not going to rule out "tomorrow", though. Perhaps our crystal ball
> shows a different vision of the future from yours.
There's the time horizon thing again. I'm assuming you mean an astronomer's tomorrow, whereas I'd settle for a ecologist's tomorrow, during which we prioritize cleaning up plastics in the ocean, preserving biodiversity habitats, and generally making our living spaceship work for everyone over fantasizing about our escape by launching into the aether (or dark matter, as the case may be).
> As you surely know, David, NASA has already bought fulldome
> projectors for several facilities upgrading their systems, and they
> operate some of their own. No diversionary funding was necessary.
Ahh, but the century is young!
- Thanks for your thoughtful comments Ed. I don't mean to cast this as a simple manned vs. unmanned spaceflight, though I do mean to provoke questions surrounding the economic and ecological wisdom of human spaceflight - and particularly space tourism - at the present time.
> I suspect that the most fruitful way to understand global warming would be to send scores of geologists to Mars to collect rocks, sift through the sand and dig not inches into the ground, but dig Mars cores thousands of feet deep and bring it all home for analysis in universities and research labs.illustrates this perfectly. How much would it cost for such a mission? What would emissions, manhours, and payback be, versus spending comparable resources on studying projects on this planet that are focused on addressing interconnected global challenges simultaneously?
Instead of looking at the big picture, the specializing tendency of science often lead a deceptive reduction of complexity. Shrinking global change issues and the environment to the single (politically charged) topic of "climate change" is a prime example. I highly recommend checking out the Planetary Boundaries framework (first published in Nature in 2009): http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/935 - or for the easily digestible YouTube version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkkKZgKmdP4
We're using this framework within the Worldviews Network to explore how to communicate a more comprehensive view of global challenges, encouraging participants to think systemically about the relationship between human well-being, water availability, land use changes, biodiversity loss, chemical pollution, ocean acidification, nitrogen/phosphorus cycles, ozone depletion, and yes, climate change. But only after a nice tour of the observable cosmos to setting the awe-inspiring context!
If we want pass on a world to future generations in which they have the luxury of a functional society and industrial infrastructure that can accommodate the research and development necessary for space travel, we desperately need to be focusing the majority of our attention on these issues now - many of which are largely ignored. Suggesting that we need to go to Mars to study to study climate change is akin saying we need to create synthetic humans to study cancer (instead of suggesting that we stop smoking). And even if choose this exotic route, a recent report suggests that a 13 week trip to Mars would cause permanent heart damage due to cosmic radiation: http://www.marstoday.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=33208.
We have a tendency to search for technological fixes to our cure our woes. Technological advancements will undoubtedly play an important role, but there are also often much simpler, effective, and affordable solutions derived from the study of complex systems and identifying key leverage points. For prime examples, see this approach to increasing ocean biodiversity and increasing community health - http://challenge.bfi.org/winner_2011 - or this one addressing climate change, soil depletion, and desertification by counterintuitively using cattle to re-green deserts - http://challenge.bfi.org/winner_2010.
Interactive and immersive scientific visualization environments are ideal for spreading the word about these kinds of stories - and facilitating community dialogues to discuss the conditions necessary to support life. We have the ultimate stage setters - the ability to visualize the beauty and grandeur of our cosmic observations. But instead of using the millions of dollars/pounds/yen of infrastructure as entertaining distractions from the world, how 'bouts we take on the responsibility to engage and inspire audiences in ways that help them realize that they're already astronauts aboard a beautiful spaceship in need of serious repair?
C'mon, I double dog dare you...
director, noospheric research division
- On Jun 23, 2011, at 7:37 PM, Ed Lantz wrote:
> How about a roll call of existing and in-production Earth/climate change programs?One issue here is the market's position on what a particular planetarium facility will consider to show.
We have produced for many non-astronomy/space themed shows over the years. Recently a five year NASA funded grant (Immersive Earth) was completely aimed at Earth science topics for fulldome. Several shows were produced in partnership with the Houston Museum of Natural Science and Rice University during that grant's timeframe, one in particular dealing specifically with climate change and the fate of the dinosaurs.
So, starting over six years back, shows completely based on Earth science were being created. There have been other non-astrnomy/spaceflight topics as well in our pipeline. Further back in production history was our work with E&S to create Microcosm, a human biology show. Even further back was our involvement with Buhl to help create the Living Cell show. Feedback that I have heard was that these shows were hard to sale/license since they did not deal with astronomy or space travel. Some planetariums will only consider programs based on that subject.
For some locations, coexisting with an IMAX theater makes non-astronomy/spaceflight shows a more difficult choice. But in contrast, IMAX has no problem producing shows on astronomy or spaceflight. I remember way, way back in '99 attending a "fulldome" conference at SkySkan attended by many of the early producers of content. I was the only one present that stressed that the fulldome capability should be open to other topics, non-astronomy/spaceflight in storyline.
I know there are other shows that have been produced on Earth science and do not know how "popular" they have been. But my point here is that the market is not as big as the numbers might indicate for show subjects that are non-astronomy/spaceflight in theme. Unless topic selection widens.
Just something to think about,
H o m e R u n P i c t u r e s
President & Creative DIrector
100 First Avenue - Suite 450
Pittsburgh, PA 15222