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This is the archive for June 2005

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

What's the first thing a tourist does when he is away from home and seeing things that, while maybe mundane to those who see them everday, are things he may have never seen before? He starts taking pictures. Pictures are souvenirs, reminders of a place he may never get to experience again. They are also a way to share those experiences with others who might not get to see them for themselves.

But they also serve another function. They say "I was here". They don't leave a mark on the place itself, but they serve to retain a little piece of the place, to mark the place in the tourist's memory as something he owned, if only in his experience and for a fleeting moment.

This is one of the most glorious sunsets I've ver seen. No, I wasn't there, I will likely never be there and never have an opportunity to take such a profound picture myself.



It's not such a spectacular sunset in itself - there's no dramatic colors, except for maybe the dusky red of the sky itself. There's no dramatic rays of light through the clouds, or shimering oblongation of the sun as it's light travels through miles of rippling atmosphere.

But this picture is dramatic. It says "We Were Here". And not only that, it says that we had the time, the resources, and the interest to stop and look around - to look up from the business at hand and enjoy the once in a lifetime vista that had nothing in itself to do with the business at hand.

It's important precisely because it doesn't matter - it doesn't further the mission nor is the expense and time justified by the reason that we were there in the first place. It's profoundly important because it gives us all a little piece of someplace we may never be ourselves, but may be an everyday site for our descendants.

No human took this picture. No human has yet set foot in this place where such wonders can be found. But it was the human mind that made this picture possible. And if we can send our automated rover to this place and have it sep back and take silly irrelevant pictures like any other tourist, it won't be long before the real tourists will be there, in their Hawaiian shirts and sandals, clumsily stumbling over the rocks and dunes while oohing and aahing over the everday sights unimaginable to them in their homes today.

This picture is of a sunset on Mars. We're heading out, folks, and we won't be looking back except for the occasional picture back at that ever shrinking bright disk behind us that marks the place where we were born.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Speculist has the latest edition of the Carnival of Tomorrow. It's a rundown of some of the latest in Advancement Tech. (Of course, they don't call it "Advancement Tech" - yet. Nobody does, but they will...). Be sure to click to the main page and scroll down past the Carnival to the article on a new twist on solar power. A 3-foot parabolic reflector that melts aluminum, and predictions of a new age of steam power. Fascinating, and very promising.