What’s next

Posted on February 22nd, 2010 by george.
Categories: future, history, society, space, synthesis, technology.

Endeavour landed yesterday on its penultimate mission. I tweeted about it, noting that there are only four space shuttle missions left on the manifest. My friend Patrick just asked me what’s next for NASA after the Shuttle retires. My reply on Facebook turned into an essay, so I thought I’d share it here.

What comes after the Shuttle? All the things about NASA that don’t make the headlines will continue. Some even get more funding. The Shuttle has been the poster child for 30 years, but in the meantime, NASA has been instrumental in furthering our understanding of climate dynamics, earth observation, deep space astronomy and cosmology. Robotic planetary and solar exploration, cutting edge research in biology, materials, aeronautics, energy generation, propulsion, you name it, have all continued. Shuttle launches are sexy. But when they end, perhaps a little more light will be shed on everything else NASA does. Cassini, the robotic probe that has taught us more about Saturn and its moons than we ever knew before, just got a seven year life extension. And human space exploration isn’t dead; the Falcon 9 rocket just went vertical last week, with a test capsule that SpaceX claims can be human rated. Static test firings of the Falcon 9 could come as early as this week. Private subspace (read: Virgin Galactic) should come online this year. The Russians are cranking out Soyuz launches like Henry Ford did Model Ts. Europe, Japan, China, & India all have launch systems. The Shuttle will stop flying, but humans won’t. Maybe if we’re lucky they’ll resurrect the HL-20. Or the X-33. And don’t forget: the Air Force has a spaceplane now.

Humans have had a continuous presence in space since the year 2000, thanks to the International Space Station. Think about it. For the last decade, a single second hasn’t passed that someone wasn’t zooming over your head at 17,500 mph. It may sound pie-in-the-sky, but that’s the reason I answered a question about NASA’s future with international and private examples: as we go forward, this will be a cooperative effort. It’s one planet. One home. That is an inescapable fact. We are one species. Why not pool our efforts? There’s no need to reinvent the rocket just because you live in a particular spot on this planet behind some imaginary line. There’s no need for every country to send an individual probe to the moon or Mars just because we hoard information about our solar system as if we own it because we were the first to discover it. A fact is a fact; congratulations on learning it first. Now SHARE.

Newsflash: you can’t see borders from space. In my book, that means they don’t exist. They are mere constructs, accidents of history, that everyone seems to agree upon. They are fiction. Made up. There is true reality, and then there is that of which we are convinced. Exploration is inevitable. So is growth. I hope the void left by Discovery and the other shuttles makes room for the spaceships…and discoveries…of tomorrow.

12 comments.

Pale blue dot

Posted on January 30th, 2009 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, environment, epiphany, film, future, life, music, society, space, synthesis, technology.

Didn’t think I was gonna get a post up in January, didja?  HA!  That’ll show ya.

Here’s a month’s worth of hope in one short film.  Watch it full screen.

2 comments.

Nine slices, five seeds

Posted on September 11th, 2008 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, future, history, life, love, music, synthesis.

Over the past few days I have been listening to Radiohead’s “Hail to the Thief” on the commute to and from work.  It strikes me that when I first played this album on the stereo, kicking back in my 70’s-era chartreuse La-Z-Boy (oh, how I miss that chair), looking out my bay window on the streetlights of Laurel Avenue, atop the ridge of Fort Sanders in arguably one of the most coveted properties for students at the University of Tennessee, surrounded by meticulously-tended gardens and rosebushes too often robbed of their blooms by passersby, that I didn’t like it.  It’s strange to have adored “Kid A” and “Amnesiac,” coming so hot on the heels of yet such a departure from Radiohead’s timeless masterwork “OK Computer,” only to have “Thief” stick in my craw.  At the time, I couldn’t place why it didn’t resonate; I’ve since heard that it was “thrown together” on a short schedule, and suffered from what some say is a lack of polish compared to previous efforts.  I now realize, after having “In Rainbows” wear ruts into my soul, pressing its melodies into the fiber of my being, rivaling the majesty of what to this point was my favorite album, that “Hail to the Thief” suffered only from lack of context.  It was simply ahead of its time; too raw, even though it was finished and complete, like a bridge suspended across a chasm whose far side has only now seen the tectonic plates of time grind past each other, lofting the perfect cliff into place under what seemed a terminus hanging in dead air.  The bridge to nowhere now emerges as a grand paean to the future as told by authors of the past, a gathering together of the sine wave of repeating history, a needle and thread through the wrinkled fabric of this collective consciousness, drawing tight the crevices to be filled with the golden light of meaning.

 

  

It dawns on me now that my love for this group of musicians was tied to the future more than I could imagine, their prescience wholly overshadowing my own, a hand reaching down and transcending the dimension of time, their glowing ladders of song rising out of the misty and dark swirls of this material world to the ethereal flights of the spirit.  I see too, now, that I have not yet fully appreciated my time in the city of my education, the lessons I learned in and outside the classroom, the mistakes I made and the choices I got right that have led me to this day, this moment, these words spilling forth over the banks of my stream, tumbling down white over the rocks of fortune.  Even for all its gray skies and cold nights, its mists and trials, its mazes and morasses, worn desks and defaced walls, I see that I loved that city, my time there, the people I shared it with, the sunshine they reflected that pierced the hazy air.  The rainbow arcs high and bright over the sapling of my existence now; for all their deep and abiding knowledge of past predicting future, I cannot recall a band that’s been through the hourglass that has enjoyed such lofty greatness for so long, or excelled so magnificently so late in their glorious career.

 

P.S. I’m getting married.

 

10 comments.

All I Need

Posted on May 14th, 2008 by george.
Categories: coincidence, life, music, serendipity, society, synthesis, travel.

It would take a novel to tell the tale of our recent trip south of the equator. I could wax poetic about the natural beauty of Peru and Bolivia, and indeed, Lake Titicaca is everything the Animaniacs crack it up to be, and Machu Picchu is most deserving of its spot among the New Seven Wonders of the World. What keeps emerging as I tell the stories to friends, however, is an aspect of that same modern world that we as Baha’is are working to eradicate: extremes of wealth and poverty.

Coming home to my first Radiohead concert, after waiting more than a decade to see one of my all-time favorite bands live, only threw the contrast between the United States and Peru and Bolivia into starker relief. While the experience was underwhelming (most likely due to the poor sound quality at Ford Ampitheater in Tampa, the lazy crowd and the mellow setlist), it was still worthwhile. There’s no comparing it to Peru, but I couldn’t get Radiohead’s songs out of my head for days. Indeed I still can’t. In Rainbows defies my knack for hyperbole. I think Vince, who joined us at the concert, said it best.

IN RAINBOWS – choose 1:

a) Great Radiohead Album, or

b) Greatest Radiohead Album

Leave it to a band who defines my generation to say what I wanted to say about South America (and indeed all countries not as privileged as the G8) with a powerful music video, released while we were in Peru.

4 comments.

One human family

Posted on March 23rd, 2008 by george.
Categories: coincidence, death, enlightenment, future, life, numbers, serendipity, space, synthesis, technology.

Arthur C. Clarke, one of my most exalted heroes, has passed to the next world.  There is no way I could ever pay proper respect to his spirit or legacy, so I’ll let him speak for himself.

Rest in peace, Mr. Clarke, immersed in everlasting joy and assured in your new, infinite knowledge that all your wishes are true, and will come true for us.
You like coincidences?  Check out my most recent flickr photo, which I posted before leaving for Mexico and have left up for nearly a week.  I have read 2001:  A Space Odyssey, and 2010:  Odyssey Two, but until today I did not know that the second sequel was entitled 2061:  Odyssey Three.  Third book’s the chardm, as they say.

P.S. This is my third visit to Mexico.

7 comments.

Alhambra

Posted on February 16th, 2008 by george.
Categories: dreams, enlightenment, epiphany, future, life, numbers, poetry, serendipity, synthesis.

the dust of far-off deserts
sparkles
after noon
while breezes waft
the redolence
of five-star blooms
shafts of leaning light
dance through
camphor trees
her shadowed arches
find me
down on bended knee
her marble pillars
soaring
toward heaven’s sky
from paradise four rivers
meet
with burbled sighs
relax your fretted ceilings
in the sun
and wind
let the sweet call of the nightingale
calm your soul
within
my truss your raven tresses
combed with honey
sweet
your words inside my spirit
carved
in filigree
now stretch my copper heartstrings
cross your
silver face
and fill with song this darksome
and once empty
space
thirteen vermillion towers
look upon your
life
and whisper to the lions
tales of
man and wife
existence stretched before me
like a growing
elm
crimson ark with
Holy Mariner
at the helm
each quanta forking out
an ungrown
tender shoot
a life of unknown branches
with you
at the root
and though the tree is younger
now
than it will be
your liquid silver quickens
every limb
of me
now from the court of maidens
comes a lilted
cry
an audience of angels
softly drawing
nigh
without a word
she bends
into her graceful dance
and lights aflame the veils
concealing
her advance
in arc and pattern
weaving
flowered tapestries
she draws upon the
lifeblood
from the roots so deep
with gathering momentum
she spins wild
and free
and melds his art and science
into
unity
from the Garden of the Architect
a breath
exhales
and scatters far the ashes
of the last lost
veil
the lover sees his children
in the maiden‘s
sway
now overflows his heart
with
arabesque pensées
even unto his autumn
he sees red
and gold
and alloyed with his copper
stories
not yet told
for soon they may set sail
upon a sea
of song
and manifest what only
God
knew all along
the lily brims with waters
from the wise man’s
sea
and let loose are the lovers
that their seas may
meet
now overflow his tears
onto life’s golden
shore
to set in motion waves
above the
coral floor
the emerald sea now surges
casting forth
her pearl
the twain restored to one
now
and through all the worlds

7 comments.

Las nubes

Posted on February 12th, 2008 by george.
Categories: coincidence, enlightenment, epiphany, future, life, love, numbers, photography, poetry, prayer, serendipity, space, synthesis, travel.

Helix
low clouds drift over
her plunging arcs
helices adorn
her pure crystalline slopes
under the watchful eye
of the sliver of a crescent moon
Twin contrails
twin contrails cut across the sky
as they carve their way
through the forest
deeper into the heart
of the valley below
Through the forest
the great granite monolith
reigns regal over the valley
as the traveler departs the shores
of the great salt lake
both their heads in the clouds
Great salt lake
the hawk prays on detachment
in solitude above the clouds
that at the peak of the mountain
he should find his other wing
attached to an angel
Signs point to yes
he cannot cast his eyes
upon anything but signs
he is enveloped in assurance
his threading path is lit
by luminous rays
do you love me from the smallest ant
to the littlest loud?
su corazón pregunta
you mean cloud, he says
si, nube, she replies
James and Caytlin
do you like strawberries?
asks the little girl
after the traveler is diverted
from his prayers
I love strawberries, he responds
two women engaged in conversation
not a word of English between them
halt their cascade of Spanish to repeat
a single word foretold:
cloud
eleven arrives
to carry the weary traveler home
his head in the radio
as he reaches
mile marker 43
out of the corner of his eye
flow tears of certitude
leaving tracks on his cheeks
and crystals on the dry lakebed
of his heart
soft whimpers escape his lips
and with them his doubt
as the tortoise shell of his heart melts
and the delicate blossom of love
unfolds
everything in the universe
every slice of time and space
every cause and effect
has led to this moment
numbers themselves were created
to add up to this love
exit 52 leads him home
he walks out to check the mail
but on the way to the box
stoops to pick up
an empty cup
standing up his eyes rise
and fix their gaze on a star
the brightest setareh in the sky
shining in brilliant splendor
as the clouds march by
he looks to his hand
as his disbelief evaporates
and in its stead he finds
16 ounces of truth
straight from the mountain top
Mountain top

5 comments.

The promise of the Sun

Posted on November 25th, 2007 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, environment, epiphany, future, society, synthesis, technology.

It’s only appropeaux that the marriage of the largest and smallest would yield such promising fruit, the seeds of which, when scattered far and wide, have the potential to grow into a foundation-shaking shift in the way we interact with the planet. What am I talking about?

Nanosolar. Say it out loud. Let it roll off your tongue. Be among the first, for soon it will be on every tongue.

Leave it to a company in Silicon Valley to free solar energy from the expense and complexity of silicon. I’ve been preaching the gospel of the Sun for years, patiently awaiting the day that technology caught up with the economy. That day is here, my friends, at one third the price of coal. If we no longer have to fight over cheap, clean, abundant energy, imagine the real possibility for peace among humans.

This is cause for celebration.

6 comments.

Ojos Mexicanos

Posted on October 10th, 2007 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, friends, fun, life, love, photography, space, synthesis, travel.

It’s 11:30. Let’s see if I can crank this out before another midnight rolls around.

I got off the plane in Miami yesterday, and by some miracle sailed through Customs. Straight to South Beach, where I had a panini and an iced cappuccino at the only dedicated Segafredo cafe in the world. Caught the parade on Lincoln Road, then sauntered over to the beach for my first ocean-water ablutions. No visit to SoBe is completed without a cruise down Ocean, and I must say Kashmir was feeling pretty hip with her sunroof open and Air on the stereo. Stopped by the giant sculpture of a hand on the way out of town, only to discover it was a Holocaust memorial. Spent a haunting hour reliving that nightmare in words, photos, music and art. The tour was free and I was undisturbed by any other visitors, thanks to the kind security guard. Took the scenic route out of town through Surfside, Bal Harbour, Haulover, Sunny Isles and Golden Beach, all the way to Hallandale before hopping on 95. An hour and a half later I was in Port St. Lucie, visiting Denise, catching up, eating protein pancakes and discussing the spirituality of extraterrestrials. We talked so late I ended up crashing in the guest room about two a.m. (after posting the nightly obligatory photos to flickr). Up by seven for a quick goodbye, on the road and into work by 9:30. Full day catching up on emails that arrived during my time in Mexico. Had the incredible honor and distinct pleasure of meeting Sunita Williams at the Expedition 14/15 presentation this afternoon. What a singularly amazing person! She is unbelievably kind, upbeat, fun-loving, intelligent, positive and happy. What a joy to meet someone so deserving of astronaut wings.

George, Suni, and Luke

Finished up a work, drove home to catch up on the scuba class I missed Monday. Managed to digest 90 pages of information in 45 minutes; enough to ace both tests today. Got out of class around 10:30pm, quick bean burrito from the border, and now this. I’m starting to get upset that I simply have no slots in the day in which to fit my gym routine. What a great problem to have, eh?

I relate all this to you in order to contrast the experience of the past five days in Mexico. People, I could write a small book describing what happens to me in that place; suffice it to say I took over one thousand photos. And you wonder why I’m six months behind on flickr. Though I will remind you that I’ve been consistently six months behind over the past year. So at least I’m keeping the pace, if not catching up.

But pay attention, chico! Mexico. Taxco was a dream. There’s no other way to describe it. Imagine waking up one morning and praying for the perfect day, then having your wildest dreams exceeded at every turn. Just wait til you see the photos. It was so idyllic I’m loath to even tell you the name of such a magical place, perched high atop cliffs in lush, pristine mountains. From our meal on the rooftop terrace overlooking the zocalo, to finding a nine-pointed star in the endless silver shops, to wearing one of my fifteen (!) new lucha libre masks through town and creating a scene…well, you just had to be there. Heck, if you want to go, I will take you there. In a heartbeat.

We fit a month into five days. I’m not even beginning to exaggerate. Floating languidly down the canals on a pole boat in Xochimilco. Dancing at one of the hippest clubs I’ve ever seen in Polanco. Racing through the empty, rain-soaked streets of one of the world’s largest cities at the wheel of Lulu’s Liberty at 4am. Quiet dinners and home with my Mexican family. Profound glances. Unspoken truths. Learning more Spanish than most people would in a semester.

Of the hundred epiphanies that were visited upon me during my stay, one stands out: on the last night, as I watched the lights twinkle on the mountains that ring this dream of a city, I realized:  I am a different person here.  Not once had I thought of my home in Florida, or my job, or my mortgage, or my bills, or my obligations. It dawned on me that my personality had changed; I was literally seeing with new eyes. Mexican eyes. What everyone had been telling me was true. “You’re at least half Mexican.” “No wonder you like Mexico, we’re all like you!” “You are my cousin, mi primo.” “You are my brother.” “Te quiero mucho.” “I love you.”

It’s a good thing I came back “home” through Miami. Otherwise I might not have survived the reverse culture shock.

8 comments.