A Note on Curiosity

I wrote this piece a few months ago, the week the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars. Allowing for the premier hype to die down, posting this now may be a good time to remind people of the tremendous feat this is. Enjoy.

 

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known” – Carl Sagan

There are many topics to be currently concerned with in world news, however, one easily swept up in the tide is taking place on quite a different world.

On August 6, 2012, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, touched down on the surface of Mars (the landing itself is a spectacle to be marveled, involving a rocket powered sky crane and can be viewed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiEoGUHEobo). As a culture we have become desensitized to these events so allow me to break it down for you: we sent a nuclear powered chemistry lab on wheels to carry out experiments on Mars for the first time in the history of the solar system. We have not figured out efficient means to bring Mars rocks back to Earth to be examined like we did with the moon. So we sent a monstrosity of technology there to do the science and beam back the data.

Do not allow yourself to be underwhelmed by this information. In a time when the news partitions its time between who got killed where and which politiciquin (politician + mannequin) has uttered the most out of touch nonsense, we are reminded that humanity is beautiful. We are reminded that we still have our heads tilted skyward, infinitely curious about the infinite. Is this a 2 billion dollar waste of money for an RC car on Mars? Hardly, this is a 2 billion dollar dive into the expanse of awesomeness we so often forget pervades us in all directions.

Today be proud to be human. Curiosity reminds us we are still awe inspiring creatures, capable of achieving the outer limits of our collective imagination.

Be proud to be curious. This is not simply science in space, Curiosity is art. It is the essence of the human spirit to explore, discover, learn. 

Be speechless, be humbled, be inspired. 
Be curious.

Update:

Since writing this Curiosity has helped confirm that water did in fact once flow on the Martian surface. The Costco like variety of scientific instruments on board has helped paint a picture of the composition of the Martian atmosphere and the rover’s surrounding geology. The machine has been drilling into Martian rock, giving scientists information for the first time on what lies below the surface of our favorite solar neighbor (actually my favorite may be Saturn, just because it looks pretty). 

Curiosity’s mission is slated to last only two years but may go beyond depending on how much energy it uses up in that time. However, the data being sent back to our blue planet will be mined for decades, possibly even centuries to come. Scientists are particularly adept at piecing together master jigsaw puzzles from a few shredded pieces of the whole. From the data Curiosity is supplying us we will learn more about the red planet than we ever could observing it through telescopes.

Pretty cool, huh?

Advertisements

Recycling: Is it Working? Yes!

If you haven’t realized, that bottle you just drank out of is almost definitely made from recycled plastic. Actually most of it is probably recycled material. Same for your newspaper and even the wine glass you used last night. And you know what, because of that less trees had to be cut down and less fossil fuels were burned to produce them all.

Recycling is one of the most direct and easiest ways to have a personal effect on global climate change by directly modifying your carbon impact. Deciding to recycle is two fold in its positive effects. One you are contributing to a cheaper and less environmentally taxing fuel for new materials (already-been-used-materials!) and two it keeps that resource out of a burdensome landfill.

The reality is in America more people are recycling than ever before and more material is being recycled than ever before. In 2010 more than two thirds of all paper was recycled and now 87% of Americans have access to curbside or drop-off recycling programs. Recycling is growing.
Some people find it hard to conceptualize why it matters to make the effort to recycle, but all it takes is some attention to what is right in front of them. Everything from the baby blue kiddie pool to steel metal containers are made from an increasing amount of recycled input. The cost is less financially and in terms of global climate change. Literally every piece of recycled material is saving some amount of natural resources. Less petroleum is burned, ecosystems destroyed, and pollutants released when you recycle.

So are you an adamant recycler? Do you wait until you can find a recycling bin for your water bottle or do you throw it in the trash with everything else? Do you recycle everything you know you can in your own home? Changing what we do in these critical moments, and I do mean critical, changes our world. It is purposefully choosing a sustainable option even though it may be a shade of inconvenient.

What’s my point? It is easy to be an adamant recycler. You most likely have the means to recycle and if you are looking for an easy way to go greener, this is it. Global climate destabilization is not an impossible colossus. Hell, we are only in this predicament because of human actions and we should feel empowered to act to mitigate some of its harmful impacts.

Recycle adamantly. It all counts.