Astrophysics is not the first subject you think of to put food on somebody’s plate or to somehow improve the situation of the underprivileged in the world.
Cosmic dreams and the innate human desire to explore the frontier are just not as effective at dislodging $100 billion to go to the Moon as a cold war enemy and the mandate of a beloved, assassinated president.
[T]he English astronomer William Herschel… named his new planet after King George III. For years, the planets of the solar system would be identified as Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Georgium Sidus. I don’t know about you, but I find something unsettling about a planet named George, even if he is a king. Apparently, so did everybody else.
A review of history’s ambitious projects… demonstrates that only three drivers have been sufficient to create them: defense… the promise of economic return… and the praise of power….
If, in fact, science and technology win wars, as the history of military conflict suggests, then, instead of taking count of our smart bombs, perhaps we should be taking court of our smart scientists and engineers.
No matter when or where you live, no matter your nationality or age or aesthetic proclivities, no matter your religion or whether you vote Democrat or Republican, if you calculate the value of pi you will get the same answer as everybody else in the universe. Constants such as pi enjoy a level of internationality that human affairs do not, never did, and never will….
[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do.
After the 9/11 attacks, when President George W. Bush, in a speech aimed at distinguishing the U.S. from the Muslim fundamentalists, said,Our God is the God who named the stars.The problem is two-thirds of all the stars that have names, have Arabic names. I don’t think he knew this. This would confound the point that he was making.