Back When We Loved Discovery
As anyone who reads and follows my blog posts will know, I’m a believer in innovation. It’s what drives my passion for the Internet of Things. That interest started when I was an “Apollo” kid during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Those decades offered a very different landscape for creativity, exploration and discovery!
There was a time back in the 1960’s and 70’s when the United States and much of the world had a passion for discovery. President Kennedy’s famous challenge to put a man (person today) on the moon and get him back safely by the decades end (1960’s) ignited the fires for innovation and discovery like never before! From our rudimentary knowledge about space that existed on the day Kennedy uttered those words to taking that “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 9, 1969, scientists, engineers, mathematicians, visionaries, artists, physicists, hardware engineers, construction teams, welders, architects and so many more people came together to…..create!!
But We Lost Our Way
Unfortunately, after the Apollo program was scrapped, we lost a lot of that passion for challenging ourselves and seeking out the new and unknown. We also lost a uniting purpose that brought people together from around the world.
When Neil Armstrong made that first footprint in the lunar dust, it did not matter who you were, what you worshipped, how your hair looked or the color of your skin. Everyone, everywhere was as one praying, cheering and nail biting every second as Armstrong’s foot inched towards lunar touchdown! The greatest surge of human electricity in our history occurred on that day. We have not experienced such a moment since!
They Had Nothing Better To Do?
In 2006, the actions of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgrading Pluto from “planet” to “dwarf planet” exemplified the complete lack of passion for discovery that now existed. Made up of “a collection of professional astronomers, at the PhD level and beyond” this odd group decided that the planet we all grew up with as the lonely monitor of our outer solar system had failed to clear it’s neighborhood of other objects so could no longer be called a planet.
So this group of egotistical “PhD’s and beyond” decided to inform us all that our childhood’s were based on a lie! Somehow a timeout was not enough punishment for Pluto’s failure to clean up its neighborhood. Imagine what that group would have done to you if they had seen your bedroom!!!
For me, I never accepted these Buzz Lightyear wannabes pronouncement. Hence I proudly refer to Pluto as a planet. Hopefully all of you will agree with me. If not, feel free to “un-friend” me on LinkedIn.
Science Is Amazing!
Depending upon the Earth’s position, Pluto is an astounding 2.66 – 4.67 billion miles away from us. On average, Pluto is 3.67 billion miles from the sun. Considering a flight from New York to LA is about 3000 miles, Pluto’s really, really, really far away. Consider this another way: Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. So the limited amount of sunlight that bathes the distant planet is over 5 hours old when it arrives. In other words, it takes sunlight over 5 hours to travel those 3.67 billion miles!
July of 2015 (46 years since Armstrong’s famous step!) was a truly amazing month. The New Horizons spacecraft, after speeding through our solar system for 9 ½ years at the astounding speed of 36,373 mph finally pulled up alongside our distant cousin Pluto. Getting as close as 7500 miles (less than a speck of dust in lunar distance), New Horizons began taking what would become the most amazing photographs of any planet taken since those first photos of the Apollo 11 Astronauts on the moon in 1969.
Incredible pictures started appearing at NASA and shared around the world. The buzz and analysis that followed threw into question many of the assumptions that had been made about Pluto and the very origin of our solar system. That’s called discovery and it was based on innovation! And that innovation began with Kennedy’s promise, setting us on a path that put the New Horizon’s craft at Pluto 46 years after lunar touchdown. After the New Horizons spacecraft beamed back those amazing close up photos of the blue planet the “esteemed” group at the IAU should have said “sorry” we were wrong…Pluto really is a planet. But they did not!
Although we became a bit sidetracked over the past 40 years, and groups like the IAU wasted their time on opinions rather than science, the lure of discovery is a powerful thing. The recent announcement by Yuri Milner is one great example that discovery is still alive and well…just a bit hidden at times.
36,373 miles per hour and 9 ½ years! How about leveraging some new innovative thinking and changing those two numbers to 100 million miles per hours and 2 days! That’s Yuri Milner’s plan and he’s backing it up with an initial investment of $ 100 million to help send miniature probes into deep space to help bring back to all of us that world bonding feeling of discovery and exploration!
The Future Looks Bright
Back on that day in July 1969 when Neil Armstrong made the giant step, people literally took Polaroid photographs of their TV screens to capture the moment. Those blurry small instant black and white photo’s (An original one is this blog post’s photo) became the symbol of how gripped the nation; the world was to the sense of discovery represented by that great achievement.
Now we have Yuri Milner putting forth a new commandment that we will find a way to develop and send probes into deep space at incredible speeds over the next few decades to discover what lies “beyond”. And he is doing it at the very time that our entire technology world is going through a massive evolution with the convergence of technologies into the Internet of Things. He could not have chosen a more perfect time!
So what will happen 20 or 30 years from now when the first photographs of a sun or planet from a star system outside of our own is received for the first time? Will we all be gathered around an OLED holographic TV or wrist projected iPAD in a world unifying moment of discovery and excitement as occurred with Neil Armstrong’s famous step?
There were far fewer distractions in 1969 and even fewer ways to communicate. By 2040 or 2050 the proliferation of technologies will lead to an exponentially greater number of things to distract us than we even have today. So it won’t be easy for everyone to be pulled together by one singular event. BUT while distractions will be a challenge, the human drive to connect and be apart of something larger will always be there. Nothing brings us together more than human exploration and discovery.
So 20 or 30 years from now we will be glued to our devices. Nail biting, cheering, crying and ready to snap those “Polaroids” on that day when Milner’s bots “phone home” for the first time. Another giant step indeed!!