The Early Days of a Better Nation

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Sense of wonder

How well I remember sitting up late one night in March 1986 to see the first images of a cometary nucleus from Giotto. The TV screen slowly filled with inch-wide pixels giving an image whose shape and colours resembled a Cubist rendering of a fried egg. 'Well, I reckon little Giotto's had it,' a friend remarked, somewhat prematurely, after the image had stayed the same for what seemed like hours.

Now look at this! (Via, surprisingly.)

The mission has its own website, cleverly titled The Daily Comet.



I was BORN in March '86... Crap. Now I feel like a yungin'

You're younger than my own kids! (One of whom is as old as I was when she was born. Yikes.) Enjoy it while you can.

I think the first time I realised that I wasn't as young as I thought was about twenty years ago. A socialist was telling me about this TV documentary he'd seen on the South African invasion of Angloa, and he was wondering why it wasn't a bigger deal at the time, and I said people may have been giving more attention to the Portuguese Revolution, and he just looked at me blankly.

You must remember the Portuguese Revolution, I said, it started in 1974.

'That was when I was four years old,' he said.

Surprisingly? Ely regularly post science materials. Cosmology/astronomy and evolution. He takes that commitment to 'science seriously. Outside of politics.

Chuckie - fair point. I've seen the evo posts (which aren't surprising, given Mike Ely's background in a party that makes a big deal of fighting Christian fundamentalism, and given evolution's political and human relevance) but must have missed the cosmology/astronomy ones. Most of the socialists I've met (in person or in writing or online) over god-help-me three and a half decades have no interest in science at all, and especially not in space exploration and astronomy.

PS: present-day far-left activists, I mean, not the great Marxists!

I think science is important (for humanity) in its own right, and as its own sphere. And then, for communists today, who have a great deal of serious rethinking and regrouping to do, there is a separate importance: here is a chance to study and debate methodologies that are seriously generating both insights and the ability to change the world. I think that if we revolutionaries and radicals want to seriously influence the direction of events, we need to learn from such spheres and methods. The Marxist politics i have seen (and been part of) is full of self-delusion, pseudo-scientific bullshit, and lack of impact.

When I left the RCP (a few years ago) the first thing I did was study Darwin -- and asked myself, how does someone really reach a world-splitting new idea? On what basis, through what process? How do they confirm it?

Politics is (of course) not natural science -- the methods are not crudely transferable. But if we are going to move political activism away from "unintended consequences" we have to dip our minds into those spheres where there is a great deal less posturing and a core project that is singlemindedly grappling with reality.

So my interest in (and promotion of) of science on Kasama is not simply a narrow political one (i.e. "evolution undermines the religious right"), I think science matters in its own right AND we communists need to be a bit humble and learning methodologically from others.

Cheers to all,
Mike E

while we are talking:

The kasama project is looking for someone to help us kick the discussion of science to a new level.

That would involve (basically) feeding the site one significant scientific post (or two) a week...

substantive pieces that help raise provocative points about recent new scientific discovery, methodology or about the direction of human technology (and its social impact).

My own interest has always been human evolution -- but that need not remain the only focus.

Anyone want to slip us a link a couple times a week -- to raise the sights of our little community of revolutionaries. (We get about 4000 page views a day, and about a million a year... so your work will be reaching a number of hard-core rads, a third of them international).

Anyone interested?

Mike - I think the problem isn't so much at the level of method as at the level of institutions. Science as a social practice has lots of self-correcting and critical mechanisms built-in. So despite mistakes and frauds and entrenched positions and so on we do see cumulative progress. It's hard to see how to combine these with the requirements of effective politics even in the best of cases. When you add personality cults, revolutionary terror and 'discipline of an almost military type', well ...

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On the topic of orbital bodies and astronomical phenomena... I met a guy at a fun run yesterday who's created one of the most beautiful time sinks I've ever encountered, Universe Sandbox. I figure there's a good chance that you've already discovered it and spent far too much time playing with it... but if not, check it out. I had a great time screwing up the moon's orbit by altering Earth's mass.

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