A NY Times reporter interviewed me about naming the decade that’s about to end.My suggestion? That the “Noughty Oughts” might signify what a zero-time it was, with America, especially, giving in to every bad habit of self-righteous, dogmatic whining - from both ends of the political spectrum - rather than facing the future with eager, ambitious level-headed, good-natured devotion to our problem-solving heritage.
Note the spelling distinction vs “Naughty Oughts” -- which would at least imply we had some fun being bad. (Of course, using the simpler monicker “Zeroes” to name this decade would imply the same thing.)
And yes, sure, one end of the spectrum was worse than the other, doing us calamitous damage with Culture War. So? Big deal. There’s been plenty of whiny grouchitude from all sides. Look at all the bummer movies from lefty Hollywood, preaching that civilization can’t do anything right. Ever! No, the neocons were merely the worst... not the only... loony curmudgeons in a Nothing Decade when the Baby Boomer generation proved to be a bunch of near useless indignation junkies. Except for the scientists. At least they kept pushing forward, against all odds.
Are better times ahead, with the end of this misbegotten decade? Maybe the Gen Xers - typified by Obama - will be a more cheerfully pragmatic bunch. Less dogmatic. Less obsessed with their own know-it-all rage. Perhaps they will defeat Culture War the only way it can be... by defying their sniveling, grudge-ridden parents and returning us to the spirit of Ben Franklin.
If they do, America may once again be a light into the future, for the world.
Proof that we’ve been crazy troglodytes...
Want to see how previous generations had a much more positive slant on the future? Reported from the SIgma site: There is a site called paleofuture.com that is a joy to visit. It has news clippings, postcards, etc. of how the future was seen at different times, and you can access them by decade. For example: a series of cards that came in boxes of chocolate and which date from 1900s and 1910s (There was a French series and a German one, and it is interesting to compare what scenes each thought interesting. ) But beyond the flying cars and transatlantic dirigibles and the moving sidewalks that they foresaw for the year 2000 or 2010 is the fascinating spectacle that the people wearing the motorized roller skates or stopping their aerodyne at a rooftop restaurant are clearly people of the Edwardian/Ragtime era acting as they have always acted. One of the cards shows a home television -- but naturally it is relaying an opera live performance and naturally the people who are sitting around viewing the image are wearing their opera clothes. "
Humorous? Sure. But compare these visions to the universally dismal projections you see nowadays, like SURROGATES and 2012, or even WALL-E. No wonder science fiction - the most forward looking literature, is in a steep nadir. (In America; it is thriving in places that have lifted their eyes, like China.)
It just goes to show that no previous decade ever hated tomorrow as much as the Oughts did!
Dang, I am looking forward to the Terrific Teens.
Even though there ARE still good ideas....
Did I mention that science does march on? Even during the neocon madness of the Noughty Oughts, the brightest kept forging ahead, revealing insights that our pragmatic kids may yet turn into wonders. So, as I always do, I’ll list some examples:
Are Black Hole Starships Possible? ”A SBH (small Black Hole) capable of driving a starship produces Hawking radiation which ultimately gives rise to gamma rays, neutrinos, antineutrinos, electrons, positrons, protons, and antiprotons . Gamma ray telescopes are already in use and thereby one might think that a careful search through the gamma ray sky could conceivably turn up evidence of an extraterrestrial starship (cf. ). However, gamma rays produced by a SBH in a distant starship might be extremely difficult to detect if the starship is very energy-efficient and has well-collimated exhaust jets. A BH starship using the technology we are proposing would emit gravitational radiation at nuclear frequencies. Current gravitational radiation detection experiments are optimized for much lower frequencies, and would not detect it. We propose building gravity wave detection devices of a different design.”
(Query: Can anyone cite a sci fi novel in which starships use artificially generated black holes to channel the resulting Hawking radiation as thrust? No magical space-warpings, please.)
Sabine Kubesch at the University of Ulm in Germany and her team found that executive function - the ability to focus and avoid distraction improved after 30 minutes of aerobic endurance exercise. "Physical education should be scheduled before important subjects like mathematics and be offered before the first lesson, not at the end of the school day, as is often the case," says Kubesch.
The first global map of the solar system reveals that its edge is nothing like what had been predicted. Neutral atoms, which are the only way to image the fringes of the solar system, are densely packed into a narrow ribbon rather than evenly distributed - a new insight on the interaction between the heliosphere — the vast bubble in which the solar system resides — and surrounding space. Hinting at my story "The Crystal Spheres?"The Voyager 1 craft in 2004and the Voyager 2 craft in 2007 journeyed to opposite sides of this fringe region of the solar system and crossed the termination shock — where the solar wind encounters a shock that precedes the influx of particles drifting into the solar system from interstellar space. Both craft recorded the density of particles and the strength of the magnetic fields. Both Voyager 1 and 2 missed seeing the newly found ribbon because it spans a region between their flight paths.
Spread the word to your female writer friends about Write-em Cowgirls! A helpful site and newsletter by Sharon Cousins.
Terrific riff on Augmented Reality (though you heard most of it here, first! ;-) by Jamais Cascio, in a venue not formerly known for tech friendliness -- The Atlantic.
Ah, but next time some news from the “War on Science...