Does Reality Matter? #reality #science #politics #dnc #rnc #reason

Hartwig HKD

Hartwig HKD

I usually stay away from politics on this blog, but America’s two major political parties have their conventions in July so it’s hard to resist. The Republicans are done and the Democrats are about to begin. Conventions are an opportunity to revel in the echo chamber, to be surrounded by those who agree with you.

And to ignore facts in favor of politics.

I was reminded of that by a piece in Live Science. This article fact-checks truthiness in the Republican platform but I don’t doubt you’ll find similar fabrications when the Democrats issue their platform. It seems that anyone zealously bound to a position is immune to information. Each extreme dismisses different facts, but they both do it.

Even a depressing reality is better than a fantasy however pleasant, because reality wins in the end. I try to read multiple opinions and fact-checks, and to be ready to change my mind. It takes conscious effort.

Once a human being embraces a position, proofs and facts are abandoned, and showing a person contradictory facts just makes them more angry and more determined to dig in deeper.

That’s because we are each grounded in moral foundations deeply important to our vision of who we are – more important than any fact.

Friendly relations, commonality, and trust make it easier for people to listen to each other. More important than presenting facts is establishing bonds with people before you try to convince them. Try it. You might both see the issue in a new light.

I read a book with insight to this aspect of human behavior and reviewed it here for a friend’s blog. I also posted a piece on how to talk with people who disagree with you: Don’t be a jerk.

Keep in mind what Carl Sagan said:

In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.

This is why science inspires me and also why I’m optimistic about the future. Let your open heart lead to an open mind and we can build a better world.

Buzz Aldrin Pushes Space Exploration with Scifi #Mars #sciencefiction #review #bookreview

encounter with tiberBuzz Aldrin’s in the news again*, opening a new institute at Florida Tech to promote the settlement of Mars through research. I posted on his science fiction novel aimed at inspiring space travel once before. I thought it would be fun to look at it again.

Encounter with Tiber is a hard science fiction story for fans of space travel and colonization. It’s a long book with two related stories framed by a future historian’s voyage to the planet Tiber. The book loves technology and will interrupt the action to indulge, so you must concentrate on your reading – maybe it’s not the best beach book.

The First Story
One story starts with an alternative history of the end of the shuttle program and continues into the very near future with explorations of the Moon and Mars. Thick with detailed descriptions of technology, it includes Aldrin’s real-life proposals, like the Mars to Earth cycler spacecraft.

The Second Story
Another story tells of very-human aliens who came to Earth in the past, seeking a new home for their doomed race. Also full of scientific details, you’ll get a feel for what it’s like in space.

Space Politics
The politics of space appear in both stories – and “political pressure leads to poor decisions and tragedy.” Since Aldrin was a NASA astronaut (yes, he is that Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon), it makes me wonder what real-life events led him here. It’s not very encouraging for anyone who wants to land people on Mars. But politics exist in private companies too, so it’s not a problem unique to NASA.

Is This Book For You?
If you are not a hard science fiction/space fiction fan, you’ll find this book tedious. If you love the details a space insider can provide, you’ll be fascinated

*Note July 2018: Buzz Aldrin’s been in the news more recently becase of legal battles with his children over control of his properties. I feel sad for them all.

Climate Change: a Social Phenomenon #ClimateChange #environment

climate change blue marbleI often discuss climate change with RF_alum, a long-time friend. I guest-post on his blog as “Ponderer”. We worked together in technical fields at the Rocky Flats Plant, a nuclear weapons facility that has since been decommissioned. We worked on weapons and in the environmental clean up.   We both encountered our share of people pushing political agendas by misrepresenting science.

While we have much in common, we also have disagreements. I’m a “warming alarmist” and RF_alum is a “denier”. We both dislike these terms (they present caricatures) but since they are used in popular discussions, I’ll repeat them here – ironically.

I’m frustrated by the global warming/climate change debate. There seem to be disagreements on so many levels that it is hard to evaluate what I hear. I think there are two separate-but-related sets of arguments.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution

Today I want to discuss the argument that does not get enough explicit coverage: the social argument. I’ll cover

science in a future post.

For many people, climate change is the latest battle in a long-standing war over Environmentalism. Environmentalists

seek to protect natural resources and ecosystems through the political process by lobbying, activism, and education. The movement started early in the Industrial Revolution. We tend to forget how severe environmental impacts once were and take for granted the improvements between 1850 and 1950. Continue reading