1 July 2005

Clever monkeys are we

Sometimes I cannot friggin believe how clever we are. We've created a spacecraft that has travelled 268-million-miles. On Monday (1:52 a.m. EDT), if all goes right, it will send out an 820-pound copper "impactor," which will dive 500,000-miles toward the sunlit side of a comet. As the comet races toward the impactor at 23,000 mph, the camera-equipped probe will shoot pictures prior to impact. The collision will then blast a crater in the comet and hurl the pristine subsurface material out from the pit. A 1,300-pound flyby spacecraft, carrying two cameras and an infrared spectrometer, will then approach the comet, flying 310 miles beneath it, to get images of the aftermath. This is all so clever and high-tech that I can sympathize with people who claim these missions are an intricate hoax.

If we're able to chase a comet, lob a chunk of metal at it, and then get a couple day's bike ride away from it, you'd think we'd be able to do just about anything. We should be able to cure hunger, vanquish war, create sustainable communities, and people the cosmos. But we've got a pretty hopeless track-record thus far when it comes to creating a truly "advanced" society. Why is this? Does our failure show a lack of willingness to make the necessary investments in social health? Or can we blame it on our genes? Perhaps we humans beings have been able to develop curiosity but lack the genetic wisdom necessary to live together in large communities. What do you think?

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