Tag: Discovery

Tourists of Our Own Planet


IMG_0725Having now added the Villa Borghese Gardens, Castel Sant’Angelo, and the Pantheon to the list of sights I’ve seen in Rome, I can now reasonably claim as to have visited the main highlights within Italy’s capital city (the sights without await my third visit).

In reality, that means I’ve barely scratched its surface, something my parents — who’ve got months of experience in Rome — proved repeatedly by suggesting we visit what was ostensibly “some random church” that turned out to house a masterwork. Informed Romans could doubtless run circles around them, and people with genuine expertise in the subject could — on a good day — credibly say they “know” the city. But me? I’m just a tourist.

In an age when Google Earth covers the entire globe — and when we spend billions imaging our solar system’s smaller, more distant bodies — it’s easy to think that we’ve already learned most of Earth’s secrets. But as The Economist suggests, it’s likely more true that we’ve just noticed the most obvious, exceptional points on our planet, and that there’s a great deal left to explore — both things we’ve heard about but haven’t truly studied, as well as countless mysteries and discoveries of which we’re completely ignorant:

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Alright, Rico-scientists, I turn this over to you for further explanation and evaluation. From IFL Science:  The latest news regarding the EM Drive, which produces a thrust seemingly from nowhere, comes from Paul March, one of the principal investigators on the EM Drive, and was published on the NASA Spaceflight forum. The post is in reply to an […]

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Remember When Heroes Were … Well, Heroic?


shutterstock_130076768As we get ready to celebrate the centennial of the Great War, there is another event (rightly overshadowed) with a coinciding 100th anniversary: the doomed but heroic adventure of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition. This was one of the last great episodes in the age of adventurous and daring enterprise. The expedition was underwritten and funded by private donors and investors, and it was manned by volunteers recruited partly through classified ads. What an age!

A little over a decade later, perhaps the last great adventurous enterprise occurred with the race for the Orteig Prize, offered to the first person to fly non-stop from North America to Europe. (If you want to read a completely brilliant account of the contest, I’d strongly recommend Atlantic Fever: Lindbergh, His Competitors, and the Race to Cross the Atlantic by Joe Jackson. You won’t be disappointed ). Once again, the efforts were privately underwritten and funded. And the players, who ranged from the mighty and famous to the common and obscure, were visionaries and heroically motivated. The winner became the most famous and easily recognizable person on the planet!

The last great adventure — perhaps eve — was the space race. Nobody who lived at the time can forget the nearly universal awe and admiration for the astronauts. The obvious difference in that case was that it was a government enterprise, the exploratory equivalent of the Manhattan Project. But the players were still heroic. It’s ironic and sad that a recent cover of the Smithsonian’s Air And Space magazine showed Shuttle astronauts, now gray and jowly men striving manfully to hold their guts in until the shutter released.  I sighed.