On Curiosity

I lead perhaps too much of my life online. Granted, it’s fun, but it leads to a very bitter outlook towards humanity. You only have to go to the comments section of an article to see what I’m talking about. In fact, Zach Weiner made a funny about just that.

One thing I’ve seen that’s really surprised me, though, is backlash against the segment of people who are excited about the Mars rover, Curiosity. (I count myself among that population. If I didn’t need an inordinate amount of sleep in order to function past breathing, then I would have stayed up to watch the NASA feed.)

The backlash comes in two forms:

  1. The people who mock excitement. You can see this a lot in r/circlejerk with posts like “WE DID IT, REDDIT! WE LANDED ON MARS!” Now, yeah, I’m missing the point here because r/circlejerk is the embodiment of taking the piss out of reddit. It’s not necessarily meant in all honesty, just more a reaction birthed from seeing eighty posts about the same topic all on the front page – or close to being on the front page. But, still, you see this sort of attitude a lot more than you should. I’ll get to why later.
  2. “We’ve been on Mars before!” These are the pedants. They’re scum. Bottom-feeders who get joy out of seeing others being taken down on technicalities. Occasionally, I’m a pedant. I try to feel really bad afterwards, though.

So, the thing that gets me about anti-excitement is that it’s really close to the sort of dead-minded bullying you see in high school. That kid’s excited about something? Tell him he’s wrong to be excited about it!

Whether that thing is how much of a nerd Andrew Garfield is, or the fact that we landed a VW Beetle-sized robot from a jet-propelled crane onto an alien world, or the recent news out of CERN that a particle very, very similar to what the Higgs boson was projected to be has been most likely found, the anti-excitement brigade’s all the same. Their jackboots crush dreams wherever they go and attempt to replace it with NFL news and reality TV.

(Was that hypocritical? You bet your ass it was.)

As relates to Curiosity, I really don’t get it. I mean, come on! Who among us has not watched Star Wars or Star Trek – or played Mass Effect – and not thought to themselves, “I gotta get to space!” (This is generally followed by “and bone some space chicks!”)

Yeah, we’re not the ones building the rover. We’re not analyzing the data. We’re not praying that this thing lands safely so that we can continue to have a budget.

But what we are is enthusiastic about something that may advance the human condition. Here. Read this. It’s that thirst for knowledge, and the hopes that advancements in science will lead to shit like super-space-cell-phones or whatever’s next on the horizon, that’s what gets us all in a tizzy.

To shit on that is to not only shit on the people who are enthusiastic about it, but to demonstrate a willingness to not learn things. It’s a problem that’s rampant in Western society right now. The reasons for it are complex, and can’t easily be boiled down to “TV!” or “VIDEO GAMES!” or “TWILIGHT!” (though I really want it to be the latter), but the problem’s there. A culture in stagnation is a dead one, and cultures are only made up of individuals. If those individuals stop caring about excitement in science, art, or philosophy, then humans are as bad off as ants.

And now for the pedants. My argument against them is largely the same as the above. Yes, we’ve been there before, but we’re there again! Exploration isn’t dead yet! How is that not something to tout?

You do have to wonder, though, why the pedants don’t think it’s odd that NASA is making such a big deal about this. First, I’ll have you read this blog by the Smithsonian Magazine.

Now for the easy thing: This rover isn’t just putting around taking pictures of the ground, it’s analyzing the soil, trying to figure out whether or not Mars was at one point habitable. If it was, I’d think, then you could probably assume that – and this is pure, sci-fi-germinated enthusiasm – TERRAFORMING! COLONIES! SPACE CHICKS TO BONE!

And, if all of that doesn’t grab you, if you’re still a bitter soul or a pedant, then just look at this tweet from Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson: “Dear @MarsCuriosity, What are your instructions if a Martian crawls onto your back and rides you like a Rodeo Bull?” I mean, come on, you have to be in favor of jokes.

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