Tuesday, 7 August 2012

"On page 24,"

I tell him.
        "Page 24?"
The Senior Cat missed the news segment about the landing of the Curiosity on Mars. He was trying to catch up by reading about it in the paper this morning.
I knew he would want to know so I searched for it before he was up - and eventually found a small piece at the end of the international news section of the paper. Obviously our local people did not think it was important.
It was important. It was important for any number of reasons but the front page today has a picture of a man on a small yacht. He apparently won a gold medal at the Olympics. Fine. People do want to know about that right now. I will allow that is probably front page news.
The rest of the front page however is taken up with some controversy about a football team, a coach leaving, a former Treasurer of the state wanting to be involved and... well I gave up reading because it simply was not important. It bored me. It does not matter.
I am no scientist. Science was not something I found particularly interesting or exciting at school. Much of that would have been to do with the fact that it was very badly taught. I was never allowed anywhere near actually doing any of the experiments - which might have been fun - and the curriculum was scarcely challenging. (I managed to pass with a minimum of effort.)
But, I do think science is important. I am aware of the enormous challenge that the Curiosity project presented - all the maths, physics, engineering, design, logic and planning that went into it were well beyond my abilities. I know someone who was peripherally involved. He works at the Deep Space Communication Centre in Canberra, the "ears" of the Curiosity project. I have no idea what it is he actually does. He is an astro-physicist and I have only a vague idea what that means. I understand basic mathematics. I managed to do statistics at university simply because I had to produce some. I have little faith in them with respect to the social sciences because they are so easy to manipulate. In other areas of science they have a different value and different application - or so the astro-physicist explained. All that is beyond my abilities too. The retired Reader in Mathematics around the corner despairs of my lack of interest in her passion for numbers - and I in her lack of passion for words.
But there is one part of the Curiosity project which is not beyond my abilities - or the ability of anyone else either. The project really began thousands of years ago with people staring at the stars and wondering "what?" and "what if?" and then "how?" They imagined doing it. We have to be able to imagine things in order to turn them into reality.
That really should be front page news.

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