March 09, 2004

Removing the Giggle Factor

One nice thing about an article like this one is that it helps to incrementally decrease the "giggle factor" associated with discussing such outlandish notions as terraforming and colonizing Mars. For a more serious examination of the giggle factor, see this military article on planetary defense.

I literally remember an event at my high school (in Physics class, no less) in which I saw the giggle factor implemented mercilessly. In sharp contrast to the Thomistic, sophisticated, and rational priests and teachers in the vast majority of my other classes there, this class was taught be a priest whose thoughts seemed to predate Vatican II (heck, his ideas even seemed to predate Galileo!)

One day, our classroom discussion veered away from pure Physics (we were talking about Kepler, I think, and duplicating his experiment of plotting Brahe's data and discovering that Mars' orbit was elliptical) and one of the students asked about the prospects of life on Mars. Not just life that might have evolved there, but our prospects as a species living there.

I'll never forget how that ignorant ass of a priest dismissed him out of hand, essentially stating that G-d had created "Man" for this Earth and that there was no other life in the universe and no place for Man elsewhere in the universe. Of course, most of the other guys in my class were your run-of-the-mill mundanes, and they were seized by a fit of the giggles. He wouldn't hear the end of it for some time.

The poor guy. At the time I hardly knew him (although I knew him all too well, in a sense, as I had almost identical thoughts about Mars, but somehow had the sense not to chum the shark-infested waters of high school with them), but he is now one of my better friends. How ironic that after all this time, what we geeks felt intuitively back then to be possible, to be true, may finally become a reality.

Posted by JohnL at March 9, 2004 11:43 PM
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