Dr. Squidthumb aka Science, Because We Can
Greg Gage of the DIY neuroscience company Backyard Brains stimulated the axons of a squid with the electrical signals coming out of a headphone jack plugged into an iPhone playing a Cypress Hill song. He videotaped the Squid’s pigmented cells called chromatophores, which changed with the music.
Today, Planetary Resources Inc. announced their intent to explore and eventually mine near Earth asteroids. The cumulative reaction to their plan surprised me. Sure there was indifference, we all are keenly aware to the callouses America has built up against the fantastic, but in tandem to the apathy was a chorus of cynical guffaws. Wether it was a form of knee jerk corporate backlash, left over Avatar hate for James Cameron (one of Planetary’s main backers), or perhaps it is the fact that fiction has won out over reality. To many the task of mining an asteroid, a feat never accomplished by our species, appears mundane. We demand manned missions to Mars, laser guns, and hyperdrives, we already have those things right? No? Well can you at least give us an affable talking robot? The truth is that Planetary Resources (PRI) is taking an immense economic risk, billions of dollars are on the line, and yet, it is a risk that could prove to be the most lucrative investment of all time.
PRI outlined a plan to launch several satellites designed to scout out asteroids with the most economic value. Once discovered, an entire platform of probes, launch vehicles, and mining equipment will have to be developed. Here is where the logic breaks down for those of us in the present, the logistics of scouting, wrangling, and mining asteroids so that Bruce Willis can fill his space pick up truck with platinum and schlep the whole shiny pile back to Earth does not make economic sense. The rare earth metals harbored inside near earth asteroids will never actually touch Earth. The next step in manned space exploration will require much larger vessels, ships whose bulk would be near impossible to launch from the Earth’s surface. Metals on these asteroids will form the next generation of space worthy vessels to be built in orbiting dry docks. However the metals are really just a bonus, the chocolate coating to the creme filled center of our asteroid neighbors. The real value is the water within. Water is a clever fluid, it can hydrate space farers, provide breathable oxygen, and create viable rocket fuel. The key here is that once these resources become abundant in orbit and the price tag of launching the bulk of water, fuel, and rocket fades the enterprise of space will rise. Think of NASA’s missions and PRI’s early probes as a modern day Lewis and Clark. Their exploratory efforts eventually gave way to an intercontinental railroad and finally an interstate highway system. The government and industry cleared a path to the West and we flooded the frontier. Immense difficulty awaits this endeavor, but the tasks are feasible. The risk PRI has taken is not one of scientific possibility, the risk lies with us. Will we as a species dare to use the infrastructure they aim to create? Or instead will we turn our heads away from the heavens and leave the cosmos as a deserted highway with filling stations whose flickering neon signs read PRI. I am with Planetary Resources on this one. I bet on the future, and they are betting everything they have on tomorrow. It’s a good bet though, even if they lose everything, they will have succeeded in capturing our imaginations once more, and urging us to rush to the edge of what is possible.
ADAPTED FROM THE GRAPHIC NOVEL DR. SLEEPLESS
It’s 1992. Richey Manic is carving something into his arm because Steve Lameacq has suggested that The Manic Street Preachers lack an essential authenticity. What’s echoing in the backstage room is the voice of Ian Brown, still saying “Cos it’s 1989.Time to to get real.” In 1999 Godspeed You! Black Emperor start releasing CD’s sleeved in untreated cardboard. Intended or not, it denotes authenticity. Keeping it real. Like brown paper bags from Muji, founded 1980: Full name Mujirushi Ryohin, which means “No Brand, Quality Goods.”
Godspeed You! Black Emperor didn’t play the media game. Half of them were anarchists, and all of them hated the music industry. But of course they had a brand. You can’t help but notice that Naomi’s Klein’s book “No Logo” had a fucking logo on the front. Godspeed’s brand was authenticity. That’s what they had to sell. And if they didn’t sell records and gig tickets, then they were just 12 guys in Montreal eating ramen until they died. Richey Edwards couldn’t be Richey Manic, THAT RICHEY, unless he sold you on the concept that he was 4 real. I an Brown and the Stone Roses couldn’t be that band, the band of the moment with the authentic voice that turned out to be the band in the right place at the right time and raised everyone up - unless they were more real than you.
Around the turn of the century Justin Timberlake began to carry around with him a group of black vocalists, whose job it apparently was, in live performances, to declare how “real” Justin Timberlake was before he began to sing. In 1938, sharp-dressed bluesman Big Bill Broonzy who’d been tearing up Chicago, played New York for the first time. But a blues guitarist in a good suit brewing up the primal muck of rock n’ roll with drummers and bassmen didn’t seem authentic enough to the Carnegie. So the concert programme described him as a poverty-stricken farmer who “had been prevailed upon to leave his mule and make his very first trek to the big city.” And they had him do acoustic guitar blues on his own. From there to his death twenty years later, he booked pretty much nothing but solo acoustic gigs. Because fake Big Bill Broonzy was deemed the authentic version.
No matter that he pioneered electric instruments in the blues, and was also recording with people like Pete Seeger, who wanted to take an axe to the cables when Dylan went electric in 1965. He changed his story in later years, but he was clearly offended by Dylan’s sudden inauthenticity, that maybe he’d been championing a fake all along. Because no one ever knew, or every one pretended to not know, that Bob Dylan was a fictional person. His authenticity was entirely constructed. Bob Dylan and Superman are the two greatest American myths created in the last century.
Who the hell wants to be real?
In 2006, Bob Dylan’s playing ” The Levee’s Gonna Break” Except the song’s called ” When the Levee Breaks” and it’s by Minnie Memphis. And she’s playing it in 1929, a few years before she moves to Chicago to tear up the town with Bill Broonzy. Who’s Memphis Minnie? One of the other great electric blues pioneers. And her name is actually Lizzie Douglas. An she’s not from Memphis either.
Authenticity? Authenticity is bullshit. Never more so than today. We can be anyone we can imagine being. WE can be someone new every day. You know why we never got any respect in this town? See if any of these sound familiar: You should be happy with who you are. Be yourself. That stuff is just fake. Don’t get any ideas out of your station. Take that shit off. Dress Properly. Why can’t you be like everyone else.
We are not real enough . We are not authentic to our society. Dut you know what? Back in the days before the internet, a kid called Robert Zimmerman said, “Fuck that, I’m going to be the man I dream of being. I’m going to be someone completely new and write about the end of the world because it’s the only thing worth talking about.” And that was one guy in Minnesota, in the same decade the telecommunications satellite was invented. Imagine what all of us, living here in the future, can achieve.
Be authentic to your dream, be authentic to you own ideas about yourself. Grind away at your own minds and bodies and become your own invention. BE MAD SCIENTISTS. Here at the end of the world, it’s the only thing worth doing.
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