Weeded out

Interesting news from New Zealand, where a long-term study of the inhabitants of Dunedin has revealed that people who smoke a lot of dope in high school may fail to achieve their full potential as adults, thus finally providing a scientific rationale for the otherwise inexplicable observation that stoners do not rule the world.

Lunar Requiem

Back in 2009 we ran a piece marking the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, which noted wistfully that the vision of widespread space travel promised by the Apollo program had never been realised. We returned to this theme on the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s maiden space flight, by which time our regret had expanded to cover the passing of the whole concept of progress through rational planning.

The news that Neil Armstrong has passed away is another reminder of how much the world has moved on since the days when flying to the moon was the peak of human aspiration. In a few more years an era in which there exist living men who have walked on another celestial body will have passed completely, with no sign that it will ever be repeated, a thought which I find almost unbearably sad.

Of course the Space Race of the 50s and 60s was driven by Cold War tensions, and it’s hard to argue that the threat of global thermonuclear destruction that hung over that period was a price worth paying for the dreams of space exploration. Nevertheless, I think our culture has lost something important since then; the sense that we could go ever onward and upward, replaced by the generally gloomy feeling that our best days as a species are already behind us.

All hope is not lost though; we’re still sending robots to other planets, and the information they send back may inspire another wave of space enthusiasm. I might yet make it to Mars after all…

Free Pussy Riot!

Now here’s a cause we can support without any hesitation. Regular readers will know that here at SLS we tend to think that “insulting Christianity” is the sort of thing that should be rewarded by a medal rather than a jail sentence, but even people who take a dimmer view of such activity would surely agree that two years in a labour camp sounds a bit harsh.

Fallible Heroes

We’ve had an extended summer break this year, which I might post about at some point, but what’s stirred me from silence today is a feeling that I should pass some sort of comment on the Wikileaks/Assange/Ecuador situation.

But what can I say? The whole thing has become a complete mess, a veritable train-wreck of competing left principles that seems to force one to choose between excusing US imperialism or apologising for sexual assault.

It’s a false dichotomy though; it’s perfectly possible to support the fight for free information represented by Wikileaks while at the same time believing that individuals should be prepared to take responsibility for their personal actions.

It’s hard to see much positive in all this, but perhaps when the smoke clears the movement will take on board the lesson that mass collective action is much preferable to personality-focused politics, because nothing undermines a campaign like a figurehead who turns out to be a serious liability.