Jul 15, 2015

Pluto flyby: what does it really matter

Yesterday for the first time in history a space probe encountered Pluto and its moons at the outer reaches of the Solar System. It is an incredible scientific accomplishment, but what does it matter, really? What does it really mean? It has made me reflect a bit...

Consider this, the total cost of the New Horizons mission to Pluto was 700 million USD. Just a few months ago I read that obesity costs the UK government 47 billion GBP (~75 billion USD) per year. This means that if people lived a healthier life we could explore the Solar System many times over.

Now, the world’s expenditure in war and military just in 2012 was 1.7 trillion USD.

Imagine if there were no wars among nations, no inner conflicts. Imagine if there was no need to spend in military and this money could be invested in research and development. The things we could have accomplished already. Only one country has sent space probes to all the planets, but there are 196 countries in the world. We could have right now hundreds of satellites orbiting all the planets, rovers in the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, even perhaps a research institute permanently based in the moon. We could have surely eliminated poverty, reverted climate change, transitioned completely into clean energies, eradicated terminal diseases, expanded the life expectancy and well-being of people beyond the century.

Sending a space probe to Pluto is certainly an amazing accomplishment… but just for those scientist and engineers involved in that mission. I think humanity as a whole cannot take credit for this. Not yet.

Pluto New Horizons Nasa
Pluto by New Horizons

May 16, 2015

Overapologetic Britain

According to Debretts: "For many British people, apologizing is a default reaction to life's little irritants. If someone barges into you, treads on your toes or spills your drink, it is considered quite normal for the victim to mutter 'sorry'. This is clearly illogical, but for many British people it is an ingrained response."

Before moving to the UK I didn't know that it was a thing for British people to apologize about everything, even if you're actually the "victim".

The funny thing is that I'm not British and I do exactly the same thing. I don't think I started doing it since I arrived to Britain, I think it's my natural reaction. So it got me thinking… and I've come to the conclusion that although apologizing in many situations might seem illogical, it serves a very important purpose. In this case "sorry" doesn't mean that you're sorry; but, by exchanging "sorry" both the offending person and the victim in this little social inconvenience (e.g. bumping into each other in the tube) come to an immediate understanding that it was accidental and that no aggression or disrespect was meant: all in a split second. It's a way to maintain peace, and to avoid unnecessary conflict.

So, to me, it kind of makes sense and it's a good thing.

Camden town street art
Camden High Street, NW1