Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Things I think I think...I think.

What has happened to all the smart people?

I fear tonight is the night I lose some followers, and I don't relish that prospect. If I follow you on Twitter, or I'm a friend of yours on Facebook or Google+, it's because I truly respect your thoughts and opinions...and at times, you challenge the way I think. That's a good thing and I appreciate it. Please allow me that same latitude.

There are some things that I see some of you saying that are troubling. Let's take the #Shirtstorm saga, for instance. I'm not going to argue for/against the shirt itself - there's been enough of that already and I don't think I can directly add anything constructive in that space. Rather, I'd like to focus on *how* people responded.

Dr. Matt Taylor - European Space Agency
If you don't know what #Shirtstorm is, here's a brief synopsis: One of the primary scientists of the Rosetta/Philae mission (Dr. Matt Taylor) chose to wear a shirt that had many people scratching their heads, or - in some cases - take to Twitter to complain of misogyny and sexism. This elicited a flurry of rapidly demeaning replies. As is often the norm nowadays, the responses (from both sides) were mean... combative... incendiary... divisive - you name it.

There seems to be a total lack of reasoned discourse in disagreements today, and I don't understand it. Not only that, I think it's dangerous. The effect is that uncomfortable viewpoints are being squelched under the guise of mitigating offense. Moreover, it appeared as if the "preacher was preaching to the choir" in many of the exchanges - people incensed about the shirt were chattering to those of like minds while being dismissive of those that might have a different opinion.

Threats like this are NEVER warranted. Never.
On the "other side", there were childish taunts, vulgar name calling, and more than a fair share of threats. There's no excuse for those people to hide behind the perceived anonymity of the Internet and use that "protection" to abuse and belittle those that have a differing opinion...and, quite honestly, I hope the more dangerous threats (like the one to the left) were passed along to law enforcement for further investigation.

When did our society get to the point where we feel opposing viewpoints are unworthy of consideration, only to be shouted down? We must protect free speech, not bury it under a mountain of hatred and vitriol. And to those that claimed offense: you have no right to be free from offense. I know that you likely disagree, and you want to use the bully pulpit of social media (and other outlets) to kowtow those that hold "offensive" opinions...but they have just as much right to their opinion as you do yours. Bullying people into sharing your viewpoint does not create a convert.

Though fiction, the words are still wise.
Sadly, #Shirtstorm isn't the only instance where truly smart people (and quite a few...uh...less intelligent people) reacted in a knee-jerk manner to the cause-of-the-day. Let's take a look at #Ferguson for a moment. There are the expected reactions from the usual partisans - people calling for the police officer to be charged...or people unequivocally stating the officer's innocence - but it's the conversation coming from "more reasonable" people that really has me confused. These people have already convicted the officer...or the victim...and are not asking for justice to be served; rather, they want their sacrifice, and they want it now...regardless of what the evidence shows.

For instance, there is a particular scientist for whom I have a great deal of respect that has taken a very definite stance on the situation in #Ferguson. Is this person privy to the evidence that was collected? Have they interviewed all those involved in the incident?, they have not. Yet they've already formed a definite opinion and are supporting those that share their view. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't scientists supposed to analyze the data before coming to a conclusion? I'm not saying that it's wrong to hold an opinion...but being intractable in one's views is not what I would expect from such a person.

Common sense, why hast thou deserted us?

Daylight Standard Time

I hate it. I hate it a LOT. Having the sun set at 5:30-ish PM is inhuman. Why do I post this? Because I'm grouchy and it's my blog.

Orion EFT-1

Are you excited? ARE YOU EXCITED?!? I am most definitely excited. December 4th marks the first flight of America's newest space ship: Orion. Sure, it's uncrewed for this flight...and it's being sent aloft on a Delta IV-Heavy rather than SLS...but this is a BIG deal.

This is the next step in humanity's journey to become a multi-planet species. I've been invited to take part in the NASA Social at JPL (you can follow me on Twitter at @Crow_T_Robot), and many others will be doing the same at NASA facilities across the country. Look for the #NASASocial hashtag on Twitter. More info to come on this in the next few days.