Water, Oxygen, and NaNoWriMo

This morning’s news feeds featured three stories with a future impact on the search for extraterrestrial life in our solar system and the eventual colonization of our solar system.

National Geographic.co.uk features an article with the title: “Mysterious oxygen spike seen on Mars puzzles scientists“. Nature.com has the news article “A whole new world: astronomers draw first global map of Titan“. And, Space,com features “The Weird Plumes of Jupiter’s Moon Europa Are Spewing Water Vapor” on its newsfeed.

If you’ve followed along with various bits of stories that have appeared in this blog, you know that, like many other scifi writers, I believe either out of necessity or curiosity, humanity will one day be a species existing on other space objects. The common thread in these three stories is the presence of oxygen or surface liquids in places that are not Earth. The implications of this are potentially huge.

We may be one step closer to finding life or being the life on these other solar system neighbors.

I’m still slowly making progress towards my NaNoWriMo goal of 50k words. I am currently at 4723 words. On a plus note, I’ve gotten two in-story groups to where they need to go for future story events.

NaNoWriMo Update and Von Braun Wheel Hotel

My NaNoWriMo project is still behind, but as of this moment, I have committed 2171 words. I should probably stop revising and rewriting as I go to up the number count.

If you’ve followed and read posts here for any amount of time, you know that the Von Braun is a reoccurring theme in my writing and artwork. I personally think moving this from concept to reality is the key to exo-Earth-orbit space travel.

So, imagine my joy and surprise to find this article in my news feed this morning. Titled “Yes, the ‘Von Braun’ Space Hotel Idea Is Wild. But Could We Build It by 2025?” over on Space.com, the article discusses a company working on developing a hotel in Earth orbit using the von Braun wheel for its design.

Image stolen from the Space.com article.

Behind the Curve

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I will avoid spoilers here and request that any comments remain spoiler free as well.
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After seeing several scientists I trust recommend the documentary Behind the Curve, I finally sat down to watch it. BtC is a documentary that covers the new flat earth movement and is currently showing on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming services.

BtC doesn’t just show the flat earthers and their arguments, it also offers astronauts, psychologists, physicists, and other scientists, science communicators, and science educators explaining why the flat earth theories are wrong, but also uses these experts to explain why flat earthers believe what they believe.

Additionally, BtC also shows the inner struggles and distrust that exists within the flat earth movement. In doing so, it demonstrates and highlights the internal problems within conspiracy movements. One irony within the film is when one of the flat earthers, who’s accused of being a government plant within the movement, complains that no one will believe her when she tries to offer proof that she’s telling the truth about herself.

If you really want to see idiots sciencing, Behind the Curve is a documentary for you.

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Note:
I again request that any comments remain spoiler free.
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Consensus =/= Proof

In a previous post, I mentioned that on bad mental health days I take advantage of Ancient Aliens as background nose due to the lack of critical thinking skills it requires to watch. Yesterday, because of some weather that moved through the local St Louis area, I had one of those days, albeit on a smaller level.

Yesterday’s viewing of Ancient Aliens episodes provided me with a topic idea for today. Every episode begins with a tagline that says, “Millions of people around the world believe we have been visited in the past by extraterrestrial beings. What if it were true?”

The suggestion from the folks behind the show is, of course, the idea that because a lot of people believe it, it must be true. However, as anyone who paid attention in history and science knows, only a few thousand years ago people believed the Earth was the center of the solar system, believed the Earth was flat, and believed humans were incapable of achieving flight.

While, sadly, I do have to acknowledge there are those who still believe all of those things, most accept that scientific evidence has proven the Earth revolves around the Sun, the Earth is a globe, and airplanes and helicopters fly over our heads daily.

Another tagline used in every episode of Ancient Aliens features some variation of a phrase that says, “ancient astronaut theorists believe”. I’ve always considered this to be an acknowledgement that the “theorists” were selective in their acceptance and rejection of “demonstrated” evidence with how well it fits the existing “theory”. This is versus adjusting theories to reflect new evidence that may not work with existing theories, which is how actual scientists do research.

As the great American philosopher, George Carlin, stated, “never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

Clipart stolen from Clipartmax.

Origins of Storytelling

As mentioned in a previous blog post, Literary Darwinism was a literary theory that I encountered in my graduate English classes. Because my master’s focus was composition, most of my time was split between literature and composition and rhetoric classes. If you’re looking for an interesting approach to English classes, I highly recommend the route I took since, aside from the handful of required C&R classes, I had a lot of freedom with course selections. I mention my education background because, to the dismay of one of my C&R instructors, I found a lot of connections between many of the texts and discussions in the C&R classes and the literary darwinism interest I was pursing in the literature classes.

One of the areas of literary darwinism that’s been on my radar, even before I knew there was such a thing in literary theory, was the universality of storytelling. While Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, one of my literature classes introduced me to the academic writings of literary darwinist, Jonathan Gottschall, an English professor, who wrote in one of his key texts: “Humans are creatures of story, so story touches nearly every aspect of our lives (2).”

Around the same time, I was reading Gottschall’s words in a literature class, I was reading a text by Thomas Newkirk, a writing instructor, for one of my C&R classes. In that text, I found Newkirks’s words stating that: “We are biologically predisposed to process experience through the lens of antecedents and consequences (5).” By putting writing and story into a biological context, Newkirk, and separately the instructor of the C&R class, were reinforcing the theories I was reading for literary darwinism background.

In building a background understanding of literary darwinism, I encountered a text by Dan McAdams, an evolutionary psychologist, who observed that: “Human beings are storytellers by nature. … The story is a natural package for organizing many different kinds of information (4).” With this text and a number of cross referenced Steven Pinker texts, I began to see a deeper connection of literary darwinism as it relates to evolutionary psychology.

Between the literary darwinism source material, evolutionary psychology material, and evolutionary biology texts cross referenced to Edward O Wilson, I was prepared for another text by another literary darwinist, Brian Boyd, an English professor, who often writes and edits with Gottschall, referenced above, and Joseph Carroll, the professor I studied under at UMSL. Boyd’s text includes the statement that: “Evolution builds many specific learning tracks into the mind. … And we will interpret something as story if we can. Babies and adults alike cannot help seeing a sequence of moving dots in terms of animate causality (1).”

Another text from another C&R class, with the same dismayed C&R professor, written by George Lakoff, a linguist, and Mark Johnson, a philosophy professor, helped my refocus that cause and effect relationship of story. Lakoff and Johnson wrote: “The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another. … human thought processes are largely metaphorical (3).” For me this is especially true, and exactly what I was doing in my own studies of C&R and literature, and literary darwinism.

Once we better understand the relationship between causality and storytelling, we can see stories and storytelling in the context that Gottschall placed it in when he wrote: “The problem structure reveals an major function of storytelling. It suggests that the human mind was shaped for story, so that it could be shaped by story (2).” [emphasis in original text].

Sources:

  1. Boyd, Brian. On the Origin of Stories. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009.
  2. Gottschall, Jonathan. The Storytelling Animal. Boston: Mariner Books, 2013.
  3. Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
  4. McAdams, Dan P. The Stories We Live By. New York: The Guilford Press, 1993.
  5. Newkirk, Thomas. Minds Made for Stories. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2014.

Clipart stolen from Clipartmax.