It is a testament to his incredible gifts that Martin Luther King’s book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? is perhaps more relevant today than it was 50 years ago. When we fully awaken and respond to its call to action, the planet will be transformed.
We must frankly acknowledge that in the past years our creativity and imagination were not employed in learning how to develop power. We found a method in nonviolent protest that worked, and we employed it enthusiastically. We did not have leisure to probe for a deeper understanding of its laws and lines of development. Although our actions were bold and crowned with successes, they were substantially improvised and spontaneous. They attained the goals set for them but carried the blemishes of our inexperience.
When a new dawn reveals a landscape dotted with obstacles, the time has come for sober reflection, for assessment of our methods and for anticipating pitfalls. Stumbling and groping through the wilderness finally must be replaced by a planned, organized and orderly march.
All inhabitants of the globe are now neighbors. This world-wide neighborhood has been brought into being largely as a result of the modern scientific and technological revolutions. The world of today is vastly different from the world of just one hundred years ago. A century ago Thomas Edison had not yet invented the incandescent lamp to bring light to many dark places of the earth. The Wright brothers had not yet invented that fascinating mechanical bird that would spread its gigantic wings across the skies and soon toward distance and place time in the service of man. Einstein hadn not yet challenged and axiom and the theory of relativity had not yet been posited.
Human beings, searching a century ago as now for better understanding, had no television, to radios, no telephones and no motion pictures through which to communicate. … Science had not yet peered into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space, nor had it penetrated oceanic depths.
Last and First Quarter Moons
Part 1 of this series began at the first quarter phase of the Moon on 01-16-2016. Today we’re at the last quarter which is as illustrated above, the visual and geometric opposite of the first quarter. These two positions of the Moon are also the second primary set of binary/polar relationships after the new and full Moon positions. Today, in part because few people farm we’re not as directly connected to the practical value of these polar relations. The full moon is hard to ignore but we’re generally not familiar with waxing, waning or gibbous(when’s the last time you heard someone say that word). Ironically, while science pays less attention, there are many people who are aware of at least the crescent moon phases for religious reasons. Still, our awareness doesn’t change the fact these relationships encode the same valuable knowledge as boolean math and logic gates which power computers. In Part 3, we’ll take an in-depth look at how digital logic drives the relationships which govern how the Moon’s orbit presents the Sun’s light to us.
Although this was definitely not my plan, it seems fitting that the first, last and only posts of this month have a Star Trek component. As the passing of Leonard Nimoy is being commented upon by people the world over including statements by President Obama and Charlie Bolden – leaders of the US space program, I am reflecting on the juxtaposition of art and science. On the one hand, in the modern mythology of Star Trek, Vulcans observing the “real” first manmade artificial satellite Sputnik in 1957, crash in a fictional town in Pennsylvania. In the “real” world town of Lakehurst, NJ a few years later, a ground station at the naval base relayed the first live two-way telephone call between heads of state via geosynchronous satellite Syncom II to President Kennedy. On the other end of the call, via the US Kingsport docked in Lagos Harbor was the Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa. In a brilliant essay entitled The Race for Space written sometime in late 1957 but unpublished until 1993, Duke Ellington articulates how racial issues were holding America back in the space race. Pointing out the lack of educational and employment opportunities in the fields needed to compete The Duke said
“Everybody has to get in the game if we are playing to win”
America won, but barely and then stumbled. In 1958 Ellington named his band The Spacemen one of the first in the lineage Big K.R.I.T recognizes in this Rolling Stones interview from Nov of 2014, African-American musicians were not only tuned into outer space, but saw themselves as intellectually and creatively capable of contributing to the US space effort. Now we’re in a new race for space with an African-American in charge of NASA but no companies like Space X or Virgin Galactic. Dr. Ellen Stofan, Chief Scientist at NASA puts it this way:
“When you have problems like trying to get humans down onto the surface of Mars, if you don’t have all the best minds in the world — not just white men — then you’re not utilizing humanity the way you should.”
Even though the benefits of the space program have been well documented, some people still don’t see why we should care(let alone spend money on) space. There’s one simple reason why every human should care about space. It’s home! Someone might say that our home is here on Earth, but Earth is a planet orbiting a star in space. Space is also a repository of vast material resources and has proven economic value. Contemporary astronauts speak about the transforming impact of seeing Earth from orbit – something called the Overview Effect. At least 6000 years ago on what is now the Nubian desert, ancient astronomers at Nabta Playa were charting the stars.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Nichelle Nichols had a very fortuitous encounter at an NAACP fund raising event in Beverly Hills after the first year of the Star Trek television show which changed not only her life but countless others. MLK was a very expansive thinker, well aware of the benefits of space exploration even at a time when African-Americans made up only a percent or two of U.S. engineering workforce. Earlier that week Nichelle had decided to leave the show and return to her roots in musical theatre. When she mentioned that to Dr. King, she says he insisted that she stay, that her role was of historical importance(see other accounts by Wall Street Journal and CNN). He convinced her to stay and millions of people of all ethnicities were exposed to the notion that a woman of color could be fourth in command of an intergalactic starship. He understood that it was more than a television show. I suppose we can speculate how clearly he envisioned from the mountain top that Nichelle would inspire people like former astronauts Mae Jemison and Charles Bolden, that Dr. Jemison would bring Star Trek into space:
A quarter of a century after Lt. Uhura boldly went where no African American had gone before, her protegee returned the favor. Before blasting into orbit aboard the Endeavour in 1992, Jemison, the first woman of color in space, called actress Nichelle Nichols to thank her for the inspiration. And then she made a promise: Despite NASA’s rigid protocol, Jemison would begin each shift with a salute that only a Trekkie could appreciate. “Hailing frequencies open,
and appear in an episode of the Star Trek The Next Generation tv show,
that Charles Bolden would become the director of NASA. However, one thing we know for certain is that for just about two more years, the Director of NASA and his boss are African-American. During this time every historic accomplishment at NASA happens under
their our watch. During Black History Month this year, I’ll be tracking those historical events along with other aspects of African-American historical endeavors in both physical and virtual space.
It is well known that they did this at least in part to spread a “startling” message written by a black woman who has also expressed an unwavering commitment to “rise up”.
Fictional characters in Way In The Middle of the Air – a part of the 1950 sci-fi classic The Martian Chronicles saw the idea of black people going to Mars as Silly. Some people at that time and maybe even now might think the idea had more in common with the religious folk song Ezekiel Saw The Wheel whose lyrics it took its name from than any down to earth, practical “reality”. However NASA’s Orion spacecraft has completed it’s first test flight led by an African American so perhaps it’s time to take the idea seriously. People can follow NASA Director Charles Bolden’s blog, read up on President Barack Obama’s space policy and decide for themselves.
A tip of the hat to the ESA team, Claudia Alexander(shown in photo) who is heading up NASA’s involvement and Auset(Isis) the “Lady of Philae” to whom many important buildings were dedicated.
The Mars Curiosity Rover has reached Mount Sharp its primary destination for exploring Martian geology. 17 years ago, Curiosity’s ancestor Sojourner became the first rover to land on another planet. A decade before Sojourner’s launch, NASA’s current leader and interplanetary history maker Charles Bolden was commanding a Shuttle mission. Congratulations are in order for both Bolden and Sojourner Truth!
Albert Einstein teaching a physics class at Lincoln University (HBCU in Pennsylvania) in 1946. The Nobel prize winning scientist said: “The separation of the races is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.”
Here’s a site for the book written in 2006.