Gandhi was asked once what he thought about Western Civilization. He quipped:”It would be a good idea.” Hilarious. However, what Western civilization was became a rather uncivilized debate in 1914. What the engine of civilization is a better question. It is an idea easier to pin down. I propose:
What’s the ultimate idea generating the most civilization? That ideas should rule more than the rest.
The crazy Frenchman, Franky Zapata has now perfected the “Flyboard Air” (losing fingers in the process, as the turbines develop together 1,000 horsepower).
Some will sneer that flying has little to do with the advancement of thinking, but that would be erroneous. Such a flying machine requires great advances in energy density, miniaturization, and electronic control.
Ideas are technology dependent, and that development, in turn, is economically dependent. Telescopes were initially developed in the Netherlands to scrutinize ships from further afield (with all sorts of military and economic consequences). Then Galileo got the idea to turn one towards the Moon, or Jupiter. It is unlikely that Galileo was the first to do so, but he was the first to describe it “scientifically” what he saw. Galileo was a university professor, so he had to talk about what he saw, and was taken seriously. But that does not mean he was the true originator.
One often hears that the US invented everything, but that’s only true when one forgets that others invented the same things earlier. Thus, actually, Alzheimer helps for becoming a great inventor, in one’s mind. (Claiming the superiority of some famous Anglo-Saxon thinkers is actually part of an exploitative mood, started with the “West Country Men”, Locke, Hume, etc.)
Inventions such as the first plane, transistor, and CPU happened in France of all places, not the USA (but they are attributed to the USA, just as Poincare’s ideas are attributed to Einstein). As the case of HIV (a virus discovered in Marseilles), when there are huge economic and political advantages at stake, the US president is given a Nobel Prize: prizes and power follow where the money is, and, ultimately, that’s where fracking works… The research leader of the HIV discovery never got the Nobel Prize (although a student of his did).
Franky Zapata has already invented these crazy water jet machines on which people stand and make acrobatics above water. More than 3,000 have been sold, worldwide. He The French military and various security and rescue services have expressed interest.
Ideas are technology dependent, and that, in turn, is economically dependent. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) just turned on again. LHC rests in winter, because electricity is too expensive then. Starting now, days are long in France (which is at the latitude of southern Canada), and French nuclear plants churn out cheap electricity. The LHC’s mighty radiation festers 100 meters below the French countryside, and nobody has complained yet that the worms were getting irradiated. Naively, physicist expressed their hope to find Dark Matter in the present run. There is five times more Dark Matter, at least, than Standard Model Matter.
For more French craziness one can consult: Highliners Versus Flysuit. Modern wingsuits were developed in France (the initial modern inventor died skydiving in Hawai’i; a century ago, a wingflier launched himself from the Eiffel Tower. He succumbed from a heart attack).
We are experiencing the richest times, ever, the mind has ever known. An example is the fighting which is developing with NASA’s future space telescope, WFIRST. WFIRST is a modernized Kepler telescope. Since the rough outline of the mission was launched, with a cost of 2.3 billion dollars, more than 5,000 planets were found. Not just that, but a flurry of questions. It is tempting to have those questions answered.
And moods are developing: first, why don’t we look if some of these planets are similar to Earth, complete with oceans and dinosaurs? Well, it turns out that now WFIRST could not block the main star light as well as it could have. Could we fix that? Yes, by floating a specially designed screen which would float far from the telescope, and whose artful geometry would prevent light to go around it (that can be done, with sharp petals interfering with light just so).
So should WFIRST be completed by a Star Shade? That’s another billion or so.
Poets of the trashy kind will say: enough of your planets, go live there if you can! Let’s go back to our landfills, help the poor, and worship the enemies of civilization! However, another mood is rising, deep down, and secretive: what if studying Earth-like planets would reveal new dangers ready to ambush Earth’s civilization? What if exo-paleontology could be a lifesaver?
Indeed. New ideas and new moods bring new, higher morality. Those who see in the Moon a message direct from god will find much easier to find a message direct from god to justify killing those they perceive as their enemies. Don’t laugh: Islamist authorities determine when the new moon happens (and of course they differ, an interesting conflict based on the refutation of the science of astronomy!)
In related news, the French Republic is threatening to withdraw from the TTIP (Trans Atlantic Infamous Plutocratic) negotiations:”Europe gives a lot, and receives very little in exchange”. French president Hollande observes: “We will never accept questioning essential principles for our agriculture, our culture and for the reciprocity of access to public [procurement] markets… At this stage [of talks] France says ‘No.’”
When ideas rule, and new ideas are born, so does craziness. At least from the point of view of the old logic. Once shown a new theory to explain Quantum Mechanics, what I call a Sub Quantum Physics, Niels Bohr sneered:”It’s not crazy enough!”
New ideas come with their own logic. Even when they are born from the old logic, it’s only if the help of much craziness. So we should welcome innovative craziness. Nearly all great discoveries started as fun and games.
Much of the stalling between what the future was imagined to be, eighty years ago (flying cars, etc.) has to do with the lack of innovation in miniaturized, ultra-efficient energy. So welcome to the Flyboard Air!