[ExI] Update on the Hawaiian observatory shutdown

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Mon Aug 26 08:26:07 UTC 2019

On Sun, Aug 25, 2019 at 4:03 PM John Clark via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> A senator asked him if it could be useful in national defence. Dr. Wilson
> really wanted them to finish the machine but he was a very honest man so he
> told them the truth, "No" he said "the Superconducting Super Collider has
> nothing to do with defending our country except to help make it worth
> defending".
> Perhaps he should have lied and said it would make a nifty death ray
> because the machine was canceled and the half finished tunnels that would
> have housed it are now used to grow mushrooms.

Actually, he could have done it without lying - and arguably, he did lie by

A better response might have been, "This will help lay the groundwork for
new understandings of physics that, as with most basic physics, may have
many applications including national defense.  Indeed, advancing the
understanding of physics has enabled many of our modern defense
capabilities.  Military applications is not my field of expertise, so if
you wanted a list of possibilities you would have to call in one of their
scientists to speculate - or better yet, have them consult with me so we
can get you a fuller answer.  But the simple answer is yes, it could be
useful in national defense."

If we want to take the same applications approach to astronomy, the
currently most touted applications are:

* Asteroid defense.  It would be useful to see the next Tunguska before it
explodes and makes people think a stealth nuclear attack just happened,
jumping certain less-than-rational foreign leaders (don't mention Trump
unless you're sure none of the people you're talking to are Trump
defenders; there's no need to, with the leadership in North Korea and
certain other places) into possibly firing off an actual nuclear strike in
retaliation.  Nobody wins a nuclear war, except by preventing it from
happening; if the members of Congress have any doubt about that, they can
just ask anyone in any of our military branches' upper management.  This by
itself could help keep the human race going through the current
international tensions; there are not many US government funded projects
that can even remotely make that claim.

* Asteroid mining.  Surely the members of Congress have seen the news
articles about trillion dollar asteroids out there - even with depreciation
should one of them actually be mined, that's still lots of billions of
dollars, and eventually lots of tax revenue when someone finally pulls it
off.  But before they can be mined, they have to be measured a lot more,
which is one of the things these telescopes can do.

* Just look at the polls.  A solid majority of the public wants - and is
willing to vote for - this science, and is more likely to vote for members
of Congress who support this.  (This is an "application" only of use to the
government people who ultimately decide the fate of things here.  That is
sufficient in this case.)
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