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#1 2002-05-02 14:25:38

pablo
Banned
Registered: 2002-05-02
Posts: 5

Re: Killing Dragons: Track and Inform Mars Discussion - Track and Inform Public Mars Discussion

I just registered and this is my first message.

Why the rush?  I was just reading a post (http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl? … 02/0011222) on slashdot.org and the ensuing discussion about it.  Basically, CNN reported that the National Research Council has recommended that trips to Mars be handled under heavy quarantine because of the very low probability of killer Martian viruses coming to conquer delicate little earth.

Hm.  I suppose the report is right.. there probably is a very low probability of this happening.  Do I agree that, as they suggest, that's reason enough to make major mission plan changes?  Well, that's probably a question best left to the experts.

However, the spin from this article was damaging.  Using the conversation on slashdot as a guide, most people who read this article were probably misinformed, put-off or spooked; and for no good reason.  That's no good. This is even worse when you consider that slashdot readers are big geeks and relatively informed about things science compared to your average CNN reader... who knows what the take-away for them was.

Just think numbers.  At least a few hundred slashdot readers and maybe, hmm, a few thousand (?) CNN readers think that Mars may well be dangerous to Earth.  Great.  This is the kind of momentum killer that keeps us on this planet.

As usual, for most things Mars, it's instructive to see what Zubrin has to say here:

"In olden days, before the Earth was well explored, map makers used to decorate unknown regions of their maps with various imaginative creations, not  the least of which were menacing dragons that could swallow a ship whole... The dragons may have been imaginary, but even imaginary dragons can and did prey upon the minds of would-be voyagers, and by so doing stifled human exploration for centuries.

Well, things haven't changed that much.  Today those who hope to raise a mission to Mars find their charts filled with dragons too.  Reports of horrible beasts with names such as Radiation, Zero-G, Human Factors, Dust Storms, and Back Contamination intrude into the discussion of mission plans, and do their worst to terrorize would-be crews (unsuccessfully), would-be mission planners (somewhat successfully), and would-be mission sponsors [e.g. slashdot readers] (very successfully)... If we're going to get to Mars, we're going to have to clear the maps."

Zubrin.  Man what a thinker.  He goes on to point out that unlike some of the other issues, threatening "Back Contamination" is just nutty.  For the full argument, read the book (The Case For Mars, '96 - Ch. 5).

The reason I'm posting here on the education list is that I suprisingly didn't find anyone post a comprehensive educational response in the slashdot discussion.  My first thought was to post one myself, but unfortunately if you post after the first couple of days on slashdot, nobody is going to read it (I'm still gonna post there).  My second thought was, make sure it doesn't happen again:

USE THIS THREAD TO TRACK LOCATIONS OF PUBLIC DISCUSSION ON MARS.  BE INFORMED ON MARS AND BRING YOUR INFORMATION TO THOSE DISCUSSIONS.

e.g.:

Site: slashdot.org
Popularity Rank: 1,639
Frequency of Mars Discussion:
      4 April, 2002
      5 March, 2002
      4 February, 2002
     10 January, 2002
      5 December, 2001

In the above record, popularity was determined by looking up slashdot.org at alexa.com.  Frequency is the number of headlines a month with "mars" in them and hence when discussion happen.  Was determined by filtering the results of a keyword search at slashdot.  This means to me that there will be about 4 or 5 discussions in May about Mars on Slashdot.  I'll try to be there.

Pablo

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#2 2002-05-02 22:25:03

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Killing Dragons: Track and Inform Mars Discussion - Track and Inform Public Mars Discussion

These back-contamination ideas seem to be multiplying like fruitflies.  It's disappointing to say the least, first we have to deal with all of the anti-human mobs who seem to think humanity should be wiped from the face of the earth, and now we have to fight the vocal back-contamination crowd.  Yep, it's definately getting depressing. sad


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#3 2002-05-10 15:19:17

pablo
Banned
Registered: 2002-05-02
Posts: 5

Re: Killing Dragons: Track and Inform Mars Discussion - Track and Inform Public Mars Discussion

I was describing this issue to a friend and he pointed out that there's a web service, called Spy On It, that lets you set up agents to report arbitrary happenings on the web.  Their tag line is something like "don't search the web, spyonit".

neways, i set one up to track mars posts on slashdot.  basically, i will get when the front page of slashdot adds the word "mars" to it.

the timing is actually not straight forward.  their faq says you can't modify the frequency of the updates, and that it will probably be updated daily.  this is good enough for testing.  if this seems to work, i'll probably write up a little script myself to monitor the site.

any other sites out there to monitor?  ideally, it would be good to track sites that have mars stories with general public discussion forums that will be interested in "good information" about mars.  it won't be helpful to preach to the choir or the adversaries.  also, posting to CNN discussion boards seems a little to public without some good strategy.  not sure what sites this leaves.  thoughts?

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#4 2002-05-10 19:40:16

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Killing Dragons: Track and Inform Mars Discussion - Track and Inform Public Mars Discussion

pablo, I take the opportunity to welcome you to this site. It's always good to have smart, enthusiastic people on side in the struggle to get humans to Mars.
   Your efforts on the web to monitor and, if possible, to shoot down all this baloney about Martian Measles is music to my ears!
   I fear the long-suffering New Mars contributors have had to listen to me raving about the illogic of all this "back-contamination" bull**** for too long!! It will be great to have someone like you aboard, putting a different but complementary spin on it. And I couldn't agree more with your sentiments about Dr. Zubrin; "Man what a thinker", indeed!
   While we're on the subject, even if Mars has wall-to-wall, ravening, man-eating pathogens everywhere you look, the first astronauts are going to be there about 500 days! If they're going to develop any diseases at all, we're giving them ample time for incubation, aren't we?!! If they do catch something, they'll be long dead before they ever get the chance to bring their contagion home. So we're really including the quarantine period in the mission time-table; a real time saver! And you can't tell me you'd have trouble finding volunteers for the trip because the dangers haven't been thoroughly researched. Unlike the lily-livered politicians and mission planners, the real players, the astronauts, will not be in the least bit frightened by inscriptions on the map which read: "Here be dragons" !!
   ####! If they are, tell 'em to move over .... I'll go!!
                                    big_smile


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#5 2002-05-28 10:31:39

pablo
Banned
Registered: 2002-05-02
Posts: 5

Re: Killing Dragons: Track and Inform Mars Discussion - Track and Inform Public Mars Discussion

Hi, good to be here.  I've just asked /. to interview Zubrin.  Fingers crossed.

Here's the submission.

freality writes "There is enough water on Mars to make it the next frontier for settlement, there's a Bill before the US House for near-term manned exploration and settlement of Mars, and China has stepped up to the space race plate. All that's lacking to really get this ball rolling is public mandate. Though the /. community is becoming more politically noticeable, it isn't united, vocal or active in calling for Mars exploration and settlement. Judging by the discussion of these stories, it also doesn't seem well informed about the benefits/risks of a manned Mars mission. That's bad geek karma. Like it did for YRO, This is the time for the /. editorial to put its strength into optimistic, informed consideration of Mars exploration and settlement. A great first step is to higlight the chief activist for this endeavor: Robert Zubrin. Zubrin is to Mars settlement what Stallman is to Free Software. Zubrin is a veteran aerospace engineer, has testified to Congress on Mars settlement, written popular books on the subject and formed an important activist group (marssociety.org). He is very well informed and extemely persuasive. Give him a forum in the /. community."

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#6 2002-05-28 15:12:27

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Killing Dragons: Track and Inform Mars Discussion - Track and Inform Public Mars Discussion

Is your interview mainly going to focus on how Zubrin thinks more public support can be gained for a Mars mission? That seemed to be the focal point of your message.  If you do get the chance to interview him post it here or do you plan to sell it? smile


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#7 2002-06-04 16:25:21

pablo
Banned
Registered: 2002-05-02
Posts: 5

Re: Killing Dragons: Track and Inform Mars Discussion - Track and Inform Public Mars Discussion

Well, slashdot shot it down.  They're a bit against space-heads it seems.  Not just this request, but other things I've noticed.  I bet they want to keep their support general, with the exception of "cool" issues like digital law.

I figure I'll try to interview him now.  I have a site: freality.com that is a fledgling attempt to cover my favorite topics in culture development.  I quote Zubrin there.. might be good to interview him too.  Like he's got time for that smile

I wouldn't sell it.. I generally like free things and bet most others do too, so that'd be the way to go.  Only charge for things when you have to.

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#8 2002-06-05 04:06:04

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Killing Dragons: Track and Inform Mars Discussion - Track and Inform Public Mars Discussion

Nice website!  I like the context in which you bring up science, religion, etc.  Those DNA sequences flashing in the background are cool to. smile  They kinda subconsciouly remind you of the human source of all those topics.  Yeah, screw Slashdot, your website has personality, I think a Zubrin interview would fit nicely in there.  Have you figured out how to get ahold of him?


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#9 2002-06-27 10:36:43

ned_dodds
Banned
Registered: 2002-06-27
Posts: 1

Re: Killing Dragons: Track and Inform Mars Discussion - Track and Inform Public Mars Discussion

Hi Gentlemen!

Being new to this whole process, I've been interested in your discussion so far.  It goes to one of the basic human fears, fear of the unknown.  Zubrin is correct about it's modern manifestations.  We'll always have to deal with it, it won't go away.

My own interest is in how to reach members of the general population and get them to actively support our goals even if they don't want to be involved otherwise.  After twelve years teaching in a public high school and listening very carefully to other teachers talking about ages K-12, I've determined a window which opens when humans can know that the stars in the sky are not just spots of paint on a ceiling, they are places we might visit and closes when the human brain starts to make judgements about the usefulness and validity of information received.  The window seems to open at about age ten, late third grade - early fourth grade.  It seems to start closing at about age fourteen, late eighth grade.  The objectives for the Mars Society Education Task Force say broadly what needs to be done.

I'm speaking on the topic at the Return to the Moon IV conference in Houston in about a month and again at the Mars Society conference in August.  I'd love to meet up with others interested in this area and talk about what we can do.

What I'm doing with my crude web site at Beyond Earth Orbit is very closely related.


Ned Dodds, Founder
Beyond Earth Orbit

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#10 2002-06-27 14:41:19

Phobos
Member
Registered: 2002-01-02
Posts: 1,103

Re: Killing Dragons: Track and Inform Mars Discussion - Track and Inform Public Mars Discussion

The window seems to open at about age ten, late third grade - early fourth grade.  It seems to start closing at about age fourteen, late eighth grade.  The objectives for the Mars Society Education Task Force say broadly what needs to be done.
[/quote:post_uid0]

Hello Ned.  I totally agree that the time to capture the imagination is when a kid is sometime around the third or fourth grade.  I've noticed from reading interviews with a lot of scientists, artists, ect that they first developed their passion for such subjects at around those times.  I know I did.  If you wait until high school to interest people, it's going to be way to late.  And I think the education needs to be less fact based and more focused on the imaginative side and the wonderous possibilities that could result.  I agree with  Einstein himself that imagination is more important than knowledge.  Of course you can't neglect the facts, but bare facts are boring and uninspiring, especially to a fourth grader.


To achieve the impossible you must attempt the absurd

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#11 2003-03-06 18:14:27

GDavid
Member
From: Seattle area
Registered: 2003-01-27
Posts: 18

Re: Killing Dragons: Track and Inform Mars Discussion - Track and Inform Public Mars Discussion

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Probably another good place for this, in case not noticed in the other threads;

Robert Zubrin scheduled guest on Coast to Coast Am radio talk show for Sunday, March 9.

http://www.coasttocoastam.com/[/color:post_uid0]

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