Gongol.com Archives: April 2024

Brian Gongol

April 22, 2024

Science and Technology Good to hear from you again

NASA shares the good news that they have managed to re-establish a data link with Voyager 1. A computer chip on the probe went bad in November, and it's taken until now to implement a solution. ■ Voyager is a fascinating project, having been launched in 1977 and now officially in interstellar space. That the equipment is working at all after more than 40 years of motion and cosmic radiation is pretty amazing. ■ But it should really command some admiration that people on the Voyager team at NASA committed the effort to figure out a way around the hardware problem and re-program the chip from 15 billion miles away. It says something about the natural curiosity of our species that we want to know what's out there, so far away, and that we're willing to try some pretty challenging things to figure it out. Someday those signals will probably be lost for good, but for now, Voyager lives to transmit for another day (whatever that means once you're beyond the reach of your home star).

News Stop torturing poets

If we could speak to the animals, nobody would tell the whales to stop singing. Whale song is one of the fascinating aspects of biology that tells us that many of our human instincts are shared by other intelligent animals, which doesn't diminish them as aspects of humanity but rather elevates the other members of the animal kingdom. ■ But back to the whales: If it were possible to communicate with them, Dr. Dolittle-like, surely no human would tell the whales to shut up and wait for an individual to wander off and come back later with a new song to sing. Yet that is approximately how we treat human music. ■ Implicit in the very title of "The Tortured Poets Department" is the widely-accepted myth that creative people must suffer for their art (even if it becomes a smashing commercial success). But what if that is utter balderdash? ■ What if the forces that build anticipation around the debut of an album, a show, a novel, or a painting are in fact entrenching a deeply unhealthy relationship between humans and our artistic instincts? ■ There's no doubt that some creators are at their best when using art to work through difficult times -- it's hard to imagine Fiona Apple minus raw existentialism -- but maybe we unintentionally burden artists with the expectation that they should only release the work that tortured them, and simultaneously deny ordinary people an outlet so natural that whales experience it for free. ■ Perhaps they would tell us that we are ridiculous to expect art to go hand-in-hand with suffering or to confine the creation of art to sporadic releases from a few individuals, rather than engaging in it as a routine rhythm of living. That doesn't mean it can't play a role in struggle (or give rise to it), but maybe we should heed what musicians and writers and cartoonists are able to do when they surrender to speed rather than self-torture.

Feedback link