Thursday, July 28, 2011

What should spaceships look like?

BBC News Magazine: What should spaceships look like?
Generations of schoolchildren, openly, and many adults, perhaps more guardedly, have delighted in fantastical depictions of space travel.

From Star Wars back to 2001: A Space Odyssey and even further back to comic hero Dan Dare and Victorian illustrations for the stories of Jules Verne and HG Wells, the way spaceships should look has been an important issue - before the first rocket booster ever fired.

But the fanciful reputation of sci-fi novels and films aside, the illustration of spacecraft might actually have a realistic place in the design of future vessels.

The line has often been blurred between the realm of the sci-fi artist and the real spacecraft designers.

Often referred to as the father of modern space art, Chesley Bonestell had a significant impact on not only science fiction illustration, but the whole of the American space programme.

German rocket developer and champion of space exploration Dr Wernher von Braun, who was inspired by the works of Verne and Wells, commissioned Bonestell to illustrate his spaceflight concepts in a 1952 issue of Collier's Weekly magazine.

The combination of von Braun's technology and Bonestell's artistic vision made the science come alive for the layman readers. Of course, the tax dollars and votes of those inspired layman readers would be needed to realise ambitious space projects.

The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists now honours work in the sci-fi and fantasy art industry with its annual Chesley Awards.

Science fiction academic
Harry Lange was a German artist who got his start in military flight manual illustrations and was appointed to lead the future projects section for Nasa. He and his team found themselves illustrating von Braun's ideas to promote his vision of a US space station. Lange ended up as production designer on Stanley Kubrick's 2001.

On the other hand it's hard to imagine the designs of Chris Foss, the subject of a new retrospective book, Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss, easily crossing the line into the real world of space travel. With Picasso as an inspiration, Foss created book covers that pioneered a new style of space art, featuring prominently placed gigantic colourful craft in swirling spacescapes.

Marked with mysterious symbols and complex patterns, his illustrations have breathed life into sci-fi writings of everyone from Isaac Asimov to EE "Doc" Smith and AE van Vogt. Foss was also commissioned to do work for Alien, Superman and Alejandro Jodorowsky's unmade film version of Dune.

Seeing Kubrick's 2001 made a lasting impression on his work, as did the Cold War years and the bleakness of some of the derelict areas of post-war Britain. "People were really looking for a new kind of explosion," says Foss. "Humans want hope. They want something to believe in."

So is it fanciful to imagine Foss's ships - or those of equally florid artists - being like Bonestell's and infiltrating real design?

Perhaps not if a new age of privately-financed space travel needs to rally support in the same way von Braun and Bonestell did.

The end of the space shuttle programme presents a new challenge for spacecraft engineers and designers - one that could even benefit from collaboration with artists.

With government funding constricted, many will be looking to private investors to lead the future of space vessels.

More and more, the aim of companies, such as Boeing, will be to entice consumers to pay for space travel. Just as airlines have done, they will have to appeal to potential passengers - and investors - in order to establish their brands against the competition.

"An enterprising company seeking to attract government and private passengers might achieve success by offering them spaceships that resembled the unique visions of Chris Foss," says science fiction academic Dr Gary Westfahl.

Exotic design might play a part similar to that of airline insignia - from Alaska Airlines' themed craft to Aer Lingus's shamrocks. The goal is to establish brand recognition and visual appeal.

"Foss made his spaceships beautiful not by streamlining them but by adding bright, decorative colours," says Westfahl.

Some might find it strange that a Nasa worker like Lange could make the jump from a deep space project to Hollywood and end up with Oscar nomination for the art direction on The Empire Strikes Back.

But space is a particularly romanticised part of our vision of exploration, says Dr Eric Rabkin, a professor of English at the University of Michigan who specialises in science fiction.

It's because of the unknown, he says. Trains must go where tracks have previously been laid down and planes have to fly where they can ultimately land.

"Ships are inherently romantic because they can go where no one has before. Ships are associated with freedom and conquest," says Rabkin

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Isaac Asimov's father Part 2

Aaron Menahem Asimov, born about 1865. Asimov's grandfather on his father's side
First born son of Mendel Asimov, who was the son of Abraham Ber by his first wife, who was the son of Judah Asimov, Asimov's great, great-great grandfather.

Aaron's first born child was a girl who died in infancy. His second child was a boy, who would become Asimov's father.

Judah Asimov, Isaac Asimov's father.
Judah Asimov was born around December 21, 1896. (Russia at that time used the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calenadar, and Jews used their own lunar calendar, anyway).

He entered Hebrew School - in Petrovichi - at the age of 5. There were ten boys in the school, and of course no girls. Judah went to school there until he was 16. After that he received advanced instruction in the Talmud from the rabbi, and that was th extent of his formal education.

In his childhood, there was a Gentile girl of about 12 or 13, who had lived in the house for about 4 years, who took care of him. (Asimov doesn't give any other details). She "spoke Yiddish like a Jew, and even learned all the prayers in perfect Hebrew so she could supervise young Judah at his homework."

Asimov reveals part of his father's character, "It would never occur to him at any time in his life to save another person's face, or to let some small error go if it were unimportant." His father was always right, even when he aws wrong. (Asimov was like this also when he was young, but grew out of it.)

In 1916, Mendel (then in his 70s, Asimov estimates) fell sick. Judah, age 19, was in Borisoglebsk on a business matter, some 450 miles away. By the time he returned to Petrovichi, his grandfather was dead.

As for Asimov's grandmother, this is what his father told him (in letters that he wrote to Asimov at Asimov's request, when Asimov was much older and living in Boston): "She came from a family in which her mother counted for more than her father. Her father was a very simple man but a very honest and pious one. My grandmother, his wife, lived to a great old age, passing, I believe the hundred mark. She had 8 children, 3 girls and 5 boys, with my mother the oldest."

Nowhere, continues Asimov, "does my father tell me his mother's name. I learned it from another source. It was Anna Chaya."

In Memory Yet Green, by Isaac Asimov

Friday, July 22, 2011

Isaac Asimov's father - revised! Part 1

Jeez, sorry about the typos in the original entry. Not quite sure how I came to leave them in!

Isaac Asimov writes about his ancestry in the first few chapters of his autobiography, In Memory Yet Green, 1920-1954.

Some of the information is vague, as accurate records were not kept of Jews in Russia, and it is difficult to coincide the Jewish calendar with the Christian one.

I won't go into the transmutations of Tsarist Russia into Communist Russia.

Asimov's father told Asimov about his ancestry, beginning with his great-great-great grandfather, called Judah.

Judah "Asimov" - born approximately 1800.
This Judah and his descendants were dealers in rye or "winter grain" (aka Azimy khleb, which gave them their name, Azimov.) This Judah was, according to Asimov's father, "a great scholar."

This Judah had two sons (there may have been more children, but if so they were girls and therefore not worth mentioning in family records). The elder was Abraham Ber, the younger Moses Jacob, who died about 1899.

Abraham Ber was Asimov's great, great grandfather.
He lived long enough to see the birth of Asimov's father. He died when Asimov's father was 3 years old.

Ber had 12 children by his first wife. The first 11 died in infancy. The twelfth, Mendel, survived, and was Asimov's great grandfathet. (Asimov's father did not know the name of Abraham's first wife.) After this Asimov's first wife died, he married another woman. He had a son by this woman, named Judah. This Judah married and had a daughter, who apparently became a physician.

(Moses Jacob Asimov, Abraham Ber's younger brother, was a cantor. Moses only had two daughters.)

Judah Asimov (Asimov's father) had brown hair and brown eyes. ("There must have been a recessive gene," said Asimov, because he, his brother and sister all had blue eyes. His daughter had blond hair and blue eyes. (Asimov does not describe his son at all in these early chapters in his autobiography.)

Mendel's first-born son was Aaron Menahem Asimov, born about 1865. He was Asimov's grandfather.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Petrovichi - Isaac Asimov's Birthplace

From Wikipedia (The information at Wikipedia is from volume 1 of Asimov's autobiography - In Memory Yet Green, 1920-1954):
Petrovichi (Russian: Петро́вичи) is a village in Shumyachsky District of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located about 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of Moscow and 16 km east of the border between Belarus and Russia.

It is the birthplace of Isaac Asimov. Asimov left at the age of three, with his parents and sister, migrating to the United States.

HistoryBefore the October Revolution, Petrovichi was a shtetl of Klimovichy uyezd (district) of Mogilev guberniya of Imperial Russia. It was a historically Belarusian land, part of the Northwestern Krai of the Russian Empire. Its population was half Jewish, half Belarusian. The town had both a church and a synagogue, each one with a school attached to it. By Asimov's memoirs, the place had never known of pogroms. There were amicable business connections, and even friendships, between the two communities. Asimov even reports non-Jews paying a friendly visit to the local synagogue on at least one occasion.

Tsar Nicholas I (who ruled from 1825 to 1855) at one point ordered the expulsion of all Jewish people who resided in Great Russia, or Russia proper, outside of the Pale of Settlement. However, a rich and powerful Russian landlord, who owned much land on both sides of the border, saved the Jewish community of Petrovichi from "ethnic cleansing" by illegally moving the border marker from the west to the east of the shtetl. Thus he saved half of the people of the town from much suffering, and he also saved himself from losing their talents and skills. Petrovichi was an important hub of the wheat trade, and Jewish traders in wheat were respected for their honesty and efficiency. Petrovichi became part of Belarus for several decades. After WWI, the Russian Revolution, and the ensuing civil wars were over, the town became part of Russia again, but now there were no more bans on Jewish people living anywhere in that country.

In 1941, Petrovichi was occupied by the German armies. Those Jewish inhabitants who did not flee in time were massacred.

During the Soviet times the settlement briefly belonged to Gomel guberniya of the Russian SFSR, then it was transferred to Smolensk Oblast of the RSFSR, and the population dwindled significantly.

Overpopulation is overlooked threat

From The Baltimore Sun: Overpopulation is overlooked threat

Ron Smith is surely right when he writes, "There are now too many people to manage." ("Population, debt problems so big, they defy solutions," July 15).

But his assertion that global population is projected to increase by 50 percent by mid-century is a worst-case scenario, according to United Nations population projections.

The UN offers three projections: low, medium, and high. The 50 percent increase mentioned by Mr. Smith, which would amount to a world population of 10.5 billion by 2050 (compared with our present 7 billion), corresponds to the UN's "high" projection. Its low projection for 2050 is around 8 billion; its medium projection around 9.5 billion.

But even if we meet the low projection (not likely given our present indifference) we would still be adding another billion people, and we would still be in a heap of trouble.

We live in a world that can't even support its present population in minimal decency and dignity. Two billion of us presently live on the equivalent of $2 per day, and even that number is likely to grow given Mr. Smith's uncontestable conclusion that "technology enables even more work to be done by ever fewer workers."

More and more people in even more precarious circumstances on a planet whose carrying capacity is dwindling due to resource depletion is a formula for disaster. Yet population stabilization — much less reduction — is off the public radar.

Perhaps Mr. Smith is right. The problem is "so big it can't even be hinted at in public discussion." But the problem is not going away. And we are already feeling it in more ways than can be enumerated.

As Isaac Asimov once said, "Democracy cannot survive overpopulation."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

US spacecraft to be pulled into giant asteroid's orbit

Vesta is the asteroid that Asimov used in one of his very first published stories, "Marooned Off Vesta."

Yahoo News: US spacecraft to be pulled into giant asteroid's orbit

.After its nearly four-year trek, NASA engineers are expected to confirm this weekend that the US spacecraft Dawn has entered the orbit of Vesta, one of the largest asteroids in the solar system.

Mission leaders estimate that Dawn was pulled into Vesta's orbit around 0500 GMT Saturday and engineers should be able to confirm this when the space craft performs a scheduled communication pass at 0630 GMT Sunday, according to the US space agency.

Dawn should come within 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) of Vesta to study its surface while traveling 116 million miles (188 million kilometers) from Earth.

"It has taken nearly four years to get to this point," said Robert Mase, manager of the $466 million project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"Our latest tests and check-outs show that Dawn is right on target and performing normally," he added.

"We feel a little like Columbus approaching the shores of the New World," said Christopher Russell, Dawn's principal investigator, based at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). "The Dawn team can't wait to start mapping this Terra Incognita."

After a year of observations and measurements around Vesta, Dawn will depart for its second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, in July 2012. It will be the first craft to orbit two solar system destinations beyond Earth, said NASA officials.

The foremost objective of Dawn's eight-year mission is to compare and contrast the two giant bodies, which NASA says will help scientists "unlock the secrets of our solar system's early history."

"Dawn's science instrument suite will measure surface composition, topography and texture. In addition, the Dawn spacecraft will measure the tug of gravity from Vesta and Ceres to learn more about their internal structures," NASA said in a press release.

The spacecraft, which was launched in 2007, has a gamma ray and neutron detector instrument, which will gather information on cosmic rays during the approach phase, as well as an infrared mapping spectrometer.

The mission, which can be followed on NASA's website at, comes as a far more famous space craft, the shuttle Atlantis, orbits the Earth on the final mission of the 30-year shuttle program.

Private enterprise is working feverishly to come up with a next-generation US space capsule for cargo and crew.

US President Barack Obama has said such a capsule is crucial for sending astronauts beyond low Earth orbit to an asteroid and to Mars.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

News: B’klyn Science Fiction Is ‘Out Of This World’

From Brooklyn Daily Eagle: B’klyn Science Fiction Is ‘Out Of This World’
Borough Spawns Many Imaginative Sci-Fi Writers
By Harold Egeln
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN — In his first view of Earth from a lunar-bound space rocket’s porthole back in 1950, wisecracking Brooklyn-accented mechanic-astronaut Joe Sweeney wonders out loud about who is pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers that day.

That scene from the 1950 classic science fiction movie by George Pal, Destination Moon, was the first major Hollywood film to put a Brooklyn character into space. In fact, Brooklyn has spawned an out-of-this-world bunch of talented past and present science fiction characters, but several famous writers as well.

“It makes one think that there must be some mystical energy in Brooklyn soil that attracts the souls of outstanding people,” wrote Ugur Alkan on a Brooklyn Science Fiction Examiner website post in March.

Alkan mentioned two famed science fiction writers who are from the borough. One was the late Isaac Asimov of the Foundation Trilogy and I, Robot books, born in Russia but raised in Brooklyn and a Boys High School graduate. Asimov, a professor of biochemistry at Boston University, also wrote many factual popular science books.

The other was Frederik Pohl, now 91 and a former Galaxy Magazine editor. His family moved to Brooklyn when he was 7 and he attended Brooklyn Technical High School. Famed for novels such as Jem and Space Merchants, he wrote his first book Elegy to a Dead Planet, Luna in 1937. His latest book, published this year, is All the Lives He Led.

Science Fiction Imagination Soars Here Now

Meeting now in Brooklyn, in the year of X-Men, Green Lantern, Captain America, Transformers and Harry Potter movies, is the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers Group, an online meet-up group founded a year ago by a science fiction writer. It holds members-only classes to develop fantasy and science fiction writing skills.

Among prominent Brooklyn science fiction authors and technical writers are Lev Grossman and Barbara Krasnoff. A few years ago Grossman’s The Magicians was a New York Times best seller and one of The New Yorker magazine’s top books of the year. His sequel The Magician King is due out on Aug. 9.

Krasnoff is part of the Tabula Rasa writers’ group and has written stories for several publications, including Space and Time Magazine, Escape Velocity, Weird Tales and Amazing Stories.

Barry Strugatz, a Park Slope independent filmmaker and who wrote Married to the Mob and She-Devil, created waves with his quirky science fiction comedy, From Other Worlds, in 2007. It’s about a depressed Brooklyn housewife who experiences an alien abduction.

She hooks up with an Ivory Coast immigrant at a Brooklyn UFO support-group meeting at the Downtown Brooklyn Y, going on an adventure to help save the world. Their journey, with E.T. clues and a secretive spy, takes them to places such as the Brooklyn Museum and the now-closed Brooklyn Diner on Atlantic Avenue.

In June, a science fiction puppet show by the RPM Puppet Conspiracy ensemble performed its play, The Standard Model: Fallacious Physics and Scientific Half Truths, Alliances and Betrayal, the Latest Protocol for Blinding Laser Weapons, at the Tip Top Bar and Grill in Clinton Hill.

NYU-Polytechnic University has a legendary fanzine dating to the early Space Age, Golana. It was first published in 1963 by the Brooklyn Polytechnic Science Fiction Club (using the earlier name for the school). The inaugural issue was dedicated to science fiction writer Edward Smith, according to the Bern Dibner Library website.

Among the borough’s departed science fiction writers was William Tenn, who died at age 89 early last year. He achieved fame with the short story Brooklyn Project, published in 1948.

Another was scientist Carl Sagan, who popularized space topics in books and on television. His 1985 science fiction novel Contact, about an astronomer’s discovery of intelligent extra-terrestrial messages, became a popular movie in 1997 starring Jody Foster.

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Interview With Paul Krugman: Inspiration For A Liberal Economist

Business Insider: An Interview With Paul Krugman: Inspiration For A Liberal Economist

part of its weekly series on American progressivism, The Browser interviewed Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. The following is an excerpt of the interview, in which he discusses five books he recommends and why he counts himself as a liberal.

The Browser: I wanted to start by saying how pleased I am you call yourself a liberal, because there are a lot of people—politicians—who are reluctant to be associated with the word.

Paul Krugman: As I see it, there has been a lot of effective propaganda. As a result, a lot of people adopted the term “progressive” as a somehow less charged way of saying the same thing, which I don’t think works. I consider myself both—liberal and progressive. It’s not too different from what would be called a social democrat in Europe—you believe in a decent-sized welfare state, you believe that we are our brothers’ keepers. Of course I’m not a politician, so I can afford to label myself in a way that might lose some votes…

The first book you’ve chosen isn’t about economics at all; it’s a work of science-fiction, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. But was it part of what inspired you to become an economist?

Yes. This is a very unusual set of novels from Isaac Asimov, but a classic. It’s not about gadgets. Although it’s supposed to be about a galactic civilization, the technology is virtually invisible and it’s not about space battles or anything like that.

The story is about these people, psychohistorians, who are mathematical social scientists and have a theory about how society works. The theory tells them that the galactic empire is failing, and they then use that knowledge to save civilisation. It’s a great image. I was probably 16 when I read it and I thought, “I want to be one of those guys!” Unfortunately we don’t have anything like that and economics is the closest I could get.

I do get a sense from your columns in The New York Times that you are on a mission…

Obviously I try to do straight economics and I do it as well as I can. But this is for a purpose. That purpose is not to find better ways of making money—although I have no problem with people doing that. The purpose is actually to make a better world. So yes, I do feel that I am trying to do something that goes beyond just the analysis.

When I read your book, The Conscience of a Liberal, I came to realise that that purpose is to save the middle-class America you grew up in. Do you feel it’s under threat?

It’s not under threat—it’s actually largely, but not completely, gone. We’re trying to recapture it. We really have had a tremendous polarisation [in wealth]. People notice it every once in a while, and it comes as a huge revelation to them. So for example, in last week’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof had a column about how maybe we’re turning into Pakistan. It’s clear that we are not at all the relatively equal middle-class society we were, and we’re getting less so. That’s something you want to try to turn around.

Your second book is An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by the 18th-century British philosopher David Hume. You read this in college and it really changed your life.

Yes. I was at that stage, a college sophomore or thereabouts, when you’re searching around, looking for belief systems. I think it’s actually a point when you’re quite vulnerable, because you are looking for someone who is going to offer you all the answers.

Some people turn to religious orthodoxy, other people turn to Ayn Rand. One of my favorite lines—and I haven’t been able to find out who came up with it—is that “There’s an age when boys read one of two books. Either they read Ayn Rand or they read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. One of these books leaves you with no grasp on reality and a deeply warped sense of fantasy in place of real life. The other one is about hobbits and orcs.”

Then I read Hume’s Enquiry, this wonderful, humane book saying that nobody has all the answers. What we know is what we have evidence for. We do the best we can, but anybody who claims to be able to deduce or have revelation about The Truth—with both Ts capitalized—is wrong. It doesn’t work that way. The only reasonable way to approach life is with an attitude of humane scepticism. I felt that a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders when I read that book.”

Read the full interview at The Browser.

Theodore Sturgeon's archive to live long and prosper in university archive

Guardian Co UK: Theodore Sturgeon's archive to live long and prosper in university archive
The University of Kansas will be hoping Theodore Sturgeon's famous maxim that "90 per cent of everything is crap" does not apply to his own work after the papers of the legendary science fiction author were donated to its library.

Sturgeon, winner of practically every science fiction prize going, was the author of more than 200 short stories and novels and a key figure of the "golden age" of science fiction. Described as "a master storyteller" by Kurt Vonnegut and an inspiration for authors including Stephen King and Ray Bradbury, he also wrote two Star Trek episodes and – together with Leonard Nimoy – is credited with inventing the Vulcan phrase "live long and prosper".

The collection donated to the University of Kansas by his family is valued at $600,000 (£375,000), and includes the original manuscript of his most famous novel More Than Human, his notes for a Star Trek episode and his correspondence with fellow authors, from Isaac Asimov to Robert Heinlein and Harlan Ellison, in which Sturgeon shared story ideas and drafts with his contemporaries.

The author's daughter Noël Sturgeon said she chose the University of Kansas because of the work of the institution's professor emeritus James Gunn, a science fiction author who created the university's Intensive English Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction in 1975 and the Centre for the Study of Science Fiction in 1982. "Jim's long dedication to the teaching and scholarship of science fiction, and his particular interest in and support of my father's work, was the main impetus behind our choice of the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas as the home for Sturgeon's collection of papers," she said.

The library's head Beth Whittaker called the donation an "extraordinary gift" and said it would ensure "that Sturgeon's profound literary and cultural legacy will be available to new generations of scholars, writers and readers". Sturgeon died in 1985.

* Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
* Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
* Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
* Rush Limbaugh Report

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review: The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown

Geeks of Doom: Book Review: The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown
The Astounding, The Amazing, And The Unknown is a vibrant, highly suspenseful race to solve a Nikola Tesla mystery, defeat the Nazis, and help end World War II. In a desperate attempt to make that happen, the U.S. Navy forms a team of some of the best and brightest imaginations from the world of popular science fiction pulp magazines of their time. The team includes Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Walter Gibson (of The Shadow fame), and a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard, all of whom were regular contributors to the pulps named in the title of this book.

Using equal parts imagination and scientific research, the team attempts to accomplish their government-mandated goal of thwarting the enemy by creating death rays and invisibility cloaks for naval ships. In the midst of their research, the group stumbles upon an unconfirmed experiment of Tesla’s that may have either led to free electricity across America or a super-bomb capable of completely obliterating a whole country half a world away, as well as an old rivalry between two scientists that may have led to murder. It’s up to the team to sort out the mystery and complete Tesla’s experiment before the military shuts down the project altogether or someone else shuts them up permanently.

Told as a story within a story by one of the members of two groups of scientists and writers comprised of fictionalized versions of well-known figures, including Albert Einstein, The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown is an exciting tale weaved around historical events during World War II. The blending of fact and fiction and real people as characters was a little confusing to me at first, as I’m new to this mash-up style. The beginning of the story seemed to be a red herring, as the setup in the opening pages didn’t lead where I thought it would. By the time we return to those fully fleshed-out characters some 400 pages later, I had to go back and reread the beginning to figure out who was who, what the setup for the story was, and which character was telling it.

Putting all that aside, author Paul Malmont has written an energetic adventure with just enough science to feed my inner geek without reminding me what a poor science student I was in high school. The characters are so richly drawn, I’d completely forgotten to care who among them were once living, breathing people.

The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown is the follow-up to Malmont’s debut novel, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, by all accounts another

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Our nation has a proud heritage for mankind

Whenever the Star Spangled Banner is sung - only one stanzas are sung - it has four.

In the piece referenced by author Schley below, Isaac Asimov wrote an essay, published in March 1991, which has all four stanzas and explains the meaning of each.

Of course today the last stanza isn't too popular as it refers to God (and yes, Asimov was an atheist and he didn't have a problem with it) and to...manifest destiny, I suppose - but remember that it's original meaning, the original cause they were fighting for, was the 1815 war against England.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation,
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n - rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,
And this be our motto--"In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. Our nation has a proud heritage for mankind
by Emory Schley
Monday, we celebrate our nation’s founding 235 years ago. A lot of history has been made since then: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, multiple conflicts in the Middle East, the invention of aviation, telephones, the telegraph, movies, electric light bulbs, television, nuclear power, trips to the moon and back, satellites that have revolutionized our lives, masers and lasers, space shuttles and more medical discoveries per decade than there are dollars in your wallet.

Through it all, Americans have been a proud people, comprised mainly of the castoffs of other nations around the world. So much history in such a short span of time makes the mind numb with disbelief when you start thinking about the impact the United States has had on the rest of the world.

And the proudest accomplishment of all is a Constitution that guarantees freedom for all, a condition far more appreciated by immigrants than natural-born citizens, unfortunately.

One of those immigrants, the late Dr. Isaac Asimov, in an attempt to get Americans to more fully appreciate their history, penned one of the most moving pieces I’ve ever read. It’s available at many sites on the Internet, but here’s just one where you can find it:

I liked it so much, I’ve downloaded it to my computer and read it from time to time, just so I don’t forget ... Call it up and read it for yourself before Monday rolls around; you’ll be glad you did. I can think of no more appropriate piece for the upcoming holiday!

PROUD HERITAGE: Florida Highlands’ Al Simpkins wrote: “I had the honor of being chosen to go on the Honor Flight last September. I watched this video and came to this conclusion: Our younger generations do not know, and probably do not care, and are too busy on cellphones and iPads. etc. to CARE what is the reason for their being here now to ENJOY all this FREEDOM!

“They don’t get it in school!

“Maybe before I join the thousand WW2, Korean and Vietnam vets leaving us every day, some pride and remembrance and positive actions will come from this type of video if they see it. Enjoy and pass it on. Especially to them. There may be hope yet!”

You can see the video at

* Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
* Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
* Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
* Rush Limbaugh Report