If you could balance on a tightrope, over what landscape would you walk? (No net.)
I would take a stroll over the surface of Mars, while documenting my observations of the surface and what I see around me. Let's first consider the numbers, the impediments to this plan and how we can handle such problems.
Mars' highest point is the top of Olympus Mons, which according to NASA, is 25 kilometres high. If one were to tie a rope around the planet from Olympus Mons and back, with the rope being taut, the loop would have a radius of over 3400 kilometres. Basic geometry tells us that this rope will be somewhere around 36000 kilometres long. This much rope, assuming that it is safe for walking on by a human of average weight will weigh thousands of kilograms, and as we all know, every little bit of mass counts when it comes to space travel and exploration.
What sort of space agency would allow an astronaut, who spends years of his life training and preparation, to perform such a perilous stunt on a planet that can, at times, be more than 400 million kilometres away? Would congress approve NASA's budget if they included this questionable endeavour in their future plans?
To avoid answering these questions, and for the sake of brevity, the rest of this essay operates on the assumption that we live in a perfect world where one's hopes and dreams are not limited by the Newtonian physics and efficient use of taxpayer money.
Why would I choose to walk over the surface of Mars? The brief answer is curiosity. No, not the rover. Today, our best views of Mars come from telescopes such as Hubble or rovers down on the surface. Modern science can benefit greatly from an aerial view of Mars that comes from only a short distance above the surface. Proper high resolution photography of the surface could allow scientists to learn and analyse all sorts of things, including the way erosion occurs on the martian surface, possible locations where water could be present, and where life could one day have flourished, and go a long way to helping us one day find a solution to the Fermi paradox, a question I have wanted to answer since I could understand it's implications and importance.
Some may believe that obtaining the solution to this question is impossible, and that anyone endeavouring to do so is chasing a pipe dream. To find a definite solution to the paradox however, would have huge implications on everything in our world, from religious faith to philosophical musings to modern science, and that is something that is worth dedicating one's time to.Share with us a few of your favorite books, poems, authors, films, plays, pieces of music, musicians, performers, paintings, artists, blogs, magazines, or newspapers. Feel free to touch on one, some, or all of the categories listed, or add a category of your own.
Flipping through television channels at the age of 13, I came across a rerun of Carl Sagan's highly educational TV show Cosmos, a seminal work in public science education. Alas, I was never able to watch the entire series, but I did get my hands on the next best thing- a copy of the book.
Page by page, Sagan's ruminations on the universe and humanity slowly cemented his position as one of my favorite authors. I consider the book to have been one of the most influential pieces of literature in my life, drawing me to a predilection for theoretical sciences. The questions posed in the book are intriguing, and full of meaning despite having no answers. Subsequent rereads have served only a reminder of how little we know about our universe, despite what we may think.
Having been set down the path of scientific inquiry by Cosmos, and after a series of humourless books, I came across Richard Feynman's excellent collection of tales from his life, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman. The book holds the unique distinction of being the only physics books to bring me to tears with laughter. Deeply funny at times and saddening at others, Feynman's mannerisms and sharp wit inspired and entertained me with equal measure. His memories of the Manhattan project and his time at various universities helped to set a framework of what I hope to be my own future.
It would be incredibly short-sighted and misguided to end this essay without mentioning my favourite fiction book, American Gods by Neil Gaiman. The book is hard to describe to someone who has not had the pleasure of reading it, except in terms of high praise such as incredible, magnificent, masterpiece. A masterclass in modern fiction, the book is provocative, fun and leaves an indelible mark on the mind of the reader at the end, while also leaving him wishing for more.
And thus ends a small essay on my personal preferences in literature, and while the selection above is a good indicator of these preferences, these books are a few among a bookshelf of thousands, ranging in content from economic theories to biographies of rock musicians- a library that has had an emotional and educational impact on me that could not be fully described even in a musty, leather-bound tome, let alone a short essay.