Happy New Year! And now that the obligatory seasonal pleasantries are out of the way, go watch Who's Out There ": a film long stashed in the US National Archives, and which just this week was made available to the public via the PublicResource.org YouTube channel.
[youtube width="596" height="335"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8Du5f-G1nY[/youtube]
Now, do you feel better? More optimistic about possibilities for the future, the fate of the human race? Are you at least nostalgic for a time when highly educated people were willing to put forth wildly speculative yet dazzlingly hopeful visions of mankind's place in the universe and still get the government to pick up the tab?
Or haven't you actually watched it yet? Need more convincing?
The 1975 NASA-made film is narrated by Orson Wells and features excerpts from "Life Beyond Earth and the Mind of Man" a NASA sponsored symposium held at Boston University, which was chaired by BU's Professor Richard Berendzen who taught a course on "The Search for Life in the Universe" and included these distinguished panelists:
Dr. Carl Sagan who at that time was an astronomer at Cornell University and described in the film as "probably one of the five or six leading researchers in this question of extraterrestrial life. He’s the coauthor with Shklovskii with of the Soviet Union of the very famous book Intelligent Life in the Universe."
MIT psychics professor Philip Morrison, builder of the atomic bomb who coauthored "the first scientifically valid or reasonable paper ever published on what might well be a possible mode of communication with extraterrestrial life."
Dr. George Wald, who’s professor of biology at Harvard and a recipient of the Nobel Prize; Dr. Ashley Montagu, anthropologist and social biologist, Dr. Krister Stendahl, dean of the School of Divinity at Harvard University.
Here is a brief, but wonder-inspiring excerpt of the panel discussion:
Carl Sagan: To go to the other end, another aspect of this question is the exploration of our solar system by unmanned spacecraft. That’s important, for example, for finding out if there are simple forms of life on, say, Mars or Jupiter. If the answer to that were yes then the likelihood of the origin of life on planets of other stars would of course be vastly greater. Imagine a program of unmanned exploration of the entire solar system for the decade of the 1970s which would examine every planet in the solar system, which would land several space vehicles on the surface of Mars.
What would such a program cost? By the way such a program we do not have because it was adjudged too costly. Such a program would cost less than the 1970 fiscal year cost overrun on the anti-ballistic missile system. To put that in another way, the accounting errors in the Department of Defense on a single weapons system come to more than a decade’s exploration of the entire solar system. So again it strikes me that this nation has the resources to undertake such exploratory ventures, and certainly this planet has those resources. It’s just a question of do we wish to do it. The kind of exploratory ventures we’re talking about seem to me to be precisely the kind that are needed to reestablish a cosmic context for mankind by finding out what the other planets are like. By finding out whether there are civilizations on planets of other stars, we reestablish a meaningful context for ourselves.
Philip Morrison: I think the most important thing that it will bring to us, if we can finally understand it, will be a description – if it exists at all – of how beings disposing of great technology were able to fashion a world in which they could live and persevere and maintain something of worth and beauty for a long period of time. And that is probably not the least important message we could have.
Richard Berendzen: And finally, it would end our social and cultural isolation. To date we have been bounded not only into our own countries and into our own small regions on this planet, but most assuredly within our solar system itself. If there are the tens of billions of other civilizations which the predictions indicate might be, then we would join a larger galactic community.
If only we could make it so, Starfleet Commander Berendzen, we'd gladly oblige. Unfortunately, the inter dimensional grays have stepped up their human abduction program and we have to send out the Men in Black to wipe minds and mop up the mess the Reptilians have made of their latest cattle mutilations. So, sorry things didn't work out quite how you expected.
For we more sobered minded 21st century dwellers, don't forget to have a Happy New Year! For real!