Mars then belongs to the Martians

The surface area of Mars is exactly as large as the land area of the Earth. A thorough reconnaissance will clearly occupy us for centuries. But there will be a time when Mars is all explored; a time after robot aircraft have mapped it from aloft, a time after rovers have combed the surface, a time after samples have been returned safely to Earth, a time after human beings have walked the sands of Mars. What then? What shall we do with Mars?

There are so many examples of human misuse of the Earth that even phrasing this question chills me. If there is life on Mars, I believe we should do nothing with Mars. Mars then belongs to the Martians, even if the Martians are only microbes. The existence of an independent biology on a nearby planet is a treasure beyond assessing, and the preservation of that life must, I think, supersede any other possible use of Mars.

–Carl Sagan in “Cosmos”, Chapter V: Blues for a Red Planet, 1980.

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An ocean of inexplicability and Cosmos

Florianopolis - Morro das Pedras

Well, it’s a beautiful day outside, I had a very good night sleep and a nice breakfast. For some inexplicable reason I woke up thinking I should pick a book from my “Someday/Maybe” list today.

And browsing through my Kindle I saw that I haven’t finished reading the amazing Carl Sagan’s book “Cosmos”! For some twist of fate (I can’t recall it) I had to stop reading it in the past, BUT I’ll remedy this right away!

And to become inspired and get the gears running, here goes a quote by the English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895), enforcer of Darwin’s ideas and also known for coming up with the term “agnostic”.

The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land.” — Thomas Henry Huxley, 1887

This is one of the quotes Carl Sagan brings at the beginning of the book “Cosmos”. The search for knowledge and understanding is perhaps the trace that most distinguish us, humans, from other living beings. Do spiders try to understand the world around them? Do they try to change it? Well, maybe we are not able (yet) to realize that an ant is also looking for answers in its daily activities in its colony…

But I can say for myself that the search for explanations is one of the most fulfilling human activities for me. It feeds our brains, it must activate some specific regions that hunger for knowledge. It brings bliss!! Quoting Carl Sagan:

They [discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it] reminds us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival.” –Carl Sagan, Cosmos (1980)

So let’s move on!

Contradictions, justice and laws

Cover of "Caves of Steel (Robot (Spectra ...

Cover of Caves of Steel (Robot (Spectra Books))

“What is your definition of justice?”

“Justice, Elijah, is that which exists when all the laws are enforced.”

Fastolfe nodded. “A good definition, Mr Baley, for a robot. The desire to see all laws enforced has been built into R. Daneel, now. Justice is a very concrete term to him since it is based on law enforcement. A human can recognise that, on the basis of an abstract moral code, some laws may be bad ones, and their enforcement unjust. What do you say, R. Daneel?'”

“An unjust law,” said R. Daneel evenly, “is a contradiction in terms.”

Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel (1954) – Chapter 8: Debate over a Robot