Monday, March 13, 2006

Marital Strife


Putting marital strife on display for the world to see is not my style, but a disagreement between hubby and I this weekend merits some public discourse. Indeed, it's of such a serious nature that hubby has vowed to comment on the blog if I discuss it (a highly irregular, unprecedented threat from him).

A little about the Insurgent household.

I am a lawyer, hubby's an engineer. I work in the entertainment industry and he works in aerospace (the picture above is from his company's website). Politics is my passion, but he could care less unless it relates to science and technology. Our one television is in a constant tug-of-war between Court TV and the Daily Show, on the one hand, and the NASA Gallery, Science Channel and the Discovery Channel, on the other hand. I am a big-mouth, opinionated pain in the arse and he's the quiet, patient, pensive one.

Hubby and I were talking about space exploration on Saturday and the recent discovery of water on one of Saturn's moons. He began marveling about the possibilities and predicted that humans will walk on the face of Mars within our lifetime. With all seriousness, although I did not mean to be flippant, my response was "So what?" He shot me the death stare and asked "you aren't serious"? Uh oh. "Well, yes, I am serious."

How else could I answer? I just stepped in poop, the look on his face and tone in his voice let me know I was in trouble, so I might as well go in with guns blazing. "Man has gone to the moon and it has done nothing to make civilization more civilized. People still kill each other, wars continue. Perhaps if a country has more money than it knows what to do with, the space program would make sense from a financial perspective, but if the US is already maxing the federal credit card, how can we justify such a frivolous luxury?" I continued on my righteous soapbox. "Another thing that bothers me is that the push to get to space is militarily driven. If the government did not believe there was a way to blow people to smithereens with greater effectiveness by controlling space, it would not be funded. My tax dollars are going to yet another program that is making the world a more dangerous place."

Incredulous, hubby asked "do you know how many technologies were developed as engineers figured out how to get to the moon?" No, but does it matter? That's a lot of money to spend to discover the properties of lightweight aluminum or whatever.

I am waiting for hubby to comment and put the smackdown on my lack of appreciation for the value of space exploration and I am curious what everyone else thinks.

31 Comments:

At 10:00 AM, March 13, 2006 , Blogger Chris said...

Ooohhh... I'm waiting to comment on this one in depth (I actually was planning to blog on space spinoff technology this week anyway, believe it or not). On my very own personal computer. While I talk on my cell phone to my wife... Who's driving a car with all sorts of little computer in it...

 
At 11:54 AM, March 13, 2006 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

You guys should get a second TV!

Whenever I see a space shuttle going up into space, I wonder how many poor kids could eat with all that money. I guess I just don't get it, but I assume they are doing SOMETHING important up there. Who knows? I wish they'd tell us. Or maybe NASA is it's own interest group that shakes down the gov't for pet project money just like everyone else.

Whatever the case may be, since your hubby is the man of the house, you should just agree with him and be quiet. :-)

 
At 1:37 PM, March 13, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

How did I know BOB would offer that comment? :-)

 
At 6:15 PM, March 13, 2006 , Blogger mrsleep said...

TV's. The Sleep family has 4, and all the kids have moved out. Ok, too much disposable income, but our charitable contributions are quite large.

I'm always amazed to see spouses who step "in the poop" to still try to defend a bad poker hand. I see it all the time, and have been guilty of it as often as my wife is guilty of it, yet we don't learn.

Walking on Mars? Mankind has to explore, a thirst for knowledge. So I think it is a good thing, with lot's of related benefits. I concur with BOB that the opportunity cost is quite high, and can never be fully rationalized. How many slaves perished building the Great Wall of China, or the Pyramids in Egypt?

I would rather spend money on exploration to Mars, than spend a bizillion dollars trying to protect New Orleans. Mother Nature did not intend to have New Orleans remain dry, and Mother Nature always wins in the end. It makes more fiscal sense to bulldoze the place, and truck in 25 feet of dirt, then rebuild, than trying to rebuild the damn levees. Ok, I took this off topic, so sue me :).

 
At 6:20 PM, March 13, 2006 , Blogger Chris said...

From my blog (and lightly edited)...

Someone recently asked why we're spending so much money for NASA when we have all sorts of woes here on Earth to deal with. To put it simply, the answer is: It's Good Business. The United States puts about 0.8% of it's budget into the space program. It's been estimated that for every dollar the government puts into the space program gets a return of seven dollars in the form of increased growth and taxes.

Sure, you may ask, but what does sending a robot to Mars have to do with me? Why do I care? What do I get out of the deal, realistically? Well... It it's small, lightweight, miniature, or cool, it probably has roots in the space program.

A short list of spinoffs:

* Portable Computers
* Satellite TV
* Bar Coding
* Joystick Controllers
* Smoke Detectors
* Invisible Braces
* Cordless Tools
* Medical Imaging
* Vision Screening
* Ear Thermometers
* Fire Resistant Clothing
* Thermal Gloves & Boots
* Failsafe Flashlights
* Quartz Timing Crystals

Digital cameras? Well, how do you think they get all those neat photos back from Saturn? CAT scans and MRI's are both space spinoffs, too. Some people put the number of spinoffs at over 30,000. That's a fairly impressive number...

And something else to think about - governments historically fund exploration which is later taken over by private enterprise. Columbus had to get funding from the queen to get his ships across the Atlantic. (One of the spinoffs of that venture was the United States of America, incidentally.) But private enterprise soon followed, making what was once a perilous voyage not only safe, but commonplace.

Do you realize that the Soviet Union tossed Sputnik up in 1957. That's less than 50 years ago. In less than fifty years we've gone from a beeping orb in LEO to planning missions to Pluto and discovering planets orbiting distant stars. This is way cool stuff! How much have we learned since then? How much more is out there yet to be discovered?

 
At 8:44 PM, March 13, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Oh boy. In this household, the squabbles refer to the question of whether 'America's Next Top Model' is inhuman, brain-rotting dross or not.

I'd say the answer to the question 'is space exploration a good use of money?' comes down to how much money is in the national piggy bank, and on the ROI. It's as difficult to put a dollar value on innovation as it is on other abstract concepts, like peace. It might be worthwhile to have an actuary do a cost-benefit analysis.

But at a certain level, this really is a boy thing. We love our shiny toys. Reason has little to do with it.

:-), StS

 
At 1:56 AM, March 14, 2006 , Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

03 14 06

Well II. I must admit that I had to wait a couple of minutes and cool down before I posted. Let's just say that Chris's last comment summed up my feelings. YOu like to blog, you likely use your cell phone, every diagnostic machine you have come across in the hospital was influenced by space exploration both directly AND indirectly. Without ranting, I think your view is exceedingly myopic. The thought of one day making it to space (in a Dennis Tito sorta way) still makes me happy. In time, they are gonna have space tourists and the cost should go down appreciably.

Also if any of you give a good care about virology and microbiology, check out how these things are researched in space. Your minds will open.

It is more than small minded to say that space exploration is a luxury. At my most cynical I made a statement like that and realized just how entrenched in the practical I had become. I am a dreamer and space exploration keeps our collective morale and consciousness together by providing hope for the future.

Your husband wins. Hands down.

 
At 10:51 AM, March 14, 2006 , Blogger Boris Yeltsin said...

Great response, Chris.

Just out of curiosity II, do you lament the money you spend on insurance, always thinking about how you've never used it?

It has nothing to do with space exploration itself, but it does have to do with the immediate gratification mentality that some people have. I'm not crticizing it because there are certainly enough people out there with that mentality, but it does define I think, who-will-think-what in any given situation.

My wife and mom hate anything to do with NASA, citing the same things II does: wouldn't we be better off spending that money on social programs, rather than using it as funding for little boys who like to play with rockets? (Rockets are so phallic anyway! If we had a great, big flower-shaped space station, it would gain more acceptance!)

My wife and mother also constantly complain about the money they spend on house insurance - neither one of them have ever had to use it, so why bother spending the money?

For the same reason as the space program: you never know when a benefit of the space program may save your life (like a mamogram) and you never know when the insurance man is going to drop off that magic check to replace your house while the embers from your old one are still hot.

Besides, what if they discover a metal on the moon that makes manufacturing so cheap, the money we'd save from using the old metals, could go directly into social programs? Hasn't stuff like that happened already?

 
At 11:07 AM, March 14, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Hubby is quite pleased that the weight of opinion is in his favor. :-) Chris pretty much beat him to the punch on the response.

Boris, I have lamented over the costs of insurance, especially when there have never been any claims against the policy, but I accept the cost because the insurance provides peace of mind. Perhaps it is the same thing. And it ties into Mr. Sleep's comment about satisfying humanity's thirst for knowledge.

Curious - does anyone know if it is possible that we could have any of the technologies cited by Chris without space travel? I understand the necessity for satellites in cell phone service, but what about the others?

 
At 2:03 PM, March 14, 2006 , Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

03 14 06

II: You are asking a chicken-egg question. It can be argued that all science was inspired by man looking to the heavens AND necessity. Ha! The ancient civilizations may not have travelled to space, but their whole outlook was influenced by their view of the galaxy. I think it is imbued in our consciousness so your question has no definite answer. Looking up and out has always inspired man to better himself via innovation.

To be sure, the mercury columnar thermometer evolved way before the space age, but we cannot be sure that the concept of space didn't influence its development. From what I recall a guy realized that Mercury responded to temperature and pressure fluxuations, stuck the thermometer under his arm to set a scale and Voila! However recent developments of the thermometer were directly influenced by the space age.

I know that microwave technology came out of the Russians in WWII and some Nazis were experimenting with them too. However, this was long after Planck discovered the discrete nature of EM radiation and perhaps analyzing the EM spectrum of stars influenced the development of the microwave. I think space influenced everything around us simply because we are curious as to what is out there.

 
At 2:25 PM, March 14, 2006 , Blogger mrsleep said...

Necessity is the mother of invention. We are curious folks, at least the libruls are anyway.

It is not always high ideals that inspire to desire to know. The child that pulls the wings off flies, the child that pours salt on snails to see the response.

There is a dark side to our curiosity, and the dark side can yield future benefits to society.

I'm sure those lab rats, and all the other creatures in the animal kingdom realize this first hand and BOB has posted how African Americans were used as test subjects without their knowledge in the middle of the last century.

 
At 8:26 PM, March 14, 2006 , Anonymous The Panzer Commander said...

II you represent a school of thought that most of the people on this palnet belong to. Hubby, your spouse, belongs to my school of thought. I believe that we, humans, in exploring space, the deep, and the landscape, are only trying to find out where we came from and where we are going to. Without that quest, we would equate with animals. But then again, the money the US spends on space and defense can satisfy the needs and dreams of every American, including the illegals. The problem, however, is that if the US stops spending on these matters, the US will not remain as an independent nation for very long. As BOB says, get another TV.

 
At 10:29 AM, March 15, 2006 , Blogger Birdy said...

Good post, as always.
Devils Advocate Comment: Arguing that Space Exploration led to advances in such and such doesn't defend Space Exploration so much as it justifys it. Like MrSleep said - neccessity is the mother of invention. It may be splitting hairs but its a matter of intent. Space Exploration was not the reason we have all of this wonderful technology. The technology is the byproduct of it because they needed it in order to explore space. So, what if the project were something else? What if the project was...I don't know...I giant city underwater, or a land-bridge to Hawaii or some other "impossible" goal.

Would we defend that because the byproducts of its creation has merit? Or do we just like space because spaceships are cool?

For the record - speaceships are cool.

 
At 12:14 PM, March 15, 2006 , Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

03 15 06

"Space Exploration was not the reason we have all of this wonderful technology. The technology is the byproduct of it because they needed it in order to explore space."

I disagree wholeheartedly. What about all of the ancient civilizations who based their existence on what the stars said,without ever travelling there (to our knowledge)? I think necessity and dreaming create. I know that many things come out of what we need and they are improvements on thse needs. But I also know that part of creation has to do with inspiration and some of these things came about long before we had the technology to explore space.

Like I said before I think there is a chicken egg argument here.

 
At 1:35 PM, March 15, 2006 , Blogger Birdy said...

Exactly.

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear.
The dream is what is important and the byproducts (cell phones or tang) are byproducts of that. You can't claim that that specific dream is responsible for the byproducts. because the byproducts could very well have been the result of a completely different dream. Building an undersea city, for example.

Space Exploration is a dream with a wealth of useful byproducts.

But maybe there is a better dream?

 
At 5:50 PM, March 15, 2006 , Blogger mrsleep said...

There are other dreams that are bonehead, and yield nothing but heartache, death, destruction, and arrogance, AKA, "Freedom and Democracy in Iraq".

 
At 6:04 PM, March 15, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Well, how about posing a somewhat broader question: what are we willing to do to foster innovation? And what are the tradeoffs we're willing to tolerate - in the form of proportionally decreased spending on other worthy things - to foster it?

:-), StS

 
At 10:19 PM, March 15, 2006 , Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

03 15 06

Yes, satellites came about not to make space exploration easier, but to initiate it. I just saw something on the HIstory Channel about meteorites. It is thought that the Nickel-Iron alloy found in meteorites spawned the bronze age because people had abundent sources of iron. Yes some things are directly influenced by space. And again, civilizations based their whole existence on what was going on in the stars. Maybe the wheel came about because someone noticed that the moon was round...

 
At 6:14 PM, March 17, 2006 , Blogger chad said...

MARITAL STRIFE HUH...

If a 10-year-old boy told you in his most excitable prepubescent voice that he thought we would land on Mars in the next 50 years, how would you respond? If you wanted to teach him perspective you might say in your most interested tone, "Is that so! And why does that make you so excited?"
If you wanted to hurt his feelings you might say in your most cynical tone, "So what?".

In case you have not noticed, we 30-something year old boys are not that different from 10-year old boys. It hurts our feelings when someone makes fun of the things we care about. I'm just taking a wild guess, but Hubby probably got made fun of once or twice as a kid by his peers for being interested in technology. (I'm speaking from personal geek experience here.) It just may be sensitive area.

Your man thought it cool enough to share with you, so you know what that means, right? That means he has exposed a tiny piece of his tender heart to you. So even if you think space exploration is a waste of time and energy, you have to initiate that discussion carefully, because there is more at stake than just intellectual debate... If you want to rant cynically about space exploration without regards to how it affects the feelings of your audience, then just slip on your Insurgent hat and log on. But at home, we have to be more diplomatic, because we care a lot more about our loved ones feelings than we care about being right. Just think how you would feel if you shared some political revelation that seemed very important to you, and he coldly said, "So what?".

I make this point to say that it does not matter if we bloggers think that you are right, or Hubby is right...because we don't live with you. (Incidentally, I can't decide who is right...I'm stuck in the middle on this one.) What does matter is that our loved ones validate us and our values even if they disagree with them.

Just another point-of-view,
chad

 
At 6:36 PM, March 17, 2006 , Blogger chad said...

Sorry,
I forgot your quote:

"Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance."
~Robert Quillen

 
At 1:27 PM, March 20, 2006 , Blogger Possum said...

II: I think Chad has completely (and possibly unintentionally) stomped you without mercy on this one. Suggest you point your hubby to the Star Trek knockoffs online (newvoyages.com) and change the subject by acting interested and deny you ever said anything anti-space-exploration to him.

That's how my wife handles it when she loses an argument: distracts me and makes me think I'm crazy and it never really happened.

Chris: bang up good job-well said, well done, bravo. All you could add is itemization of the benefits to the poor from our abilites with each technology you listed.

BOB: there is always an opening for a Mother Teresa, sell all your stuff and go with our blessings.

 
At 7:13 AM, June 22, 2007 , Blogger ikee said...

Interesting - that I found this blog and read your comments - last night while driving home from work I was litstening to a.m. coast to coast.

Have no idea who was talking George Norri, the host, but the guy said there is a number, a multiplier that researchers have come up with... The number is 28, for every $1 spent on space exploration, $28 is returned to the United States in terms of job creations, new technologies which continue to produce off-spring far into the future, etc.

If the multiplier is correct - then indeed - space exploration is one of the few uses of U.S. tax dollars that is worth while.

 
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