Entry 843 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash
This week, in the middle of the week, I found myself with a mini writer’s block, not knowing what to comment about on my blog. Professional writers have got little black books for that, with throwaway subjects when this occurs. I don’t.
A few, two, three, weeks ago I wanted to vehemently comment on one single chapter from Adrian Berry’s The Giant Leap. I have already stated here that I had started reading the book; as a matter of fact I love reading those old science books because I’m a nitpicker at heart. It is amusing to point out the errors from an old book but, if I look deep enough in my heart, it is also a cheap trick. It can also be quite embarrassing.
In my thunderous days I was (a very small) part of an illegal radio station in the city of Louvain. Now it is a widespread rumour in Flanders that if three Flemings come together they form an association of some kind. If a fourth member comes along there will be a quarrel within a week and the organization will split. So after a couple of months there were about half a dozen of local radios in Louvain, all illegal, but because the police had other things to do than to arrest young boys with a bunch of records under their arms (there were hardly any females in the illegal radio world) the radios were left untouched and everybody waited for the political world to come up with a solution.
Anyway, we were sitting in an apartment above a pub called Picasso cooking a radio show (I did the sound mixing) when the presenter started a satirical comment about a television anchor we commonly disliked. We were all so bold and beautiful and fucking progressive and we knew it. What we didn’t know however was that the television star in question was having a beer in the pub downstairs. It must have been a million to one shot (or is that one in a million?) but it happened. The celebrity jumped up the stairs, broke into the studio and asked, in fact demanded, for a live interview so that he could politely react to our accusations. The presenter became very pale and suddenly vanished from the studio. We found him later in the toilet where he refused to come out again as long as Mike Verdrengh (who would later become a founding father of the biggest commercial TV station in Flanders) was standing there. If I learned a lesson (although I was - technically - just an innocent bystander) it was that if you throw a stone at someone it might come back and double hard so.
Back to Adrian Berry and The Giant Leap, as his book deals a lot with space travel and the speed of light in a vacuum (known and more or less unchanged since the Fifties) there aren’t many errors to be spotted. These can only lay in short term predictions between 2000 (when the book came out) and now (for a quite recent discovery involving speeds faster than light you can consult Adrian Berry’s website here). Note But I completely disagree with Mr. Berry’s viewpoints concerning starships and politicians (as one of his chapters is called). Adrian Berry is (correctly) suspicious of bureaucrats and politicians but to deduce from that fact that salvation is only possible when one gives all possible freedom to economical moguls isn’t quite healthy either.
Of course some politicians are corrupt, of course some government projects cost 3, 4, 5 times more than their privately managed counterparts. But government organisations don’t build these projects; they first ask privately managed enterprises to quote for it. If these privately managed enterprises triple the price whenever government organisations are involved and even bribe the politicians behind it, who is then to blame? Take away government control and you have child-labour, even in Europe, before you can utter the words Adidas, Nike or Reebok.
But I also realize that the stone I’ve thrown towards Mr. Berry is quite useless. If this world ever wants to build a starship it will indeed be a lot cheaper if it comes out of a private group than from a government organisation. But I hope it will not be build by childslaves because there will be no more government left to prevent it.
Note: One of his wrong predictions (in 2000) was that the Euro currency would (probably) have no future (p. 46). Back to text.
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Popular science books are fun