25 January 2007

Window of Opportunity

The Mars Rover "Opportunity" landed on the Red Planet three years ago today.

Astonishingly, it is still working, still trundling around, and still sending back amazing images and new information. (despite falling into a hole, and succesfully getting out again)

It does rather beg the question of what the actual point would be of George W Bush's plan to send a manned mission to Mars.

I'm old enough to remember the Apollo flights, and I supported them then, despite the collosal cost, and the strong feelings at the time that the money could be better spent (remember Gil Scott Heron's "Whitey's on the Moon"?)

But at that time, those brave astronauts were by far the most sophisticated pieces of equipment on those flights. Sent to the moon in a leaky tin can, with computing power less than that of a pocket calculator, and practically held together with elastic bands.

"Opportunity" has proven that to put human beings through the masochistic extremes of a long-haul flight to Mars and back, would not only be hugely costly, but also completely unneccessary.

As a child weened on "2001" and Gerry Anderson, I would have loved the swashbuckling adventure of a Mars mission, and yes it still holds a huge romantic power for me. But, as skeptics, I think it's our duty this time to oppose a manned mission as pure and silly vanity, and scientifically misplaced.

With Voyager 1 9.3 billion miles from the Sun (and apparently still sending faint signals), and Opportunity still put-putting about the Martian surface, it's time to side with Scott Heron and proclaim manned space flight to be irrational.


21 January 2007

Whats Left?

Today's Observer has a lengthy extract from Nick Cohen's new book, What's Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way, which is released by Forth Estate on 5th February.

Nick will making a very welcome be return to Little Atoms on 16th Febuary to discuss the book.

Meanwhile, you can get to grips with Nick's arguments in this Comment is Free article. At the time of writing Nick is taking something of a battering from the witty and incisive Liberal-left commentariat, e.g.

This is just more pro-Israel propaganda from Mr Cohen. The invasion made perfect sense, viewed from the pro-Israel perspective.

Why do you, a British Jew, think you have the authority to judge the rights or wrongs of Iraqis? Or the left, when you are clearly a Neocon?

Your piece is dishonest, wrongheaded, and just plain wrong.

Why not write a book about Israel?s many sins Nick? You are far more qualified to speak on that subject. Are you up for that?


I could pen a book the length of Nick Cohen's but got stuck on his surname,a name which may explain a lot about his real agenda.

Pow! take that Nick!


17 January 2007

'one of the most compulsively listenable shows anywhere.'

So says the Guardian's arts blog about little old us.
Read more here: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/tv/2007/01/post_9.html.
And cheers Ben - cheque's in the post.


Friday's show

This Friday, Richard Sanderson and I talk to Brett Lock of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association. Brett is also a campaigner and writer with OutRage! and a contributer to the political blog "Harry's Place".
Following the high profile demonstration outside Parliament against gay rights by various religious groups, and the increasing protection given to religious viewpoints, are there new battles to be fought by gay and lesbian atheists, and are the recent advances in equality secure?


06 January 2007


...to anyone tuning in expectantly yesterday to hear Seth Shostak, we called him up 5 mins before the show to be greeted by an answering machine message saying he was ill. Mild panic ensued, as the backup CD we had brought along for just such an emergency refused to play in the Resonance CD player. Thus the theme tune was put on a loop while an old show was sought out from the Resonance archives.

Subsequent correspondence has found Seth not only ill but hospitalised, but you will no doubt be glad to hear that he is ok and on the mend.

We are rescheduling the interview for a later show.


04 January 2007

Tomorrow's Show

Our guest on this weeks Little Atoms is Seth Shostak.

Seth Shostak is Senior Astronomer at the SETI (The Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) Institute, and has been an observer for Project Phoenix as well as an active participant in various international forums for SETI research. He is a frequent presenter of the Institute's work in the media, through lectures, and via the Institute's weekly radio show, Are We Alone?, for which he's the host. Each Sunday night, Shostak interviews guests who are on the bleeding edge of science discovery and technological advance. The show gives callers the opportunity to ask questions of the world's foremost experts in astrobiology and space exploration.

Shostak readily translates the most complex scientific discoveries into terms accessible to the non-scientist. He has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and the SPACE.com web site, as well as three books, including a popular textbook on astrobiology. Recently awarded the Klumpke-Roberts Award by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy, Shostak is also Chair of the International Academy of Astronautics SETI Permanent Study Group. As a practicing scientist personally engaged in SETI observations, his technical expertise—combined with his quick wit and engaging personality—make him a sought-after speaker and writer.