Tag Archives: space

Curiouser and Curiouser…

When Julian Assange awoke he found himself enclosed in a tall glass cylinder in the corner of a dimly lit room. He was standing upright and his arms and legs were restrained. Through the frosted glass he could just about make out the shapes of a number of identical cylinders dotted around the room. He felt groggy and weak as he struggled to recall how he had ended up here.

“I don’t remember paying for any weird shit this time,” he thought to himself as he attempted to free his limbs from their shackles to no avail.

Suddenly a booming voice echoed throughout the room,

Arrival imminent. Commencing detainee transfer.”

Assange felt his restraints loosen as the door of the cylinder slid open slowly. He stumbled out onto a cold metal floor just as the other cylinders also began to open. There were eight other people in the room, each looking equally confused and frightened.

Assange immediately recognised the three young women beside him as the Russian pop group and political dissenters Pussy Riot. Across the room he saw another face he knew, that of a Syrian blogger and human rights campaigner who had disappeared a few weeks earlier. After a few minutes of introductions he learned that the other four comprised an Iranian nuclear scientist, a student from California who had been arrested for tweeting a joke about Obama, a technology blogger who had recently given the new iPad a negative review, and lastly and somewhat inexplicably, the English comedian and actor Russell Brand.

After they had all met they tried to figure out how this had happened. None of them remembered arriving in this room, and they recounted their last memories before waking up there.

The Iranian scientist had been invited to a seminar given by the Chemical Industries Association, which he had never heard of before, and recalled finding the situation a tad strange when he was picked up at the train station by an Israeli tank instead of the promised limousine.

Russell Brand had been in South America conducting research for a book on the drug trade. The last memory he had was of landing at Colombia International Airport, and he remembered being surprised that the entire building was made out of cardboard panels that had been rather crudely sellotaped together.

Assange himself had been eagerly awaiting a visit to the Ecuadorian embassy by the Culinary Institute of Afghanistan. He had been looking forward to a nice meal, since the Ambassador kept eating his cream crackers from the kitchen, even though he had written ‘Hands off’ with three exclamation marks on a Post-It and stuck it on them.

Try as they might, they could find no connection between their stories. As they continued to discuss the strange situation they found themselves in, a panel opened in the corner of the room. Inside were nine orange spacesuits hanging on the wall.

The voice reverberated through the room again,

Attention detainees. Put on your suits and prepare to disembark the shuttle.”

They looked at each other in puzzlement. The shuttle?

“A shuttle?” exclaimed Brand. “What wicked malfeasance has been perpetrated here? Which autocratic tyrant has enslaved us in this unsolicited bondage? What calamitous end awaits this strewn-together band of…”

“Shut up you moron!” shouted one of the Russian girls.

Brand looked shocked and hurt but did not argue.

“Sorry sweetheart,” he mumbled, reaching up and stroking her face in what everyone agreed was a highly inappropriate gesture, even given the tense situation.

Just as they had finished getting into their suits one of the walls began to open outwards, creating a giant hydraulic ramp. The room was lit up with a brilliant light as the ramp descended and landed with a thud. As their eyes adjusted to the brightness they tentatively made their way down the ramp and squinted out at the vista that greeted them.

What they saw was a vast, red expanse of nothingness. An arid, crimson desert as far as the eye could see. The only sign of life was an enormous compound enclosed by barbed wire and high walls about a kilometre away. A makeshift track led through the soil and rock to the compound entrance. As they neared, the front gates opened slowly outwards and a short, squat figure appeared. As this shadowy form came into view, Assange recognised it but could not believe his eyes. The rover rolled towards them until it was but a few feet away, then stopped. Its diminutive head panned up to meet their faces, and its lifeless eyes acknowledged their shocked expressions. A garbled, metallic voice rang out in the thin air,

“Greetings prisoners. I am Curiosity, warden of this facility. Welcome to Mars.”

They followed the rover into the facility in stunned silence, escorted by a pair of similar robot guards. Hundreds of people dressed in the same orange suits were scattered around the compound. Assange recognised many of them as political activists or dictators who had either gone missing or had been reported as dead. He could have sworn he even saw Gadafi and bin Laden sitting together rolling dice, and Pinochet playing dominoes with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Eventually they came to a small building which appeared to be an office. They entered and the door shut behind them. On the wall were pictures of famous robots: C-3PO, Johnny Number 5, Wall-E. On the desk behind which their captor now stood was a picture of him with President Obama, and a nameplate that read ‘Colonel Curiosity’. There was also a small tray of complimentary mints, which seemed slightly incongruous.

“Welcome to the galaxy’s most secret detention centre. Here the CIA and other agencies can keep dissenters,” he said, fixing his gaze on the Pussy Riot girls, “international spies,” looking directly at Assange, “or anyone so unbelievably irritating that their government pays massive sums of money to make them disappear.” Everyone looked at Russell.

Curiosity continued, “I was sent here to become warden after my predecessor, Voyager, was shanked by Idi Amin during a riot earlier this year. As you may have now figured out, NASA has been operating as a covert wing of the US military since its inception, under the pretense of space exploration. The staff here are all rovers and probes sent here to keep control of the population. We’ve also started to draft in bomb disposal robots that have been injured in the Middle East, although between you and me, the PTSD has made them very unstable. I’d steer clear of them if I were you.”

The nine prisoners stood fixed to the ground, unable to comprehend this astonishing turn of events. Eventually Russell broke the silence,

“You mean we’re forced to spend the rest of our pitiful lives in some sort of cosmic colony of miscreants, to endure this interstellar incarceration in the void of space, never again to feel the warm bosom of…”

“Silence, prisoner!” shouted the warden. He turned to the rest of them, “Jeez, does this guy ever give it a rest?”

Thousands of miles away Michelle Obama was sitting on the couch in the Oval Office, laptop on her knee, while her husband sat with his feet up on his desk, his brow furrowed in concentration as he polished his Nobel Peace prize.

“You know I swear Kissinger swapped these things when we had dinner last week, I don’t remember this scratch being here.”

His wife was distracted by the article she was reading and didn’t answer him.

“Have you seen this story in the Huffington Post about Mars, Barack? This guy thinks it’s being used as an off-world penal colony by the American government.”

He didn’t look up and continued to studiously clean his trophy.

“Honestly, I don’t know why you read that crap Michelle. There are some real nutjobs out there.”

“Yeah I guess you’re right. Well, I’d better get going. I’ve to be on Oprah this afternoon. We’re doing an intervention for some fat kid from Texas who only eats chocolate cake.”

When his wife had left the room the President picked up the phone on his desk.

“Get me the director of the CIA right away please Barbara. I’ve got a problem with a journalist that needs to be taken care of.”

Julian Assange stared out the barred window of his cell, the glowing sphere of planet Earth visible just above the dusky horizon. A solitary tear rolled down his cheek as he contemplated his future on this barren rock.

“Don’t cry Jules, it’ll be alright in the end, you’ll see.”

Assange turned from the window and lay down on his cot, turning his face to the wall as he closed his eyes tightly, praying that the nightmares wouldn’t be so bad tonight.

“Shut up Russell,” he replied, as the sun set over the red planet, and the cell was plunged into darkness.


Global Informing

Former US vice-president Al Gore is spearheading the 24 Hours of Reality campaign this week, a social networking-based series of presentations aimed at convincing climate change sceptics of the truths of how human activity is affecting our environment. The presentation is also set to attack some of the more virulent deniers of climate change, and examine where they get their funding from. The endeavour is, like all things these days, set to revolve around Facebook and Twitter. Obviously Gore thinks he can save the world in less than 140 characters.

As with all of Al Gore’s attempts to raise awareness about environmental issues, this idea seems like a noble and laudable venture. Gore’s tireless work deservedly earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, which illustrates the political and societal weight of his influence and his ideas. What’s more, he didn’t even have to attach his name to an abstract noun like ‘Hope’ or give any vague and empty promises about closing illegal detention centres to get one.

Unfortunately, this project is probably destined to do little other than solidify the views of those already firmly in Gore’s camp. The science and logic behind Gore’s claims are plain to see for anyone who cares to look, and it is not due to a careful examination of the facts that most climate change sceptics voice their disagreement. Political influence is undoubtedly the biggest contributing factor to the mass ignorance of these deniers. A healthy mistrust of crackpot leftie scientists and their anti-American views that will restrict progress is now just as much of a prerequisite for members of the American conservative right as revulsion towards homosexuality and a proclivity for hilariously ill-informed statements.

Despite the massive amount of good work done by Gore and his organisations, he is forever fighting a losing battle against extremely powerful interest groups who don’t want to give any credence to claims that would see American industry forced to make concessions because of climate change. The morons that are churned out by the Republicans every four years might genuinely believe the nonsense they talk about the global warming conspiracy, but these simple mouthpieces that have been plucked from backwater towns are just being used by big business to appeal to middle Americans, and to make them think anything that will result in less income for corporations is un-American and is a threat to their way of life.

Unfortunately for those of us capable of independent thought, these corporations have a massive resource of idiots that they can very easily bend to their every whim. Without wanting to sound too much like Jim Corr, in a very general sense it should be obvious to everyone that the world is not run by states or governments, but by the CEOs who control the money that is used to influence governmental policy. In America, the corporations and their lobbyists have realised that tapping into patriotism is by far the easiest way to control people. Add an environment of fear and hostility and you have yourself an army (literally in many cases) of uneducated classes willing to kill and die for the ethereal ‘America’, that is in reality just a collection of very powerful individuals who use the war industry, mainly, to line their own pockets at the expense of young men’s lives.

The capitalist system, and our society’s outlook in general, is marked by two distinguishing features: greed and short-sightedness. An unquenchable thirst for money and power guarantees that men like Gore will always meet with a stubborn refusal to let anything get in the way of procuring more of both. At the same time, our myopic world view ensures that, for the most part, nobody really cares what kind of world our grandchildren grow up in. Our own survival and prosperity is what matters, and everything else is irrelevant conjecture. Sure our descendants can just evolve into a Waterworld-esque race of amphibians, trading dirt and stilted dialogue and avoiding crazy old Dennis Hopper in the horrible dystopia we helped create for them.

The other point that has to be made here, however, is the perceived futility of the ‘green’ movement championed by people like Gore. The damage that has already been done to our atmosphere is practically irreversible, and it is clear that world governments are not going to suddenly unite and take drastic action. So why bother doing your part by recycling and worrying about carbon footprints when our fate has already been sealed? Cycling everywhere will not save the world; it will just ensure that your lungs, as well as our ozone layer, become clogged with the exhaust fumes, fossil fuel smoke and cow farts that are slowly eroding our planet’s defences against extreme weather conditions.

Interestingly, this week also brought news of an Earth-like planet discovered in a nearby solar system. Whether it is in developing a faster form of travel to make it possible to reach somewhere like this, or simply overcoming the difficulties of making somewhere like Mars habitable for humans, surely the science of space exploration is the way forward for the long-term future of our species? Even if it is not possible to leave Earth, chances are we could exhaust other planets of their natural resources to keep us going for another few years, like some sort of cosmic life-support system for that mean old great-uncle who’s always been a bit of an asshole and refuses to just do the decent thing and die.

With NASA’s shuttle program recently being shelved indefinitely, private companies have been given the job of continuing our odyssey into the vastness of space. So let’s hope that whatever the best way forward for humanity is, it also just happens to be the most profitable path to take. Maybe after years of exploitation and manipulation, our corporations can save us from the doom they helped to inflict upon us. If we were to one day leave our sinking ship of a planet, however, I imagine Al Gore would insist on staying behind, defiant to the end about saving the environment and creating a better world. After all, in space no-one can hear you tweet.