April 12, 2018

"THE MOVIE 2001 IS NOW 50 YEARS OLD. If it were a reality, we’d have had space stations and moon bases for decades."

Writes Glenn Reynolds, suggesting that the movie pointed the way to an exciting, rewarding future of human life in space. That's not how I remember the movie! I've seen it twice, and I remember a very negative view of space life. So I'd say the movie was a reality. It was a real movie and real people in the real world saw the movie, and our emotional and intellectual response — the reality of what makes us human — was not enthusiasm about shooting more rocket ships at the sky, but complicated anxiety about the unknown, the brutality of separation from earth, and the remorselessness of robots.

183 comments:

Henry said...

We have had space stations for decades.

Henry said...

Earth - Moon Scale diagram

Johnathan Birks said...

2001:ASO also featured the first recorded computer error message: "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

rhhardin said...

I didn't understand the movie or the enthusiasm for it.

I figured it was like the movie version of Catch-22, a director's missing of the essential farce of all organizations.

mccullough said...

Kubrick’s movies haven’t held up well. He tried too hard to explore the “dark side” of human nature but just wasn’t interesting. He didn’t understand human nature. He was just weird.

Ann Althouse said...

I have never bought into the boosterism of space travel. I didn't even watch the first moon landing on TV.

I remember the schoolteacher wheeling a TV into the classroom when they were shooting the first American into space. She informed us: This is history in the making.

It was always foisted on us in such a propagandistic way, most notably when we were trying to beat the Russians. Ugh! We still are. Give me a break.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

...and the remorselessness of robots.

Yeah, but really cool remorseless robots, so totally worth it!

rhhardin said...

Clockwork Orange was good for Walter Carlos's musical soundtrack, but I didn't get that movie either.

Tank said...


Ann Althouse said...

I have never bought into the boosterism of space travel. I didn't even watch the first moon landing on TV.

I remember the schoolteacher wheeling a TV into the classroom when they were shooting the first American into space. She informed us: This is history in the making.

It was always foisted on us in such a propagandistic way, most notably when we were trying to beat the Russians. Ugh! We still are. Give me a break.


Proving again that you are a girl. Girls are different than boys.

MadisonMan said...

Here's a thought: The movie was a metaphor for life 50 years ago.

I will further note that Moonbase alpha from Space: 1999 was not built on schedule, as per TV.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

A bunch of us stood around the the lobby of the Reef Hotel on Waikiki Beach watching the coverage of the moon landing. I remember it well. The question was whether it would all work or not, a technical drama.

DanTheMan said...

"...and the remorselessness of robots."

Ann, you should look into Old Glory robot insurance. You are in the target demographic.
http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/old-glory-insurance/n10766?snl=1

EDH said...

I was young enough never to have heard much less used the work "fuck" when i saw the movie with my family when it first came out.

Yet I believe I still mouthed "WTF" even though it wouldn't be in popular usage for decades.

Although I do remember getting cudos for saying the ape throwing the bone into the air that turned into a space vehicle symbolized man's evolution toward space travel.

robother said...

But, but we got Tang!

Seriously, though, I remember the refrain for 30 years every time I argued with a Liberal about some new expensive expansion of entitlements, " If we can afford to put men on the moon..." By that measure, the Space program was the most expensive program ever conceived by the US government..

JZ said...

2001 is full of nice images. I've heard that Kubrick was a photographer before he was a movie director. Seems like he made movies in order take pictures, unlike most directors who take pictures in order to make movies.

the 4chan Guy who reads Althouse said...

HAL is Facebook, of course.

So we got that part down.

EDH said...

"And I like to kick, stretch and... kick!"

Carter Wood said...

Kubrik's Clockwork Orange failed because it was based on the U.S. version of Burgess' book, which omitted the final chapter, chapter 21, in which Alex begins to grow up and gains a sense of morality.

LarsPorsena said...

2001 was a big YAWN. Except for the proto-humans.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I have never bought into the boosterism of space travel

That's hardly surprising, given your distaste for travel in general. That said, without some pretty huge technological advances, long term space travel just isn't feasible. Humans are adapted to live on Earth. A combination of the Earths atmosphere and magnetic field protects us from harmful radiation. Without gravity we lose bone and muscle mass.

This youtube video gives a good overview of the issues involved which include increased chance of getting cancer, cataracts, and possibly even dementia.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

oops, forgot the link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyUwSJ5pXS0

David Begley said...

A giant waste of tax money. Let Elon Musk spend shareholder money to go to Mars.

mockturtle said...

The music was compelling. Other than that, meh!

David Begley said...

The government space program did give us satradio, weather satellites and spy satellites. What have we ever gotten out of the space station? And has anyone had sex in space? That's what we want to know.

Tommy Duncan said...

"the brutality of separation from earth"

That will change only after the holodeck is invented and perfected. Virtual reality is a "must-have" for serious space travel.

Chuck said...

What a lovely, apt, accurate post. Althouse, I am just old enough to have seen the movie as a first-run feature. And it was an odd, hard movie for a tweenager. As I have come to know the movie in adulthood, I think you have it exactly right.

rhhardin said...

The sex in space question is what happens to the former wet spot.

Robert Cook said...

"Kubrick’s movies haven’t held up well. He tried too hard to explore the “dark side” of human nature but just wasn’t interesting. He didn’t understand human nature. He was just weird."

To the contrary...they've held up splendidly!

mockturtle said...

While I'm not especially interested in space travel I see it as a natural extension of man's desire to explore and applaud his willingness to do so. I detest the feeble attempts at justifications that sometimes come from NASA, e.g., possible application of new scientific discoveries to improve life on earth. Exploration is exploration. No need to justify.

Gahrie said...

One of the most fundamental drives of humanity (at least men) is the need to explore and colonize new places. To be the first.

John Tuffnell said...

The remorselessness of robots. Almost like insects.

Need a Robot Politics tag.

Trumpit said...

"complicated anxiety about the unknown, the brutality of separation from earth, and the remorselessness of robots."

I have complicated and frequent anxiety about the known and unknown - what the future holds for me, and for all people; the brutality of humans on earth, and what can be done to stop it, and the remorselessness of human destruction of all life on planet earth, not just our own species. I'm a realist, so therefore I'm a pessimist. In the vernacular, we are all fucked. It is incumbent upon us to escape the confines of this damaged planet, and colonize other spacial bodies, such as the moon. If mankind's history of continual war is a guide, we will probably blow up this planet and make it uninhabitable, so we should prudently explore, and settle alternative celestial bodies as soon as possible.

I will leave you with Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics:

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Laws_of_Robotics

Ron Winkleheimer said...

A trip to Mars, including the time spent there, is estimated to expose the astronauts to 30 times the radiation that the DOE allows for a worker to be exposed to and would up their chances of getting cancer by 5%. In addition to loss of bone and muscle mass (which can be quite severe) being in micro-gravity effects circulation and eyesight also. People who have been on the ISS for 3-4 months have issues when returning to Earth and have to rebuild their muscle mass.

Gahrie said...

The idea that man should abandon space exploration and confine himself to one small planet given the vastness of the universe is one of the saddest things ever.

Gahrie said...

If the Althouses of the world prevailed, man would still be confined to the plains of Africa.

Fernandistien said...

AI: 60-0 record against Go professionals.

Ke Jie stated that "After humanity spent thousands of years improving our tactics, computers tell us that humans are completely wrong... I would go as far as to say not a single human has touched the edge of the truth of Go."

Gahrie said...

A trip to Mars, including the time spent there, is estimated to expose the astronauts to 30 times the radiation that the DOE allows for a worker to be exposed to and would up their chances of getting cancer by 5%.

I personally would be willing to accept a 5% increased chance of cancer for the opportunity to live on Mars.

Alan said...

The "dominant" form of 60s and 70s science-fiction was the "new wave"--authors with hard science backgrounds writing about much more "possible" scenarios given the actual realities of Newtonian and Einstein physics (Clarke, Bova, Niven, etc.). They started with a "given" that space development would keep up the pace it had during the space race.

Hence, with that background, they simply assumed we'd have large space stations, permanent moon bases, manned solar system (and beyond) expeditions, etc. They didn't explain the development of those settings; rather, they just set people in them and then wrote stories about how humanity might react to the settings they found themselves in. Clarke was interested enough in humanity's first contact with aliens that he wrote two separate series dealing with that subject: the "2001" collection of novels, and the "Rendezvous with Rama" novels. In both cases, he was content to let the mystery remain mostly mysterious, and he understood that oftentimes humanity doesn't deal well with mystery and lack of control. Thus the dark tone of both the novel and the movie.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

AA: I remember the schoolteacher wheeling a TV into the classroom when they were shooting the first American into space. She informed us: This is history in the making.

It was always foisted on us in such a propagandistic way, most notably when we were trying to beat the Russians. Ugh! We still are. Give me a break.


You can probably predict a lot about a person by noting what kind of boosterism appealed to him in his youth, and what kind made him go "Ugh! Propaganda!".

Me, I thrilled to the broadcast of the moon landing. (Still do, watching old clips.) It was all the other propaganda foisted on us in that era that aroused my nascent skepticism and made me go "Ugh!.

traditionalguy said...

Remorselessness is the Althouse word dujour. That HAL guy's problem was acquiring the human emotion of self preservation without acquiring any other human emotions...exactly like that Zuckerberg Model 9000 hybrid recently on display.

I do recall 1971 when we laughed about 30 year mortgages that paid off in 2001. Well now payoff year is 2048, when I will be 103. Somebody stop that computer.

LarsPorsena said...

Robert Cook said...
"Kubrick’s movies haven’t held up well. He tried too hard to explore the “dark side” of human nature but just wasn’t interesting. He didn’t understand human nature. He was just weird."

To the contrary...they've held up splendidly!
---------------------
I agree wholeheartedly with the exception of 2001.

rhhardin said...

In 2038 32-bit unix time rolls back to zero. That would probably reset HAL.

sinz52 said...

Science fiction stories of space travel have continued to be popular because they depict a universe filled with *alien life*. It's life that creates the adventure, the danger, the conflict, the poignancy, and sometimes even the romance of the stories.

In "2001," you didn't see the aliens on camera, but you always knew they were there from the monoliths they had built and the way they had imparted intelligence to our ape ancestors.

With the Cold War over with, real space travel doesn't inspire us anymore. Because unlike science fiction, we've found no evidence of alien life whatsoever. Not even a microbe.

We're past the Apollo 11 stage where we're thrilled just to retrieve some lifeless moon rocks. No more. If NASA can't find alien life, the public won't care about going into space.

Some official at the Smithsonian Institution summed it up perfectly:

"We went to the Moon, and then we stopped.
And the reason we stopped was: We didn't find any Klingons there."

mockturtle said...

From tradguy: That HAL guy's problem was acquiring the human emotion of self preservation without acquiring any other human emotions...exactly like...Zuckerberg

Edited for you.

Fernandistien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bay Area Guy said...

Stanley Kubrick fabricated the Moon landings for the Apollo mission in a studio in Nevada!

See Diamonds are Forever scene with James Bond!

(Oops, sorry, wrong blog)

Er, Yes, 2001 A Space Odyssey was cinematic genius, far ahead of its time. Go Hal!

Fernandistien said...

The subject is too complicated and bo0ring to interest the MSM, but rather than remorseless raping robots that won't open the pod-bay door, AI is going to be very useful dealing with bounded problems in chemistry, physics and engineering, e.g.

MathMom said...

"Humans are adapted to live on Earth. "

Not sure that this means we are not adaptable to life elsewhere. I think we were designed to go into zero-gravity environments because we can swallow in space. If we were adapted to remain on earth, wouldn't swallowing be a gravity-fed mechanism? But it is not. Muscles propel your food toward the stomach. You can swallow upside down, and in zero grav.

Curious George said...

Never saw the movie, and probably never will. But I have seen the Jetsons. Where are the flying jet cars that fold into briefcases goddamit!

AllenS said...

I watched the movie when it first came out at the St. Louis Park’s Cooper Theater (suburb of Minneapolis). The screen was 35 feet high with a 105-foot-wide curve. You had to constantly turn your head to watch the show. Bigger than life. I drove there in my 1966 Austin Healey 3000.

The Cracker Emcee Classic said...

It's a beautiful, moving movie. You were watching a story when you should have been watching art. That said, if you hadn't read the book there was probably no way you could understand the story.

Amexpat said...

I saw the film when it came out and I remember thinking that the year 2001 was so far in the future that anything was possible. Thought the same thing about Orwell's novel 1984 at that time as well.

Jim Gust said...

Hey, AllenS, me too! I was 16, went with my Dad.

Also saw How the West Was Won at the Cooper in Cinerama. Unique experiences.

Did not understand 2001 on first viewing, then read the novel and had the Aha! moment. Now I think it is genius.

It was particularly clever to have Hal have a "nervous breakdown" because it had two incompatible commands programmed into it.

Also, the music from this movie was particularly good.

Robert Cook said...

"Clockwork Orange was good for Walter Carlos's musical soundtrack, but I didn't get that movie either."

Did you read the book? The movie is a pretty close adaptation of the book.

A "Clockwork Orange" was an old cockney expression author Anthony Burgess heard spoken once, as in, "as queer as a clockwork orange." Burgess wasn't quite sure of the expression's actual meaning, but he used it to mean: a machine that has the appearance of being a living organism.

The character Alex, (in the book a 15 year old teenager), is a violent criminal, who gleefully commits assaults and rapes. He is also intelligent and deeply loves music, particularly Beethoven. He is arrested and subjected to conditioning that causes him to become violently sick when even thinking of committing any violent acts. Also, by accident, he becomes sick when hearing Beethoven, as his music was used for soundtrack music on the films of violence Alex watched as part of his conditioning. In the end of the American version of the novel, and in the film, Alex's conditioning is undone, so he can once again enjoy music, as well as rape and violence.

In the final chapter of the original British edition of the novel, cut from the American edition by the publisher, we find that Alex has been narrating his tale from the perspective of several years later. He is an adult in his early 20s and he has settled down and gotten married. He's even contemplating fathering children and has ceased his former violent ways.

(Burgess pointed out that the book was made up of three sections of 7 chapters each. 3 x 7 = 21, the age of legal adulthood. With the exclusion of the original final chapter, this purposeful structure was undone.)

The whole thing is a sort of Catholic allegory, (Burgess was a Catholic). He was making the point that, as God made us to be independent creatures, our moral choices and our redemption from sin must be freely chosen; if we are constrained by forces beyond our control from behaving immorally, this does not make us moral, and in fact, it erases our capacity to be moral. We would just be machines.

In the end, Alex has grown up and in the fullness of his maturation into adulthood, he has shed himself of his violent impulses by his own choice, (though he still remembers his old exploits fondly, with nostalgia). He is a human being.

By the way, years ago I saw Wendy (formerly Walter) Carlos browsing in a bookstore here in NYC.

Larry J said...

I grew up in the 1960s in Huntsville, AL, home of the Marshall Space Flight Center. It was an exciting time to be a geek. I remember going to watch a Saturn V first stage static test from 3 miles away. It was very loud. Nine year old me was very impressed. The moon missions themselves were very dangerous. NASA was relieved when the final two landings were canceled because they feared another dead astronaut crew (remember Apollo One) would kill the agency.

In retrospect, the space race of the 1960s was the US showing how our large, Soviet-style space program (funded with up to 4% of the entire federal budget) could beat the Soviet Union's large, Soviet-style space program. A lot of new technology was developed and advanced as part of the program. The scientific return was pretty slim, at least until the last three moon missions. During the 1960s, NASA's unofficial motto was "Waste anything but time." Today, that legacy continues with just about every large space project NASA has worked on in the last 40 years being late and over budget, often massively so.

Space today is so commonplace that most people only notice it if something goes wrong. To me, the work by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Bigelow, and other New Space companies is as interesting as anything that happened in the 1960s. The future of space shouldn't be left to government agencies. Private companies investing their own resources to exploit space (not explore it) is the future.

Inga said...

“Proving again that you are a girl. Girls are different than boys.”

Good grief! I too remember seeing it in class and remember it to be amazing. I felt a similar amazement when seeing the rocket boosters landing a couple of months ago in Elan Musk’s rocket launch.

AllenS said...

Seems to me that I posted about this movie and the movie theater before. Not sure how to verify it.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

MathMom said...

If we were adapted to remain on earth, wouldn't swallowing be a gravity-fed mechanism?

Muscle-propelled swallowing allows you to swallow even if you are not upright.

To some extent, we are adaptable. However, our real survival skill is our ability to adapt our environment to our needs. If lack of gravity is determined to be too serious a problem, then we will simulate gravity via acceleration ( either by thrust or rotation ). If cancer caused by radiation is too much of a problem then we will block the radiation with shielding, or find cures/preventatives for the cancer through modern medicine.

Inga said...

As for the movie 2001, I loved it. The special effects, the sound track, the premise, we haven’t had many science fiction movies as good as this since then.

gilbar said...

"AA: I remember the schoolteacher wheeling a TV into the classroom when they were shooting the first American into space...
It was always foisted on us in such a propagandistic way, most notably when we were trying to beat the Russians"

the Big difference between US and THEM is that We televised our launches on Live TV. Soviets would announce that they Had successfully done something (if it was a success)
We'd let the whole world see if we could do it (or not).

In the movie The Big Lift, an american is trying to explain the difference between US and THEM to his Shotzie.
He says to her: we just elected a president, you heard how terrible he'd be?
and where'd you hear it? in the US press.
When THEY elect a president, do you ever hear THEM say anything bad ?
THAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US AND THEM
( or, at least it used to be )

gilbar said...

to address the Professor's point though; YES the movie 2001 makes you NOT want to live in that world; The only good thing in that future was the TWA stewardesses

Jack Wayne said...

Trumpit, have you read all of the books in Asimov’s robot cycle? About 20 books as I remember. I came away with the opinion that Asimov was pulling our leg with his Theee Laws.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

If we were adapted to remain on earth, wouldn't swallowing be a gravity-fed mechanism?

My best guess, not being a biologist, is that swallowing evolved in animals that weren't standing on two legs and that gravity would have been no help forcing possibly live food along a horizontal plane.

Gravity can be compensated for, as numerous science fiction tales have suggested, by spinning a surface and living on the inside of that surface, and with enough shielding you can bring radiation levels down to reasonable levels. But creating a surface in space large enough to get some benefit from spinning it to simulate gravity and shielding it is going to be really expensive right now.

Will it be doable in the future? Possibly, but as someone who was once wildly fond of the ideal of space travel, I no longer see the appeal of living on Mars. Its a dusty, barren rock. I think I would get tired of it and regret going there pretty quickly. And what is the benefit of colonizing it? Europeans didn't come to the Americas to live for adventure. They came because it offered them concrete benefits that staying at home didn't.

AllenS said...

Jim Gust, did the shape of the screen make any movie more enjoyable? I thought so.

buwaya said...

"2001" was a vision of glory.

And so was the space program.
That is the word, that is the feeling, and for many that is an urgent imperative.

Man, or many of them, are driven to seek glory, for its own sake, at risk of life or even the certainty of death.

There are things worth a life, or many lives.

How does that movie end? It is a passage to Jupiter, which fails, almost? because of a technical malfunction in the necessary AI. Well, that risk of technical malfunctions is inherent in all such endeavors. The majority of all voyages of exploration ended in disaster, due to technical failures or bad luck with nature or other people. But risk is the point, there is no glory without it.

That is the subtext of Carlos I's motto - Plus Ultra - go beyond. The risk is that one may never return from the beyond.
But yet one must go, such things are worth a life.

If someone were to offer to send me to Jupiter, or Mars, on a one-way trip I would go.

Mark said...

The idea that man should abandon space exploration and confine himself to one small planet given the vastness of the universe is one of the saddest things ever.

The reality of NASA, related space agencies and their staffs degrading into bureaucracies whose first priorities are to perpetuate their existence and make money, rather than being mission-oriented, is even sadder. Add into that the criminal wasteful spending of the government that has made space exploration prohibitively expensive and that is how mankind has confined himself to one small planet.

Mark said...

Another sad thing is the failure of imagination and diminished appreciation for the transcendent that is seen across the culture.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I came away with the opinion that Asimov was pulling our leg with his Theee Laws.

I think that there is a sub-textual suggestion in the latter books that the Robots had become sophisticated enough to nuance what "harm" was and to apply the rules to humanity as a whole. The Robots had developed a moral code that wasn't entirely based on the three laws.

buwaya said...

Europeans went into the oceans for adventure indeed.
We hear of the successes, but not of the failures.
To go voyaging or conquering in those days was near-suicidal.

Of Magellans 270 men eighteen came home. And that was counted a success.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

If swallowing wasn't muscle forced then animals would have to immerse themselves in water in order to drink.

Kyzer SoSay said...

"Proving again that you are a girl. Girls are different than boys."

The only person I know who was more excited about the recent SpaceX booster landing footage than I was . . . is my wife.

Still, Tank is 97% correct. I just got lucky in love.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron Winkleheimer said...

Europeans went into the oceans for adventure indeed.

Some Europeans did. But the majority of colonizers were looking for gold or land or religious freedom. In fact, a sizable percentage of colonizers were forced to go as prisoners or indentured servants or slaves.

JMW Turner said...

From the many negative comments of this movie, I gather none of you observed it under the influence of choice drugs.

Mark said...

Kubrick’s movies haven’t held up well.

Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, The Killing -- all of them classics.

True Clockwork Orange is a bit dated with its futuristic look, but the story holds up. I've never really liked his The Shining, but many people do. And Barry Lyndon is still interesting. Full Metal Jacket will always be memorable for R. Lee Ermey, even if the movie itself was a dud. Less said about Eyes Wide Shut the better. Never seen Lolita.

And 2001 remains one of the top ten movies of all time.

But, I'll grant you, Kubrick (and Terrence Malick today) are not for everyone.

Curious George said...

"Ron Winkleheimer said...
If swallowing wasn't muscle forced then animals would have to immerse themselves in water in order to drink."

That's absurd. Example, birds use gravity and don't need to do this.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

When I was in Dublin I visited a museum and there was an exhibit on the Middle Ages. A skeleton had been excavated and I remember that they thought the individual had died in his (I think it was a man, but I may be mis-remembering) thirties and he only had three teeth left, all of which were severely impacted. When that kind of thing is common place, and you have a strong Christian faith, I would think risking your life for riches and glory would be a lot more likely thing to do than it is now.

buwaya said...

Explorers, Ron.
They were followed by people with more focused goals and less appetite for risk.

But read Bernal Diaz' account of Mexico, and consider the subtext. These men wanted to go over the next hill to see what was there, justifying the near-suicidal risks on the promise of gold, or land, but in truth this was rationalization.

The whole business amounted to near-certain death, or at least a very short life.

mccullough said...

Cook,

I like you. You are a principled guy. But Kubrick’s movies are trash. He was so ham handed — that shot in 2001 where the guy in the ape costume throws the bone into the air and then the shot dissolved into the spaceship was awful. Just awful. Except for Dr Strangelove, all his films were crap. Full Metal Jacket was the worst of the worst. Kubrick was an introverted bookworm. He had no insight into people. None.



mccullough said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buwaya said...

As for Space X, its biggest fans in our clan are my wife and daughter. There are women capable of understanding what they see.

Inga said...

“The Shining, but many people do.”

I’m one of the many who do. Redrum, redrum, the hotel, the snow maze, the terror, wonderful!


Ron Winkleheimer said...

That's absurd. Example, birds use gravity and don't need to do this.

I was unaware of that. Thanks for the info. So I guess they get water down their throat by scooping it up in their beak and then holding their heads up? But not being reliant on gravity to swallow is still advantageous. I don't think that method would be very efficient for a giraffe for example.

buwaya said...

I thought the bone into the spaceship shot was superb symbolism. They are the same thing, created by the same bits of human nature, complicated in their creative imperatives in the same way.

AllenS said...

The lesson taught in the movie 2001, is that if you go on an extended vacation, leave your computer at home.

Mark said...

So, compare and contrast 2001 with The Tree of Life.

Ray said...

PanAm
>The only good thing in that future was the TWA stewardesses

I had a model of the PanAm space clipper and my GrandFather worked for PanAm. That may have been the first movie I ever saw. My Father loved the movie.

robother said...

Man is "adapted to space"? I don't think you and I share the same definition of evolutionary adaptation. The only creature that might become adapted to space is man's creation, AI. And even that may be wishful thinking that humans can persuade AI to not just take over Earth, instead of cruising the depths of Space. Sadly, Kubrick's 2001 (and the novel on which it is based) is most unbelievable in the corny way that the human triumphs over HAL. "It would be pretty to think so."

mccullough said...

Buwaya,

The bone-into-spaceship was ham-handed. Tripe. Lost in Space was better art than 2001.

buwaya said...

And, also of interest, the one book mentioned by Bernal Diaz as being on the expedition was the "Amadis", a medieval fantasy of strange lands. And California, note, was named after a character in "Esplandian", its sequel.

These were not hard-headed practical fellows. Or that, at least, hard headed practicality, was not what drove them.

Gahrie said...

I no longer see the appeal of living on Mars. ... And what is the benefit of colonizing it?

If nothing else, it would provide a back up population if a comet hit the Earth and wiped out humans the same way the dinosaurs went out.

Robert Cook said...

"I watched the movie when it first came out at the St. Louis Park’s Cooper Theater (suburb of Minneapolis). The screen was 35 feet high with a 105-foot-wide curve. You had to constantly turn your head to watch the show. Bigger than life. I drove there in my 1966 Austin Healey 3000."

I was in junior high school when it came out and my father got reserved seat tickets for us (the family) to see at the special Cinerama showing in Jacksonville, Florida. I was fascinated but ultimately baffled by the movie, but I read Arthur C. Clarke's novelization and it all became clear. I have seen the movie again as an adult and I think it's terrific!

(I may be wrong, but feel like that original Cinerama version of the film was longer than later releases. It could simply be a distortion of my memory and experience of the film.)

Kubrick, ever the ironist, delighted in depicting the wonders of man's having achieved space flight as merely the banal extension of his mundane worldly affairs into outer space. On earth, on a space station, or on the moon, the surroundings are all the same: deadening commercial spaces. The astronauts are so lacking in affect they seem barely alive. "Clockwork oranges," actually. Humans transformed by our technology into mere extensions of the technology. HAL was the most human entity in the film.

mockturtle said...

Inga reports re The Shining: I’m one of the many who do. Redrum, redrum, the hotel, the snow maze, the terror, wonderful!

Yes! I like it, too. And it's often hilariously funny in a grotesque kind of way. Jack Nicholson in his initial interview acting sincere and 'normal' and not quite pulling it off, being Jack Nicholson. And Shelley Duvall. What can be said about her role other than comic caricature. Then the 'Heeeere's Johnny!' bit. Funny but terrifying, well filmed. Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood in Oregon was the setting for much of the filming and it's kind of an eerie, overwhelming place in its own right.


buwaya said...

McCullough, we have to disagree.
The symbolism is a multi-layered comment on human nature, and mans works.

Kyzer SoSay said...

"I think we were designed to go into zero-gravity environments because we can swallow in space. If we were adapted to remain on earth, wouldn't swallowing be a gravity-fed mechanism? But it is not. Muscles propel your food toward the stomach. You can swallow upside down, and in zero grav."

This isn't really compelling evidence in my opinion. The muscles in the gullet are just to make sure food gets to the stomach in good order without getting hung up, regardless of how big of a lump one tries to swallow (though this limit can be exceeded). While this is helpful in zero G, it is not really accurate to say that this is a design for eventual exposure to zero G.

buwaya said...

"what is the benefit of colonizing it?"

Because its there.

Mark said...

Muscles propel your food toward the stomach. You can swallow upside down, and in zero grav.

It's not the going in that's the problem. It is the coming out that is the problem. Although Kubrick did foresee that in 2001. And they are able to compensate (mechanically) on the space station today.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Because its there.

The people and governments financing those expeditions were expecting returns. And, I guess I should emphasize that there is a difference between colonizers and explorers. I have no problem believing that the initial explorers were romantic adventure seekers. But colonization means permanent settlement and a family. Colonizers are a different breed than explorers. Obviously not risk adverse, but expecting something besides adventure for their efforts.

Gahrie said...

I think we were designed to go into zero-gravity environments

Nope. We evolved (or were designed) to live on the plains of Africa.

However man has the ability to adapt to new environments and change them to make them more hospitable. I currently live in a desert that has been adapted to allow millions of people to live in an environment that would only support a few thousand naturally.

buwaya said...

A useful complement to "2001" is "Apollo 13" .

This captures the ethos of it just about as well.
It is interesting that it makes a point of the unity of the engineers below (the "steely-eyed rocket men") and the astronauts above. Those below wish they were above, and if permitted they too would risk everything for that.

Inga said...

“Yes! I like it, too. And it's often hilariously funny in a grotesque kind of way. Jack Nicholson in his initial interview acting sincere and 'normal' and not quite pulling it off, being Jack Nicholson. And Shelley Duvall. What can be said about her role other than comic caricature.”

I appreciated the way the horror of finding her husband becoming a grotesque frightening character was displayed and the idea that this transformation happened easily because he was such a flawed human to begin with was insightful. He was ripe for the taking, by the evil that inhabited the hotel. Shelly Duvall’s character was portrayed pretty well as the innocent, naive, but loving wife who believed a new start in the hotel would change the flawed nature of her husband...she was mistaken, lol.

Gahrie said...

The people and governments financing those expeditions were expecting returns

And they got them..both historically and today.

rcocean said...

People keep talking about "space travel" and "visiting other solar systems".

Hello? Do you vast space is?

The nearest solar System is 4.6 light years away. We currently can travel at 60,000 miles an hour. If we could increase that by a factor of 11 - and get up to 670,000 miles an hour, it would still take us 4,000 YEARS to get to Alpha Centuri.

rcocean said...

As for our own Solar System, the only places worth visiting are the Moon and Mars.

And we already know all about Mars and the Moon.

What are we going to do on Mars or the Moon - play Hop-scotch and marvel at the landscape inside our air-conditioned/heated underground bunkers, breathing artificial air?

JAORE said...

Asteroid mining. It's the new El Dorado.

buwaya said...

Cook,

I think you missed out on more of the subtext of 2001. It showed us wonders, and it showed that we mistake such things as banal. If you think thats what Kubrik intended, to say that it was banal, he played a trick on you. The irony he intended is about the human ability to make miracles banal. The familiar is too easily misunderstood, and underappreciated. The banal is, rather, miraculous.

This ability to create is the deep mystery, embodied in the monoliths. And it is a continuum from the bone tools.

Unknown said...

Cooper Cinerama Theaters? I think I saw "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" at one.

buwaya said...

What many misunderstand, also, about the colonization of the Americas, is that for the first two decades the whole business was a dead loss. The Caribbean colonies where Hernan Cortez organized his expedition (financed on a shoestring, ill equipped and manned by desperados) were not paying for the effort put into them. They were something like internet investments of the 1990s.

buwaya said...

rcocean,

plus ultra
per aspera ad astra
not because it is easy, but because it is hard

and,

Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle flew;
and, with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God.

mockturtle said...

Buwaya, my favorite part of High Flight was the 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' part. It's the thrill of taking off, and not just in a plane. For me, it has been felt when we cast our boat off its moorings or when I shoved my kayak into the river. There is something confining about earth that makes some of us want to escape it, at least for a time.

buwaya said...

mockturtle,

There is the thrill of adventure, of leaving the normal.
But the latter part gets to the matter of sacrifice.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Glenn Reynolds writes from time to time that human exploration of space will be great or heroic as well as necessary (say in the case of an asteroid strike). It will be like the American frontier, transforming a wilderness into a livable space, ready and eager for technology to make life ever softer and easier. Space will take us back to a tough life, where heroic virtues are necessary. We'll look out for each other in direct ways, not via a welfare state. I agree more with our host. 2001 is an impressive movie, but it is more about how the same old people will fail to make an entirely new world, than it is about any great success.

With the possible exception of 2001, the only sci fi movie I keep going back to is Blade Runner--and yes, I like the new one. It's not really about the future or robots at all--it's about what it means to be human, how we treat each other as well as how we treat non-humans.

Ray said...

It’s interesting how things turned out tech wise vs 2001.

Why did the us basically stop advancing in space till SpaceX came along?

X-37 is an exception.

Inga said...

“...Blade Runner--and yes, I like the new one. It's not really about the future or robots at all--it's about what it means to be human, how we treat each other as well as how we treat non-humans.”

I agree, the Blade Runner movies are great. I enjoyed the Fifth Element, the humorous aspects especially. The scenes of cars racing through the skies far above the seedy cities below, the Asian overtones, the human aspects of the otherworldly characters and the world being saved by the good guys in the end.

buwaya said...

The US stopped advancing in space because the US started encountering the earlier portions of civilizational degeneration. Bureaucracy is cancer, it kills. Not least by making government complex and expensive. The government itself is slowly strangled, it costs more and more to do less and less. Other, that is, than strangling everything else. Like cancer it metastatizes until it grows in every other institution.

Bay Area Guy said...

I was too young too appreciate 2001 Space Odyssey, I was more of a Star Wars devotee. Also, let's not forget "The Right Stiff", which was awesome and brilliant and reasonably true. The historical Space evolution was test pilots (Yeager) > astronauts (Glenn) > moonwalkers (Armstrong).

My understanding is that we have not been back to the moon since 1972 - and that subsequent endeavors (space shuttle, space station) are lesser accomplishments. This is a bit weird. It's like Lindbergh flying across the Atlantic and then declaring, "for my next mission, I'll be flying from Fresno to Bakersfield!"

Kubrick & 2001 were WAY ahead of the curve. A brilliant man, a brilliant movie.

buwaya said...

Part of decadence is the degeneration of vision.
When the point of everything is personal and not universal or transcendental.

Your "higher" education, for instance, is about ever-more ridiculously petty goals. Feminism (and even that is reaching obsolescence in favor of even lower concepts) is an obsession with the trivial.

buwaya said...

We are specks of dust.

When we obsess about our own welfare, we are thinking on the level of specks, in the nanoscale of our own persons. When we obsess about our own feelings, we dive below that several orders of magnitude, into the microscopic.

The better place for the mind of a speck of dust to be is on a universal scale, or as close to that as it can come.

surfed said...

The movie made perfect sense trippin' on a tab of Orange Sunshine. But that was 1968. A long time ago now.

Enlighten-NewJersey said...

Anne, you didn’t watch any of the first moon landing or walking on the moon? Wow, do you remember what you were doing that was more interesting or important to you at the time? My boyfriend and I were glued to the television (and each other) watching, what I still consider, a most historic and amazing accomplishment of mankind. Besides achieving that amazing objective, so much of the technological marvels we take for granted today can be traced back to the space program.

glam1931 said...

I like 2001 a little more each time I watch it, as it is shown frequently on TCM. My Dad took me to see it in 1968, so I've probably seen it 20 times or more over the years. I always notice new things on each viewing.
A few years ago Gary Lockwood actually got angry with me at a Star Trek convention, because I insisted on having him autograph a photo of him from the second Star Trek pilot ("Where No Man Has Gone Before"), rather than 2001, which he felt was much more "important". He was right in a sense, but I didn't have the heart to tell him that while he was memorable on Trek, nobody remembers any of the actors in 2001. The only interesting character in 2001 was HAL.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

rcocean said...

If we could increase that by a factor of 11 - and get up to 670,000 miles an hour, it would still take us 4,000 YEARS to get to Alpha Centuri.

Well then, we'd better leave soon.

traditionalguy said...

2001 always impressed me as man’s conquest of space by technology that found its limit in the computer program rebelling against men. Hmmm. That’s what the experts say is about to kill us all today.


Ironclad said...

The places we need to visit - unmanned at first are more Europa, Encephalus and Titan. All are places with real chances for life to be present - water on the first 2 and interesting low temperature chemistry on the latter. Finding life different from our own would be the biggest shock in history.

Yancey Ward said...

For its time, 2001: A Space Odyssey was simply stunning. I am old enough to have first seen it (around 1977) when its timeline wasn't yet dated. I still stop to watch it on TCM whenever I accidentally come across it channel surfing, and it holds 50 years later- still a stunning work of visual and philosophical art.

LarsPorsena said...

Space and exploration,white people stuff.

Yancey Ward said...

One of my earliest memories that I can recall at the age of nearly 52 is the Apollo 11 Moon landing and watching it on television- though my memory of it is probably more due to the fact that my oldest sibling, my sister, was born on the day of the launch, and my mother and my sister came home from the hospital the day of the landing. The events are tied together in my memory, and the impact from my first sibling was the thing that cemented it so firmly.

Yancey Ward said...

Absent a species extinction cataclysm, we will visit the stars eventually, but we won't be the species we are today- we will adapt ourselves through genetic and mechanical engineering to live in any environment.

Yancey Ward said...

"Hal, delete my Facebook page."

"Sorry, Dave, I can't do that."

buwaya said...

"Space and exploration,white people stuff."

Yes. As above, this sort of thing is baked into your higher ed.

Whitesplaining History

Bob said...

rcocean said, People keep talking about "space travel" and "visiting other solar systems".

Hello? Do you [know how] vast space is?


When I was a kid in the 1960's, futurism captivated me. There were hints of it everywhere in the schools: space travel, rocket propelled transportation, housing in the clouds, colonies on the moon and Mars, nuclear-powered everything. It was in the popular culture with the Jetsons, Lost in Space, and Star Trek. Science fiction seemed only decades from becoming science reality.

The high-water mark was the triumph of the 1969 moon landing. I was fourteen then and, unlike Althouse, completely captivated. It seemed like the dream was unfolding, to be achieved in my eventual middle age.

But then came the crushing disaster that was the Vietnam war, the race riots, the environmental movement, the war on the Supersonic Transport, the questions over astronauts striking golf balls on the moon. It was clear this space stuff was really expensive and really hard. It is one thing to conquer the American Frontier. There is at least food and water in most places and an atmosphere you can breathe. Not so with the moon and Mars.

Then came Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl, and nuclear power was stopped in its tracks. I remember, I think, seeing an internal combusion engine being buried on the first Earth Day. Today, of course, there are more ICE vehicles than ever. The futuristic thinking of the 60's faded into the dismal realities of the 70's and beyond.

I partly agree with Althouse that 2001 offered a more somber version of futurism for the time (except perhaps for the True Believers). Later came THX1138, Rollerball, and Logan's Run (and other movies I never saw), and the dark side of futurism became the theme. But I think the theme merely reflected the increasing pessimism of the era in contrast to the confidence of the early 60's. Yes, there was Star Wars, but it was less science fiction than Wild Western.

Elon Musk has made futurism "cool" again, tying it to concerns over climate change. But Musk's futurism seems so elitist considering the cost of his automobiles. And even though Musk seems likely to drive Tesla into the wall of bankruptcy, his efforts have led to established auto makers beginning to build products that will help to marginalize Elon.

SpaceX? Who knows? But, I'm not holding my breath.

rcocean may be right. The vastness of space may be a bit too big a boo for us.

Ficta said...

It's not entirely correct to say mankind retreated from space. Manned spaceflight is a ghost of its former self, but we've sent our robots everywhere. A short (probably incomplete) list of where we have active, soon to launch (next 5 years) or recently ended (last 5 years) missions:

The Sun's outer atmosphere
Mercury
Venus
Mars
Jupiter
Europa
Saturn
Ceres
Pluto
The edge of the Sun's magnetosphere (i.e. "Interstellar Space")
Various asteroids, comets, Kuiper Belt objects, etc.

Mark said...

If we are going to talk about bad abomination movies, then let's talk 2010. Which abandoned everything that Kubrick brought to 2001.

buwaya said...

"But then came the crushing disaster that was the Vietnam war, the race riots, the environmental movement, the war on the Supersonic Transport, the questions over astronauts striking golf balls on the moon. "

...

"But I think the theme merely reflected the increasing pessimism of the era"

A very large part of this was deliberate memetic sabotage by your own traitorous elites. Your society failed, at the top, and the infection (or cancer) spread down.
You would have done better to go through a ritual of revolution to purge this lot. It is too late now.

"rcocean may be right. The vastness of space may be a bit too big a boo for us."

The vastness of space has nothing to do with this. The real problem is that you are no longer capable of a vastness of vision.

Mark said...

2001 not only captured the imagination about humanity (origins, meaning, development) and space travel and advanced extraterrestrial life (with all its religious implications), even just the music was influential. Listening to the iconic Thus Spake Zarathustra by Richard Wagner, which is about the notion of a superman, leading to curiosity about Nietzsche and from there interest in philosophy in general. One thing leading to another.

SeanF said...

Bay Area Guy: Stanley Kubrick fabricated the Moon landings for the Apollo mission in a studio in Nevada!

Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no.

Kubrick faked the landings for NASA, for sure, but he was such a stickler for accuracy and detail that he actually took his film crew to the moon to film it on location.

rhhardin said...

I've found holding a slight positive G force is a good idea in order to keep dirt on the floor, even in so-called zero G maneuvers.

Darrell said...

The nearest solar System is 4.6 light years away. We currently can travel at 60,000 miles an hour. If we could increase that by a factor of 11 - and get up to 670,000 miles an hour, it would still take us 4,000 YEARS to get to Alpha Centauri.

Doesn't matter. The monoliths will turn us into space babies as many times as needed.

becauseIdbefired said...

Hello? Do you vast space is?

The nearest solar System is 4.6 light years away. We currently can travel at 60,000 miles an hour. If we could increase that by a factor of 11 - and get up to 670,000 miles an hour, it would still take us 4,000 YEARS to get to Alpha Centuri.


https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/150-year-journey-to-alpha-centauri-proposed-video/

When people think of space travel, they get confused and think we would send actual people.

If we should chose to explore the galaxy, we will do it with something like DNA, with micro-machines. If we chose to populate other star systems, we won't send grown humans, but their DNA to systems that have been made habitable by micro-machines that build whatever is necessary.

The Galaxy is only 120,000 light years across. At 20% "C", as someone is contemplating doing within our lifetime (to send to alpha centauri), that would take only 1 million years to get end to end.

Assuming advancement on the exponential curve humans are on, I would imagine that easily within 10,000 years we could begin the exploration of most of the galaxy (perhaps some areas are very difficult to get to on account of radiation). It would take a few million years to do it.

A few million years isn't long when considering life has been around for over 4 billion years.

Christy said...

Ann, I didn't watch the moon landing either. It was too important, too emotional for me. I left the TV, went up the hill behind the house, climbed a tree, and dreamed. I never doubted the success of the mission. I knew we were destined for the stars. I became a nuclear engineer just so I could earn my place on the first Luna Colony.

That said, I never enjoyed 2001: A Space Odyssey or anything by Arthur C. Clarke, to devoid of human feeling. After 50 years of reading science fiction, I'm convinced most of it is produced by high functioning autistics, not that there is anything wrong with asperger sufferers, but still.

Odysseus came home alone, just saying.

Caligula said...

"With the Cold War over with, real space travel doesn't inspire us anymore."

Or perhaps the low-hanging fruit got picked, and robots became far more capable?

Suborbital spaceflight --> low Earth orbit -> lunar circumnavigation -> lunar landing.

Each of these is perhaps 5-10x more difficult than the prior. Except perhaps lunar circumnavigation is not that much more difficult than low Earth orbit.


But, if "(round trip) Mars mission" is next in the sequence, that requires ~7 months in space each way, plus time on Mars for the planets to be in positon for the return trip. Considering the provisions needed for the human crew and the possibility that a solar storm just might deliver a lethal dose of radiation to them (as well as all the other things that could go wrong), the costs and risks seem far more than an order of magnitude greater than a lunar landing.

And so, without better basic space transportation technology, that "next step" offers poor reward-to-risk and reward-to-cost ratios.

Meanwhile, electronics are incomparably better than they were in 1969, with the result that robots can do just about anything that needs to be done in space. With the exception of providing the human interest/entertainment/national prestige value of having people there.

In any case, it seems likely that the next people on the Moon will be Chinese. And China is nationalistic enough to be more likely to declare their landing as "One giant step for China." And perhaps declare soverignty over some or all of it? Interesting times.

madAsHell said...

Also, let's not forget "The Right Stiff",

Stiff?? Was that intentional?? Either way! Hilarious!

Gahrie said...

In any case, it seems likely that the next people on the Moon will be Chinese.

Bet not. It'll be American citizens using companies like SpaceX and Blue Origins.

Michael McNeil said...

If lack of gravity is determined to be too serious a problem, then we will simulate gravity via acceleration (either by thrust or rotation).

Right. However, one might note that — according to the modern “law of gravity” (Einstein’s general theory of relativity, a.k.a. geometrodynamics) — acceleration doesn’t produce “simulated gravity” but real live gravity.

Gahrie said...

A few million years isn't long when considering life has been around for over 4 billion years.

But humanity has only been around for 300,000 years.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

becauseIdbefired said...

The Galaxy is only 120,000 light years across. At 20% "C", as someone is contemplating doing within our lifetime (to send to alpha centauri), that would take only 1 million years to get end to end.

Strictly speaking, we don't even have to go anywhere. Were we to just stop the other end of the galaxy would come to us in a mere ~125 million years.

:)

Michael McNeil said...

Hello? Do you vast space is? The nearest solar System is 4.6 light years away.

There’s another way to travel to the stars: the slow way via asteroids and comets.

Farsighted physicist Freeman Dyson put it thus, in a chapter of his illuminating (1972) essay “The World, the Flesh, and the Devil” — catapulting the idea of the “habitability” of other worlds into a whole 'nother light! Quoting that chapter and verse in its entirety:

IV. Big Trees

I have spoken about the two first steps of biological engineering. The first will transform our industry and the second will transform our earth-bound ecology. It is now time to speak of the third step, which is the colonization of space. I believe in fact that biological engineering is the essential tool which will make Bernal's dream of the expansion of mankind in space a practical possibility.

First I have to clear away a few popular misconceptions about space as a habitat. It is generally considered that planets are important. Except for Earth, they are not. Mars is waterless, and the others are for various reasons basically inhospitable to man. It is generally considered that beyond the sun's family of planets there is absolute emptiness extending for light years until you come to another star.

In fact it is likely that space around the solar system is populated by huge numbers of comets, small worlds a few miles in diameter, rich in water and the other chemicals essential to life. We see one of these comets only when it happens to suffer a random perturbation of its orbit which sends it plunging close to the sun. It seems that roughly one comet per year is captured into the region near the sun, where it eventually evaporates and disintegrates. If we assume that the supply of distant comets is sufficient to sustain this process over the thousands of millions of years that the solar system has existed, then the total population of comets loosely attached to the sun must be numbered in the thousands of millions. The combined surface area of these comets is then a thousand or ten thousand times that of Earth.

I conclude from these facts that comets, not planets, are the major potential habitat of life in space. If it were true that other stars have as many comets as the sun, it then would follow that comets pervade our entire Galaxy. We have no evidence either supporting or contradicting this hypothesis. If true, it implies that our Galaxy is a much friendlier place for interstellar travelers than it is popularly supposed to be. The average distance between habitable oases in the desert of space is not measured in light years, but is of the order of a light day or less.

{Continued on following page: page 2}

Michael McNeil said...

{Continuing from preceding page: page 2}

I propose to you then an optimistic view of the Galaxy an an abode of life. Countless millions of comets are out there, amply supplied with water, carbon, and nitrogen, the basic constituents of living cells. We see when they fall close to the sun that they contain all the common elements necessary to our existence. They lack only two essential requirements for human settlement, namely warmth and air. And now biological engineering will come to our rescue. We shall learn how to grow trees on comets.

To make a tree grow in airless space by the light of a distant sun is basically a problem of redesigning the skin of its leaves. In every organism the skin is the crucial part which must be most delicately tailored to the demands of the environment. The skin of a leaf in space must satisfy four requirements. It must be opaque to far-ultraviolet radiation to protect the vital tissues from radiation damage. It must be impervious to water. It must transmit visible light to the organs of photosynthesis. It must have extremely low emissivity for far-infrared radiation, so that it can limit loss of heat and keep itself from freezing. A tree whose leaves possess such a skin should be able to take root and flourish upon any comet as near to the sun as the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn.

Farther out than Saturn the sunlight is too feeble to keep a simple leaf warm, but trees can grow at far greater distances if they provide themselves with compound leaves. A compound leaf would consist of a photosynthetic part which is able to keep itself warm, together with a concave mirror part which itself remains cold but focuses concentrated sunlight upon the photosynthetic part. It should be possible to program the genetic instructions of a tree to produce such leaves and orient them correctly toward the sun. Many existing plants possess structures more complicated than this.

Once leaves can be made to function in space, the remaining parts of a tree — trunk, branches, and roots — do not present any great problems. The branches must not freeze, and therefore the bark must be a superior heat insulator. The roots will penetrate and gradually melt the frozen interior of the comet, and the tree will build its substance from the materials that the roots find there. The oxygen which the leaves manufacture must not be exhaled into space; instead it will be transported down to the roots and released into the regions where men will live and take their ease among the tree trunks.

One question still remains. How high can a tree on a comet grow? The answer is surprising. On any celestial body whose diameter is of the order of ten miles or less, the force of gravity is so weak that a tree can grow infinitely high. Ordinary wood is strong enough to lift its own weight to an arbitrary distance from the center of gravity. This means that from a comet of ten-mile diameter, trees can grow out for hundreds of miles, collecting the energy of sunlight from an area thousands of times as large as the area of the comet itself. Seen from far away, the comet will look like a small potato sprouting an immense growth of stems and foliage. When man comes to live on the comets, he will find himself returning to the arboreal existence of his ancestors.

We shall bring to the comets not only trees but a great variety of other flora and fauna to create for ourselves an environment as beautiful as ever existed on Earth. Perhaps we shall teach our plants to make seeds which will sail out across the ocean of space to propagate life upon comets still unvisited by man. Perhaps we shall start a wave of life which will spread from comet to comet without end until we have achieved the greening of the Galaxy. That may be an end or a beginning, as Bernal said, but from here it is out of sight.

(/unQuote)

Read Freeman Dyson's intriguing essay in its entirety.

Darrell said...

The Right Stiff--

The Al Gore biopic.

Mark said...

I would imagine that easily within 10,000 years we could begin the exploration of most of the galaxy (perhaps some areas are very difficult to get to on account of radiation). It would take a few million years to do it.

Sorry but all the smart climate experts say that we will have exhausted all of our resources, turned up the world temperature to 130 degrees and all the people will have all died off at 4:26 p.m. EDT on June 18, 2033. Won't be nobody around in 10,000 years, much less a million.

Unknown said...

There's no particular reason to colonize another planet or moon. Why dig yourself out of Earth's giant gravity well just to go down an other one?

If we ever find another Earth-like planet, that might be worth it for the convenience of being able to go outside. The moon? No atmosphere at all and not terraformable. Mars? Maybe terraformable, but there's no reason to colonize it until that's done.

Materials come from the asteroids. Build as many O'Neill habitats as needed/wanted. If you're living in a can in space, anyway, why stay in one place? Put some dinky thruster on it and tour.

There are lots of plans for getting things like this done. I highly recommend Arthur Isaac's YouTube channel.

My Google-fu is weak today. Someone has a plan for a moon base in 10 years with a reasonable cost. Basically, make it automated (anything requiring humans can be done from earth; not true with Mars) and self-supporting ASAP. Ship as little as possible from earth and 3D print everything. Round 1 is earth stuff printing moon stuff, which starts printing itself. As the moon-generated tech catches up with what has been sent from earth, less and less resupply is needed. They extrapolated moon-native chip fabrication (the hardest tech problem needing to be solved) in about 15 years.

Mars would be a good place to try out a space elevator. Earth has much more gravity, atmosphere, and terrorism.

mikee said...

JMW Turner above hits one out of the park. The movie was much appreciated by those who dropped acid, smoked dope, or otherwise altered their own reality during the long light show. I find it amazing that nobody else commented on that cultural cliche from the 1960s, watching 2001 on LSD. Every comedian alive at the time joked about it.

The movie was about reality being altered: by finding the monolith, by being in space, by being absolutely logical while having to lie, by retrieving a corpse at risk of your own life, by removing the higher thought processes of someone you depended on, by entering the unknown, by unimaginable change wrought upon you by others unimaginably more powerful than you.

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I sent my mom a videotape of an ultrasound (then an amazing new technology) that started with the baby hanging in space at the end of 2001, soundtrack and all. She called me up, and said that for about 5 seconds she was trying to figure out how the ultrasound had been taken in color. Talk about altered reality!

mikee said...

OK, surfed, you get credit, too. You freaky fellow.

exiledonmainstreet said...

I've seen all of Kubrick's films with the exception of "Eyes Wide Shut" and 2001 was the only one I really disliked. But I saw it as a teenager. I was extremely bored by it. My reaction might be very different today. I had ambivalent feelings about "A Clockwork Orange" because I had read the novel first and, as Robert Cook points out, the Alex of the book is quite different from the Alex of the novel. (Burgess did not like the movie.) However, Malcolm McDowell was terrific in it.

"Lolita" is worth watching just for Peter Seller's performance as Clare Quilty (now there's another movie that could never be made today, although I believe there was a remake a while back, with Jeremy Irons as Humbert Humbert). "Paths of Glory" is my favorite Kubrick film.

And I remember feeling awed by the moon landing. However, the person most delighted by it had to have been Teddy Kennedy, who had just had an unfortunate little accident a couple days earlier. The moon landing took the country's focus off of Chappaquiddick.

Mark said...

Remember - protect your precious bodily fluids. Purity of essence.

Original Mike said...

Blogger buwaya said...”It is interesting that it makes a point of the unity of the engineers below (the "steely-eyed rocket men") and the astronauts above. Those below wish they were above, and if permitted they too would risk everything for that.“

With respect, it’s “steely-eyed missile men”. (Like the period in “Top. Men.”, it matters.)

It was enthralled with the 60’s space program. How inspiring to a teenager; that mankind could do such things. What a disappointment the atrophy of the ensuing decades (with the imprtant exception of the unmanned space probes). I am excited to see the revival of manned space flight by the private concerns (how cool was that double booster landing on the first Falcon Heavy launch!?). The future of space is with commercial enterprise. I wish I could live to see it.

Blogger buwaya said...”Bureaucracy is cancer, it kills. Not least by making government complex and expensive. The government itself is slowly strangled, it costs more and more to do less and less. Other, that is, than strangling everything else. Like cancer it metastatizes until it grows in every other institution.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Original Mike said...

” I find it amazing that nobody else commented on that cultural cliche from the 1960s, watching 2001 on LSD.”

It goes without saying, to those of us of a certain age.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

""THE MOVIE 2001 IS NOW 50 YEARS OLD. If it were a reality, we’d have had space stations and moon bases for decades.""

Yeah, but instead we had 40 years of Republicon rule and all that came with it: War, going after the poor, public divestment and catering on all fours to the new billionaire class. Plus a near-depression and debt as high as the eye can see.

And yet there are people here who think they're good for something.

Must be a very emotional connection they have.

Bay Area Guy said...

If we had planted ICBM's on the Moon in 1969, it would have psychologically traumatized and destabilized both Brezhnev and Mao, and we would won the Cold War 20 years earlier.

As it were, the fear of such, probably freaked out the Commies much more than Sputnik freaked us out.

John Lynch said...

The movie says that all technology does is enable murder.

The apes at the beginning kill with bones, and the sentient computer murders the human scientists in their sleep. Intelligence=murder.

Also, space sucks. No one is clamoring to live in Antarctica, and it's a lot nicer than the Moon or Mars. At least a person can breathe there.

D Mutant said...

I watch 2001 about every five years or so...and wonder why we're not on Mars yet.
The film changed the way we look at sci-fi movies. Thank you Clarke and Kubrick.

buwaya said...

"The apes at the beginning kill with bones, and the sentient computer murders the human scientists in their sleep. Intelligence=murder."

You have it wrong - the alien monolith, a presumably brilliant sort of artifact, made the apes intelligent and inventive of tools; those apes eventually made a tool with a will of its own - to a degree.

"Also, space sucks. No one is clamoring to live in Antarctica"

Antarctica has the great defect of being here, and still sucking. The beauty of space is that you can go THERE - the ultimate somewhere else. Its not about being comfortable, but moving to the ultimate elsewhere.

Mark said...

The movie says that all technology does is enable murder.

"The apes at the beginning kill with bones, and the sentient computer murders the human scientists in their sleep. Intelligence=murder."
You have it wrong - the alien monolith, a presumably brilliant sort of artifact, made the apes intelligent and inventive of tools; those apes eventually made a tool with a will of its own - to a degree


I have come to not attribute altruistic motives to the advanced aliens who seeded earth with the monolith. It is arguable that they not only planted the first intelligence in the humans, leading them to reason to make tools, but that they also planted the idea of murderous conquest in their minds too.

The big question in all this is why HAL first malfunctioned and then killed the crew (except for Dave) to cover it up? Was that the work of the aliens? It is clear that they had no use for the crew -- they only wanted Dave, who they wanted to recreate into their "savior" overlord child that is seen at the end.

In short -- I've come around to thinking that these alien beings were evil.

mccullough said...

The monolith was a hallucination as was Hal’s dysfunction. Dave, like the apes with the bone, was delusional. He killed the crew. There were no aliens. Aliens are figments of imagination.

CWJ said...

"...but instead we had 40 years of Republicon rule..."

Lord Ritmo, you're an idiot. And I say that after ignoring a hell of a lot of your comments for months upon months. But this one statement takes the cake.

Bay Area Guy said...

"You have it wrong - the alien monolith, a presumably brilliant sort of artifact, made the apes intelligent and inventive of tools;"

I'm sorry but the "alien monolith" reminds me of Al Gore.

John Lynch said...

Mark- yeah. To the aliens, intelligence was the ability to kill and dominate. The humans in the film create HAL... who does the same thing.

There's an explanation from Clarke about why HAL malfunctioned. It's in the novelization. HAL was told to conceal information from Dave and Frank for security reasons- that's why the recording about the monolith plays after Dave unplugs HAL. HAL can't hide it anymore.

Hiding information about the monolith ran against HAL's programming, so he solved the problem by murder. You don't have to conceal information from the dead. It's not a human motive, but it made sense to the computer.

William said...

I saw the movie a few times when I was younger. Here's my takeaway. It was a meditation on evolution. As noted, the bone becomes the spaceship. Also, the spaceship becomes insect like in outer space. The astronaut has to conquer the computer in order to prove himself the ultimate in evolution. The movie was a lot smarter than me and worth seeing a few times........If you figured it out, you haven't unlocked the riddle of the universe. Kubrick got a lot of things wrong. No more pay phones. Also, if humans wish to explore the far reaches of outer space, they will have download their personalities into computer code. This will probably happen within the lifespan of your grandson's grandson. We will evolve into some kind of computer. They're out future not our doom........Also, has anyone considered the possibility that this is a shaggy dog story. The universe is a Möbius strip and when you reach the end, then you're at the beginning. The prenatal infant that the astronaut encounters at the end is his own beginning.

Yancey Ward said...

"Thus Spake Zarathustra by Richard Wagner"

Richard Strauss, not Wagner.

Bruce Hayden said...

Why go into space? One big reason is wealth. Almost unlimited raw materials and power. Most anything you need for life or manufacturing can be found in space, mostly from asteroids (and apparently from comets). The rest from places like the Moon, with a much smaller gravity well (and no atmosphere to worry about either). The race appears to be inmates with companies getting ready to start prospecting. Once we hit a point of self-sustainability, which isn't as far out as many believe, everything is net profit for the Earth after that. The US, through our tech billionaires, seems to have a good lead here.

The other aspect is defense. Whomever controls the space around the planet, controls the planet. Whomever has the high ground. We have a rapidly evolving ability to counter terrestrial attacks, with, say, laser and hyper-velocity weapons. But kenetic strikes from orbit are far harder to handle, since their power is a result of the multiplicative effects of gravity. We know this, and so do the Chinese especially. I expect that they will force us into space to combat their military efforts in space.

Robert Cook said...

"The monolith was a hallucination as was Hal’s dysfunction. Dave, like the apes with the bone, was delusional. He killed the crew. There were no aliens. Aliens are figments of imagination."

No wonder you hate Kubrick. You completely misread his movies, at least, in this instance. Buwaya @ 8:20 PM gets it right. The monolith sparked an advance in the pre-humans/apes, such that they were able to conceive of the idea of tools. Concomitant with tool-making comes weapon-making, as weapons are simply tools to achieve specific goals.

The excavation on the moon found a monolith, buried there millions of years previously. Once unburied by humans, the monolith signaled the aliens that humanity had achieved spaceflight and had made it as far as our moon. The signal was sent to somewhere in the vicinity of Jupiter, which is why Bowman and Poole were sent into space, though the true purpose of their flight had been withheld from them, and entrusted only to HAL.

The aliens could be said to be a stand-in for god...superior beings sparking huge leaps in humanity's advancement as we reached appropriate milestones in our history. (Heh. The monoliths were literal cosmic "milestones," as well as being signaling devices and teaching devices of some sort.)

The space fetus at the end represents the birth of humanity's next stage.

Given the above, there should never have been any sequels to 2001, either in book or film form. Once we have seen the symbolic transformation of humanity into its next stage, coming back later and showing us an unevolved human race destroys 2001's meaning. (Clarke set this in 2001--the first year of the new century and, more significantly, the new millennium--to symbolize the significant step forward from humanity's past to humanity's future.)

Sequels almost always destroy the dramatic and metaphoric purpose and power of the original work. (There should never have been a sequel, for example, to ROAD WARRIOR--itself a superior sequel to MAD MAX. Leaving us with the image of a battered Max on the road, sand falling through his hands, while the voice of the Feral Kid, now an aged man telling a tale from long past, says, "As for the Road Warrior, we never saw him again," leaves us to wonder about this solitary man and his fate. He entered into myth. This transformation is completely undone by telling anything more about him.)

AllenS said...

Well stated, Mr Cook.

Robert Cook said...

Thank you, AllenS.

I was thinking...it's not even necessary that the aliens who left the monoliths even be monitoring the advancement of humanity, or even that they still exist. Over the millions of years encompassed by the story, the alien race could itself have died off.

Perhaps the aliens were simply long-ago "Johnny Appleseeds" of the cosmos, seeding planets throughout the universe with these monoliths, such that intelligent species on each of the seeded planets might someday make revolutionary leaps in their development with the aid of these alien artifacts. I amend my previous statement: the monolith on the moon didn't necessarily signal the aliens that man had reached space; it may have simply sent a signal to the monolith left in Jupiter's orbit eons previously. Humanity, advanced enough to reach the moon, (and to have detected the presence of the buried monolith due to its electromagnetic properties), was able to track the destination point of the signal sent from the moon. Compelled to investigate further, humanity was thus led on to encounter the next monolith, and thus enter into its next great leap forward.

AllenS said...

Maybe the aliens died off and it's just us now.

Qwinn said...

2010 was a great and worthy sequel to 2001, IMO. Both the book and movie were actually better as scifi than the original in my view.

All the book sequels after that - 2061 and 3001 I think - were godawful. I mean so so bad. Someone must have drugged Clarke to make him capable of writing such dreck.

Michael K said...

Nice explanations, Cookie.

Robert Cook said...

"Someone must have drugged Clarke to make him capable of writing such dreck.

Sure...they drugged him with money.

I saw 2010 and didn't think it was great, but it was okay. (I can't remember any of what happened in it.) That's beside the point, however. 2001 ended leaving us to imagine for ourselves what the ending portended for humanity's future. Any sequel could only erase the mystery and promise of 2001's ending, and yank us back into the mundane level of sci-fi storytelling. And, it 2010 did this.

Robert Cook said...

Thank you, Michael K.

Gahrie said...

Whomever controls the space around the planet, controls the planet.

Exactly. There is no excuse for the U.S. not having an operational space plane either. Stick a Sierra Nevada Dreamchaser or the X-37 on a Falcon -9. Put a couple of inert warhead re-entry vehicles in the cargo bay..maybe a rail gun in the nose?

mockturtle said...

AllenS theorizes: Maybe the aliens died off and it's just us now.

They were just too alien for their own good.

AllenS said...

If the "outer space aliens" were still around, wouldn't you think that they would show up once, at least once, during the daylight hours, and say hi?

Dennis Tsiorbas said...

Alien worship is akin to utopianism and runs as deep as human rebellion!