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Light On Light Through

You'll hear a little of this and lot of that on Light On Light Through - my reviews of great television series, my interviews with authors and creative media people and their interviews of me, my political commentary, thoughts about my favorite cars and food and space travel, discussions of my music, and a few of my readings from my science fiction stories. These are usually audio and a few are video.  In the first years, starting in 2006, I put up a new episode at least once a month.  More recently, it became more or less often than once a month, usually a lot less often.  But in the Fall of 2018, I began getting more in the mood to podcast, and you can expect new episodes now a little more frequently.  - Paul Levinson

Sputnik's 50 Years Old: And We're Still Toddlers in Space

Oct 3, 2007

Sputnik celebrates its 50th anniversary this Thursday, October 4 - the first artificial satellite to circle the planet. It was soon followed by Sputnik 2 (dogs in space, 1958), first human in space (Yuri Gagarin, 1961), Telstar (first telecom satellite, 1962), and then we walked on the Moon (Armstrong and Aldrin, 1969).

Notice that I didn't say Soviet or US above, because it doesn't really matter. Humans in space is what counts. But everyone of course knows that Sputnik - Russian for "fellow traveler" - set off the space race which we in the US eventually "won" in 1969. Prior to then, Telstar was our only first accomplishment.

And what did that victory get us? A space shuttle, with brave astronauts, some of whom lost their lives. But no one has gotten too far beyond this planet. We've sent robots to Mars, and that's exciting, but robots neither laugh nor cry - they're not human.

And so, as the 50th anniversary of Sputnik arrives, I can only hope that we start doing a little better. Civilization is filled with examples of major inventions that stayed dormant for centuries - even millennia. The Chinese invention of the printing press in 700 or 800 AD, and its failure to be used for a mass print and popular culture, is one of the most vivid examples. (I wrote about this way back in 1977, in my essay, "Toy, Mirror, and Art: The Metamorphosis of Technological Culture" - it was reprinted in my 1995 Learning Cyberspace - and I'll try to post the essay here in the next few weeks.)

Let's not wait 700 more years to really get out into space. The Universe awaits us...

See also Realspace: The Fate of Physical Presence in the Digital Age, On and Off Planet