First, that was awesome and thorough, and that's why we all love you.
Second, to further discussion, I offer the following:
-Just because brian doesnt care about space doesn't mean he doesn't get space
-A lot of the reasoning, to me, is weak: "to get kids interested in math and science", meh! - creation of new technology (is not solely dependent on space exploration (just a nice side effect)) - competing with the Russians. I'm more turned on by the hard science... uh... that sounded awful... anyway...
I *do* think it's idiotic to dismiss *all* space-related activities, but perhaps expectations could be more humble. Sure, one day the earth will die and we need to go somewhere else or just become extinct, but I can't justify funding something that will save lives thousands of years from now, instead of funding something that will save lives today (health care, education, etc). I parused the freakonomics blog post (pretty interesting) but I can't bring myself to be comfortable for the kinds of justifications and appropriations alluded to there and other places...
Ultimately, IMHO, space exploration today is a frivalty; it sure is cool and helpful, but to get caught up in it is to lose sight on what's happening here right on Earth, which is still here at least for the time being! lol.
Again, really cool stuff, and thanks, just playin devil's advocate...
Cooley doesn't care for outer space, okay; Shalin's response
Regarding Brian Cooley not caring about space. I don't know if he's really going to care to even read/listen to my response, but that's kinda the point - not everyone gets space. And...it's okay!
Although, it'd be too bad if an asteroid with Earth's name on it would obliterate the Earth...and just hours before that event the last time I would see Cooley is with his feet on Terra Firma and me and my hand waving goodbye from the Interplanetary Escape Vehicle I've boarded...sigh... I mean, even the experts didn't completely see the financial mess we're in...know what I'm sayin' Cooley? As much as I like to be around some classic De-troit muscle cars among other creations not easily found in the Cosmos, I'd like to save my life, ideas, and a piece of humanity a bit more.
I do think that Cooley could stand to benefit from reading my post and thread on the 404 forums I put up a few months ago. It goes through pros/cons, references, articles, etc.: http://forums.cnet.com/5208-12551_102-0.html?forumID=139&threadID=287399&messageID=2727110&tag=forums06;forum-threads
And these 50 innovations courtesy of NASA that affect our lives. Pick any 10 to "cancel" from it's development in history and our world would be much different. We'd at least be behind some :
On the other hand - point *for* Cooley:
? Regarding us humans screwing up this planet and the "so why go out and screw up another one" - well, that thought is shared by, of all people, Queen glam rocker Dr. Brian May (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90273890).
? Also, Louise Leakey (granddaughter of Dr. Louis Leakey) has said that the current species of humans aren't soo keen on the further evolution of the species, hence the extraordinary population growth over the last several thousands of years (http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/louise_leakey_digs_for_humanity_s_origins.html) and stunting the evolutionary track.
? Furthermore, in "The Matrix", Agent Smith had the line "...There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure."
Take those ideas together and one could conclude the human species may have to go through another version or two of refinement before we venture out in the universe. Well, it's something to at least consider...
Very best wishes and Ad Astra,