Learned today that a friend of mine doesn’t feel we landed on the moon. Smart guy. Doesn’t think it happened. At first I tried to convince him, but then after awhile I saw his eyes glaze over. He just doesn’t want to believe. I’m not a fan of belief, so I can empathize. I don’t believe we landed on the moon, but I know we did. I’ve studied the subject. I read Gene Kranz. There’s a cool episode of Mythbusters dedicated to confirming the myth. We left stuff on the moon that we can point a laser at and the laser reflects back. We have footage taken on the moon that is in my opinion impossible to convincingly fake. I don’t have to believe we landed on the moon. The evidence is convincing enough regardless of belief.

For him, it’s not about the evidence. It’s just how he feels. If we had made it to the moon for real back in the 1960s, by now, we’d have cities up there and stuff. He’s a young person. What he’s been told, and what he currently sees regarding our trips into space just seem to contradict. He witnessed the Columbia explode upon re-entry. He may not have been sperm when the Challenger disaster happened. That’s how young he is. He read about Apollo Eleven the way I read about the Alamo. It feels more like myth to him than fact.

I’ve read a lot about Neil Armstrong’s passing the past couple days. When someone as famous as Armstrong dies, everybody takes a crack at eulogizing him. How ironic for a man so serious about avoiding attention, except when he felt it warranted. One of the chief comments about him from journalists has been how much Neil Armstrong abhorred the limelight. As the story goes, he had observed historically how fame pretty much destroyed Charles Lindbergh’s life, and so he actively sought to avoid making Lindbergh’s mistakes. In fact once his barber sold a lock of Armstrong’s hair, and Armstrong threatened to sue his own barber if he didn’t give the profits to charity. Well. That’s how some of the legends go. Who knows what the truth is to anything anymore? Ave Vigoda may outlive us all. I take nothing at face value anymore.

The Man, The Myth, The Mystery.

Neil Armstrong never seemed to formally cash in on his prestige as the first man to walk on the moon, though pretty much everyone agrees, if anyone deserved more fame than he got, it was Neil Armstrong. He preferred the private life. In a world where so many have sought and even achieved fame for doing so little, for Neil Armstrong to not want any of the fame he had, it’s a refreshing rarity, and perhaps we can all learn a thing or two from his example, in so many ways. Neil Armstrong was a great man, who never let ‘great’ go to his head.

However, toward the end of his life, Neil Armstrong witnessed NASA and the Space Program he loved so dearly get butchered financially into a shell of what it was on the day his feet touched the moon. Despite his well documented avoidance of public attention for most of his life, like a ground hod not seeing his shadow, Neil Armstrong came out of his hiding place when he thought it mattered. Twice in the past few years, he made the trek to Capitol Hill, and voiced his concerns about America’s lack of an interest in future space exploration. Twice in the past few years, Neil Armstrong, Commander of Apollo Eleven, spoke before congress, and he even accepted the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2011, which is the highest honor the US government can bestow upon a member of the military. That’s nothing compared to the honor he already carried with him for decades. There are currently seven billion people on this planet. Throughout the course of world history, at least that many humans have already lived and died. So of over fourteen billion people who have lived and died throughout recorded history of mankind, one dozen of them have actually stepped foot on the moon. Twelve people. Out of over fourteen billion. Twelve. I can’t even fathom that. It’s less than one percent by a wide margin, that’s the best I can manage in my small brain.

One would think, if one of those twelve people, especially one of those twelve who rarely spoke in public about anything, voiced a concern about the future of the US involvement in space exploration, that would be enough to shock people. However, it appeared to be too little too late.

It’s a trade off. Neil Armstrong didn’t want to be a spokesperson for anything really. He was very careful picking who he represented the few times he did, and no matter how careful he was, sometimes it just didn’t work out. He tried teaching for eight years but left without really explaining why. That’s his prerogative, but there are many people who wanted to fill in the gaps of his private life, and he wasn’t much interested in obliging them. He just wanted to live out his life on his terms, but when it came to attempting to preserve space exploration, he did make an effort to make a difference. History may not be as kind to his efforts as I am about to be, and I’m hesitating not to speak ill of the dead. It appears to me he did too little too late. In his desire to prefer privacy over the spotlight, when he did speak out, the right people weren’t listening. Maybe if he had been more vocal long before neoconservatives started gutting the space program, rather than after the damage had already been done, his words would have made a difference. Armchair quarterback here I know, but like I said, it’s a trade off. He didn’t want to make Charles Lindbergh’s mistakes. So instead, he made his own.

I told you that to tell you this. They don’t seem to have anything to do with one another. I’m gonna try to drive this home before I’m done.

From Avoidance of Attention to Desperately and Pointlessly Craving It

There’s a new study out that was reported online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which was internationally funded by government agencies and we’re supposed to take it seriously. By the way some of these agencies spent money on this instead of the space program, but that’s now how I’m connecting these dots.

In this study, it claims that for people who began habitually smoking marijuana before the age of 18, by the age of 38, there is allegedly a noticeable trend in the form of a decrease in I.Q. This decline is essentially a person of average IQ (aka 50% or as smart as half the general population) being more like only smarter than one third of the population (or a little over 30%) by the time they’re 40.

Of course, no one is claiming this is an authoritative final word on the topic. It’s not clinching proof or anything. Thousands of dollars were spent on this study, and it basically claims the topic warrants further study. That’s not really proving anything, other than someone wants to spend more tax dollars on this. So why should this even get my danger up, aside from the fact we’re spending money on this and not on getting men to Mars? According to the news report from which I got this, which was from the Associated Press and Bloomberg News as published this morning in the Dallas Morning News (which I can’t link to cuz the DMN website is stupid), woman named Staci Gruber said something the reporter thought mattered. This Staci Gruber is reportedly a research at the Harvard-affiliated MacLean Hospital in Belmont Massachusets, who the reporter makes a point to explain “didn’t participate in the new work” meaning she had nothing to do with the marijuana research report about which he is reporting. So I don’t understand why Staci Gruber’s input is even remotely newsworthy. Journalists do this all the damn time. In television it’s called “Talking Head Syndrome” where news programs just grab anyone who will sit still for a segment to wax eloquent on whatever current event just happened even though they don’t know any better than the rest of us what the hell just occurred. They’re just blowing shit out their ass and we’re all supposed to pretend it’s news.

It’s like journalists can’t take the time to do any real reporting anymore, so they just get quotes from anyone they already know with credentials that remotely sound like they mean something (i mean Harvard “affiliated”? Really?), when in reality the person’s like their racquetball partner from the gym or a friend of a friend or something.

Anyway, Staci Gruber said that the idea that weed harms teenager brains is, “something we believe is very likely.” Unless you are new to my blog, you already know how much I despise the word “believe.” It’s also not newsworthy. I believe the sky is falling. Let’s put that on page one! The reporter then goes on to add outside quote marks that Staci Gruber also may or may not have said this new report warrants further study. Bull pucky. At best this report is a false positive that people who already dislike weed want to use to continue this insane war on drugs (which I seem to recall rambling about recently in a blog post so I won’t dwell on the same territory here).

The truth is we are only now beginning to understand how the brain works, and there is evidence of some growth still occurring until a human being’s early twenties. Here’s a timeline of human brain development to give you an idea what I mean. The vast majority of brain development occurs long before adolescence. By puberty, most of the neuron growth is “compensatory” meaning that the vast majority of the brain is done and further growth is due to injury or other secondary factors. Brain wise we’re mostly finished cooking by the time we hit puberty. It is true that human brain continues to grow after birth and even into puberty, but by our mid teens it’s abouit as done as it’s gonna get.

These new alleged findings contradict what we already know. Now granted, Abe Vigoda might be dead by the time you read this. Maybe Neil Armstrong is really still alive, hanging out with Elvis. I take nothing at face value anymore, but still this weed report sounds fishy to me. There’s a more logical explanation.

Culturally, when we enter our teen years, we’re learning a great deal of upper tier stuff. provided we care to learn. The basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic are usually addressed in the first five years or so of our scholastic careers, at least here in America, but higher math like algebra to calculus, more detailed local and world history courses, various sciences, asnd cultural studies happen in the latter half of a young person’s school exposure. These are just the sort of topics which would make the difference between someone who is of average intelligence and someone who can provide evidence of being above average in what they know and how they can communicate what they know.

The reasons why a young person chooses to smoke weed are perhaps as numerous as there are young people who want to smoke weed. I won’t even hazard to attempt to list them here. I wouldn’t know where to start. No singular study, nor any scores of studies, would be sufficient in explaining why young people smoke or why they do anything really. However, chances are they do not turn to weed in order to improve their scholastic career. It’s far more likely that the reasons would in general veer more in the opposite direction. It’s more likely they smoke to relax and unwind from any stress that school, or other pressures a life as a young person, grant them. Drugs are often used as an escape or a coping mechanism. More importantly, the choice to voluntarily smoke weed is an indicator that education is not first and foremost a priority for those who opt to partake. It indicates a general apathetic attitude towards learning in the first place, in favor of other activities that interest them more. I’ll let your imagination wander over there a bit. ….done? Okay let’s wrap this up.

So this study is trying to put the cart in front of the horse. It’s trying to effect the cause by claiming a symptom of the problem is the cause of the problem itself. Those who push this kind of “study” as if it were factual and relevant want us to believe that kids smoking weed get dumber later in life cuz of the weed, but weed is just one of many factors involved in this phenomenon of stupid people in the world. Removing drugs from the environment is not a cure-all, any more than gun laws will protect us more, or removing money from the space program changes the fact we need to explore space to perpetuate mankind’s future and destiny. We are treating the effects of what we observe as if they care the causes of our predicaments. They are not.

People who smoke at an earlier age are less inclined to spend extensive time feeding thier brain with knowledge they probably find to be trivial to learn in the first place. All those pointless dates and places for which the teacher fails to help them find significance. They have no conscious desire to retain any of this pointless knowledge. Of course weed is more appealing than cramming for tests. It’s just as silly to think the cramming for tests is what drives some young people to turn to drugs. Should we take education out of the picture? Would that cause them to do drugs less? Probably not. Again, cart in front of the horse. Effects as if they are causes. It’s preposterous.

Decades from now we may see a similar report might come out about the Internet. People will claim to prove that exposure to the Web makes people dumber later in life. Another explanation could be, if such knowledge is at your fingertips, you might over time habitually not bother trying to memorize anything, cuz your memorized information will always be out of date compared to what’s available on the Internet. So long as you keep close tabs on the Internet, and so long as many people in the world actively update the Internet with what they know and also fact check each other and double check themselves, you can always google it again if you need it again and get the latest answer. Will it ALWAYS be 100% accurate? Of course not, but will probably be more updated than what you can remember from something you learned years, months, perhaps even days before. Are you dumber without the Internet? Yes. But you were anyway. So a report proving it or “warranting further study” would be ludicrous. Access to the web may make you appear smarter, and losing that access may make you appear dumber, but no one is currently suggesting that exposure to the Internet adversely affects the physical development of actual grey matter in a young person.

So we should just assume that about weed? Don’t be silly. Full disclosure: i could probably count on one hand the number of times in my life i have smoked weed, and the last time was well into two decades ago, so i don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do like to call out bullshit when I see it.

I took the scenic route but I’m getting there..

Now I promised I’d bring all this back to Neil Armstrong. I have no idea if he ever smoked weed. That’s not the point. Earlier I indicated that maybe he didn’t speak out about space exploration enough. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he did. Maybe nothing he could have said or done would have mattered.

What is killing the space program isn’t what’s been said about it. It’s our perception of the rewards of having gone as far as we have. The US alone has poured billions into NASA. What we have learned is that maybe there’s water on Mars. In a world where those with lots of money expect a return on their investments every quarter, any returns on any investments of space exploration are skim at best, and one can argue that financially they are non existent. Now, if we had gone up to the moon and found out that it really was made out of green cheese, we’d have green cheese processing plants by now. If we found gold or any kind of precious metals, we’d have casinos up there by now.

What’d we find? Moon rocks. These rocks are priceless, but only cuz there’s so few of them, and some people would pay crazy amounts of money to own a thimble of the stuff. What’s the truth? They are no more useful or rare from a molecular standpoint than say concrete or basalt. In fact i wouldn’t be surprised if some of the alleged moon rock floating out there is actually spray painted basalt found in an Earth quarry. There are ways to use radiometrics to confirm a rock is from the moon instead of the Earth due to what it was exposed to while it was originally cooled long ago, but aside from that there’s nothing really special about these rocks.

Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Silicon, Titanium, Aluminum, there is nothing in these rocks we can’t also find on Earth. They also aren’t all that pretty. You can’t shine them up and put them on a ring. Most women wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a moon rock. ..Okay, maybe Olivine, but only if her favorite color is green. Just don’t do anything while wearing it cuz the stone breaks more readily than glass. Essentially the moon is comprised of igneous rock, indicating that long ago it was molten, but it cooled down, got hit by a lot of meteors, and essentially hasn’t done anything interesting ever since.

Maybe the same can be said about Neil Armstrong. We know the few moments where he was interesting to the world, but he didn’t want to be interesting to us all his life. He found the rest of us to be more of an obstacle to his personal happiness. He didn’t travel to the moon in order to be a godlike symbol in our eyes. He went up there for his own personal reasons but also cuz he worked really hard at what he loved doing, and as it turned out he was one of the best people to fit in that suit and fly that machine. It doesn’t mean he deserves to be treated like royalty. He was often the first to tell people that he didn’t get up there alone. It was a team effort, and every single one of those people who helped get Neil Armstrong to say those immortal words while standing on the surface of the moon, they deserve fame and fortune and all that too, but they’re not gonna get it.

The limelight shined on him, but there were plenty of other moments when he managed to avoid the limelight, and in those moments what he did was significant to himself and a precious few people. Perhaps not many more than the number of people who ever walked on the moon. Those people know who Neil Armstrong really was and they’re not talking. Perhaps that’s the way it should be.

There’s no study telling us how Neil Armstrong didn’t help mankind, cuz we don’t want to hear about that, do we? But there were moments where he didn’t actively try to help mankind. He walked on the moon. That shoulda been enough, and at the end of his life when he tried to teach us something important, we gave him a medal and patted him on his head and thanked him for what he had done a long time ago, something he had long ago moved past even if the rest of humanity couldn’t stop thanking him for it.

There’s no study telling us how marijuana benefits people who use it, in ways they wanted to be benefited, cuz we don’t want to hear about that, do we? But there are obviously benefits to the people who smoke marijuana. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. Maybe if we studied more about why people want to do drugs, instead of just blindly demonize people who do drugs, perhaps we could investigate how to better get the positive effects of drugs and minimize the negative effects.

We see things, and people, as we want to see them, even though seeing things as we don’t want to see them might help us learn more than we think we know.

We don’t see Neil Armstrong as he was. We paint him as a hero cuz that’s what we need from him, when he just wanted to be a guy. Very few people know who he really was, warts and all. I envy them. I hope they keep him alive in their hearts in ways we can’t ever imagine, and I hope his memories make them smile more than cry.

We don’t see drugs as they are. Some people focus on their bad effects and say that causes all that’s bad in the world. Some focus on their good effects and say that causes what’s good in the world. No one wants to admit the truth. Drugs aren’t bad or good. We are, and how we abuse them paints us as smart or stupid, depending on your point of view.

The effects are not the cause, but we see the effects of something and assume the result to be what caused it in the first place.

Human beings are screwed up in the head. Hopefully someday we’ll learn how not to put the cart before the horse, cuz we’re never gonna make it to Mars acting like we’re stoned.