Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Your Face in Space


Okay, this is cool.  NASA's new "Face in Space" program (I guess we all know that NASA hasn't got many poets on their payroll) allows you to upload a digital photo of yourself along with your name to their collection site.  Then they'll take the collected photos and names and carry 'em into space on one of the last two Space Shuttle flights.

Those who hate how they look in photos can simply submit their names.

This is really a splendid proof of exactly how primitive a species the human race is because it's a classic example of sympathetic magic.  Your name gets to leave the planet and therefore in some rarefied sense you do too?   Man, you don't get much more gullible than that.

I've already chosen which photo I'm going to send.  It's a shot that the immortal Kyle Cassidy took of Marianne and me with our cat Shadowfax.  Forget Disneyland -- I'm going into Earth orbit!

You can read all about the program in the Christian Science Monitor article

Or just grab a digital photo and go straight to the site itself.



Matthew Brandi said...

Are they going to take the pictures (i.e. printouts) or just the ones and zeroes (a .jpg file is not itself a picture)?

My money's on the latter, though I suppose they might print a few or display them on in-shuttle screens for PR.

Does this indicate an even greater level of 'gullibility'? I guess not.

Michael Swanwick said...

Oh, almost certainly it'll all be digital -- there's no real value to sending my photo into orbit, after all. Or any real reason to prefer that a printout go, rather than mere data.

Still . . . There's a mirror on the ceiling over the Ahnighito meteorite in the American Museum of Natural History which allows you to see its top. Plus the fact that -- spontaneously inventing a new superstition -- people have pitched pennies atop it.

Human beings are not rational animals.

Matthew Brandi said...

Not everything is a means to an end, some things are done for their own sake. How could it be otherwise? Your chain of reasons has to run out somewhere.

If you pitch your penny onto the meteorite or send a record of your name into space believing it'll cure your gout, that's irrational: you're treating it as a means, but you've no reason to believe it'll secure the end.

If you do one of those things because it's "way cool, man", you've not yet convicted yourself of irrationality. Though you may in the one case have poor taste (which is consistent with rationality) and in the other be a raging egomaniac (hmmm ...), I don't consider either case proved.

Is skill required to pitch a penny onto the meteorite, or could even I do it? If there's a knack to it and people realise that, don't we have an explanation for the behaviour right there, without having to invent a new superstition to explain it? Of course, you may know of a body of barking lore associated with the practice.

As usual, I've used too many words. I should have said, "Having no reason is sometimes OK. Having a bad reason is shameful. We don't always distinguish these cases."

HANNAH'S DAD said...

Am I being too crass to say I'd rather send them a picture of my ass?

I am, aren't I? I can feel it. Still - it's honestly felt crassness.

Michael Swanwick said...

It's worth a try, innit? If they're just batch-uploading and not looking at the actual pix, it just might go through.

And then you'd be able to say you'd mooned either the universe or God. Depending on what your spiritual beliefs are.