Richard Feynman was a genius whose free-spirited panache made him one of the world's most popular scientists. He worked on the Manhattan Project, insisting he was persuaded to help build the world's first nuclear bomb because of fears that Germany might beat us to it. In 1965 he won a Nobel prize in physics for his work in quantum electrodynamics. Call him the "Great Explainer". He was a key player in the Rogers Commission which investigated the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In his appendix to the commission's report, Feynman wrote: "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled."
When Richard Feynman (1) died on February 15, 1988, at age 69, his last recorded words were, "I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring." And we lost a mind that might have given us priceless insight into perhaps the key issues of our time, global warming, and the terrorist "sneak attacks" of 9/11.
It is too common nowadays for scientists to sell credentialed, conjured data to the highest bidder. We even have the young term "junk science" being applied to science that tells us things that moneypower does not want us to hear. On the other side of the rigged coin, scientists telling the truth can loose their funding, jobs, and risk being ostracized. And we hardly needed a different term, pseudoscience and its practitioners have been around for centuries. But, apparently "junk science" is a more trim and palatable term for convincing people ignorant of what science actually is that there are different kinds of science. Of course, there is only one kind, and it employs the scientific method exclusively.
Americans sure can...be fooled that is. And there seems no better example in the climate issue than that of the multi-billionaire Koch brothers (pronounced "coke"). Insisting they are self-made billionaires, they did get a rather helpful head start, inheriting from their father a $300 million-dollar company. To honor their father, they renamed it Koch Industries. Their most visible financial endeavor is the burgeoning tea party--that is, the party is visible, major funding behind it is "indirect", meaning, don't talk about it. On a grander scale, the Koch brothers have outspent any other oil billionaires trying to buy public consensus that what is happening is not really happening; that dangerous atmospheric levels of C02 from fossil fuel consumption are either junk science, or if true...there's no way insignificant humans could cause such drastic changes to this great big planet--it's just part of the natural cycle. The Kochs have even outspent monster corporation ExxonMobil on reality denial.
And reality keeps getting more grim. Researchers have discovered that in the last 60 years, ocean phytoplankton (2) has declined by 40%. Pretty easy to have never heard of phytoplankton, especially with old man river of denial money overflowing its banks. But popular reality should kick in before the breathing gets laborious, and 70% of the planet is about as productive as the Dead Sea.
Phytoplankton are the backbone of life on Earth, the foundation of the ocean food chain. And phytoplankton produce half of the planet's oxygen, while absorbing CO2. Phytoplankton are so important to Earth's biosphere that their decline should slap everyone awake. Researchers monitoring phytoplankton have measured, at current levels of warming, a 1% annual decline.
Wars over fossil energy and transportation routes to western markets rage on, death toll in the millions. Peak oil lurks on the fringes of news, a viper striking now and then when perception management calls. "Oil is the lifeblood of the global economy" says power, which happens to be correct. Fossil energy gives us so much, but it should not be that way. Alternatives could be ours, but money is power, and the vast amount of power the Lords of oil and Kings of coal have amassed has so far been very effective in stifling competition. If even a fraction of the power spent killing people to maintain the supremacy of the Lords and Kings of fossil energy were spent developing clean and renewable alternatives, we could be free, instead of addicted to the oldest energy there is. It's painfully simple, fossil energy has concentrated so much power into so few hands that for humanity, everything is skewed. New energy sources such as biomass hemp could ease the stranglehold on power from fossil energy, if hemp, one of the most important plants in history, were not illegal to grow in America. Take that, competition. Reefer madness, ha ha ha.
One thing about power, something that has been proven since the first Lords and Kings of power dominated humans: The powerful will use all their power to retain their power, will fight to the death for their power because without it they are just more "small people". Unfortunately, fossil energy has concentrated power so exquisitely that a fight to the death could mean the end not only of the human species, but most of the other species on Earth. Cockroaches might become the dominant species. In certain ways, might we be there already? What else would give us 9/11?
The direction that power is taking us suggests that Feynman's "...reality must take precedent over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled" will become the most important idea of our time. Perhaps, if power could suddenly be properly diluted, and Nature properly respected, it already is the most important idea we have.