What’s 21 billion kilometres away, 40 years old and carries a record featuring both Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5” and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”?
No it’s not your reclusive uncle with the strange taste in music who lives in the middle of nowhere. It’s the Voyager 1 spacecraft.
Last Friday Voyager fired its thrusters for the first time in 37 years, which is all the more remarkable considering it involved sending a signal that took 19 hours and 35 minutes to travel outside of our own solar system to a radio antenna just 3.7m wide.
Now you may be thinking (much like your hypothetical uncle) why on Earth should I care about some random spacecraft? Why are we spending all this time, money and effort on some trivial pursuit?
Well I believe it’s far from trivial. In my opinion exploring the universe is one of the greatest uses of time, money and effort that exists. Hopefully after reading the rest of this post, you’ll understand why.
Let me tell you three simple facts about the tobacco industry.
- Roughly 5.8 trillion cigarettes are smoked worldwide every year, which equates to two per-person per-day.
- In the previous century, tobacco use killed 100 million people, more than all deaths in World Wars I and II combined.
- The world’s top six tobacco companies make a profit of over $44 billion every year.
There’s no place on Earth like the Great Barrier Reef. And Australians know it.
Climate change is a really, really big issue. Big in the sense it can be almost impossible to wrap your head around.
The problem is global.
30 September 2014
Sitting at home in our ivory towers it’s hard to comprehend the reality of climate change. But when your country is vanishing due to rising sea levels it hits home pretty hard.
I had the privilege of interviewing the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, two weekends ago. He was late to our studio so I talked to him in his ear and we recorded his questions, putting them together into this segment the next morning.
One of the questions I asked was: “Mr President, I can only imagine how incredibly frustrating and angry you must feel at having to deal with the consequences of actions that are not your own, while those who caused those consequences refuse to accept them. How does that make you feel?”
He never gave me a direct answer (I guess being a president means he has to watch his words), but through the entire interview I got the sense of an immense calmness and control. Yes he was angry but throwing his arms in the air wouldn’t achieve anything. Instead he directed that energy into authority, into patience and into trying to save other people from the mistakes they are still making.
Watch for yourself.