Spongebob Squarepants & the Hubble Telescope: Monuments to Waste

Waste not, want not. A smart axiom — one we should all try to live by but often don’t.

There’s a lot of waste in American culture. Government piles up record deficits and implements plans that would ruin what little efficiency it has left and citizens burn through time and energy vilifying and hating things that barely matter.

It’s why tabloids like US Weekly and In Touch thrive and people find controversy in Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s marriage. The natural state of the universe is entropic — a descent into chaos — and it’s mankind’s responsibility to fight against the prevailing winds of apathy and ignorance. That was certainly the Ben Franklin’s wish in the dawning days of the republic.

In the past week two shining monuments of waste have spilled out into the public arena. One is just plain idiotic (it pains me to even comment on it) while the other is a sad reflection of an administration so enamored with decay they desire nothing more than to lay waste to the world.

Will the Hubble Telescope fall prey to the wasteful ravages of Bush budget cuts? Will people want to continue babbling about the sexual identity of cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants?

To me, the answer is simple: waste not, want not.

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The Hubble Telescope

It’s currently the most important asset to armchair astronomers available, and chances are one it its breathtaking images has graced your desktop wallpaper at one point or another. It’s our window to the universe; the Hubble Telescope has helped to redefine not just how we look at the stars, but also how we look at ourselves.

On the heels of discovering a cluster of infant stars in the nearby Magellanic Cloud, however, NASA has rewarded the Hubble by canceling repair efforts due to lack of funds. The popular telescope’s destiny is to be de-orbited into the Pacific Ocean next year.

While the Hubble was activated with a 15 year lifespan in 1991, scientists have proposed salvaging the telescope, stating matter-of-factly its enormous use to astronomers and academic institutions. One thought was to simply let it remain in orbit to scan for potential life-threatening asteroids that could impact Earth. That task alone makes the Hubble’s continued existence invaluable.

Potential cost to retrofit the telescope? One to two billion dollars. I won’t argue that sum as insignificant, and NASA’s proposed method of repair — an expensive and bug-riddled robot — seems ridiculous. But $1 billion to repair one of the benchmark components of America’s space program is a trifle when you consider what else it could be spent on.

NASA’s current budget has reportedly been prioritized for three goals — the reactivation of the Space Shuttle fleet as well as trips to the moon and Mars. Care to guess which ones are Bush’s lame public relations pet projects?

I’m not impressed with revisiting the moon and there is no way a human being will set foot on Mars in the next 10 to 20 years. After Columbia, a disaster brought on precisely because NASA is no longer run by innovators and scientists but by bureaucrats, the agency should focus on making a space vehicle capable of outperforming an X Prize wannabe, not on bombastic plans to visit hunks of rock that have zero bearing on civilization. Are we willing to scrap a popular tool of exploration because Bush wants to go back to the moon?

Consider that the Hubble Telescope can be repaired on the amount of money the Bush Administration pumps in one week into the conquest of Iraq. Consider that instead of killing thousands of Americans and Iraqis and devastating the Middle East we could continue to reach for understanding of the universe, one of the few things humanity can aspire to do together.

Is one billion dollars to save a device that’s brought so much joy and interest in learning to the world a waste? Absolutely not. Letting this important piece of technology fall by the wayside for the childishness of our president is. Help keep the Hubble peering into the farthest reaches of space.

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Spongebob Squarepants

I do not care if this aberration of animation is homosexual. That the cartoon exists is problem enough.

However, the furor over this non-issue is compelling. An adult watching a cartoon clearly geared for kids will obviously see it through a different worldview than their own child. Children watch and see a cornucopia of sights and sounds that would make a 60s acid-dropper envious while the cynical eye of a parent takes one look at the friendship and camaraderie and sees a “gay agenda.” It happens with every popular children’s program — or didn’t you know that Barney’s a pedophile, Tinky Winky craves men and Bert and Ernie have AIDS?

James Dobson of Focus on the Family has come out against a videotape being disseminated to schools nationwide that indirectly promotes tolerance for the homosexual lifestyle. His diplomatic reasoning is that while his followers “applaud the ideal of championing to children the value and dignity of every human life as well as respect for our differences,” they don’t like it when cartoon characters respect queers.

As you may know, I am tired of zealots, religious or otherwise, campaigning against things that exist outside their myopic worldview — even more so when it goes against their own dogma. For what feels like the zillionth time, my fellow Christians, Jesus preached tolerance and compassion for all. So what if someone’s gay? Are you afraid that the videotape, when shown to children, will suddenly make them want to bite a pillow?

There are so many other reasons to dislike a person than who they choose to bone down with. Any videotape that instills a sense of tolerance between children regardless of their race, sexuality, gender or station in life is a plus not a minus, and we should commend the efforts of the creators.

You know what’s not to be commended? Ignorance — the biggest downward slope humanity faces. Expending one iota of energy on campaigning against a fictional hallucinogenic construct’s promotion of the very ideals Christianity is supposed to espouse isn’t just mind-boggling, it’s a monumental waste.

So let’s not waste any more time on nonsense. Conserve those efforts for the things that matter, things like preserving children’s dreams of a furure in space.