At no point during the speeches could anyone forget that Armstrong lived an extraordinary life.
In the South nave of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. there is a stained glass panel called the Space Window. The panel is filled with planets and stars, and straight lines meant to suggest the trajectories of space ships. Its color palette -- blue, purple, red and green---was inspired by images from Apollo 11. Stilled in the center of a large red orb at the window's focal point is a sliver of Moon rock. The tiny shard of lunar basalt was gifted to the Cathedral by the crew of Apollo 11 back in 1974, on the fifth anniversary of the first Moon landing. As a piece of public art, the Space Window's function is to commemorate the spiritual and scientific import of America's space program. By lodging this window into our National house of worship, alongside religious and nationalist iconography, we are saying that space exploration is sacred.
Yesterday morning, I visited the National Cathedral to attend a memorial service for space exploration's most exalted figure, Neil Armstrong, the first human being to set foot on another celestial sphere. More than a thousand people poured into the cathedral to celebrate Armstrong, including 24 members of Congress. The Armstrong family sat in front. Nearby, a small-white haired fraternity of illustrious ex-astronauts gathered, including Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins of Apollo 11, and former U.S. Senator John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth.
The occasion was, on the whole, joyous. This being a memorial service, the speeches all had solemn moments. But at no time was the ceremony sad; at no time could anyone forget that Armstrong lived an extraordinary life.
The service began with a recorded excerpt from John F. Kennedy's fifty-year-old address at Rice University. This was the speech that launched Apollo, the program Kennedy called "the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked." NASA Administrator Charles Bolden followed, reading from a letter written by President Obama to the Armstrong family. "The imprint [Armstrong] left on the surface of the moon," wrote the President, "is matched only by the extraordinary mark he left on ordinary Americans."
Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon, spoke of Armstrong's modesty and his humble Midwest upbringing. He described the young Armstrong as a boy so obsessed with flight that he kept a paper route to fund a model airplane collection. Cernan said Armstrong originally wanted to be a designer of aircraft, an aeronautical engineer, but once he tasted flight, his "eyes were ever pointed skyward." Indeed, Armstrong is as iconic a symbol of human flight as any person who ever lived; only 23 others have flown as far from Earth as he did.
An image of the Space Window on the memorial service program.
After a slow, understated performance of 'Fly Me to the Moon' by Diana Krall, the Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde delivered a short homily. Budde noted that despite Armstrong's notorious shyness, he knew the inspirational power of his story. He once told a group of students that when he was a kid, no plane had yet flown at supersonic speeds, and there was no space program. Any talk of going to the Moon, Armstrong said, was pure science fiction. But then, in just half his lifetime, everything changed. "Opportunities," Armstrong told the students, "will be available to you that you cannot believe."
Such are the dynamic times we live in: on the evening of Armstrong's death, the writer Jon Alton tweeted, "Watched Armstrong step into [the] Sea of Tranquility with my grandmother, who was born on the frontier with horses and wagons."
The story took on an extra layer of resonance as told by Reverend Budde, whose church only began regularly ordaining women in 1976. In 2012, Budde is a full Bishop, entrusted with memorializing a nearly peerless American hero. She finished her homily by insisting that Armstrong's great inspiration was not "exploration for exploration's sake," but the survival of the planet that we call home. She recalled Armstrong's description of the moment he first saw the Earth from space, his astonishment at its fragility, at the fact that he could blot it out entirely by shutting one eye and putting his thumb in front of it. It was a moment, Armstrong said, that made him feel small.
Toward the service's end, Michael Collins, Apollo 11's command module pilot, read two prayers. He asked the "creator of the universe" to "guide and guard those who seek to fathom its mysteries," especially Neil Armstrong, "who with courage first set foot on the moon." The Navy's "Sea Chanters" joined the Cathedral Choristers for a roaring rendition of America the Beautiful. Finally, Carol Armstrong, the great astronaut's widow, was presented with an American flag, the very banner that flew at half-mast over NASA's Mission Control in Houston on August 25th, the day of Armstrong's passing.
Yesterday's memorial service wasn't Armstrong's last farewell. Today he goes to his final resting place---an undisclosed location at sea---as befits a Navy man whose voyaging drew comparisons to Magellan and Columbus. Armstrong always felt strongly about his time in the Navy. In his memorial speech, Eugene Cernan said that Armstrong was never prouder than when he received his wings of gold, the ceremonial pin that marked him as a Naval aviator. But maybe he had other reasons for choosing a sea burial. Maybe the sea had always made him think of endings, of the final acts of great Odysseys. You can picture him, those 43 years ago, watching the Earth shrink in the window of the lunar module, seeing it hang, a strange moon in the abyss, a goddess robed in life-giving oceans, as blue as any seen before or since. Imagine his relief upon returning to Earth three days later, his landing cushioned by the Pacific Ocean. How good it must have felt to bob and sway in the waves that day, not even a week removed from touchdown in the Sea of Tranquility. It's hard to imagine a sweeter way to go home.
Some fans are complaining that Zack Snyder’s envisioning of the Man of Steel is too grim—but it’s less a departure than a return to the superhero’s roots.
Since the official teaser trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice debuted online in April, fans and critics alike have been discussing the kind of Superman Zack Snyder is going to depict in his Man of Steel sequel. The controversy stems from Snyder’s decision to cast Superman as a brooding, Dark Knight-like character, who cares more about beating up bad guys than saving people. The casting split has proved divisive among Superman fans: Some love the new incarnation, citing him as an edgier, more realistic version of the character.
But Snyder’s is a different Superman than the one fans grew up with, and many have no problem expressing their outrage over it. Even Mark Waid, the author of Superman: Birthright (one of the comics the original film is based on), voiced his concern about Man of Steel’s turn toward bleakness when it came out in 2013:
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
New research confirms what they say about nice guys.
Smile at the customer. Bake cookies for your colleagues. Sing your subordinates’ praises. Share credit. Listen. Empathize. Don’t drive the last dollar out of a deal. Leave the last doughnut for someone else.
Sneer at the customer. Keep your colleagues on edge. Claim credit. Speak first. Put your feet on the table. Withhold approval. Instill fear. Interrupt. Ask for more. And by all means, take that last doughnut. You deserve it.
Follow one of those paths, the success literature tells us, and you’ll go far. Follow the other, and you’ll die powerless and broke. The only question is, which is which?
Of all the issues that preoccupy the modern mind—Nature or nurture? Is there life in outer space? Why can’t America field a decent soccer team?—it’s hard to think of one that has attracted so much water-cooler philosophizing yet so little scientific inquiry. Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
19 Kids and Counting built its reputation on preaching family values, but the mass-media platforms that made the family famous might also be their undoing.
On Thursday, news broke that Josh Duggar, the oldest son of the Duggar family's 19 children, had, as a teenager, allegedly molested five underage girls. Four of them, allegedly, were his sisters.
The information came to light because, in 2006—two years before 17 Kids and Counting first aired on TLC, and thus two years before the Duggars became reality-TV celebrities—the family recorded an appearance on TheOprah Winfrey Show. Before the taping, an anonymous source sent an email to Harpo warning the production company Josh’s alleged molestation. Harpo forwarded the email to authorities, triggering a police investigation (the Oprah appearance never aired). The news was reported this week by In Touch Weekly—after the magazine filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the police report on the case—and then confirmed by the Duggars in a statement posted on Facebook.
In an interview, the U.S. president ties his legacy to a pact with Tehran, argues ISIS is not winning, warns Saudi Arabia not to pursue a nuclear-weapons program, and anguishes about Israel.
On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry. “A majority of American Jews want to support the Iran deal,” I said, “but a lot of people are anxiety-ridden about this, as am I.” Like many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews—I believe that it is prudent to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of anti-Semitic regimes. Obama, who earlier in the discussion had explicitly labeled the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-Semite, responded with an argument I had not heard him make before.
“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”
The brilliant mathematician, who died in a car accident on Sunday, was best known for his struggle with mental illness.
John Nash, a Nobel laureate and mathematical genius whose struggle with mental illness was documented in the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind, was killed in a car accident on Saturday. He was 86. The accident, which occurred when the taxi Nash was traveling in collided with another car on the New Jersey Turnpike, also claimed the life of his 82-year-old wife, Alicia. Neither of the two drivers involved in the accident sustained life-threatening injuries.
Born in West Virginia in 1928, Nash displayed an acuity for mathematics early in life, independently proving Fermat’s little theorem before graduating from high school. By the time he turned 30 in 1958, he was a bona fide academic celebrity. At Princeton, Nash published a 27-page thesis that upended the field of game theory and led to applications in economics, international politics, and evolutionary biology. His signature solution—known as a “Nash Equilibrium”—found that competition among two opponents is not necessarily governed by zero-sum logic. Two opponents can, for instance, each achieve their maximum objectives through cooperating with the other, or gain nothing at all by refusing to cooperate. This intuitive, deceptively simple understanding is now regarded as one of the most important social science ideas in the 20th century, and a testament to his almost singular intellectual gifts.
Advocates say that a guaranteed basic income can lead to more creative, fulfilling work. The question is how to fund it.
Scott Santens has been thinking a lot about fish lately. Specifically, he’s been reflecting on the aphorism, “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for life.” What Santens wants to know is this: “If you build a robot to fish, do all men starve, or do all men eat?”
Santens is 37 years old, and he’s a leader in the basic income movement—a worldwide network of thousands of advocates (26,000 on Reddit alone) who believe that governments should provide every citizen with a monthly stipend big enough to cover life’s basic necessities. The idea of a basic income has been around for decades, and it once drew support from leaders as different as Martin Luther King Jr. and Richard Nixon. But rather than waiting for governments to act, Santens has started crowdfunding his own basic income of $1,000 per month. He’s nearly halfway to his his goal.
Every time you shrug, you don’t need to Google, then copy, then paste.
Updated, 2:20 p.m.
All hail ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
In its 11 strokes, the symbol encapsulates what it’s like to be an individual on the Internet. With raised arms and a half-turned smile, it exudes the melancholia, the malaise, the acceptance, and (finally) the embrace of knowing that something’s wrong on the Internet and you can’t do anything about it.
As Kyle Chayka writes in a new history of the symbol at The Awl, the meaning of the “the shruggie” is always two, if not three- or four-, fold. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ represents nihilism, “bemused resignation,” and “a Zen-like tool to accept the chaos of universe.” It is Sisyphus in unicode. I use it at least 10 times a day.
For a long time, however, I used it with some difficulty. Unlike better-known emoticons like :) or ;), ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ borrows characters from the Japanese syllabary called katakana. That makes it a kaomoji, a Japanese emoticon; it also makes it, on Western alphabetical keyboards at least, very hard to type. But then I found a solution, and it saves me having to google “smiley sideways shrug” every time I want to quickly rail at the world’s inherent lack of meaning.
Why agriculture may someday take place in towers, not fields
A couple of Octobers ago, I found myself standing on a 5,000-acre cotton crop in the outskirts of Lubbock, Texas, shoulder-to-shoulder with a third-generation cotton farmer. He swept his arm across the flat, brown horizon of his field, which was at that moment being plowed by an industrial-sized picker—a toothy machine as tall as a house and operated by one man. The picker’s yields were being dropped into a giant pod to be delivered late that night to the local gin. And far beneath our feet, the Ogallala aquifer dwindled away at its frighteningly swift pace. When asked about this, the farmer spoke of reverse osmosis—the process of desalinating water—which he seemed to put his faith in, and which kept him unafraid of famine and permanent drought.