Ross Douthat delivered some good news in the New York Times on Sunday about another bubble bursting. This was the biggest bubble of all. A planet-sized one. The planet people have been fantasizing about out there somewhere in space that we can all escape to someday when we’ve ruined planet Earth. He made the argument in terms of the maybe-not-quite-well-known Fermi Paradox. That puzzler is if the odds for other civilizations in space are so great, why have we never heard from them? Why indeed? For the same reason that we have never met a time traveler from the future, I think.
But it doesn’t matter whether it’s because they’re not out there or because they busy playing their 25th Century video games. The fact of the matter is the American public has finally lost interest. It’s not like they did the math (which was always there for the doing) and calculated the difficulties (impossibility) of traversing the distances involved in any kind of meaningful timeframe or cost. No, they just lost interest because the space program couldn’t deliver anything that interested them. The Mars Rover, as incredible a piece of engineering as it is, can find nothing on that Godforsken planet other than inconclusive evidence that maybe at one time long ago conditions may possibly have existed to support the hypothetical existence of one-celled whatever. You can count on the American public to be Not Enthralled by that news.
But whatever the reason, there is cause to rejoice at this, not hat we will. Because at this closing of the Final Frontier Fantasy world, now maybe we can muster the attention to take care of the only world we will ever have. Although this prospect seems to bore us too.