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What happened when Einstein met Indian mystic Tagore
Albert Einstein gives his surprising perspective on truth to Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore.
The natures of truth, reality, beauty, and consciousness are the kind of weighty, meaty topics great minds love to discuss. In Germany in 1930, just such a conversation took place between Albert Einstein and Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore. Explored in the new book Science and the Indian Tradition: When Einstein Met Tagore, by David L. Gosling, this dialogue wasn't the usual religion vs. science debate you're likely to see on CNN.
Tagore says, “It is a relative world, depending for its relativity upon our consciousness." His entire argument is that beauty and truth are completely dependent on humans observing them, that there is no beauty without an admirer, and no truth without a believer.
Einstein disagrees with the truth aspect, stating that “the Pythagorean theorem in geometry states something that is approximately true, independent of the existence of man. Anyway, if there is a reality independent of man, there is also a Truth relative to this reality; and in the same way the negation of the first engenders a negation of the existence of the latter."
Einstein and Tagore had a genuine curiosity about each other's perspectives, how they complement one another and how they differ.
Einstein believed more in absolute truth than the religious man he was debating, which apparently surprised Einstein as he exclaimed, “Then I am more religious than you are!" Tagore replied, “My religion is in the reconciliation of the Super-personal Man, the universal human spirit, in my own individual being." The whole universe inside you and you inside the universe — it brings to mind the famous Carl Sagan quote: “We are all made of star stuff."
Read the whole conversation between Einstein and Tagore here.
Author Robin Wright explains how "reconciliation is possible" between science and faith.
Einstein and Tagore had a genuine curiosity about each other's perspectives, how they complement one another and how they differ. The respect they have for one another results in a brilliant exchange of ideas. Others have mentioned it recollects how today HH Dalai Lama appreciates scientific inquiry, but for me it goes beyond being about religion in the strictest sense and delves into philosophical and metaphysical musings, including one of Einstein's favorite topics: relativity (albeit, in this case, it has nothing to do with space-time).
I'm inclined to agree with Tagore that truth is relative to man, seeing as the more we know about the world around us the more previous laws and theories are reshaped or disproved (what is scientifically true today may not be true tomorrow). However, I welcome the investigation and the curiosity that drives it. It seems worse to not care about the universe and its apparent laws than to be proven wrong about those laws decades later.
Indeed, as we investigate our inner and outer universes, the more similarities are found. We are made from the very materials that compose our universe. Our actions affect every other person on the planet. We now know we are interconnected in a way Einstein and Tagore couldn't possibly have imagined. And I think that's pretty beautiful — relative to my human perception.
Lori Chandler is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, NY. She has been published in The New York Times and on CollegeHumor. You can follow her on Twitter @LilBoodleChild to keep up with her latest pieces, performance dates, and wry observations.
Einstein and Tagore Photo: Martin Vos/Getty Archive
Space Photo: Space Frontiers/Getty
Collage: Lori Chandler
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- NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
- The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
- The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
NASA's push to privatize the ISS<p>When a Russian rocket launched the first module of the ISS into space in 1998, NASA expected the space station to operate for about 15 years. But the agency has extended the life of the ISS twice, with funding currently set to expire in 2024. NASA spends between $3 and $4 billion per year operating and shuttling astronauts to and from the station. That's a decent chunk of the agency's $22.6 annual budget. What's more, the "major structural elements" of the ISS are certified only through 2028.</p><p>Meanwhile, NASA has been eyeing other projects, namely: putting humans back on the moon in 2024 and establishing a lunar presence. So, to save and redirect money, the agency has been starting to hand over the aging space station to the private sector, which could use it for commercial research and space tourism.</p><p>But some have questioned the move to privatize the ISS, including NASA's own inspector general, Paul K. Martin.</p><p>"An obvious alternative to privatization is to extend current ISS operations," Martin wrote in a <a href="https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/CT-18-001.pdf" target="_blank">2018 report</a>. "An extension to 2028 or beyond would enable NASA to continue critical on-orbit research into human health risks and to demonstrate the technologies that will be required for future missions to the Moon or Mars."</p>
Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
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