Ethan Hawke: Why ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are fickle concepts in history

When you simplify history, you obliterate the truth, says Ethan Hawke.

ETHAN HAWKE: Why I think Geronimo is such a wonderful figure unlike Pocahontas, unlike Sitting Bull, unlike Red Cloud, unlike some really amazing figures. Geronimo is really complicated. He's a murderer. I mean he like cut off people's eyelids and put ants on there. I mean we're talking about – people often love to tell the story of Native Americans or any first nation peoples as if they're Buddhist monks, you know. As if it's the Dalai Lama himself riding a horse, you know. And it's totally disrespectful to the culture and what it was. Whenever you want to make it simplistic you talk down to people and I have found in my experience from visiting reservations and things like that they're just forced into their own pockets and their own communities. And there isn't a lot of dialogue.

I'm sure that this book will make many first nation people mad at me because that I don't have the right to appropriate this story. And I'm sympathetic and I understand that. I respect it. I don't want to appropriate anybody's story. I try to focus the story on the war and from a historical point of view but try to see it from both sides. And what I love about using Geronimo is that he's a very Shakespearian figure. He's very complex. He's good and he's bad. Cochise is more of a typical hero. He was a great great leader and one of the last people ad that part of the world that could really unite a large group of people. Geronimo never really united. I mean Geronimo was never even chief for crying out loud.

What I love about the book if I'm allowed to say such a thing is we end before Geronimo ever really becomes famous. We end the story. There's a lot of bad behavior from white people and a lot of bad behavior from Mexicans and a lot of bad behavior from the Apache. It aspires to be a human, not some kind of white guilt book but a book about history and what happened. And there's a lot of wonderful white people who did their best. There's this guy General Howard. Maybe some people would question me calling him wonderful. In this context he worked for the service of good. He started Howard University for African Americans. He took the unwavering equality of mankind part of Christianity extremely seriously. And he was a very serious Christian who believed that all men were created equal. And so he strove to create that in his life.

He had one arm. He lost an arm in the Civil War. He's a very interesting character and one of the white characters. There's also some pretty terrible white people obviously. And one of the things that I love about studying history is that you see that it's not like oh, one thing was bad and one thing was good. You know the wrong people won certain battles. The wrong people won certain elections, you know. President Grant really did want to do the right thing by the Native American people but then he lost the next election and you see why treaties are broken, elections are lost, the wrong person gets in power and is not concerned with ethics. I found studying this book really interesting.

  • In 2016, Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth published the graphic novel Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars. Who were the good guys and bad guys in that era of history? It's not a straightforward question.
  • The novel includes historical characters like Geronimo, Cochise and General O.O. Howard, all of whom were at times arguably heroes and villains.
  • "One of the things that I love about studying history," says Hawke, "is that you see that it's not like 'Oh, one thing was bad and one thing was good.' You know, the wrong people won certain battles. The wrong people won certain elections."

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A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
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  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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