Welcome to Assignment Universe - Moments of Perfect Beauty

August 03, 2012

With great pleasure I welcome everyone to Assignment Universe. I will be writing about subjects I love. Music, film, arts, science, and how these disciplines relate to one another. In the specialized society in which we live, it’s easy to forget how these seemingly separate worlds influence each other.

Music lovers? Welcome! Space science? I am with you all the way. Do you enjoy science fiction books and films? Fantastic. Do you fancy a good, civilized argument about whether Mozart or Rush wrote the best music ever heard? Or maybe you want to debate whether Sagan or Asimov contributed more to the popularization of science? Perhaps what really interests you is understanding how NASA designs, builds, and launches spacecraft?  All this and more is fair game here at Assignment Universe.

But this is not a typical science or fine arts blog. My hope is to draw attention to how art and science have more similarities than differences. For example, we’ve heard recently about the notion that it takes ten thousand hours to master a skill or subject. When I was in music school training to be a professional musician, it was required to practice four hours daily and learn dozens of complex musical compositions each year. Science students spend just as much time in the lab, research libraries, and in the field. My experiences as an engineering student were full of late nights working out technical details about Boolean Algebra, analog communications, programming, industrial controls, and other brain numbing disciplines. Scientific and artistic wisdom is hard won only through a minimum of ten thousand hours of study and practice.

Carl Sagan is one of the most influential scientists and public figures of the 20th century. His PBS television show, Cosmos, is a perfect example of how science and art mix together to create a masterpiece television show. Along with his wife, Ann Druyan, Cosmos was the first to mix music, art, history, astronomy, cosmology, biology, geology, and many other subjects into a multimedia journey that still awes and inspires millions. However, I think that Sagan and Druyan’s biggest contribution were as writers for the program. The couple wrote voluminously on many subjects but couched their words in phrases and essays that were understood instantly by those of us without PhD’s. Indeed, Cosmos was so effective as a television program because their writing was exceptional and subtle. Since the debut of the first episode in 1980, Cosmos has inspired and informed millions of people throughout the world. And to many of us it comes as no surprise that there is a new Cosmos show in production. It strains our imagination that Seth MacFarlane and Neil deGrasse Tyson can exceed Carl Sagan’s original show, but Ann Druyan is in the pilot’s chair, guiding the production team. In the present climate of our world, the “spirit” of Cosmos is greatly needed. Another “moment of perfect beauty” is on the horizon to bring the light of a candle to the darkness of our demon-haunted world.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the internet community is full of misinformation, propaganda, and hatred. Just look at the vitriolic comments section of any news outlet or monitor the twitter-verse. But in the midst of all this noise, there are many organizations and individuals that work everyday to bring knowledge, wisdom, tolerance, and compassion to the world. It’s very important that I allow the free expression of ideas and speech here at Assignment Universe. My only ground rule will be that I demand civility and respect at Assignment Universe. I do not expect unanimous agreement with my opinions. Occasionally readers  will not like the subjects I choose to write about. That is to be expected and I invite free debate. To illustrate the standard I wish to uphold, I would like to quote the American Revolutionary and student of the Enlightenment, Thomas Jefferson. He was instrumental in creating the Library of Congress and he said:

“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”- Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, 27 December 1820 (from the Famous Quotations, Jefferson’s Monticello)

I dedicate Assignment Universe to the ideals of the Enlightenment and I will strive to reinvigorate Enlightenment principles into 21st century discussions. The road is not easy but its the road worth traveling. Join me in the journey of love, life, and discovery. - Peace - Mike Dawson