Star Trek lives!

One of the things that keeps me from throwing in the blogging towel in an era when climate change denial seems to be a prerequisite for membership in the party of Abraham Lincoln is the quality of the comments I get. The praise is nice, the thoughtful exploration of the ideas I introduce is better, but what I really enjoy are the snarky swipes at my character by those who can’t come up with anything more cogent to post than a dismissive reference to Star Trek. See here for a typical example,

The first thing that occurred to me when such comments began to appear — almost immediately after I adopted the current name for the blog — was that it’s a bit ironic that anyone who is familiar enough with the Star Trek lexicon to recognize the origin of the phrase “Class M” would try to insult me for being a Star Trek fan.

The second thing is that it’s symptomatic of those who just aren’t willing to go where the evidence leads. When all else fails, post some irrelevant ad hominem attack. Thanks, you’ve just reinforced the meme that global warming pseudoskeptics are idiots.

On the other hand, it is regrettable that there seems to be a whole slice of the demographic pie that doesn’t understand the contribution Trek has made to modern culture. You may have heard Nichelle Nichols’ tale of how Martin Luther King Jr. convinced her not to give up playing Uhura by pointing out how important it was for African American youth see one of their own playing an officer on the bridge of the Enterprise each week. But that’s just one example.

This week Natalie Angier has a piece in the New York Times that uses the occasion of Natalie Portman’s Oscar win to delve into the world of scientifically minded celebrities. She writes:


Leonard Nimoy, who played the most famous TV scientist of all time, Mr. Spock, came from an arts and theater background and in real life is nothing like his character. Yet he told me that because Mr. Spock and “Star Trek” have inspired so many young viewers to become scientists, researchers who meet him are always desperate to give him lab tours and explain the projects they’re pursuing in peer-to-peer terms. Mr. Nimoy nods sagely and intones to each one, “Well, it certainly looks like you’re headed in the right direction.”

Star Trek got me interested in science fiction. Science fiction got me interested in science, science got me interested in ecology, and climatology is the logical next step.

As for “Class M,” it was a remarkably prescient idea. In the 1960s, most science fiction envisioned planets more or less like Earth. By inventing a term that implied a whole spectrum of conditions, and planting our world right in the middle, creator Gene Roddenberry was acknowledging that there is no reason why every planet had to be like ours. The implication is that there is no guarantee Earth will always be Class M, either.

If you find this sort of thing silly, that’s fine. There are plenty of other blogs out there.

Comments

  1. #1 feralboy12
    March 2, 2011

    Star Trek got me interested in green women.

  2. #2 David W
    March 2, 2011

    Mmmm, minshara-class planets ;-)

  3. #3 I. Snarlalot
    March 2, 2011

    I for one like Star Trek and sci-fi in general and think Class M is a great name for a blog.

    One of the things the internet has done for us, through direct interaction, is to provide a sobering and all too palpable sense of the number of fools on this planet and the intractable magnitude of their collective idiocy.

    If nothing else, it’s caused me to add new categories to the already long list of things that suck in this world.

    Still we must do what we can to keep the light alive. Keep up the good work!

  4. #4 Kate from Iowa
    March 2, 2011

    Typical boys. Blake’s 7 got me interested in women. Then I grew up a little and realised I really only wanted Servalan’s presence and sense of style and fearlessness.

    (oh for the days when women weren’t “princesses” all the time)

    As far as Star Trek, I like the fact that they traditionally have always had some inimical and sometimes completely un-understandable forms of alien life. Nothing bothers me more than “sciency” movies like Contact that assumes that everyone out there really just wants to be our friend. (rant rant rant)

  5. #5 george.w
    March 2, 2011

    Class M is a perfect name for an environmental blog. And nobody would bat an eye if you named your blog after something in a Broadway play or a classic movie.

    Fred Pohl said that science fiction readers can handle anything. By extension, perhaps, non-readers…

  6. #6 lifesus4
    March 2, 2011

    Where ya goin’ with that ellipsis, george.w? Sci-fi readers are hardly the only ones with a hearty appetite for eccentricity. Many who are unfamiliar with acting and theatre training would be baffled by some of the work we do on a daily basis. Why, just this morning I clogged my way through a Merchant of Venice monologue, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of weird.

  7. #7 Dark Matter
    March 2, 2011

    Anybody here up for some Culture clubbing?

    I read “Consider Phlebas” and left the UFP for the
    Culture, never looked back..

  8. #8 Keith Harwood
    March 2, 2011

    Kate: Have you been asked, “Does anyone ever trust you twice?” If not, you have a long way to go to match up with Servelan.

    George w: Reality is a crutch for people who can’t take science fiction.

  9. #9 shana
    March 2, 2011

    James,
    I couldn’t think of a better name for a blog and I feel the exact same way about Star Trek. In some way, I can thank Star Trek for getting me interested in Genetics….. and you for getting me through a lot of it.
    Now that I have friends living north of the arctic circle, I’m privileged to receive first hand information about the effects of global warming. The naysayers should go up there and take a look for themselves.
    Yours,
    Sniff and the Tears

  10. #10 Birger Johansson
    March 3, 2011

    Sweden did not run Star Trek until nine years later (instead, we got the German TV series “Raumpatrouille”), and we still managed to evolve into reasonably tolerant people. But I understand your enjoyment of the (original, 1966) series.
    — — — — — —
    Kate, Keith, regarding “Servelan” -Yes I loved “Blake’s 7″, more than any other SF TV series. Ever.
    Still, being an Sf enthusiast, I wish TV would try to go beyond the traditional “SF magazine” formula -“Day Break” and the British “Life on Mars” and “Jekyll” are examples of what you can accomplish if TV has the audacity to go beyond the traditional frames.
    — — — — — — —
    Kate: “Nothing bothers me more than “sciency” movies like Contact that assumes that everyone out there really just wants to be our friend.”

    -Which is why you need to buy, borrow or steal the Tarkovsky film version of “Solaris”.
    Good actors, really deep while simultaneously plausible -sentience evolved from different biospheres do not automatically end up similar, nor will they automatically understand each other. How do you communicate with a planet-scale sentience? What common basis of understanding do you have? And how do you deal with your bad conscience taking a real, physical shape?
    (BTW, only case I know of when an SF film has received such a good reception at the Cannes Film Festival)

  11. #11 Steinn Sigurdsson
    March 3, 2011

    The “letter classification” for planets with diverse environments seems to have been first used by EE “Doc” Smith in the Lensman series.
    It was a key plot element in the “Sector General” series of novels and stories by James White, which predates Star Trek.

    So, not original to Roddenberry, and he almost certainly would have know of both Smith and White’s work.

  12. #12 Deborah
    March 3, 2011

    In a word … engage.

  13. #13 Aaron
    March 3, 2011

    I’m sorry, but the entire gist of this article seems to be this author’s defense of his blogs against nameless trolls. That doesn’t entirely seem like science; seems more like somebody broke rule #1 of internet message boards – don’t feed the trolls.

    Fools, assholes and idiots are dime a dozen on the internet, where anonymity is the easiest way to avoid repercussions for what is, essentially, blog grafitti (i.e., “Star Trek nerd,” “douche,” etc.) Paying attention to these people only allows them to feel validated and leads them to believe that they may have actually touched a nerve.

    Many of us in the field of science choose careers and degree paths that consciously take us out of the realm of the high school dropout – we wish to actively pursue higher education, broader thought/opinions/perspectives, the ability to articulate all of this, etc.

    The internet undoes all of that social ladder-climbing. It’s the schoolyard again, where your plumber can go back to being the idiot bully he was decades ago without fear of retribution. Dude is going to throw his opinion around the same way he would unlaid pipe – he doesn’t care who he hurts because he hasn’t stopped to consider whether opening his mouth is even a good idea at all. Listening to, and responding to, this fool as if he has a valid point is about as useful as trying to teach linguistics to a dog.

    Long story short: If you don’t like the comments on your blog, you ARE the moderator. Remove them. Don’t pay attention to them. Disable comments. And above all, do NOT respond to them. Don’t. Ever. Feed. The. Trolls.

  14. #14 DaveD
    March 3, 2011

    Please: Nichelle Nichols’s character was “Uhura,” not “Uhuru.” I realize that this is a silly little spelling mistake, but after all, ST fans are notorious trivia buffs.

  15. #15 dreamer
    March 3, 2011

    TV today sorely lacks anyhing like Star Trek. No Stargate, either.

    I also miss adult, evening entertainment series with animals and ecology, nature woven into their most important stories. Has anyone noticed that outside scenes are getting very rare? Old movies, old TV series, they show characters relaxing outside, skyiing, hiking, riding .. no more.

  16. #16 Nighthhaaawk
    March 3, 2011

    Star Trek is responsible for my 30 odd year career – I saw Mr. Spock at the computer console, and thought “Hey, that might be an interesting field – computers”. I’m a DBA with a large defense contractor and have done everything connected from operating, managing and systems development.
    Thanks all you TOS cast members and Mr. Roddenberry for a great career!

  17. #17 BaldApe
    March 3, 2011

    For myself, I am embarrassed that I never got the connection.

  18. #18 Paul J.
    March 4, 2011

    A nice adult comment musing on the ways the Internet (and a myriad of blogs) have unleased…what? I call them the “great unwashed,” and the other comments about latent high schoolers getting back at..what?So true. So many people with arrested development, and the anonymity to spread it far and wide. What a waste. I enjoy the scientific viewpoint even though I’m only a lapsed, laid-off journalist now engaged in the health care field, which allows me a deeper appreciation of science and the nice “nerds” who really know what life is made of, and can describe it in its many varied forms. I love the Photosymthesis blog, even though no one’s keping up the photographic compilations anymore…the articles are still fantastic.