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Staring at the sun: The eclipse, technology, and the Final Frontier

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Staring at the sun: The eclipse, technology, and the Final Frontier

A conversation with the venerable science writer Joe Pappalardo.

Staring at the Eclipse with Joe Pappalardo | Return: Tech by Blaze Media

The memes about staring at the eclipse were misguided in their assumption: The temptation to stare at the apocalyptic burn would afflict plenty of us.

"I suspect the damage, the potential from the eclipse is kind of overblown,” he says, smiling a bit. “But now I'm not so sure. I'm still seeing spots."

Joe Pappalardo is undoubtedly my favorite science writer. He’s one of my favorite writers in general. As a magazine writer and contributing editor at Popular Mechanics, with bylines in National Geographic, TIME, Esquire, Texas Monthly, and the Smithsonian Magazine, he has given us a writing style that’s part Hemingway, part Kerouac, and part science-minded philosophy.

Joe has written about B-17 gunners, jungle spaceports, Western shootouts, and sunflowers. His book “Sunflowers: The Secret History” charts sunflowers' complicated, mind-blowing history.

Why is there a spaceport in a remote jungle of French Guiana? How will people die on Mars? How do we preserve the Declaration of Independence? Should we be terrified of drones? What was the Wild West like for lawmen and criminals? What would it be like to follow a solar eclipse in a Concorde jet? How bad are the battle scenes in the Star Wars sequel trilogy? Will there ever be a spiritual element of AI? How would it fully achieve original creation? Why did the CIA employ killer monks? Are North Korean nukes an actual threat? Will the future of space exploration depend on the egos of wealthy Big Tech giants? What roles did sunflowers play when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union?

These are just some of the topics that Joe Pappalardo knows well.

So, I wanted to chat with him about the solar eclipse.

And, perfectly, this led us into the cosmos, climbing the stars and whatnot.

You can feel the joyful back-and-forth between wonder and doom throughout this interview. How lovely, a tug like this is, between progress and demolition.

The solar eclipse brought people together and created a sense of unity. "There's very few things that really do sort of unite everybody in an event like this."

Joe also describes a generational divide in embracing new ideas and disruptive technologies, with some people resisting change.

He chatted about the unique characteristics of an astronaut and the future of space travel, which may involve more diverse participants and commercial space flights. SpaceX has ambitious plans for the next couple of years, including launching Starship and landing the booster on the same launch pad.

As Giorgio Agamben put it, “Technology is in fact nothing other than a human action directed at a goal.”

His father influenced Joe's interest in space and science. They’re going to a launch at Starbase this week. We’ll check back with them when they finish their journey.

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Kevin Ryan

Kevin Ryan

Staff Writer

Kevin Ryan is a staff writer for Blaze News.
@The_Kevin_Ryan →