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Celebrating Curiosity on Twitter

As a Chinese sage might say, "In my country it is well known that one man can run faster than another." This morning I searched my newspaper (The Guardian) in vain for any mention, however slight, of the big news of the day, the successful landing on Mars of NASA's Curiosity vehicle. Twitter was far more impressive, although I suppose that could be just a reflection of the kind of people I choose to follow. Hardly a mention of Olympics (which monopolised literally eleven whole pages of this morning's Guardian) and plenty of awestruck and joyful celebration of Curiosity. I joined in the mood with the following tweet:

Celebrate Curiosity – and curiosity. Celebrate science, America, humanity, rationality, physics, engineering, mathematics, the evolved brain

It was well received and much retweeted, all except for one word: "America", which was subject to questioning, even carping. Ungenerous, I would say. Of course science is universal, belongs to the whole of humanity, and the scientific, engineering and computational skills deployed by NASA are surely international and the property of all humanity. But NASA is an American institution, American funded, and it is right to celebrated a great American achievement.

An irony struck me concerning this achievement, and I tweeted the following response to the anti-American carpers:

Yes, America STILL manages to reach Mars, despite half the country preparing to elect a man who believes he'll get a planet when he dies

Given more than 140 characters, I would have added that it is all the more to the credit of the sane, rational half of America that it manages to achieve so much despite being positively held back by the other half, the half that believes the universe is 6000 years old, the half that seriously contemplates voting for a Mormon.

My second tweet was also well-received, except by a few who hadn't seen my earlier pro-American tweet and thought I was being anti-American. Here's a typical one:-

Such a negative nancy. You could try being happy.

Goodness, you can't win. And of course there were responses like this:

@RichardDawkins criticizes the American electorate and yet still believes the universe popped into existence uncaused out of nothing

Er, yes. And your point is?

I greatly enjoyed one response by Alex Silva, and retweeted it:

They are still able to reach Mars because they cannot vote for NASA engineers




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