The Wonders of Interstellar

Director Christopher Nolan released his movie, Interstellar, about a year ago, and almost everyone expected a story line that was similar to Gravity except with a few tweaks here and there. It’ll be another space thing – that’s probably what the general audience thought, and rightfully so, since Interstellar revolves around the search for another planet that can sustain life in a time when drought and famine are ravaging Earth. Yet, with its roots in actual scientific research, the movie presents ideas and technology that could be most certainly beneficial for the future of mankind.

The first idea is the concept of wormholes in space. Although this phenomenon is not observable per say, it is a developing theory in the scientific world that can serve as a crucial foundation for space travel. Essentially, a wormhole is the bending of space that connects a black hole, which only sucks objects in, with a white hole, which only spits objects out. Thus, if an object were to travel through a wormhole, it would emerge in a location that would constitute of millions of miles in linear distance. If wormholes really do exist, then humans can travel to different solar systems in a short amount of time and maybe even encounter other forms of life. If we can do what Cooper did, we can open up a wide range of possibilities for the coming decades.

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Another very interesting idea is the fifth dimension. Right now, we live in a three dimensional world, and therefore, we’re only capable of seeing the three dimensions: a line, a plane, and space. We recognize objects with length, width, and depth, but we can’t see past that. Yet, when Cooper lands in the fifth dimensional space, he is able to see one more dimension: time. He sees the infinite string of events that result from one moment and is able to go back and forth through the different frames of time. By stepping out of the third dimension, Cooper becomes a fourth dimensional being and can thus be considered to be in the fifth dimension. The idea of being able to see the progression of time and influence it as well, otherwise known as time travel, is a concept that humans have been exploring for years through books and movies that depict time machines. And now, with the same idea portrayed in space, Interstellar highlights the possibility of beings existing in the fifth dimension – and maybe, one day, we can join them.

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So, you see, Interstellar is more than just a “space thing” – it delves into superior technology and well-constructed theories about outer space, like the construction of Gargantua and its enormous waves. Not only does it explore the theoretical, but also the emotional by displaying the side effects that this kind of exploration has on family and friends. The slowing of time for Cooper and his crew may have stalled the formation of their wrinkles, but it also took away years and years of time that they could’ve spent with their children as they grew up.

So, what would it be: humanity or family? Interstellar poses this thought-provoking question and many more, bringing up issues that all of us will most likely have to answer in the future.

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Trans-Pacific Partnership and fast track…America’s global future at stake?!?

There recently have been negotiation for a free trade agreement among several Pacific rim nations known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But before we discuss about the details and logistics of the TPP, let me briefly explain what a free trade agreement is. A free trade agreement (short for FTA) is, as what its name says, promotes “free trade,” typically through reduced or elimination of protective tariffs and special investment incentives for member nations to invest and trade within one another. Members who are not in the agreement would thus be at a disadvantage. Such agreements have been a way for nations of similar aims to collectively strengthen themselves as a group. Many of these agreements arise out of means such as desires to expand and trade with different nations or to strengthen its own region with its neighboring nations. Some of the largest agreements now include the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and much more. However recently, with China’s rise in economic and political prominence, Beijing has begun to exert its influence within agreements like APEC, ASEAN, and through their newly created Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The US and several other nations, have in essence, began negotiating for this TPP agreement.

The agreement first started negotiations in 2005 as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4). It is a proposed regional regulatory and investment treaty among 12 nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the US. The nations aimed the agreement to “enhance trade and investment among TPP partners and to promote innovation, economic growth, development, and the creation and retention of jobs. But that’s all talk until it’s set forth on writing and into action. The nations had planned to wrap up negotiations in 2012 when concerns with agriculture, intellectual property, services and investment agreements drew controversy and inhibited negotiations. Some of the contention that have been brought up have recently raged divisions within Congress, and even within the Democratic party themselves as well, as many of the leftist, progressives have raised questions and opposition to the TPP, one key goal on President Obama’s agenda.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 3, 2015, to oppose fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Senators like Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have been prominent with their oppositions, especially with the negotiation process known as fast-track that has been given to the president since Nixon and the Free Trade Act of 1974. In essence, “fast track” gives the President the power to bypass much of congressional oversight (congress may only approve or disapprove, but cannot amend or filibuster) to negotiate international agreements. This practice of fast track has especially been contentious with the concerns of the controversial clauses of the agreement, the expansive of the agreement, and the secrecy–lack of transparency–of the agreements. The oppositions led by Warren and Sanders, along with other progressive Democrats are concerned that fast-track will bypass many crucial oversight functions of Congress. In addition, there are also fears of infringements onto Internet privacy and use, such as violations of fair use, whistleblowers, and safeguards in US law.

Also, fast tracking and TPP would make easier for corporations to offshore jobs and force workers to compete with those in nations like Vietnam making less than 60-cents an hour, thus driving down wages and standards of living. NAFTA, they claim,  is an example of exactly just that! After NAFTA, while trade did increase among US, Canada, and Mexico, at the same time many American jobs have also been displaced due to increased foreign competition and outsourcing offshore.

On the other side of the political spectrum, though, are Republicans working with President Obama, supporting the bill, since Republicans have always supported such free trade agreements. As a result, while in the past when Democrats controlled the Senate, the Senate majority leader had never passed the bill, the Republican controls in both Houses could change the tide.

This rift between Obama and the Democrats could be dangerous for the Democrats in the future, especially as 2016 nears. Some have asked Hillary Clinton on her stance with TPP since she had always supported similar pieces of legislation as Obama’s former Secretary of State, but she has not spoke definitively with her stance on the issue. But one thing we do know is that many of her progressive counterparts, Warren, Sanders, and Maryland Gov. O’Malley, who has announced Democratic candidacy, have moved to her left, against the agreement.

While the stances of Senate minority leader Nancy Pelosi and minority WHIP Steny Hoyer are still uncertain, this issue has made its way to the forefront of a significant political, economic, and national battleground, between both Democrats and Republicans. Such large-scale trade agreements affect everyone as a nation, the good and the bad. Understanding and following the issue is crucial for us to safeguard our self-interests and the country’s interests for generations to come.

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