Stark has been covering baseball since the 1970s, and manning ESPN shows like Baseball Tonight since 2000. For the first time in more than three decades, he wasn’t a prisoner of baseball’s calendar. In July, Stark went to Cooperstown for Hall of Fame weekend (he’s usually busy with the trade deadline) and was approached by fans and Hall of Famers alike. In August, Stark and two dozen family members went to a mountaintop in Oregon, where they watched the solar eclipse from the center of the totality. “That was pretty much the coolest thing I’ve ever done or seen,” he said.
Laid-off ESPNers report that friends sometimes struggle with how to act around them. These were some of the luckiest people in sports media. Do you say, “I’m sorry?” Tell them, against all available evidence, that their next job will be better?
As these companies go where no businesses have gone before, they raise questions only fuzzily addressed by the Outer Space Treaty: What are private companies allowed to do in space? Can a company mine the moon or an asteroid and then sell what it has pulled out? How are countries to regulate these businesses?
Internationally, countries have been discussing how to answer these questions. In the United States, Congress has begun tackling regulatory issues. Some warn that if the United States does not set up business-friendly policies and policies, then the start-ups could move elsewhere — including such seemingly unlikely places as Luxembourg.
In some ways, it’s no surprise that Liu was invited to see the dish. He has an outsize voice on cosmic affairs in China, and the government’s aerospace agency sometimes asks him to consult on science missions. Liu is the patriarch of the country’s science-fiction scene. Other Chinese writers I met attached the honorific Da, meaning “Big,” to his surname. In years past, the academy’s engineers sent Liu illustrated updates on the dish’s construction, along with notes saying how he’d inspired their work.
But in other ways Liu is a strange choice to visit the dish. He has written a great deal about the risks of first contact. He has warned that the “appearance of this Other” might be imminent, and that it might result in our extinction. “Perhaps in ten thousand years, the starry sky that humankind gazes upon will remain empty and silent,” he writes in the postscript to one of his books. “But perhaps tomorrow we’ll wake up and find an alien spaceship the size of the Moon parked in orbit.”
Is civilization good for us? Has it made us any happier?
The takeaway from a new book by James Scott, a professor of political science and anthropology at Yale University, is that the answer to the first question is yes but it’s complicated, while the answer to the second question is, well, even more complicated.