December 9th, 2011 • 10:10 AM
The Extended Sensorium and the James Webb Space Telescope: “No other nation can lead such a pioneering endeavor”

by Meghan Rouillard

Those were the words of Rick Howard, Webb Telescope program director at a hearing of the House Science and Technology Committee called “Assessing the James Webb Space Telescope.” I watched the webcast of this hearing. The word “assessing” made my stomach turn a bit, because if anyone has followed the story of this telescope to be launched in 2018, the "most powerful space observatory" and successor to the Hubble, they know that the future of it has been anything but certain.

As of November, the mission was under review for cancellation by Congress, although 75% of it’s hardware was in production or under testing. Although this threat seems to have been warded off for the moment, frustration about additional funding requests have causes Congress to cap the funding at about 8 billion dollars. I must say that it was hard to tell that several of the congressmen from the Science and Technology Committee present at the hearing had any interest in science! I’ve got to call out Dana Rohrbacher and Mo Brooks as sounding like total raving monetarists, as panelists such as the head of the JWST program and other panelists discussed the great breakthroughs which can be expected from the telescope, as well as what was the virtual refrain during the hearing from the panelists, even British ones, “Only the United States has the ability to build something like this.” As the head of the program pointed out in the face of Rohrbacher’s roaring, as he essentially tried to get the panelists to say the telescope was not a priority, and Mo Brook’s wailing about when we’ll soon have to pay debt payments on par with Italy, the JWST only accounts for 1/30th of NASA’s budget, and the most recent funding increase given was a little more than 1 billion dollars. Even the less outwardly rabid Congresspeople made statements in the “Yes, but” form. Like Rep. Hall: “.. there are.great discoveries and to be made and path breaking research to inspire future generations, but...” or Rep. Johnson, “we will revolutionize mans vision and understanding with this telescope, but...” The "but" being some monetary reason why they've now got doubts about the telescope. Such congressmen and women appear to have split personalities when uttering such statements. The first part of the sentence is what is to be defended as real economics!

In the scheme of things, this is peanuts compared to what we’re spending now on wars, bailouts etc. under Obama. The point must not be lost that some Congressmen’s monetarist-thinking driven anger should actually be directed towards Obama. While the original budget and launch date have been increased and pushed back, I don’t think I’d be too bold to say that with such a frontier array instruments never before built, perhaps some budgetary leeway is needed. The point is that in the scheme of things it’s importance transcends money.

The main technical features of the telescope are a 6.5 meter diameter mirror several times larger than Hubble's, an observing position far from Earth, orbiting the Earth–Sun L2 point, and four specialized instruments. Here is an artist's image of one view of the telescope with the gold-plated mirror segments in view:

Now, why does any such squabbling as described above seem extra frustrating to anyone who knows what this telescope could do? The JWST, otherwise known as the Next Generation Space Telescope is optimized for observations in the infrared. Hubble does give us some near infrared observations, but is optimized for observations in the visible range--people have probable marveled at these images over the last few years, presented quite beautifully in" Hubble 3-D" which I saw at an IMAX theater a few months ago. As Rick Howard, the head of the project, said, the JWST will provide images with “100x the specification of the Hubble”, and that in different wavelength ranges than Hubble; unprecedented resolution and sensitvity in long wavelength visible to near infrared. I was reminded of Lyndon LaRouche’s comments at a meeting with associates the other night on the limits and relative arbitrariness of the 5 senses we've been given, as well the tendency of humans to see that which is visible as real or more primary. The infrared images which we could retrieve from the Hubble could really shock us! What kind of structure will be revealed, of which we’ve been unaware?

Here is the Carina Nebula in visible, above, and infrared, below:

Here are a few videos which give a sense of some of the capabilities of the JWST, which will also be able to see better than Hubble through dust and clouds into planetary nebulae:

Some better Congressmen and women as well as panelists tried to lean more heavily on the importance of new discoveries to inspire young people, such as the recent discoveries of the seemingly earth-like planet Kepler 22-b. In the face of many attempts by Rohrbacher and Brooks to “justify the project,” Congresswoman Edwards pointed out that it was not possible to list all possible results from missions such as that of the Kepler telescope before it was launched. It was pointed out by panelists that only the JWST will be able to tell us whether there is liquid water on such a body.

It will ostensibly be capable of making more distant observations than any of our current space or ground based systems to help study the birth and formation of galaxies, stars and planets. Tthe scientific methodology applied to such observations is usually flawed and tainted by adherence to Big Bang cosmology, its real deep seeded flaw being that it views cosmology through the false lens of the second law. But there is no doubt that there will be more to be learned from these observations, and hopefully more which presents serious paradoxes to such current theories, discussed as fact, which should actually be cast aside.

Panelists discussed how requests for observations implied in the past two Decadal Surverys, made in part based on expected readings from this telescope (in planning since 1996), would leave everyone scrambling for other infra-red observation possibilities which frankly won’t materialize any time soon and won’t access the same frontiers.

The head of the project outlined the fact that 28 states are currently involved in the building of components for the telescope which is resulting in spillover technologies and breakthroughs from circuit systems to welding to metrology to medical devices and optics. And as I mentioned at the outset, as several panelists, even British ones noted, “Only the U.S. has the capability to do such a mission,” an idea which was suggested at least four times during the hearing. “The U.S. must show it’s resolve in taking on large technological challenges and endeavors which other nations cannot.” This reference to American Exceptionalism in science is an image we’ve got to work quickly to maintain or justify, as we find ourselves needing to depend on Russia to get us to the space station and dependent on their icebreakers to get fuel to our own towns in Alaska.

Such a telescope would be our significant contribution to an extended sensorium developed by mankind and contributed to in varying degrees by other nations, such as Russia with it’s Spektre R radio telescope, which promises images of 1000x the Hubble’s resolution. In 2024, another very advanced radio telescope called the Square Kilometer Array will be launched from the Southern Hemisphere, and South Africa and a handful of other nations are competing to build it. Taken together with the advances being made by the Chinese space program, we see indications of where we are falling behind in real physical economic time. The looming threat of the cancellation of this telescope exemplifies this. However, for reasons we’ve outlined in depth on the site, the advancement of mankind will require the involvement of the United States.

Meanwhile, where are we at? With Obama as our Neronic President we remain enslaved to the program of the empire which will keep us on a track toward genocide by war, famine, disease, economic disintegration. One of the most important tactics for the Empire is to suppress scientific progress and the method of thinking which engenders it. A cultural paradigm shift will be required to reverse the damage done to enforce the prevalent thinking about science, economics and strategy which is sabotaging our potential. But the immediate measure to be taken is to remove this President who is forcing us to be strangled by the policies or the Empire, and who has publicly expressed his own personal hatred for the frontiers of science, such as the development of fusion, weather forecasting, and space exploration. Rather than getting up in arms about needing to increase funding for a revolutionary new telescope, people should be up in arms about getting this guy out.

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The Basement Project began in 2006 as a core team of individuals tasked with the study of Kepler's New Astronomy, laying the scientific foundations for an expanded study of the LaRouche-Riemann Science of Physical Economics. Now, that team has expanded both in number, and in areas of research, probing various elements and aspects of the Science of Physical Economy, and delivering in depth reports, videos, and writings for the shaping of economic policy.