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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Ants and the Island, a Parable

The Terran ants lived in a small mound on a 5 acre island off the cost of Florida. It was enough space for the ants to live happily and peacefully. One day the Queen sent five scout ants out to the edge of the island to see what there was to see. A strong wind came and blew the ants into the water.

These, being the most courageous and resourceful ants in the hive, they pulled themselves up onto leaves floating in the water. The leaves rocked back and forth as they carried the ants along the ocean current until finally, they hit land.

The ants got off and walked around. They could not believe all the space and beauty they saw. They scouted around the beach, seeing sand and shells. They were all amazed.

Soon the wind changed and the ants sensing their chance to get home, jumped back on their leaves and road home. When they arrived, they were welcomed by the solider ants and taken to the Queen. They recounted their tail of adventure and the beauty of the land they found.

All over the island ants discussed visiting this new land. Plans were made and one day the Queen stood in front of the hive.

“We must build a large boat out of leaves and twigs. This will be the largest project we have ever undertaken, and will require the best from all of you.”

The ants cheered. “Do we all get to go?” the crowd shouted.

“Sadly, this large boat must carry food and supplies for the ants going, as they only saw sand and shells. There is nothing we can use in this new land. So we must bring everything we need. That only leaves room for five ants.”

The ants were saddened. Apparently only the best of the solider ants would get to go.

Seasons changed and work on the vast boat continued until one day, it was finished. The Queen stood before the proud soliders and gave a heartfelt speech of how they carried the dreams of a hive on their backs. Everyone cheered.

When the boat launched it was a sight to behold. It carried enough food for a month along with piles of dirt, twigs, and leaves.

Weeks went by with no word from the soldiers. Worker ants took turns standing on the shore watching the horizon for the adventures.

One bright morning, a young ant spotted the boat coming towards the island. He sounded the alarm and everyone came running to the edge of the island to see the returning heroes.

They reported of a vast land with many different berries and seeds that the ants had not tasted before. All of the ants got very excited. The Queen stood up.

“Ants, first let us thank our soldiers for taking on this hazardous journey. But I must caution you, travel to the new land is very expensive. It took a year to build a craft to carry five of our bravest ants to this new land. I am afraid it will be a long time before enough ships are built to carry all of us.”

“But they found food. Can’t we use smaller ships now?” One young ant called out.

The queen smiled and shook her head. “We must study those berries and seeds. They may not be our seeds and berries. We must study how to best use them before allowing everyone to eat them. No, it will be a long time before we know enough to send you all over there.

“Besides,” she added, “this is the transport we know. It is best to stay with what we know. It is too risky to try a new boat.”


Anonymous said...

An ant colony wouldn't have to move en masse. It could send a single pregnant queen. Also, the mating individiuals of many species can fly.

If ants were as stupid as the people making big spaceflight decisions, they'd all still be on one island, instead of spread all over the world the way they are.

Andy said...

I also like this fable on spacefutures.

I've seen another fable along a similar theme of the 'highly specialised experts' and 'too complex/dangerous' for ordinary peep.

Raised a smile in the constant frustration with government agencies trying to dictate the future, not only in space. We used to have, in the UK, nationalised power, automotive, phone and aerospace industries ... without a Burt Rutan in sight!!!

Dan Schrimpsher said...

Very good fable. I hope I am a little frog...