Dennis Volkert: Outward, ho! A story of population shifts
Space shuttle Discovery completed its final voyage last week, and it now will be taken to the Smithsonian Institution.
Discovery reportedly will make its journey from?Cape Canaveral to Washington strapped to the top of a jumbo jet.
That’s like transporting the first automobile in the back of a covered wagon.
I guess it proves that progress piggybacks on what came before it.
It’s a little like migration. I just read that the West has surpassed the Midwest in U.S. population. The four fastest-growing states are in the West:?Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho.
I never know how to properly interpret a population shift. Should I move where the action is, or stay where I am and avoid the crowds?
According to the Associated?Press, the last time the U.S. population center fell outside the Midwest was 1850, in the eastern territory now known as West Virginia.
I imagine things were different in those days.
“Henry moved out West.”
“Oh, did he? Where?”
I’m never quite sure how to interpret “Midwest,” either. When I lived farther West, it was considered the Midwest, and Michigan was “sort of out East.” After I came to Michigan (strapped to the top of a jumbo jet), I immediately heard people refer to the?Thumb State as being in the Midwest.
But to me, it was the Mideast. And now, with the Midwest inching more in the other direction, it’s even less Midwest than?I originally thought it was.
But back to the space shuttle.
NASA?is making the transition from the shuttle program to interplanetary travel. In a way, it’s sort of a reverse-migration. First, we ventured to the moon. Astronauts, strapped to the top of a rocket, were fired out into space, which was considered the “final frontier,” a “Star Trek” term that extended on the concept of westward expansion on earth. When you travel in two dimensions, such as criss-crossing the United?States in one direction or another, it’s somewhat different than moving in three dimensions.
When humans begin to populate other planets, the population center will move outward. “East” and “West” will mean the same thing on earth, but in the context of space, they’ll be the same. Sort of like the Midwest, which is now located somewhere in Utah. Viewed from space, it might as well be in the Atlantic Northeast.
Paper maps will become obsolete. Global positioning systems will prove worthless. They’ll end up in museums, transported there by a wormhole strapped to the top of a DeLorean.
Contact Dennis Volkert at firstname.lastname@example.org.