The Overview Effect
June 2, 2008 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Do Our Brains Change When We Travel in Outer Space? A book of compiled accounts of astronauts and cosmonauts called The Overview Effect puts forth anecdotal evidence towards that end. The Overview Institute declares it as fact and aims to induce the change in as many people as possible. One space tourist has volunteered to be a human guinea pig in 2009.
posted by Burhanistan (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sure. Beyond the protective shield of the Earths magnetic field Cosmic rays activate previously unused portions of the brain, giving rise to parahuman powers such as pyrokinesis, force field manipulation, body morphing and, er, clobbering.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on June 2, 2008 [10 favorites]

It reads like so much New Age trash. Something tells me you can achieve oneness without polluting our skies with rocket exhaust, filling space with junk, and spending more money than the GDP of some African countries.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:59 AM on June 2, 2008

You should see what standing in front of a nuclear blast and/or medical gamma ray source does!
posted by Artw at 11:02 AM on June 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

I dunno. I buy the idea that something happens when you look down at our little blue marble from space.

But then what? Your perspective has shifted, but what does that mean? Does that change how you behave? What you choose to do with your life?

In the book linked above, the author says that when people live in space, they'll have this perspective that will allow them to "take for granted philosophical insights that have taken those on Earth thousands of years to formulate." Even if that's true - and I'm not convinced - well, so what? Maybe I'm just too pessimistic/jaded/cynical about human behavior, and how hard it is to change it.
posted by rtha at 11:32 AM on June 2, 2008

Sounds reasonable to me. ( If you can't get any DMT that is).
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:41 AM on June 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

FWIW, every astronaut I've seen speak (I'm sort of fascianted by the space race, so I've tried to see as many as possible) has at somepoint hinted that (A) They have some kind of strange or newagey beleifs, and (B) that they are at the same time intensely right-wing.
posted by Artw at 11:44 AM on June 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

You can also change your brain by exposing it to inappropriate levels of solar energy.

posted by suckerpunch at 11:44 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

damn dirty ape writes "It reads like so much New Age trash. Something tells me you can achieve oneness without polluting our skies with rocket exhaust, filling space with junk, and spending more money than the GDP of some African countries."

They fail to mention that the same effect can be achieved on the ground using only a rag soaked in ether.
posted by mullingitover at 11:52 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that an astronaut in particular would have a bias towards life-changing experience upon viewing sights in space. Why? Consider how much time they have invested in the process of becoming an astronaut: the education, the tests, the massive amounts of manhours in training, as well as the cloak of prestige that envelops them when they don that NASA badge.

Consider anyone who has ever set their life goal to such high standards and then achieved it. Are they going to experience a flood of emotion and a certain change in perspective? Of course, they've just fulfilled countless years of hope and purpose.

Is John Smith, the car salesman from Texas going to transcend when he sets his eyes upon the blue marble? Dubious.
posted by tybeet at 11:59 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've mentioned these quotes previously, but what the hell, they're relevant:

Suddenly, from behind the rim of the Moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth... home.
— Edgar Mitchell

To fly in space is to see the reality of Earth, alone. The experience changed my life and my attitude toward life itself. I am one of the lucky ones.
— Roberta Bondar

As we got further and further away, Earth diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man.
— James B. Irwin

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
— Neil Armstrong

The Earth was small, light blue, and so touchingly alone... our home must be defended like a holy relic.
— Aleksei Leonov

In outer space you develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that, you son of a bitch!"
— Edgar Mitchell

For those who have seen the Earth from space, and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us.
— Donald Williams

So basically "space euphoria" is the visceral feeling of "Jesus H. Christ on a crutch, I'm looking at the entire fucking world. All life in the universe along with all of civilization is stuck on a rock the size of a goddamn marble. And the marble is surrounded by an inky, lifeless, irradiated void of infinite loneliness. Suddenly, chlorofluorocarbons and intercontinental ballistic missiles don't seem like such good ideas."
posted by Rhaomi at 12:03 PM on June 2, 2008 [23 favorites]

The Overview Effect
will make you a ghostly woman stuck in an empty escape pod with no equipment and ratty hair drifting past the core systems.
posted by cashman at 12:04 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Can I achieve the same effect with Google Earth?
posted by Avelwood at 12:19 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

No, but every time you use Google earth, someone at Google does. That's why it's free.
posted by Naberius at 12:25 PM on June 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

Ahh... It all makes sense now!
posted by Avelwood at 12:27 PM on June 2, 2008

Heh. Ken MacLeod's ENGINES OF LIGHT science-fiction trilogy has some plot device (spoiler alert!) whereby people who live in space are free of some kind of telepathic brainwashing that emanates from weird alien beings living inside all planets. So the mere act of living in space makes you all rational and noble and Communist. Seems about as likely as humans universally becoming good by seeing the Earth from a great height, alas.
posted by alasdair at 12:33 PM on June 2, 2008

My God, it's full of stars!
posted by joe lisboa at 1:17 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Actually, space is really boring, and astronauts are only saying it's great because they feel pranking others is the only way to make their trip worthwhile.
posted by Citizen Premier at 1:47 PM on June 2, 2008

So, what I'd like to see is someone dropping some acid or (preferably) a nice high dose of psilocybe mushrooms while in space. What sorts of effect does weightlessness have on the perception of space-time.
posted by symbioid at 2:53 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just leave by the window, damn dirty ape. And put on your peril-sensitive sunglasses.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:12 PM on June 2, 2008

Why bother leaving Earth or visiting a military nuclear installation? I'm gonna put my pet spider in a box with a little plutonium. Should grant me similar effects - and I won't have to leave home.

Come to think of it, this sounds like a job for Jamie and Adam - Superhero Origin Myths! I'm sure NASA would help them out for a little free publicity. They could strap Kari, Grant and Tori to a space shuttle and see if they come back as god-like vigilantes! Or what would happen if Adam were put in a rocket and sent to a solar system with a red sun? Would he become a Superman there? Or would his sunburn just match his hair color?
posted by ZachsMind at 5:19 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

So, what I'd like to see is someone dropping some acid or (preferably) a nice high dose of psilocybe mushrooms while in space. What sorts of effect does weightlessness have on the perception of space-time.

Indeed! We may inadvertently create some sort of demigod. All those in favour of using NASA funding to send a zen buddhist monk into space on LSD, say "yay".

posted by Dillonlikescookies at 5:39 PM on June 2, 2008

...and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this “pale blue dot” becomes both obvious and imperative.

Who knew that Genghis Khan, Napoleon and Hitler were all space travelers? When things get imperative, we always seem to end up breaking a few eggs.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:26 PM on June 2, 2008

b1tr0t: Mostly hopeless.
posted by JHarris at 6:53 PM on June 2, 2008

from TFA, emphasis mine:
Space simulation art, media and entertainment are often seen, even by some leaders of the new space movement, to be merely marketing tools or entertainments rather than necessary forms of pubic space awareness.
Sign me up!
posted by greensweater at 7:26 PM on June 2, 2008

Yeah I had the same feeling when I smoked a joint once. I proceeded to eat a bag of potato chips, picked my nose, and went to sleep. Big whoop!
posted by ChickenringNYC at 8:42 PM on June 2, 2008

Tough crowd.

How about some dancin' monkeys?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:23 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's the SPACE MADNESS, I tells ya!

Either that, or the Terrible Secret of Space.

There has to be some connection to trashy pop culture dammit!
posted by kcds at 4:21 AM on June 3, 2008

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