Matt Neary

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Boats against the Current

It can be hard to discern causality in one’s own life, but I think it’s fair to say a certain LSD trip is why I chose to study history.

It was the summer following sophomore year. I was twenty-one and working on a small software development team, leading the design of a higher-dimensional spreadsheet. We made plans to end the summer with a tour of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Standard & Poor’s. By then we would have a product ready to demo.

At the start of the summer we laid out our goals. In a team meeting before our first presentation of these goals to other groups within the company, I played “High for This” by The Weeknd. The following month or so was full of professional optimism, a fair amount of weed, and a steady soundtrack of similar songs. July 4th was the day of my acid trip. I took a larger dose than ever before and this time, unlike times before, I had a question on...

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The Space Race Was Never About Science

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In the twentieth century space exploration reached its zenith during the Cold War. Although many saw this as a high point in the pursuit of science, it was in fact never about science at all. At this point, space exploration was revealed to be about two things above all. First, space was made the arena for a new sort of competition between nations. While America and Soviet Russia were engaged in a cold war, space exploration became the scale by which to measure the effectiveness of the two countries and, in fact, by which to measure the effectiveness of their respective paradigms of governance. America set out to prove that a free society will ultimately outperform a centrally-planned communist regime. This was not obvious.

Additionally, space was rightly perceived as a realm with great power for war and peace. The conquest of space as satellites were pushed into orbit around the...

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