Archive for the 'Current Events' Category

Technology Gateway Video

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

First the disclaimers: While I do work for NASA, I do not speak for them.  They employ me for my professional capabilities and on occasion my professional opinion. Nothing I say should ever be construed as anything other than my personal opinion. As a NASA employee I am allowed and often times encouraged to say what I think. This and the exceptional people I get to work with every day are what make NASA great and a great place to work.

I wish to respond to a number of things that have popped up on the web in the past few days and weeks. I do this here because I can control the message. Every issue has at least two sides but, only the writer gets to decide how to present them. I do not plan to make discussion of my work on this site a habit and I do not plan to allow any comments to this post. It is unlikely that any email on this topic sent to me will generate a reply. Undoubtedly, bits and pieces of this will be taken out of context and used to support claims and opinions which I myself do not hold.  Such is the nature of the Wild West Web (WWW).   All I can ever hope to do is to maintain the original content and context.  In my opinion, reputable sites will link back to this original content and others will not.

As you have likely already noted, a non-technical video on a patent application for a new technology was made public on a NASA website this past week. It is part of the overall innovation disclosure process.  It is just one of the ways NASA communicates with the public about what we do. As mandated by Executive Order, every civil servant is required to disclose an innovation or invention which may be a of value/benefit.  Google “NASA technology reporting” if you wish to read the executive order and how NASA has implemented it. If a patent application is filed, a video may be produced to inform the general public of the nature of the invention or innovation.  It may be a non-technical piece that communicates what this invention is about and why people might care.  Such is the case of the recent video on Surface Plasmon Polaritons.

As for what people are trying to read into this video, specifically my use of the word “demonstrated”, it is my professional opinion that the production of excess energy has been demonstrated when the results of the last 20+ years of experimentation are evaluated. There has been a lot of work done in the past 20+ years. When considered in aggregate I believe excess power has been demonstrated. I did not say, reliable, useful, commercially viable, or controllable.  If any of those other terms were applicable I would have used them instead. If anything, it is the lack of a single clear demonstration of reliable, useful, and controllable production of excess power that has held LENR research back. As a non-technical piece aimed at the general public, my limited media training has taught me that less information/detail is generally better than more. I did not produce or direct the video. While I saw the video before it was released, I did not learn of it’s release until the email started pouring in Thursday morning.

There have been many attempts to twist the release of this video into NASA’s support for LENR or as proof that Rossi’s e-cat really works. Many extraordinary claims have been made in 2010. In my scientific opinion, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I find a distinct absence of the latter. So let me be very clear here. While I personally find sufficient demonstration that LENR effects warrant further investigation, I remain skeptical. Furthermore, I am unaware of any clear and convincing demonstrations of any viable commercial device producing useful amounts of net energy.

So what does extraordinary evidence look like? As a trained scientist, I have been taught the historical standards for acceptance of experimental results or theories. Experiments and theories go hand-in-hand in what is known as the scientific method.  Both must be independently tested, replicated, or verified.  As a minimum, experimental results must be replicated by an objective and independent party. The nature of the test or replication needs to adhere to the spirit of the original experiment but, should be under the full design, implementation, and control of the independent tester. So, if a device is claimed to be capable of producing excess heat by nature of its operation (i.e., the consumption of fuel via a nuclear process), it must be operated properly. The way power input and power output are measured should be left up to the independent tester. This is standard scientific practice. What would take this to the next level (extraordinary evidence) would be to have the test be an open public test. The nature of the test and specific approach to executing the test should be made public. The conduct of the test should be open to additional 3rd party experts. And finally, the data should be publicly released. Further peer review of all aspects of the independent test is a must. Community consensus is the ultimate goal. Every attempted demonstration of a LENR device that I am aware of has failed to meet one or more of these criteria.

There is one last point I wish to cover. It has been claimed that I no longer give proper credit to Widom and Larsen for their theory. I disagree with that opinion. When I talk to my family, friends, or neighbors about some of my work. I do not cite Widom-Larsen Theory or any of their papers. There would be little point in doing so. Who the intended audience is must determine what you say and how you present the information. If a technically competent person comes across a non-technical presentation they should recognize it as such.  To expect that every form of communication is exactly what you need or want it to be is unrealistic.  The fact that Widom-Larsen Theory (WLT) was not explicitly mentioned in the video fit the intended audience. It is not an indication that I no longer believe WLT is likely the correct explanation behind LENR. I have been consistent in my professional briefings to indicate that I find WLT is likely correct. It appears in every briefing where I have had the time to include it and where the briefing was intended to be technical. I’ll point to my last public technical briefing at NASA GRC as evidence of this. I will continue to do so until such time that WLT has been demonstrated to be flawed. Quite frankly I am baffled that WLT is not receiving more wide spread attention. Applications of the theory appear to go far beyond LENR. The fact that I did not mention WLT in the Aviation Week article was a mistake on my part. It was a technical article to a technical audience. I communicated my regrets on that omission directly to Lewis Larsen and am quite willing to admit that error publicly – mea culpa.

iPad = IveReconsidered

Friday, January 29th, 2010

I just watched the iPad announcement video. I’m willing to give new ideas a fair hearing and have come to realize that the iPad is not about the hardware as much as it is about the software and the experience. I do not know what I’m going to do, but I think I am beginning to understand what the revolutionary aspects of this device are. My expectation was that that this was going to be a tablet PC. I was wrong. Instead it is something completely different.

The iPad does not need to be a Netbook or Tablet PC.  Those things run traditional software to do traditional things.  The iPad really is completely different.  I do not need an SDHC slot or a bunch of USB connectivity.  Widescreen would still be nice, but most work apps look just fine with 4:3 formatting.  I do not know of a 16:9 projector I can use at work!  The early adopters are going to show the rest of the world just what the magic of this device really is.

TEDxNASA

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

I spent the day at TEDxNASA and wish to share a brief (3000+ word) summary of the presentations and my reaction to them. First I need to set the stage a little bit. NASA is a rare government agency that has the unique ability to capture the imagination of the public and influence the future – some might say that NASA has the ability/charter to create the future. A brief review of the history of NASA shows this expectation is justified. NASA has, arguably, been in a bit of a slump recently. Much of the cutting edge long-term research capability has been traded for near-term developmental work. The shift from exploring possibilities to executing certainty, from embracing risk to meeting schedule milestones, has reduced NASA’s ability to create a wondrous future. With new challenges facing the world – energy, climate change, asteroid impacts, … – each of which having no obvious implementable solution, NASA needs to restore and extend its past abilities to create and innovate. The TEDxNASA event was designed, IMHO, to shock the creative hearts and minds of NASA and its partners. I think it did a very good job at that. I came away unsettled and amazed by what these folks have imagined and accomplished. The message being if they can do that so can we. The TEDxNASA event was a series of talks (some live, some on video), performances, and periods of social interaction between the audience and the “cast”. What follows is my summary and reactions to each of the program elements in the order of occurrence.

The Langley Center Director, Lesa Roe, opened the “conference” with a brief set of remarks. This was a side of our director that I had not seen before. It is hard to put my finger on exactly what she said or, more likely, how she said it that gave me the impression that this is now a different Lesa Roe. Having worked on developing the center’s Creativity and Innovation plan, I can see that she is 100% behind this effort to regain/surpass past research capabilities and impact the world.

Sam Horn introduced herself as the Mistress of Ceremonies and discussed the program and how things were going to work throughout the day. She did an excellent job of keeping things moving along and on schedule. We rarely deviated from the published schedule by more than a few minutes. More on her later.

We then had a “What is TED” video. If you do not know about TED, go to TED.com and catch up on what you have been missing.

Dr. Paul Aravich was the first real presenter and what a great way to get things going. This guy has some energy! In just a few minutes, using real cadaver brains, skulls and spinal cords he shocked us all into the realization that essentially everything we are, the universe, is contained between our ears. What we are and can become is affected by how we treat ourselves. The last frontier to explore is right there in our heads. He talks quite passionately about mental illnesses and whether they were ultimately of physiological origin (as he believes). My main take away messages are that passion enhances communication and focuses the mind to excel. Second, that problems and their causes/solutions are inherently subjective – you interpret things based on your experiences. Others looking at the same thing will likely see different problems, causes, and solutions. Perspective is everything.

The next speaker was Gregg Fraley, a Creativity and Innovation Consultant. He presented us with a set of tools that prepares/allows us to be creative and help others be creative. Creating an environment, both internally and externally, is essential to maximizing the creative abilities present in everyone. Everyone is and can be creative. I’ve been exposed to a lot of Creativity training and tools for the individual (internal) and groups (external). Gregg Fraley’s talk reinforced what I have come to believe is important. It was a good, direct, and practical talk on tools that anyone could employ today to be more creative. Gregg is participating in a one day workshop at Langley on Monday. After talking to him later in the evening after the presentations concluded, I’m looking forward to the workshop.

Next we viewed a video by Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist. She talked about what it is like to have a stroke based on her own personal experience of having had a stroke in the left side of her brain. You should really view the video it is well worth the time. I have read quite a bit about the mind-body connections ever since high school. I’ve also read and tried many techniques for quieting the mind to detach from the ongoing mental noise. I never quite understood either the objective or methodology. Her talk brought it all together for me in a moment and I understand this now. I can’t yet do it, but I understand it. The objective is to attain the ultimate state of having surpressed the left verbal, time and space aware, and judgmental portion of the brain in order to just see things as they really are. This is extremely relevant for creativity since in such a state everything is possible, including experiencing things from any perspective. I think this presentation is in my top 3 from TEDxNASA.

Michael Stevens (piano) and Dave Ballou (trumpet) performed a jazz piece. I like jazz and this pushed beyond my envelope of comfort. Having tried to listen to the atonal Keith Jarrett years ago and failed, I found this performance fascinating. As I suspected and confirmed later by talking to Dave afterward, this was pretty much an impromptu jam session. I enjoyed the way the two traded the lead and built on what the other had just done. The piece developed in unpredictable ways as was very free form. What I took away from this was creativity is enhanced by trust in the team member’s abilities, freedom to explore, no fear of failure, and reinforcement/confirmation through adoption. Whatever one of these performers attempted, the other was able to accomplish and extend with a completely different tool/instrument. It was a pleasure to watch two accomplished people be in the moment of creation.

Author Nancy Vogl talked about her experiences relating to diversity. The talk also evolved into a discussion of how points of view are often (falsely) rooted in fear or group dynamics. View things/people/facts/events as they are not what you have been told to see.

The “Math Lady from Space”, Brenda Barrow, came out and demonstrated how having fun and exploring different perspectives can facilitate learning – in this case math for young students. Creativity requires constant learning and exposure to new experiences. Some of that includes looking at old things in new ways. I’ve often wondered how I would begin to communicate with an alien. I always start with math.

Renowned space-themed artist Pat Rawlings talked about how he creates his scenes depicting every day life in futuristic settings. The big take away for me was that creativity requires a problem to work on. He stated that if given total freedom he has a difficult time producing anything. He needs to have some constraints before he can release his creative abilities.

A simple solution to an important problem was the subject of the next video presentation, “How to stop disease spread through the reuse of syringes in the third world” by Marc Koska. Simple, design a syringe that has a break away plunger. I’m not convinced that would actually work, since I can think of at least two ways to circumvent the break away feature. Nevertheless, my take away was that big problems can often be broken down into smaller and simpler problems.

We were treated to some real innovative thinking by Dr. Dennis Hong of Virginia Tech. His robotics group has produced some amazing concepts, designs that most people would not have imagined. He talked about the importance of suspending judgment and encouraging fun. Letting people run with an idea and develop a passion for things is essential for creativity.

Break for lunch.

The second block began with an inspirational song by Jana Stanfield entitled “If I were Brave”. Listening closely to the words it was clear that this was about increasing abilities and accomplishments by releasing/overcoming your fears – whatever they may be. For me this meant fear of ridicule, or fear of failure.

Sam Horn talked about her concept of Serendestiny. An interesting concept that involves acting on a hunch to set destiny in motion. Doing things just a little bit differently, or going outside of your usual sphere of activities can be just the thing that starts something big. Interesting idea.

Radio Show Host John St.Augustine is my age and talked about his life-changing experience/memories of the first moon landing. Every time I see that video of Neil stepping onto the lunar surface, it gives me chills – a moment etched deeply into my existence. His point: we have already done unimaginably great things – Imagine, discuss, and then do.

Loretta Whitesides discussed her somewhat idealistic vision of how humanity can take the best of ourselves and spread it across the galaxy as we inevitably expand our presence beyond Earth. An interesting vision of the future many years from now. It is important that you have a deep belief in the importance of what you are working on, that it matters, and will make a difference.

We were originally scheduled to have a live video link to the International Space Station and Astronaut Leyland Melvin, but that fell through. Fortunately they had a back up plan. They showed a prerecorded video of Melvin that started off being narrated by a youngster (very early teens?), Tyler Cole. The content was more of the usual “Earth is one planet” theme and I was more impressed with the performance of Tyler Cole. He exhibited an unusual degree of comfort narrating in front of such a large audience.

A video of Dan Pink discussing the Science of Motivation made some initially surprising claims. As the model for business switches from producing things more efficiently to producing innovations, the old model of rewards as motivation apparently fails miserably. What makes a bigger impact on creativity and innovation are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I guess I’ve known this all along, but never knew that I knew it. This talk is also in my top 3 for the day.

Innovation Consultant Steve Shapiro talked about the concept of open innovation. The basic premise here is that stealing a solution from someone else is still innovation. Sometimes the solution to your problem already exists. Someone else may have already solved a similar problem. You just need to be able to see the similarities and have the exposure/awareness to diverse fields. Bottom line: being the very best in a narrow field isn’t enough. You need to be broad (too). I agree with this 100%. There is no substitute for being aware of the world and all of its diversity. As William Gibson has said in various ways “The future is already here – it is just unevenly distributed.” This is very important to remember.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Anna McGowan is such a wonderful speaker. An engineer from Langley, she talked about the role of innovation in aviation and its ability to deliver “The World on Demand”. I agree with others who indicate that this may have been too big a topic for an 18 minute time slot. Creativity and innovation often arise in support of a compelling vision. Anna is a very engaging speaker with a vision.

A video, featuring Micheal Pritchard, used the problem of providing safe clean water to billions of people to illustrate that big problems can be made small by asking the right question. Providing potable water to everyone on the planet is a huge problem. The required production and distribution infrastructure is immense and unaffordable to many nations. So think small instead. The practical solution is to develop an inexpensive method that enables a single person to make their own potable water from any source as needed. Take away: turn those big intractable problems into little problems that you can solve.

The next segment was a slide show of the art of Chakaia Booker. Ms. Booker is a walking piece of art in her own right, but the slide show demonstrated what she sees when she looks at an old discarded rubber tire. She dissects and reassembles tires to create shapes and textures that are unexpected. The point: no one sees things the same way that you do.

Guitarist Mike Rayburn treated us to a little of his creativity. He started off by playing a guitar in a way I have never seen before. His motivational statement “what could I do with a guitar that has not been done in the past 500 years” really hit home. He then took us on a quick tour of other things he can do by simply asking what if. That question is very liberating, creatively speaking, and allows Mike to turn many common compositions into unique and delightful experiences (e.g. Led Zeppelin does Dr Seuss – Green Eggs & Ham set to Black Dog). This was very likely my top experience of the day. Just ask what if and see where the freedom takes you.

Break and a little mingling: talked to Dave Ballou for a while and watched a tiny robot play kickball with a human.

The final segment started with Dr. Sue Morter. Being a scientist and knowing a few things about electromagnetic radiation/fields and quantum mechanics, I found her underlying message of freeing ourselves from our own self created filters and restrictions overwhelmed by her careless abuse of physical analogies mingled free-form with new age concepts. At least I hope they were analogies from physics. I guess I was able to free myself from my own filters enough to see the underlying message, but it was tough. Perhaps that was the point – letting go of your point of view to experience that of others. Gutsy move including her in the program. I’m still uncomfortable after this one.

A video featuring Nandan Nilekani uses the history of India to demonstrate how ideas create the future. Interesting and informative, but I did not get much out of this one.

Dr. Joel Levine was up next and talked about the science enabled by flying aircraft on other planets. I know Joel very well since he works in the same directorate that I do at NASA Langley. This was perhaps his best presentation I have ever seen. He demonstrated how important questions (focus) and teamwork (trust) can result in innovations – in this case the Mars Airplane – that enable breakthroughs. He included two videos, the first an animation of how the Mars Airplane might be packaged and delivered to the Martian atmosphere, and a second showing actual footage from the deployment and transition to autonomous flight of a scale model being dropped from a balloon at 103,000′ altitude (the point in Earth’s atmosphere similar to the flight conditions at Mars) demonstrating that the concept works. This is the creativity and innovation process NASA-style. Joel managed to subdue his normal tendency for hyperbole to a great extent. Super stuff and it was a tough decision to make, but sorry you narrowly missed being in my top 3.

Back to back videos on inventions (the state between creation and innovation) the Liquid Filled Eyeglasses (Josh Silver’s example of how to turn a big problem into a small one) and Sixth Sense Technology (Pattie Maes’ example of asking what if) came next. Both are excellent examples of how a question or problem is needed to focus creativity to achieve practical results.

Jana Stanfield returned to the stage and sang another song this time accompanied by a sign language interpreter. They sang “I Wish You Strength”. I was engrossed in watching the signer “sing” the song. Seeing the singer and signer perform side by side was a Rosetta stone of perspective. Very unusual performance – definitely a new experience that put me into a different perspective.

Mitch Albom followed and discussed how streams of events (actually lives of two other people) crossed and impacted his own life. This one was a stretch for me. If I had to guess, the intent/message was “do the right thing” or a variation on reward comes in different forms. Perhaps I was just tired after a long day that seemed to go by very quickly.

The last performance was from a 13 year old singer, Jamia Nash (accompanying on piano was Michael Stevens). Before she sang, this young lady demonstrated a presence, thoughtfulness, and maturity of a much older person. She challenged the adults to renew the hopes and aspirations of a younger generation and to teach them how to become the next generation of leaders through example (Hint: the way we’re acting now ain’t cutting it). Holy cow! No pressure here. She then demonstrated her amazing voice by singing appropriately “What a Wonderful World.” She nailed it.

They then did a wrap with the usual thank you’s handed out to the group of dedicated volunteers. Idea to reality in 8 weeks! Well done folks, very well done.

The reception afterward was interesting. I played a game of chess to a gentleman’s draw (much to my relief) while standing and having a conversation. I spent quite a bit of time talking to Gregg Fraley. I had some wonderful bacon-wrapped scallops, and spicy chicken nuggets (real meat not glued together bits of “parts”), and a glass of white wine. I met a few other folks and speakers.

TEDxNASA was a great experiment. I think it succeeded at its intended purpose. I did not connect with everything, but I’m sure what missed me probably resonated with someone else in the audience. I do know that despite the conference subtitle “Space to Create”, a few “personalities” who earn a living out in the blogging world did not get it. Perhaps no one ever told them that NASA is about more than just “space exploration”. They need to understand that space exploration is only one of NASA’s current jobs, those jobs will certainly come and go, morphing into other, as yet, unimagined activities that NASA will likely create itself. The common thread for NASA is to dare to imagine and then create the future – for the betterment of everyone here on spaceship Earth.

Taxes and Votes

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

I’ll be brief. In response to this news article… If you do not pay taxes you should not be able to vote. PERIOD.

OK, I have chilled a bit since the original post. Everyone can vote for the House of Representatives, but only taxpayers, (current and retired) military, and a few other TBD contributory professions can vote for the Senate and President. I’m sorry it has come to this, but we are a hair’s breadth away from the majority non-taxpayers being able to vote themselves any benefit they choose at the expense of the tax-paying minority. That would be inherently unstable and result in the collapse of the system.

DeGlobalization

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Here is another timely article on the state of the global economy. This time the subject is deglobalization. It is a good quick read that gets right to the point. Go ahead and read it first. If you still are skeptical about whether this is at all possible – read this too from today’s news (20090914).

Capitalism is broken, perhaps fatally (as is mindless consumerism), and the lack of sufficient quality jobs in the US runs the risk unrest. See my earlier post on the subject of jobs. Globalization has failed mostly due to the inability of the market to raise the standards of living of those countries supplying the workforce and thereby create new markets for US produced goods (exports and the related jobs at home). There are a few exceptions though free trade has, for the most part, made a just few people in those countries very rich. I am a proponent of some of the 11 pillars, but there are a few that (appear to) run too close to neo-socialism (I was going to use neo-communism, but that term has been usurped by the Right to hurl at the Left ever since the term Liberal has lost its impact). Hopefully, if we go this route, we will not end up like France – or worse.

I suspect that as climate change begins to disrupt water and food supplies, degloblization will rapidly take hold. International trade will become more strategic. China is already ahead of the game here as they have been buying up rights to strategic natural resources worldwide for some time now. Whether those rights can be enforced (peacefully) remains to be seen. One thing the article does not address is what deglobalization does to the huge, internationally-held US national debt. If ‘they’ cannot buy/import stuff (like food) and are not allowed to invest in the US, then the debt becomes worthless/uncollectable, the international currency/credit markets collapse (might not be a bad thing in the near-term with a return to something like the gold-standard). International trade will revert to a barter system (goods for goods – not a currency).

No matter how I look at this, the word ‘stability’ does not seem to apply. We need to replace the for profit motivation of the capitalists with something more sustainable (and perhaps even moral) for the post-capitalist system that will replace it.

More on Health

Friday, September 4th, 2009

… as opposed to “moron health.”

I have not really sat down to outline my thoughts on how to make health care affordable. The current debate in congress is primarily about Health Insurance – not Health care. As I have stated previously, we do not need another, bigger government program that gives a special interest direct access to the government coffers. We need legislation that actually addresses the cost of health care. The bills before congress basically set up an expanded Medicare/Medicaid system. It expands the number of participants without doing much, if anything, to address the long-term costs of health care. It is a new liability for taxpayers without any hope of cost containment. What we need is legislation that controls the costs and cost growth of health care services. Making health care affordable is the best way to making health care universal. Since being healthy and living a long life are priceless – they do not respond well to market forces. This is especially true when the system seeks to limit availability of services by artificial means – controlled scarcity.

To that end I suggest that we need to expand the capacity of the existing system by doing some/all of the following:
Electronic records that follow the patient,
Use computer diagnosis – with RN verified symptoms,
Increase the capacity of the medical education system,
Limited liability against lawsuits,
International market for prescriptions,
Zero advertising for pharma,
Greater role for RNs & NPs,
Exclude MDs from owning Med Labs,
All hospitals should be non-profit,
Pay for college and require a 4-year post grad service in the industry – just like what is done for ROTC,
Require specialist MDs to serve 25% as general physicians – forever, and
Treat health care like any other regulated utility by regulating a service fee schedule nationwide.

We need to reinstate compassion for the profit-motivation when it comes to health care.

Snow Leopard: First Impressions

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I bought the 5-license upgrade to Snow Leopard and it arrived today. I installed it on two systems (one more to go). The install goes pretty quickly and mine took just over 45 minutes each. On one system I did not install Rosetta. When I tried to start an Office 2004 app, which requires Rosetta, the system told me it needed Rosetta and asked if it should go and find a copy to install. I said OK and it was done in about 4 minutes. On the second system, my main home system which has all of my email, I use Mail. After the install, I was informed that I needed to convert my old Mail account to work with the new Mail app. Again, I said OK, but this time things didn’t go perfectly. Mail fumbled the hand-off of my account settings, specifically the settings for the outgoing SMTP authentication. I had to edit the settings so Mail would use a username and password. Not hard to fix if you know where to find the controls, but I do not understand why Apple missed such a fundamental setting. Other than that, Snow Leopard saved at least 7.5GB of disk space. Unfortunately, only Parallels version 4 works with Snow Leopard. iStat menus also does not work. Those are the only two things I have found that do not work with Snow Leopard.

Universal Health Care

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

I’m sorry, but I can’t support Universal Health Care (as currently envisioned). It creates an open ended liability for the taxpayers with no control over future costs/liabilities. I’ve already seen enough of the social abuse of entitlements to know that universal coverage without a REAL DECREASE in the cost of health care is a huge mistake (future cost). We need to decrease the cost of health care by decoupling the market motives behind health care. Being healthy and living forever have infinite value. People will do/pay anything to be healthy and live long (the value is infinite!). The health system needs to be a regulated utility. It needs to become detached from the legal and insurance systems which feed off of it. If we could achieve a true reduction in medical costs, universality would be assured. The best way to provide coverage/availability for all is to make it affordable. Congress is headed down the wrong path and a brief reprieve from the legislative process might result in clarity of thought.

… but I’m not holding my breath.

Cash for Clunkers

Friday, July 31st, 2009

I’m not sure how congress managed to conceive of and pass legislation that actually makes sense, but the “Cash for Clunkers” program is the one stimulus that seems to work. After bailing out the auto industry and amid high unemployment, the idea of paying consumers much more than their auto trade-ins are worth if they buy a new (hopefully American – whatever that really means) car is simply brilliant. The $3500-$4500 cost to the taxpayer leverages its stimulating effect on the economy by getting the consumer to spend a lot more of their money at a time when an increase in consumer participation in the recovery is needed. The fact that the program went through the (hopefully first) billion dollars in only 5 or 6 days indicated the degree of pent up demand for big ticket items like automobiles. The additional impact the program has on boosting the overall fuel efficiency of the cars on the roads is a further win for the economy since it reduces the demand for foreign oil and lessens the trade deficit.

How can it be that congress managed to pass this into effect? I’m stunned. Perhaps there is hope for us after all.

Alternate Launch Abort System

Saturday, July 11th, 2009
MLAS Video (click to view)

MLAS Video (click to view)

I know this was just a test to demonstrate a proof of concept for an alternate launch abort system for Constellation, but it does seem to be quite complex and rather impractical given all of the excess mass of the system. Nevertheless, it worked amazingly well and will hopefully contribute to the overall safety of NASA’s new vehicle. It was tinkered together in a very short time. Some folks have great jobs!