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Will the Real Green Please Stand Up?

We began writing our Green Article series for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that the issue of what is Green is complex and often confusing. So in the mail today arrives the latest, bright ORANGE issue of WIRED magazine claiming that everyting we know about Green is wrong! Thanks guys.

The truth is that they aren't really slaying the sacred cows, but pointing out the downside of some choices one makes when deciding what is green; every decision we make has a trade-off. The article takes the, admittedly controversial, viewpoint that reducing our carbon footprint is THE most important action for us to take. The points they make, however, each also include their own tradeoffs.

Let's take, for example, "A/C is OK". The implied conclusion to their point is that we should all move to the south/southwest where we don't have to heat our homes in the winter (those in the high desert might disagree!). Those of you who live in such an area know that the drought issue, which is historically speaking is not yet severe, is a huge problem. It raises the issue of measuring the carbon cost of piping all that water to the desert. While the article doesn't touch on that aspect, though I hope the author at least considered it.

Whether he did or not, the example shows in extremis that each choice we make has tradeoffs. They need to be carefully considered, based on the best available research at the time, before coming to a decision. We hope, though our series of Green articles, to help you make better decisions, or at the very least, point you to good, research-based sources of information to help you make better decisions. If you are interested in our series, please use the signup box on the right to subscribe.

(5/21 - edited to clarify sentence regarding the Southwest drought issue)

The Value of Space Exploration

The ever-interesting and useful Bad Astronomer pointed me to an interesting discussion on Universe Today about the value of space exploration. We at Mains Associates of course believe in it strongly. One of our projects (long ago, in a galaxy, uh, right here) supported Henry Hertzfeld's research into the returns to NASA's Life Sciences R&D. You can read the whole report on his site, but the gist is,

On the basis of these conservative estimates taken with mission success of the life sciences effort and ample evidence of other social benefits from the descriptions provided by the users of many specific life sciences spinoff applications, it can be concluded that NASA Life Sciences investments have more than “paid for themselves.”

While this is just one area of space exploration, it does focus on the economic benefits, ignoring the ancillary benefits so many of the commenters on Universe Today also point out. Is space exploration worth it? The answer is a resounding, "Yes!"

Arthur C. Clarke – Also the Father of Commercial Space?

The passing of Arthur C. Clarke, announced March 19th, is being grieved widely around the world.  Clarke said recently, “Sometimes I am asked how I would like to be remembered.  I have a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer and space promoter.  Of all of these I would like to be remembered as a writer”.  In this he was prolific producing fiction and non-fiction books, articles, movie scripts (most famously, 2001: A Space Odyssey) and more.  After serving in the RAF during WWII, he graduated King’s College, London in Physics and Mathematics.  And he, like Carl Sagan and few others, wrote history, science fiction, science-based articles for publication and developed educational and highly entertaining programs for television and film.  This had a major impact on all of us. While serving as an RAF electronics officer during WWII, he published a paper in “Wireless World” that combined the just-emerging technologies of rocketry, wireless communications and radar.  He envisioned an extra-terrestrial system that relied on orbiting space stations in high Earth orbits to relay radio signals around the world.  Only twenty years later, in 1965, the new international satellite telecommunications organization, Intelsat, under the U.S. Communication Satellite Corporation (COMSAT), successfully placed the “Early Bird” satellite over the Atlantic into what is now known internationally as “the Clarke orbit”.  Clarke himself never thought the idea would be realized and his article was almost not published since it was so visionary.  His patent counsel suggested that it wasn’t worth trying to “own” the idea because it was so far-fetched.  However, the current multi-billion dollar international telecommunications industry was born from Clarke’s ideas and can be considered the first widely successful commercial space endeavor.

Columbus Sets Sail!

A major milestone has been reached by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) – the Columbus research module, built by ESA, has just been attached to the International Space Station (ISS) during the current NASA/ESA Shuttle mission (STS-122). And, the large Japanese KIBO research module is scheduled for launch this spring. For those of us space research types who remember when the ISS was still a vision, the promise for it to be a true international space research facility, is gradually being fulfilled. To give some human perspective to this accomplishment, a space life scientist colleague of mine retired from NASA about 20 years ago who had already worked on what has now become the ISS, for 20 years. Both NASA and ESA deserve major credit for continuing to work through many challenges to ensure that the Columbus will finally produce research results to support both space exploration and many applications on Earth. The ISS is apparently still only about 60% assembled, but when completed it will be a world-class opportunity for international cooperation in space. Considering the global challenges the world is facing, we need this example of practical international cooperation now, more than ever.

Support your message!

Usually I delete any spam that does find its way into my inbox immediately, but something about the content in an email entitled "Huge Bonus!" caught my eye,

Turn $2400 into $1000!

Now, this might just be the most honest statement about an online casino I've ever seen, but I don't think the content was exactly what was intended.  I'm sure these spammers will learn the lesson too many organizations have learned the hard way - you can create an interesting headline, but if you don't have the information, the data, to back it up, you'll go nowhere.

If you're a reader of this blog, my guess is that you have the information ("the beef", for those of you old enough to remember those commercials).  Is it being communicated clearly?  Is it accurate?  Does it describe a benefit your audience can relate to?  If not, spend time thinking about your message before you, like this casino, vanish into obscurity.

Science Debate 2008

Regardless of how you voted today (you did vote today, right?), I think we can agree that the candidates have yet to seriously address science, research, and technology issues and policy.  Science Debate 2008 is a call for a Presidential debate on a key issue that affects many other facets of our lives - Science and Technology policy. Mains Associates supports this call for a debate and we encourage you to visit the site, learn more, and join the call!

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