Friday, May 29, 2009
It should be the easiest confirmation in history; President Obama has chosen Charles Bolden, a retired Marine general and former space shuttle pilot, to be NASA administrator. The agency is overdue for
a major change. The Cold War triumph of Apollo was followed by the public relations scam of the space shuttle. Sold as a reusable spacecraft that would reduce the cost of transporting men and materials
into space, it turned out to be the most expensive and dangerous delivery mechanism ever devised. It split NASA into those who explore the universe with telescopes and probes, and those who endlessly
circle Earth just above the cloud tops. The shuttle at last is history, but it's not clear what comes next. Bolden takes over as a new Augustine panel examines the appropriate role of human
spaceflight, http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN09/wn050809.html , if any. Also named was Lori Garver, who served on the NASA transition team, to be Boldens deputy. I have debated Lori on the Lehrer news
hour and elsewhere. She has no technical background, but shes smart and knows NASA. Unfortunately, she also has ties to the aerospace industry.
Spending money is hard work, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, 1997 Nobel Prize in physics and former director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has a lot of stimulus money to spend. He is up to
the job. Whether or not global warming is a problem, it is clear that oil consumption must wind down. Energy conservation and efficiency will help, but Chu points out that solar power is still much too
expensive to compete with other sources; there must be an increase in nuclear power. In an interview with Kevin Bullis, energy editor of Technology Review, Chu noted that, Yucca Mountain is off the
table. Instead, DOE is looking at fast neutron reactors that will burn down long-lived actinide waste. There will be a generic plant design to speed up license approval. Chu also said that the hydrogen
fuel cell, a major program in the Bush administration, is being terminated. As WN has repeatedly pointed out, hydrogen is impractical as fuel for automobiles or trucks.
In New York last week, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London, a group of millionaires that included Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros, Oprah Winfrey, David
Rockefeller, Eli Broad, Ted Turner, and Michael Bloomberg met to discuss the best uses of their vast wealth. Over drinks and dinner they agreed that overpopulation is the highest priority. It is the
root cause of the worlds most devastating problems. The historic goal of war is the need to expand. Hunger, poverty, pollution of air and water, the spread of disease, the destruction of habitat of
other species, would all be reduced if the Earth were less crowded.
I no longer have a secretary or assistants, and not a lot of time. The University of Maryland sought to make up for this by automating everything. Im told it works fine. To get on the what's new list,
or off if youre pissed off, or to change the address, go to http://bobpark.org and click on subscribe/unsubscribe.