American's are not well served by the automotive elite business as well as they can be, this is the argument as we look into how it came to be & the many aspects added as time allowed endorsing rules & regulations, additions, EPA standards, to the ultimate stab in the back (License Fees To Park A Diesel Fueled Vehicle In A City). Where does it all end, here & now our Foundation can stop most every annoyance and add a better way of life without Credit Cards or monthly banking trips, EVFCF is our destiny. We can progress beyond the stalemate that automotive manufacturers are supporting, we can do this immediately. EVFCF stands for Electric Vehicle Free Conversion Foundation (see here) http://bit.ly/dzzOd3 is the original site, JOIN Here: http://evfcf-4u.groups.live.com/
You wanted a good argument and I think this one can go very far, esp into legislation to protect consumer's that would want to have their vehicle converted, to keep others from taking advantage of them, recovery of stolen vehicles, identification of these electric vehicles via new tags that communicate, recharging systems that are hidden in the ground that require a phone call for activation of the service opening to insert the cable from the vehicle & vehicle identification before power on/off following recharge. NO CREDIT CARD NECESSARY, NO RECHARGE UNIT AS WE SEE BEING MADE THAT STANDS UPRIGHT NECESSARY. Any nation that desires to create a Foundation just like this is certainly capable. We simply need a factory to build factories to make electric vehicle parts for this Foundation and all consumer's that want to convert their own vehicles. Contact me for suggestion submissions.
Thank you for the excellent post. I guess I would of course answer the questions that most interest me:
1) What went right (or wrong) with Space Shuttle program, and why didn't it live up to its initial promise?
Like many other people, I would characterize the shuttle program by comparing it to the Apollo program. I am old enough to remember the shuttle as it was initially envisioned (before the political and budget compromises), then it more closely resembled Virgin's Spaceship One (although much larger). The idea was to make spaceflight as cheap and ubiquitous as aircraft by making a system where nothing but fuel was used up. They had already preliminarily proven the concept with the X-15 in the 60's, but NASA had decided (on what I think was solid engineering considerations) to instead go with existing ICBM technology with capsules. Where NASA made it's big mistake was to try to somehow combine the X-15 with the ICBM/capsule configuration. If someone had sketched the shuttle configuration on a napkin and showed it to me after I got my first degree in aerospace engineering (and I had never seen it before) I would have told them that, while you might be able to get it to fly, it would be a very unfeasible system to operate. In the end the NASA politicians should have just told the engineers what they wanted to achieve, and let them pick either improving the ballistic-capsule technology or develop a new (pure) X-15 based approach.
I would answer some of the other questions, but I may have already gone on too long. If you would humor me a little further, I would propose two additional debate questions in my next comment.
Some suggested additional questions:
1) Do people with an engineering background make better world leaders? It is something you see more in other countries (such as China or Russia) than you see in the U.S.
2) What do you think of the Fermi paradox?
I would posit for the second question that the current evidence supports two assumptions. One, that the prevalence (and survival time) for technological civilizations is closer to the low end of current estimates (maybe a 10% of 1 such civilization in any given galaxy). Second, there are no FTL technologies. With these assumptions, and the ever-decreasing light horizon in the universe, if we ever met an alien civilization, it would only happen once because we would be consumed as they spread like a virus across the cosmos.
Thanks for your article. To keep it simple, nothing really went wrong with the Space Shuttle program. What I mean is that the program was good, but the Space Shuttle program management team failed to keep up with changes in the Country. Change is never easy. The Space Shuttle program management team failed to stay in touch with the American people. Think about it, the only time you would hear anything on TV about the Space Shuttle program is when they were going to complete a mission in space. Otherwise, it was just like another day at the office. With that large amount of money being spent and people lives on the line after every launch, the feeling people had during the 60’s about space travel is not present today. Therefore, the Space Shuttle program management team should have developed a business plan for the future. A plan that would excite the American people and allow the average person to travel to outer space at a reasonable price. Forget about going to the moon. It is now time to focus on how we live on a space station. Lesson learned, engineers must not only focus on the technology; but also hired personnel to foucs on a good (business) plan and (marketing) media plan to reach the American people.
"spread-spectrum clocking a clever engineering technique, or is it a down-and-dirty cheat"
I don't have any expertise in spread-spectrum techniques, but the question of clever engineering vs. down-and-dirty cheat / hack is something that I ponder from time to time. I know that's not exactly what you're looking for, but it's a good basis for an argument as well.
I certainly value the concept of designing problems out from the start. I think that's the most secure and robust route to take. However, sometimes an inexpensive and quick short-cut can be the best approach as well. If a problem can be solved in a small fraction of the time and / or a small fraction of the cost, is that not good engineering as well?
The "wrong" with the space shuttle is that is captures a single point in technology-time, and that point is long forgotten. The first launch was in 1981 -- I was on the beach.
Nearly simultaneously the PC was introduced. You'll remember that model: it was the one that literally had a big red switch on the side, and even that allusion has faded into the past.
Since that time, Winchester disks have moved on to SATA, and "tribology" has become a recognized engineering field. The 8-inch floppy disk was approaching obsolescence even then. If the "save" icon didn't look like a 1.44MB disk, that would have left our conciousness, too.
Since that time, flash memory was invented, flourished as a fad, gone mainstream, and reached fully-mature status in our SoC's. People now talk about FRAM and many other techniques that in just a couple years will replace flash.
Since that time, EDA tools have given us incredible design methodologies. When the shuttle first launched, I was working in a lab where ICs were created with rubylith, and PCB layout used flexible gauze-tape. Some years ago, I saw one of those large-format cameras sitting in a junk heap outside of the Arizona State University used-equipment facility (it was large enough to recognize it from the freeway). Yes, it was very sad.
In 1981, as I was waiting for the launch, we visited the space museum. Even then the Saturn V on display (just a decade old) was rusty and overgrown with weeds. It went to rust in 10 years, and the shuttles have had 30. NASA should have recognized then that technology was on the move, but instead they anchored themselves on a platform firmly cemented in time, a platform that has become a cement overcoat.
This is a very interesting way of looking at the question. I hadn't really thought about it from this perspective. Back then, I was fresh out of high school. Now I have a child preparing to enter college.
But can we really compare the space shuttle with electronics? Aerospace tends to move on a very different timescale than much of the rest of the world. The current Russian space vehicle design is a contemporary to Apollo. The B-52 is older than I am. Much of the general aviation fleet is just as old, or at least based on designs first laid out in the years just prior to or just after WWII.
I'll grant you that B-52's are still flying, but they are at revision H. Numbers beyond 100 were used, and then restarted at the B-1, so at least a hundred airframes have been investigated since the B-52, and the useful ones have seen steady upgrades and revisions. State-of-the-art is the F-35 (revision C).
That does not include the air force's contributions to radar, surveillance, and data encoding and recording, not to mention their own fleet of space platforms and a school of engineering and management.
The army and navy have moved up considerably as well. Weapons and battlefield communications are not comparable to WWII or even Vietnam.
NASA has spent 30yr sitting on their hands, and now wonder why their fingers are numb. They've degenerated to become the 1-trick pony of technology.
| NASA has spent 30yr sitting on their hands
That's unfair! they did amazing feats of robotic exploration, which is a prerequisite of human space travel. We could deliver a human to Mars today: the hard part is to sustain them there and how to return them.
Re "30yrs sitting on their hands" being unfair. I'd agree with that. While humans may still be stuck in LEO, we not only have robots on Mars, but we have other robots that have taken pictures of the robots on Mars, including one in descent with its parachutes deployed. We have robotic probes around Mercury, Saturn, on the way to Pluto, soon on the way to another asteroid. We've got space telescopes recording gamma rays, x-rays and we have all of the upgrades to Hubble.
One of these days, hopefully, we'll see some ground breaking human space exploration again, but until then, I stand in awe of all of the robotic exploration currently in progress.
I'd have to endorse that. Although NASA's manned space program has suffered terribly at the hands of a fickle public, NASA has lead the way with error-detecting and -correcting codes, remotely-upgradeable systems, image post-processing, and eking out the last little bit of life from disposable systems.
Sure, let's take on climate science Bill. I re-read your stand on it. Now here's mine. I've been to see the glaciers in Canada and Alaska. They're melting. Big time. So is the polar icecap. The coral reefs are burning out. Change on a climactic scale is happening.
It's observable. I'd like to study and understand what's going on. That's called science. Developing theories about the collected data, that too is called science. Climate science.
According to your strict constuctionist views, as I read your opinion piece, it can't be called science until it has a tested and working theory. Seems to me that plenty of physicists had flawed ideas of what the atom was (the cubic model (1902), the plum-pudding model (1900), the Saturnian model (1904), and the Rutherford model (1911)) before the Bohr model put electrons in circular orbit around a positively charged nucleus. Erroneous models don't negate the science.
Most everybody agrees CO2 warming exists AND that it is very minor. Alarmists claim the minor warming, however, increases water vapor levels which have a stronger greenhouse effect which further increases water vapor levels which... (positive feedback).
This worked in simulations, but weather balloon data disagreed. Recent satellite data has also shown no water vapor increase. The alarmist acknowledge this but claim as they don't understand (or refuse to) why the levels haven't increased, they may not be wrong. Continuing to put faith in failed models is not science. Using the plum-pudding model today, for example, wouldn't be very scientific.
A model is just that: A model based on the information gathered at the time of its construction. Wise scientists and engineers are quite comfortable to discard a model (plum pudding) for a new construct as the science dictates. This is the very reason why the atomic model continues to go through many revisions. Even the Bohr model has its limitations. (It “works” for hydrogen atoms.) If we do accept the current (“working”) models for science and engineering, we must also be aware of, and accept their limitations. There would be no need for the super-collider if the nuclear model was complete. It is never wise or productive to get emotionally attached to a construct. (Newton’s comfortable model of the universe compared to Einstein’s “radical” model.) We must allow the model to evolve as the knowledge dictates and accept the outcome. This process is never-ending.
Good topics covered. I would be interested in Should we replace the standard car steering wheel with a joystick? Not sure how a steering action can be replaced by a joystick. Anyway it would be easier to use joystick then a steering of course.
My guess is that it will take less time for autonomous cars to show up and become pretty standard than it would to re-train all of the drivers on the road to use a joystick.
Once kids are thought to drive with a joy stick, it won't be such an issue. Still, I question the useability of a joystick as an appropriate steering mechanism for a modern car.
The airplane analog doesn't really work. Aerodynamic surfaces have a very different feedback response than does a tire of the road. The level of precision required to keep a 70mph car away from the vehicle in the next lane, in most cases, is not needed in flying. Military folks can fly with that kind of precision, but only after millions of dollars worth of training.
"Is spread-spectrum clocking a clever engineering technique, or is it a down-and-dirty cheat?"
It's best not to get hit with a bullet in the first place. But if you have to take one, would you rather take the force in the small area of the bullet or spread it out over a bullet proof vest?
RE: Space Shuttle
What went wrong with the space shuttle? The inital concept I belive was incorrect.
Putting people on board a spacecraft makes the launcher much more expensive because the rocket system must have redundant systems and ways for the crew to escape. Before the Challenger accident the Shuttle used to fly with live boost stages in the payload compartment. These stages had saftey devices to prevent them igniting in the Shuttle bay (which could ruin your day). After Challenger, these cargoes were banned. As a means of getting people to and from space the shuttle became very expensive as it was designed to haul large mass cargo into orbit along with the astronauts. Once the idea of taking satellites up wnet south, the shuttle had limited missions to perform until the ISS came along.
I believe that had the Shuttle been designed as a people carrier only, not a cargo delivery vehicle, it would have been much more useful. The spacecraft would have been smaller, and could have been launched by a classic rocket (payload on the front end). This would have allowed the crew a chance to escape from a Challenger accident. This would also have prevented the Columbia accident as there would be no foam to damage the tiles.
Cargo could go up the way it goes now, on Atlas heavy, Delta heavy or possibly an updated Saturn system. This scheme would have been less expensive in the long run (30 years of flights) and should have been much safer to operate.