It Keeps Going, and Going…

According to Reuters, an Emerald Islander has come up with the solution to the energy “crisis.” But never fear, it doesn’t violate any of those pesky laws of thermodynamics.

But he is keen to head off the notion that he has tapped into the age-old myth of perpetual motion. “Perpetual motion is impossible. This is a self-sustaining unit which at the same time provides surplus electrical energy,” he said.

Well. Glad he cleared that up.

And The Winner Is…The American People

Newt Gingrich has an Op Ed in today’s USA Today on the use of prizes to encourage technological progress.

This is not a new idea to members of the space policy community, and we already have organizations attempting to do this privately, such as the X-Prize Foundation, though they’ve had difficulty raising the money. It’s really a great idea, with very little downside, if our national goal is to make rapid progress in space technology. The political difficulty of it, of course, is that this is not our goal in space. Our goal in space remains to maintain a jobs program and use it as a foreign policy tool.

Also, I should point out, since many are probably unaware of this, that Newt has been a long-time supporter of a more vigorous and useful space program. He has long been aware of the potential of things like space solar power, and has served on the board of advisors of the old L-5 Society and (I believe) on the National Space Society. He had to subsume that interest when he became House Speaker, because it wasn’t perceived to be a pressing national issue, and he would have looked even worse and flakier than the press was ever eager to make him out to be had he pursued it.

Not The Right Stuff–The Green Stuff

There’s a nice article in the Las Vegas Mercury about space tourism. As time goes on, the media is doing a better job of getting it right (though the prospects for space manufacturing are still probably overhyped).

Millions of Americans still think fondly of NASA. We remember The Right Stuff era, the dashing astronauts who captured our hearts and kindled our imaginations, and the moon missions that signaled America’s victory in the space race over the hated Russians. Those heady times are long gone. We haven’t been back to the moon in 30 years. NASA’s record in sending probes to Mars is a sad joke. NASA’s contribution to the International Space Station (ISS) is billions of dollars over budget, and yet the ISS is still more of a halfhearted dream than a fully functioning outpost. NASA is a mess.

“NASA should stand for No Access to Space for Americans,” according to Bigelow. “They own everything, the structures, the launch vehicles. And they patent everything so that no one else can use any of it without NASA’s permission, which they rarely give. NASA is a jealous guardian of access to space. Look at the fit they threw about Dennis Tito paying the Russians $20 million to take a ride on Soyuz. We almost need to dissolve the whole agency and start over.”

Bigelow is far from alone in his criticism of NASA. Basically, every other private entity that has dared to dream of a commercial operation in space has concluded that NASA seems unwilling to surrender its monopoly on the solar system.

With the new Administrator, I’m hopeful that those days are coming to an end.

Thanks to NASA Watch for the link.

Tommy I Can Hear You

Megan McArdle has been discussing the seeming incongruity of a B2B company like Enron or Cisco developing a brand on mass-market advertising. The funny thing to me is that, at least in my case, they were spectacularly unsuccessful. Of course, there’s a possibility that I’m weird.

You see, while I listen to a lot of TV, I hardly ever watch it. It’s usually on FNC most of the day, while I work at home. So there are many ads that I’ve heard, but can go days or weeks without seeing. Enron was one of them. I heard the people singing “Why, why, why, why…” and wondered to myself (“why?”) for a month or two before I knew that it was an Enron ad.

Another one like that is the one that’s been running since 911 for the NYSE (or is it NASDAQ?–see, I don’t even know which one–some brand ID). Auditorially, it consists only of a lush theme music. If you don’t look at the screen, there’s absolutely no way to know who is paying for the ad.

Another one is the ad with the obnoxious kid talking about how he wants to be a teacher, instead of a doctor, because without teachers there would be no doctors. Who did that one? B of A? I think so, but I’m not sure, because I’m sure I heard it twenty times for every time that I saw it, and there was no auditory clue as to the sponsor.

So, without addressing Megan’s question of the value of such companies building a brand in the consumer mind, I wonder if the ad agencies (and companies who pay them) consider the potential number of people who hear, but don’t see their ad, and therefore have no idea what it’s about. If I were paying as much as these folks are paying for an ad, I’d want to make sure that blind people could get the message too.

The Race Is Over?

Jeff Goldstein over at Protein Wisdom has a nice disquisition on race as a social construct.

Well, yeah. What else could it be? There’s certainly no (modern) scientific basis for the concept, or any objective way of determining what the races are, or who are members of them. However, we’re reluctant to abandon it because there is now so much rent seeking involved in it.

I always find it amusing to see the political left get caught up in “the contradictions inherent in the system.” This came to something of a head in the last census when, after much protest and heeldragging by the bureaucracy, people were allowed to select multiple categories for their race on the census form. When one believes in “group rights,” confusing and intermingling the groups becomes anathema.

If I were a little more iconoclastic, and willing to put up with the bureaucratic and possibly legal battling, I (a person of mostly northern European and semitic descent) would put down “black” on the little box, whenever anyone asked my race. After all, how could anyone prove otherwise? If everyone would revolt in this simple way, we could quickly get this race madness behind us.

Another Ignominious Anniversary

Everyone’s been noting that this is the anniversary of Roe v Wade, but it’s also the first anniversary of the introduction of that Congressional abomination, the McCain-Feingold “Campaign Finance” (read, “make the world safe for continued major-media free-speech monopoly”) legislation.

Fortunately, it didn’t pass, but in following the time-honored rule of hijacking current events to pass ill-thought-out and irrelevant legislation (see, e.g., gun control and Columbine, or Airline Security Bill and 911), the fall back position of the Democrats, should they not be able to pin Enron on the Bush Administration, will be to use it to pass some new campaign finance law.

In honor of the anniversary, I went back and read the bill.

The part I like the best is where no one can buy any ads within sixty days of an election. As an exercise for the lawyers in the audience, go back and read a few copies of the NYT and WaPo during October of 2000, and see if they broke the theoretical law by providing in-kind ads to various candidates.

In other words, since they sell column-inches, column-inches for their own editorial content could be considered to be of value (since they had to forgo advertising revenue for it). Thus anything that they print in preference to ads could be considered purchasing ad space for themselves. If they used it to put forth points of view favorable to one candidate or another, either on the editorial page, or even in the so-called “objective” news stories, then it seems to me that one could make a case against them under McCain-Feingold.

It will be quite amusing if the bill or something similar to it passes (well, actually, that won’t be very amusing at all) and ironic, if someone actually files such a complaint against them, since they’re the biggest cheerleaders for the legislation, and their hero McCain.

No One Here But Us Democrats and Greens

According to a poll performed by Frank Luntz, described in the Washington Times, Ivy League professors are even more left/liberal than previously suspected. Actually, I’ll bet that there are more than 3% Republicans. The rest are simply afraid to admit it–they don’t want to be hauled before the Committee For Un-Ivy-League Activities…

[Wednesday morning update]

As can be seen in the comments section, reader and fellow blogger Paul Orwin takes issue with the poll methodology:

I didn’t want to get into it in the comment section, but actually, 150 is not a very large sample size. Sampling error is not a function of relative sample size, but of absolute sample size. If the total population is 10, then 10% of the population is not an appropriate sample (i.e. 1). The margin of error in the poll is 8%, which makes any # of their analyses dubious at best.

Well, I hadn’t looked at the poll in any detail, so I’ll take your word for it. Certainly a 3% estimate of Republicans with an 8% error is meaningless.

Additionally, look at the distribution of responses, almost entirely from the liberal arts faculty, not from the sciences. No science is even mentioned as a response, all of them left to “other”. I am referring to hard science, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and math, not social science.

While that may be true, I find it disturbing that even when one excludes the hard sciences, that the humanities professoriate is that far over. Not surprising, but disturbing. These are the people that indoctrinate many of our kids. I do agree that if this is the case, however, the reporting should have been describing humanities departments, rather than the universities as a whole.

In any event, the pollers tilt at least as far right as the pollees tilt left. By the way, I would guess that, depending on how you define “Ivy League Faculty”, this sample could be severely misrepresentative. Are med school, law school, business school faculty excluded?? It strikes me as a case of “We know that the Ivy League is a haven for wacko liberals, so lets eliminate from consideration anyone that might be moderate to conservative, and then trumpet our results as proof of the premise.” Typical hack job.

I’m not sure what you mean by the pollers “tilting right.” The poll was done by Frank Luntz, who is an admitted Republican, but he, like all pollsters, has a reputation to protect, and I’ve never gotten the impression from listening to him or seeing him on television (e.g., MSNBC during last years campaign) that he was particularly “right wing.” I don’t think that there’s a problem with the poll so much as with the reporting of it. Certainly, it’s no secret that the WaTimes is a conservative paper.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!