Robert Nozick, RIP

Robert Nozick died this morning. There is an obit at the Harvard website (thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the heads up and link). It’s a well-done piece–this was obviously not an unanticipated event.

Nozik’s Anarchy, State and Utopia was a major influence on my own political thinking (and that, I suspect, of many others).

We’ve lost a truly great mind today. And the contrast between this “University Professor” and his colleague, Cornel West, is, to me, staggering.

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.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!