Archive for January, 2010

Jan 31 2010

Does Obama’s New Space Policy Indicate He is JFK, Richard Nixon, or (god forbid) Grover Cleveland?

This is an elaboration of my recent post: “State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2010,” which appeared before Obama’s state of the union address. Reports that NASA’s Moon program will be discontinued raise questions about U.S. leadership in space. And much of the current chatter in blogs and news reports ignores long-term trends in the economy, geopolitics, and politics — that have governed large-scale technology and exploration projects for the last 200+ years — and thus presents a somewhat confused picture.

When will an American astronaut see this view — Earthrise from lunar orbit — again? Click

Florida Today reports today (1/30/10) that the adminstration will kill the Constellation program designed to send astronauts to the Moon by 2020, but still provide funds for development of a new Saturn V class launch vehicle, favored by the Augustine committee. According to Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida,

My concern is that if all that $6 billion goes just to commercial rockets, then that’s going to push the development of (a new NASA heavy-lift) rocket well into the next decade, and that just means we get behind China and Russia. I think they will announce on Monday (a research-and-development) program to develop the new (heavy-lift) rocket. I just hope that it is not a puny R-and-D development that will push us off well into the next decade before we have the new rocket.

Pushing the heavy lifter “well into the next decade” would not only help China and Russia get ahead in space, it would also push our luck with Maslow Window timing; i.e., the 2015 Window should extend to 2025 but is subject to wildcards. For example, imagine what would have happened if the Vietnam War had intensified a year or two earlier than 1968. We might have lost all of Apollo instead of just the last 3 missions (Apollo 18, 19, and 20).

NASA will reveal the details of its proposed budget Monday.

Is President Obama really “worse” than Richard Nixon?

On January 27, former NASA boss Mike Griffin asserted that President Nixon’s termination of the Apollo Moon program was “one of the most significant, yet strategically bankrupt, decisions in human history.” But that President Obama’s anticipated ending of human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit is “even worse.” Despite the tens of thousands of scientists, engineers, and technicians who lost their jobs in 1972 due to Nixon, at least he “left us with the Space Shuttle,” According to Griffin, Obama’s action would leave “NASA and the nation with no program, no plan, and no commitment to any human spaceflight program beyond that of today.”

Griffin believes that the nearly complete International Space Station will be held …

… hostage to the hope that presently nonexistent commercial spaceflight capability can be brought into being in a timely way. The president has chosen to recommend that the nation abandon its leadership on the space frontier.

While it’s tempting to assign Obama an even lower place in the space history hierarchy than Nixon, it’s not entirely justified and may be premature. We need to consider the long-term economic and political context. For example, Obama was elected during the Panic of 2008 and has had to contend with the current great recession. This anti-ebullient time plus Obama’s growing political difficulties make it difficult for him to support visionary space programs. And history shows this is not the time anyway. When prosperity and affluence-induced ebullience return, the next Maslow Window will appear to open almost automatically.

Is Obama the next John F. Kennedy?

Here at 21stCenturyWaves.com, we’ve been asking this question since before the election, and still believe it’s possible but is not without speedbumps. For example, in his National Review Online (1/29/20) column — “Obama is No JFK” — Jeffrey H. Anderson states that,

at a time when the president claims his focus is on jobs, scrapping these (Moon-related) programs — on which we’ve already spent nearly $10 billion — would cut public spending in one area that actually creates jobs.

You know those great pictures of Earth from outer space … No (astronaut) has seen that view since the Apollo program ended 38 years ago … Now, unless Congress rejects the president’s recommendations, the next people to see that view will likely be the Chinese.

Whether it’s tax cuts or defense spending; or whether it’s the courage, ambition, and sense of wonder that combine to lead great souls to great feats of exploration and discovery; one can surely say this much about Barack Obama: Mr. President, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

Again, these comments cry out for context. President Kennedy was fortunate to lead the nation during the greatest economic boom up to then. Plus the surprise launch of Sputnik (1957) by the Soviets mobilized the country into founding NASA (1958), revitalizing support for education, and providing a slam dunk in Congress for anything JFK wanted in space. Obama and the nation are experiencing a 180 from JFK’s 1960s-style Camelot. But a world-altering Sputnik-like event — especially within the next few years — cannot be ruled out.

Could Obama become another Grover Cleveland?

I include the Cleveland link above for all of us history-challenged Americans (and others) who may not have read the 24th (and 22nd, by the way) U.S. president’s biography lately. To make a long story short, Cleveland was basically a principled guy who got caught up in the vicissitudes of the financial Panic of 1893 and the 1890s great recession. His economic policies were ineffective, the people lost faith in him, and he was replaced by William McKinley 4 years later.

The point is that the Panic of 1893 and the 1890s great recession have real parallels with the Panic of 2008 and our current financial difficulties. In fact, our current economic trajectory seems to have more in common with the 1890s than with the (post-World War II boom) 1950s just prior to the Apollo Maslow Window.

If Obama cannot reverse his record 20 point approval rating collapse in 2010, he could become the next Grover Cleveland. Polls reveal the public’s growing concern with unemployment, government spending, and deficits, and show the economic challenges facing the president. The public wants to see light at the end of the financial tunnel; i.e., signs that the current recession will soon begin its transformation into the next major economic boom.

All this is consistent with the long-awaited 2015 Maslow Window being a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology, as they all have been over the last 200+ years.

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Jan 26 2010

State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2010

The big space news for 2009 was that we didn’t learn the answer to the big question: What is the future of human spaceflight in the U.S.? But this didn’t happen in a vacuum and it was anticipated by 21stCenturyWaves.com last January; see State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2009. The U.S. space program exists at the intersection of long-term trends in economics, geopolitics, and domestic politics, and thus the space trends for 2010 are best understood in the context of those for 2009 and previous years.

2009 was a year of monumental change globally and especially — as President Obama promised — in the U.S.. The seismic shifts of 2009 — both positive and negative — will reverberate well into 2010.

For a post-State of the Union update, click HERE.

Here are 10 space trends for 2010:

10. Although 2009 was the Year of Obama, in 2010 it will continue to be hard for him to focus on space.

According to Stratfor, “Obama dominated 2009 as no freshman year president has since Reagan.” Early in the year public confidence in Obama was so high that he was easily able to engineer major bailouts and stimulus bills — including the $ 787 B stimulus package — that were guaranteed to keep unemployment under 8 %. As unemployment approached 10% public confidence in the administration began to decline; e.g., on July 12, the Los Angeles Times announced “The End of Obamania”. During 2009 the president’s job approval rating fell 20 points, from 68% to 48% (Gallup.com), largely due to high unemployment, record government spending, huge deficits, and Obama’s preoccupation with his health care program.

Recently the unthinkable occurred: a Republican (Scott Brown) won a special election in the most Democratic state in the U.S. (Massachusetts), and took the Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy that he’d held for decades. And the Washington Post recently reported (1/16/10) that “By 58% to 38%, Americans said they prefer smaller government and fewer services to larger government with more services.” That’s 15% more people favoring small versus large government since Obama’s nomination in June, 2008.

Last January, 21stCenturyWaves.com noted that President Obama’s agenda would be dominated by the great recession and national security, and he would not be able to focus on space. This is still true; e.g., Gallup reports that “67% don’t expect economic recovery to start for 2+ years.” But unlike early 2009, Obama has to contend now with the serious political challenges of Republicans in 2010. All this comes as the U.S. space program is approaching a tipping point, as described below.

9. Economically, 2010 will be a year of uncertainty, but long-term trends continue to show we’re on schedule for a New Global Space Age starting near 2015.

Last January, 21stCenturyWaves.com reported that the timing and severity of the financial Panic of 2008 was consistent with our next Maslow Window — a golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology — opening by 2015. This is because over the last 200 years, a financial panic/great recession combination typically precedes the Maslow Window by 7 to 10 years (except for the 1960s Apollo Window which had none); e.g., the Panic of 1893/1890s Great Recession and the stunning Peary/Panama Maslow Window (~1901-13), and the Panic of 1837/1840s Great Recession and the ebullient Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window (~1847-57).

The big question is: How soon will the current great recession subside and allow the economy to return to the “greatest boom ever” that was interrupted by the Panic of 2008?

On July 24 (Wall Street Journal) Princeton economist Alan S. Blinder stated that, “The U.S. economy appears to be hitting bottom.” In its 2010 Annual Forecast (1/4/2010), Stratfor concurs but adds that, “pockets of economic weakness remain within the U.S. and larger problems continue elsewhere in the world.” Financial advisor John Mauldin (1/8/10) cautions against a robust “V” shaped recovery because of worries about continuing unemployment among others. His major concern is “Congress is likely to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire … (and) we could see a massive increase in taxes of $ 500 B … or 4% of GDP.”

Long-term patterns in financial panic/great recession pairs in the decade preceding Maslow Windows over the last 200 years suggest the 2015 Maslow Window is on schedule. Recent opinion polls and election results show frustration with Obama’s economic policies during 2009. Today’s New York Times (1/24/10; R. Zeleny, P. Baker) indicates Obama is aware of the political situation. If the trio of unemployment/spending/deficits is not reduced soon the American people may seek new leadership. Thus both long- and short-term economic and political trends point to a new Space Age by 2015.

8. Geopolitical and national security issues will continue to dominate Obama’s attention in 2010, but their timing and significance are consistent with a rapidly approaching Maslow Window near 2015.

It became fashionable in 2009 to compare Obama with previous presidents, mainly in connection with concerns about Afghanistan, Iraq, and other potential flashpoints. For example, the New York Times (8/23/09, P. Baker) sees a potential parallel between Obama and Lyndon Johnson because Afghanistan could eventually resemble Vietnam. More recently, Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations fears that Obama’s foreign policy could become like Jimmy Carter’s (Foreign Policy, Jan/Feb, 2010).

Stratfor (1/4/2010) sees the major geopolitical issues of 2010 as “Russia’s resurgence as a major power … (and) the sharpening crisis in the Middle East,” centered on Iran’s nuclear program and a potential “Israeli strike on Iran — a strike that could quickly spiral into a general melee in the world’s premier energy artery, the Persian Gulf.” The recent Fort Hood massacre and the Christmas Detroit airline bomber show that the threat of terrorism within the U.S. also remains a major concern.

In a recent post I showed that significant military conflicts occur either early in a Maslow Window or just before it; e.g., the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962. Please see the summary in: How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience. These conflicts played a key role in the major exploration and/or technology activities of their Maslow Window. Given that the Iran crisis could threaten global energy supplies, it is a potential flashpoint nearly at the level of the Cuban Missile Crisis. These events signal growing international tensions that are characteristic of early or pre-Maslow Window times over the last 200 years.

7. The new NASA Administrator — Gen. Charles Bolden — supports true international collaboration in space, but doesn’t know “The Answer” yet.

Director Bolden emphasized the importance of international collaborations in space. Perhaps most important is the idea of treating our partners as “equals” and with “respect.” This is the 21st century trend in international space cooperation. My concept for a global space agency (“Interspace”) features organizational equality among the major players and an opportunity to participate for almost everyone else. In the mid-1990s I forecasted that Interspace would materialize near 2013, driven by global interests in space colonization.

Director Bolden also echoed a familiar theme of Obama: the importance of education. As in the late 1950s, in response to the launch of Sputnik, it is likely that similar calls for beefed up science and math education in the U.S. will ramp up as international activities in space intensify near 2013.

Although Bolden assured his audience that, “This will not be the president who precedes over the end of manned space flight,” he was unable to be more specific because Obama has not publicized his decision on the future U.S. vision for human spaceflight.

While NASA waits on pins and needles, Obama has not articulated his vision for manned space. This is partly due to the economic, geopolitical, and now the political trends that demand his attention. President Obama is in a tough spot. He cannot ignore space because of national prestige and growing international space programs. On the other hand, he must be willing to commit $ 3 B more annually to do the Moon and beyond. The solution, of course, is to join with other global space powers to settle the solar system together before a Sputnik-like event drives us apart. It will be an interesting test of his policy of international engagement in 2010.

6. 2009 was the year that Global Warming politics showed significant decline in response to Climategate, new science results, and the public’s rejection of this negative vision of the future.

The Climategate scandal showed that most scientists — including those associated with the IPCC who didn’t want to publicly admit it — agree that global warming ended in 1998, that temperatures have declined in recent years, and that global climate models based on CO2 effects cannot account for the current lack of warming, and thus cannot be scientifically used to forecast climate in future decades. The Climategate scientists also speak privately of manipulating temperature data sets to emphasize warming.

The Wall Street Journal (1/23/10) recently recounted the strange story of the “rapidly receding” Himalayan glaciers. In their 2007 report the IPCC insisted that these glaciers would disappear by 2035 — due to global warming. The IPCC was warned in 2006 by a leading glaciologist that the 2035 forecast was bogus, but they chose to ignore it. According to glaciologist Georg Kaser, “This number is not just a little bit wrong … It is so wrong that it is not even worth discussing.”

Based on history of the last 200 years, including the 1960s, Maslow Windows are golden ages of prosperity, exploration, and technology. They are times of extraordinary affluence-induced ebullience when many in society ascend Maslow’s hierarchy and become supportive of great exporations and macro-engineering projects. The public’s growing rejection of global warming politics will continue in 2010 and is consistent with our approach to the ebullient 2015 Maslow Window.

5. The psychology of financial meltdowns and economic booms suggests that our current great recession will be followed by a major economic boom that will trigger the new Space Age.

Behavioral economist George Loewenstein of Yale recently (Discover, Jan/Feb, 2010) explained the factors which produce financial meltdowns as well as economic booms. They include 1) self-destructive behavior, 2) believing that what we want to believe is true, 3) short-term focus on immediate threats, and 4) lazy decision-making (going with the flow). These factors click in when the trend is up or down and thus reenforce behavior during both meltdowns and booms.

According to Keynes, the father of behavioral economics, the trick during a recession is changing people’s negative expectations to overcome their “animal spirits.” According to Keynesians George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, the economic policies of Franklin Roosevelt were ineffective during the Great Depression, “The drop in confidence during the Great Depression was so fundamental that it continued for a decade. Confidence — and the economy itself — were not restored until World War II completely changed the dominant story of people’s lives, transforming the economy.”

Obviously with 67% of Americans not expecting economic recovery to start for 2+ years and consumer confidence low, negative Keynesian animal spirits are currently in full force. When Obama is able to reverse the current trend and elevate consumer confidence, history shows the economy will rapidly respond with a major economic boom.

4. One of the most exciting developments in modern astronomy — the search for Earth-like planets — continues to motivate public interest in human expansion into the cosmos.

According to the online Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, as of January 23, 2010, there are a total of 424 planets known to be orbiting stars other than the Sun. Most of these are hot gas giants resembling Jupiter but much less than 1 AU (Astronomical Unit) from their star, as opposed to 5 AUs for Jupiter.

However, a few recent discoveries have had tantalizing, Earth-like results. In February a European group using the Corot space observatory detected a small planet in orbit around a star in Monoceros about light 500 years away. Subsequent observations confirmed that the planet is almost twice Earth’s diameter and 5 times its mass, indicating it’s composed mostly of rock. However, it is so close to its star that its surface temperature is a toasty 2000 degrees F.

In April, planet hunters reported that Gliese 581, a star only 20 light years away, has a planet with 7 Earth masses that is at the right star distance for liquid water. It is the first extra-solar planet ever discovered that could possibly support life. At only 20 light years distant, if the Gliesians exist and can build rockets, they should have been here by now!

And in March, NASA’s Kepler satellite began scanning 145,000 stars for transiting Earth-like planets. The observatory works. Earlier this month Kepler scientists announced the discovery of 5 new extra-solar planets. Earth-like planets can’t hide for long from Kepler.

Even smaller planets with Earth-like sizes and masses in their Sun-like star’s habitable zone will eventually be discovered, possibly in 2010 or soon thereafter. The closest ones — inhabited or not — will someday become targets for human exploration as human civilization expands into the cosmos.

3. In 2010 NASA will face a tipping point involving the Shuttle, the International Space Station, and international plans for human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars.

In 2010, the current plan is to complete construction of the ISS and retire the Shuttle. Four of the last 5 Shuttle missions will visit ISS and deliveries will include the U.S. Tranquility node as well as a Russian module.

Last month, Space News (12/14/09) suggested that “the administration will cancel Ares 1 in favor of a different approach to getting astronauts to and from the space station … (like) a commecially developed crew transport service (that) could be available sooner than Ares 1-Orion and at less cost.” Space News concludes that Administration changes must be “accompanied by a long-term commitment to meaningful exploration of space beyond low Earth orbit, with a credible story — with resources to match — for getting there…”

On the other hand, in the same issue (Space News, 12/14/09) Christopher Kraft warns that “The suggestion that commercially developed launch vehicles can replace the Ares 1 rocket is ill advised.” His recommendations include continuing to operate the Shuttle, continue to operate the ISS as long as it’s economically feasible and scientifically productive, continue with the goals of the Constellation program, and develop the capability to send astronauts to Mars.

In 2010 President Obama is facing a major political challenge to his presidency. He must reduce economic distress and show progress toward future prosperity, and at the same time he must run the war in Afghanistan, monitor Iraq, influence Iran and Russia, and neutralize global terrorists. This doesn’t leave much time for space, but he must respond to the tipping point space issues above. Human spaceflight is very supportive of Obama’s interests in motivating youth and improving education, and it is a powerful symbol of American leadership in the world. It is unlikely that US participation in a Moon race with China or others would excite the American public because the US won that prize over 40 years ago. And given the understandable anti-ebullient state of the American public, planning manned missions to Mars is probably out of the question during Obama’s current term. This leaves less expensive human missions to near Earth asteroids and/or Lagrange points as potential U.S. space objectives beyond low Earth orbit, possibly coupled with American leadership in a long-term international effort to expore, commercially develop, and eventually settle the Moon. In this scenario, preparations for human spaceflight to Mars would continue at ISS, with astronaut access provided by a commercially developed space vehicle, while the actual Mars expeditions themselves would be relegated to the late 21st century Maslow Window (starting in 2071).

2. President Obama is Creating the new Space Age: Scenario I — The JFK model

As the last 200+ years have shown, extraordinary pulses of activity in exploration and engineering are enabled by reliable, long-term business cycles. And all indicators suggest we’re sneaking up on the edge of another Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology that will trigger the new Space Age; see How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age.

Typically, during the twice-per-century upswings of the long economic wave and within a decade after a major financial panic (such as the Panic of 2008) and its major recession, we emerge into an ebullient, transformative decade known as a Maslow Window. Perhaps the most ebullient one followed the Panic of 1893 and was led by Theodore Roosevelt: the Peary/Panama Maslow Window from 1903 to 1913.

Our most recent Maslow Window — the stunning 1960s Apollo Moon decade — was unique in the last 200+ years in that it wasn’t immediately preceded by a financial panic or great recession. But the approaching Maslow Window, expected to open near 2015, resumed the much more “normal” sequence of the last 200+ years when the Panic of 2008 heralded its impending arrival.

So one key lesson of the last 200 years is: The Panic of 2008 supports our expectation that the next Maslow Window — the next Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology — will open near 2015.

But the question is: Will Obama reverse current trends and set the country on a trajectory toward near-term prosperity — the hallmark of all Maslow Windows?

If he does Obama will be a 2-term president and will become the new John F. Kennedy without the Vietnam-style baggage of LBJ. And he will continue the brilliant transformative legacy that began with Thomas Jefferson and Lewis & Clark.

1. President Obama is Creating the new Space Age: Scenario II — The Theodore Roosevelt model

Another potential scenario is remminiscent of the Panic of 1893 that culminated with Theodore Roosevelt’s spectacular Peary/Panama Maslow Window of the early 20th century. The Panic of 1893 has parallels with the recent Panic of 2008 and the great recession that bottomed out in mid-2009. The great 1890s recession lasted nearly 6 years — and let’s hope that’s not one of the parallels.

In the Roosevelt model, Obama becomes a victim of the current great recession and — because of his inability to ignite prosperity — becomes a 1-term president much like Grover Cleveland in the 1890s. In this scenario Obama is replaced by a president who does start the recovery, points the nation toward prosperity, and triggers the 2015 Maslow WIndow.

So which is it? Scenario I — The JFK Model, or Scenario II –the Theodore Roosevelt model?

I. Long-term macroeconomic patterns — especially the Panic of 2008 — suggest the 2010s are more like the Roosevelt Maslow Window than the Kennedy one. In this case, the great recession that favored Obama’s election in 2008 would ultimately prove to be his undoing (like Grover Cleveland), and thus support Scenario II.

II. Recent polls and election results — especially the recent Massachusetts Senatorial shocker — show the public is anxious about Obama’s economic policies because they haven’t reduced unemployment and seem inconsistent with prosperity. These also support Scenario II.

III. But it’s still really all up to Obama. If in 2010 he decides to reverse course, reduce economic distress, and stimulate the recovery, he will experience Scenario I. If not, it will be Scenario II. In a month or two we should be able to discern his economic trajectory.

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Jan 19 2010

Readers’ Favorite Posts — Mid-January, 2010

This is an updated mid-month list of our readers’ favorite posts, based on the number of times each post was visited during the times indicated below. The lists below include both Daily Wavelet posts and State of the Wave posts.

Timeframes of the readers’ lists below are: I) Favorites during the Last 30 Days, and II) Favorites during the last 7 days.

To see readers’ favorite posts for each previous month, click HERE.

The lists below give only the top 5 favorites in each category in order of reader preference.
All posts below are clickable and their publishing dates are given.

Updated 1/17/2010

I. THE LAST 30 DAYS — Readers’ Favorites

1) How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age — 9/24/09
2) The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age — 12/19/09
3) State of the Wave — Is Human Spaceflight “Optional”? — 10/26/09
4) How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience — 1/3/10
5) 10 Spiritual Connections of the Human Exploration of Space — 5/31/09

II. THE LAST 7 DAYS — Readers’ Favorites

1) How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age — 9/24/09
2) 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space — 5/18/08
3) 10 Spiritual Connections of the Human Exploration of Space — 5/31/09
4) “The Liberal Hour” Supports Maslow Window Model and Points to the Approaching Greatest Boom in History — 3/02/09
5) The Mysterious Russia-Apophis Connection — Another Perspective — 1/11/10

PLEASE NOTE: Over the holiday weekend the following post surged to #2 All-Time Readers’ Favorite: How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age — 9/24/09

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Jan 16 2010

30 Years of Global Cooling…Don’t Like the Numbers? Change ‘Em

Last night I happened to catch John Coleman’s TV show, “Global Warming: The Other Side” on KUSI-TV, an independent TV station here in San Diego. Coleman’s an extremely interesting guy — founder of the Weather Channel, expert TV weatherman (formerly with “Good Morning America” on ABC), an irresistible, effervescent personality.

John Coleman — A resourceful “David” successfully challenging the global warming “Goliath.” Click .

In his hour-long news special (available HERE) Coleman takes aim at some major holes in global warming, and features serious charges that the temperature data on which global warming theories are based has been deliberately altered in the direction of warming.

Computer expert E. Michael Smith and Certified Consulting Meteorologist Joseph D’Aleo discovered extensive manipulation of the temperature data by the U.S. Government’s primary climate center: the National Climate Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, North Carolina. Smith and D’Aleo found that NOAA manipulated temperature data to give the appearance of warmer temperatures than actually occurred by trimming the number and cherry-picking the location of weather observation stations.

You can see more details in their report HERE.

Recently in the Wall Street Journal (1/14/10), Stanford economist Michael Boshkin observed that “If a CEO issued the kind of distorted figures put out by politicians and scientists, he’d wind up in prison.” As a scientist myself, I am especially saddened to see scientists referred to this way but that’s what Climategate’s all about. For example, Professor Michael Mann, a key figure in Climategate, indicated a private desire to “hide the decline” in global temperatures in recent years, and is currently under investigation by Penn State University. At the same time National Review Online is reporting that the Obama administration has awarded $ 500,000 to Mann as part of their economic stimulus package. So much for job creation and scientific peer review.

Earlier this week Fox News (1/11/10) reported this rather strange headline, “30 Years of Global Cooling Are Coming” according to a “leading scientist” at Germany’s Kiel University. An author of the UN’s IPCC report, Professor Mojib Latif believes we’re in for a “mini ice age.” This is an interesting switch on global warming alarmism, but it suffers from one big problem: No climate model can reliably forecast climate decades ahead.

For those who didn’t already know, this was confirmed by Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder in a Climategate email, “The fact is we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” In his email, Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of NCAR, acknowledges privately a key point: In 1998 climate models did not predict the cessation of global warming that has occurred — despite continued increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide — over the last dozen years, and no one can explain why it happened. So climate forecasts decades in the future like Professor Latif’s are simply unreliable.

The decline of global warming politics is what we would expect as we approach an ebullient golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology known as the 2015 Maslow Window. Polls indicate the public has already moved on. They are eagerly looking forward to prosperity and even a Camelot-style zeitgeist like that of the 1960s and of all other ebullient Maslow Windows of the last 200 years — all the way back to Lewis and Clark.

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Jan 11 2010

The Mysterious Russia-Apophis Connection — Another Perspective

On December 30 major media outlets reported on a new, proposed Russian mission to deflect asteroid Apophis from a possible Earth-impact trajectory in 2036. Discovered in 2004, Apophis is 3x larger than the 1908 Tunguska impactor or almost 3 football fields long. NASA has estimated that a collision with Earth could produce a 880 Megaton impact — almost 20x the largest H-bomb ever tested (in 1961 by Soviets) and more than 4x the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa.

What does asteroid Apophis tell us about our world?
Click
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(Artist: Don Davis)

Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency, said that Apophis’ flight trajectory was gradually approaching the Earth. “I don’t remember exactly, but it seems that by 2032 Apophis will ram into Earth,” (Pravda, 12/30/09).

Pravda also indicated that, “Russian specialists will choose the strategy to save planet Earth from Apophis and then invite world’s leading space agencies to join the project.”

This all seemed a little abrupt and surprising to me so I emailed Rusty Schweickart, Apollo astronaut and co-founder of the B612 Foundation, to find out if he’d been working with Perminov. He replied almost immediately that he had not been “involved.” The same day Rusty warned in the New York Times (12/30/09; Ellen Barry) that “It takes a very small change in the Apophis orbit to cause it to impact the Earth instead of missing it. There are a million asteroids out there. Find another one.”

Interestingly, JPL calculates that on April 13, 2036, Apophis’ closest approach to Earth will be 18,300 miles or about 8% of the Moon’s distance. And the odds of a collision are only about 1 in 250,000, justifying the Space.com (12/30/09) headline, “Russia May Attack Asteroid That’s Virtually No Threat.”

So what should we make of Perminov’s surprise December 30 announcement? Let’s speculate about two possible connections.

First, in August former Harvard professor Richard Pipes wrote that, “Russia is obsessed with being recognized as a ‘Great Power’…” This is partly due to their victory over Germany in World War II and “the success in sending the first human in space.” But Russia’s veering in the direction of a new cold war hasn’t helped them economically; “Russian aggression against Georgia has cost it dearly in terms of capital flight.” And Russia’s dependence on the global price of energy caused their exports to drop by 47% in first half of 2009.

So Russia — like the rest of the world — sees being a great space power as a key part of being an important global power. And they see the approaching new Space Age as an important time to demonstrate again their impressive capabilities in several areas, including manned space (e.g., transportation to ISS), new infrastructure (e.g., the new Vostochny Cosmodrome), and future planning (e.g., asteroid deflection missions).

But Apophis doesn’t become even a tiny threat until 2036, and even the Apollo Moon program took less than 10 years, so why make the announcement now?

This second question is more speculative than the first but the announcement’s timing may be related to two issues:
1) The Russians may have sensed that the world is rushing toward a new Space Age and now is the time to get organized and allocate resources for planetary defense; this is consistent with the timeline I’ve previously suggested for the formation of a global space agency.
And even more speculative is,
2) The Russians may feel a Copenhagen connection. As public concerns about global warming decline and because the science no longer supports a “climate crisis” (e.g. including Climategate), the Russians may feel it’s time to refocus attention on a real threat to global civilization that’s occurred in the past (e.g., 1908 Tunguska), and will occur again — asteroid impacts.

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Jan 03 2010

How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience

I had a very Merry Christmas season this year – specifically,  about 500 powerful pages by Robert Merry.   His new book is  A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, The Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent (2009). 

Many agree it’s enthralling.  The New York Times (Sean Wilentz, 11/22/09) calls it “one of the most astute and informative historical accounts yet written about national politics, and especially Waahington politics, during the decisive 1840s.”  The Wall Street Journal (Aram Bakshian, Jr; 11/6/09) says it’s an “authoritative biography …(that) provides a compelling, perceptive portrait of one of the oddest men (James Polk) ever to occupy the White House…”

Against all odds, this smaller-than-life man achieved the impossible and ebulliently changed the world in only 4 short years; President James K. Polk in 1845. 

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In his unlikely, self-imposed one-term presidency, Polk accomplished the nearly impossible — he “engineered the triumph of Manifest Destiny” (NY Times) — including the annexation of Texas (1845), and the acquisition of the Oregon Territory (1846) and essentially the rest of the U.S. West including California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona — all by 1848.

This is an extraordinary story that occurred in ebullient times that we call a ”Maslow Window”  – see  ”Buzz Aldrin — A Man For All Maslow Windows!” –  less than half a century after Lewis and Clark  explored the Louisiana Purchase to the Pacific, and still a few decades before the U.S. became the leading economic power on Earth.  Probably for this reason, neither the Great Exploration of this Window — see 10 Lessons Dr. Livingstone (“…I presume?”) Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space –  nor the primary Macro-Engineering Project (MEP)  – the Suez Canal –  were closely related to the U.S.  (although Stanley was dispatched by a New York newspaper to find Livingstone in Africa). 

However, the affluence-induced ebullience  — see The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age–  that triggered these epochal events abroad was also strongly present in the U.S. as evidenced in Merry’s book.  Here are a few examples:

1. New Technology Was “Exploding” in America.

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1844, “American is the country of the Future.  It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.”  

Merry explains that a key reason the “impulse of exuberant expansionism” continued to surge was because,  ”Just as America was encompassing ever greater distances, technology –  steam power and Morse’s telegraph — was obliterating the sluggishness of distance.”

2. The Financial Panic of 1837 and Great Recession Recovered by 1843 to a most “Prosperous State of Affairs.”

The financial Panic of 1837 was a major contraction where 40% of the U.S. banks failed and unemployment was at record highs; the resulting Great Recession lasted 6 years until 1843.  According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman writing in 1960, the Panic of 1837 “is the only depression on record comparable in severity and scope to the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

Merry notes that,

Within nine weeks of Van Buren’s innauguration, economic collapse swept the country. It began when New York banks suspended specie payments, causing widespread alarm and setting in motion a deflationary period as credit dried up … The Panic of 1837 ushered in “a cycle of recession, recovery, and depression” that would dominate American politics for the next seven years … Van Buren lost much of his popularity … Polk remained a stalwart floor leader for Van Buren’s agenda, but the tide had turned against his party.

Polk left the House and won the Tennessee governorship in 1839, but lost it in 1841 and 1843. “At forty-seven, he knew he looked washed up…”  But due to his pro-Texas annexation position which mirrored the expansionist electorate, Polk, against all odds, became the Democratic candidate for president and was elected in 1844.

As Polk assumed the presidency in 1845, the dynamic duo of prosperity and ebullience was everywhere.  According to Merry,

The national economy had been expanding at an average annual rate of 3.9%.  Not even the Panic of 1837, for all its destructive force, could forestall for long this creation of wealth.  And throughout the land could be seen a confidence that fueled national success. “We are now reaching the very height, perhaps, to which we can expect to ascend,” declared the Democratic Wilmington Gazette of Delaware.

Despite the Panic of 1837 and its Great Recession, the mid-19th Century Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window (roughly 1847 to 1860) opened on time and featured Africa’s most famous explorer (Dr. Livingstone), the “technological jewel” of the 19th Century (the Suez Canal), as well as impressive secondary MEPs (including the Great Eastern ship).   In addition to the stunning culmination of American Manifest Destiny in 1848,  this Maslow Window’s ebullience is also  exemplified by the famous Gold Rush of the American West (1848 – 1855).

Over the last 200 years, financial panics and great recessions have usually preceded Maslow Windows; see ”Economic Crisis Supports Maslow Window Forecasts.”  Two 19th Century panics (1837 and 1893) , were both about one decade prior to their Maslow Windows;  none in 1949 (during the post W.W. II boom) one decade before the Apollo Maslow Window;  and one in 2008 (7 years before our expected 2015 Maslow Window). The New York Times (11/30/08) also describes a “deep recession” that appearently occurred somewhat after 1776, about 10+  years before the Lewis & Clark Maslow Window.

In fact, during the last 200+ years, no financial panic/great recession pair has ever delayed or diminished, in any observable way, any Great Explorations or MEPs associated with a Maslow Window. And there’s every reason to expect this 200+ year pattern will continue.

3.  The Controversial Mexican War Played a Major Role in U.S. Expansion.

Wars that occur early in the Maslow Windows of the last 200 years are complex, destructive events  — far beyond the scope of our discussion here — but according to historical accounts, usually play an important role in the ensuing events of the Maslow Windows.  It appears that ebullience — also known as “animal spirits” and “irrational exuberance” in an economic context; see ”Are Great Explorations Driven by Keynesian “Animal Spirits” on Steroids?“ – played a central role.

A few of the interesting parallels are sketched here:

Despite the (then) unresolved issues of slavery and the legality of the war, the Mexican War was vigorously and successfully executed by Polk with the support of the American people. Their ebullient expansionist belief in Manifest Destiny transformed the world.  According to Merry, the U.S. was “a vibrant, expanding, exuberant experiment in democracy whose burgeoning population thrilled to the notion that it was engaging in something big and historically momentous.”  This is the language of societal ebullience.

One Maslow Window earlier, the Napoleonic Wars in Europe played a major role enabling the Lewis and Clark expedition and in launching U.S. westward expansion.  Napoleon’s need to fund his war machine encouraged the sale of Louisiana to Jefferson;  see “10 Lessons Lewis & Clark Teach Us About the Human Future in Space.”

Likewise, the Spanish-American War of 1898 — as the Great 1890s Recession was ending and as the ebullient Peary/Panama Maslow Window began – played an intriguing role in Maslow Window events.  “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!”, an Alamo-like cry in response to the deaths of 266 US sailors while anchored in Havana Harbor, helped ignite the Spanish-American War.  To replace the Maine, another battleship (USS Oregon) stationed on the Pacific coast rushed 14,700 miles around South America to Cuba — while Teddy Roosevelt, leader of the famous “Rough Riders,” vectored toward Cuban battle himself.  Since the Oregon arrived at Cuba two months after war began, it didn’t require much abstract thinking for TR to recognize the Panama Canal’s potential strategic advantages;   see “10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space.”

Early in the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, Cuba again was the focus of an even bigger crisis for America and President John F. Kennedy: the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Because of Soviet emplacement of offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba the world came closer to a major nuclear exchange than ever before or since.  Although this crisis did not ignite the Space Age — the surprise 1957 launch of Sputnik did that — it intensified the Moon race and showed that the global stakes were high; see ”The New Cuban Space Center and Vladimir Bonaparte.”

The “early Maslow Window wars” are continuing into the present – Iraq, Afghanistan, the War on Terror – as we recover from our Panic of 2008/Great Recession combination (analogous to the Panic of 1893/Great 1890s Recession and Panic of 1837/Great Recession), and as we ebulliently head toward the much anticipated, spectacular 2015 Maslow Window.  

4. Manifest Destiny Was Fueled by an “Exuberance of Spirit” Across the U.S.

There are many visionary quotes in Merry’s book that clearly indicate the extraordinary level of ebullience permeating mid-1840s America, but one of the most striking is from an obscure Democratic congressman from Ohio (then a western state) named John D. Cummins, who referred to the disputed Oregon Territory as nothing less than,

“the master key of the commerce of the universe.”  Get that territory into U.S. jurisdiction, he argued, and soon it would fill up with “an industrious, thriving, American population” and “flourishing towns and embryo cities” facing west upon the Pacific within four thousand miles of vast Asian markets.  Now contemplate, he added, ribbons of railroad track across America, connecting New York, Boston, and Philadelphia to those burgeoning West Coast cities and ports that would spring up once Oregon was in American hands. 

Cumins continued, think about how the “inevitable external laws of trade” would render American the necessary passageway for “the whole eastern commerce of Europe.” … “The commerce of the world would thus be revolutionized.”

Cummins bold vision was easily dismissed as hopelessly fanciful in a world utterly dominated by Great Britain. And yet it crystallized a fundamental element of the era’s politics — the widely shared conviction that America was a nation of destiny, that one day it would supplant Britain as the world’s dominant power, that Oregon represented merely an interim step toward realization of that vision.

Merry’s bottom line regarding Polk and American ebullience of the 1840s  is simple but powerful:

his legacy comes down to … the map outline of the continental United States, which is very close to what Polk bequeathed to his nation … To look at that map, and to take in the western and southwestern expanse included in it, is to see the magnitude of Polk’s presidential accomplishments … It didn’t come easily or cheaply …It unleashed civic forces that hadn’t been foreseen and couldn’t be controlled … But in the end he succeeded and fulfilled the vision and dream of his constituency.  In a democratic system that is the ultimate measure of political success.

The expansionist effects of ebullience apparently drove not only the Manifest Destiny of 1840s America, but also Jefferson’s seminal Lewis and Clark expedition, and the early 20th century’s international races to the north and south poles as well as the greatest MEP of the last 200 years (until Apollo): the Panama Canal.  In the 1960s the expansionist effects of ebullience finally drove us offworld to the Moon. 

As we approach another ebullient golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology — the 2015 Maslow Window — it’s very likely the impossible will be accomplished again and the world will be changed.

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Jan 02 2010

Readers’ Favorite Posts — December+, 2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We’re looking forward to an exciting 2010 here at 21stCenturyWaves.com!  If you haven’t already done so, please feel free to subscribe so that you won’t miss anything.
Within a couple of weeks two special posts will appear: 

1)  “State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2010″;  You can see the 2009 version here:  State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2009,  and

2) “State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for this Decade, 2010-2019″ ;  This will be our first decadal forecast;  based on patterns in global trends in the economy, technology, and history —  over the last 200 years – it will be interesting.

And now to the Readers’ Favorite Posts for December, 2009:

This is an updated end-of-December list of our readers’ favorite posts, based on the number of times each post was visited during the times indicated below. The lists below include both Daily Wavelet posts and State of the Wave posts.

Timeframes of the readers’ lists below are: I) Favorites during December,  II) Favorites during the last 7 days, and III) All-Time Favorites (the first daily post was published on 5/11/08).

To see readers’ favorite posts for each previous month, click HERE.

The lists below give only the top 5 favorites in each category in order of reader preference.
All posts below are clickable and their publishing dates are given.

Updated 1/2/2010

I. DECEMBER — Readers’ Favorites

1) How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age — 9/24/09
2) The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age — 12/19/09
3) Climategate and the New Space Age — 12/6/09
4) 10 Spiritual Connections of the Human Exploration of Space — 5/31/09
5) Are We Entering the “Superproject Void”? — 12/13/09

II. THE LAST 7 DAYS – Readers’ Favorites

1) How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age — 9/24/09
2) “The Liberal Hour” Supports Maslow Window Model and Points to the Approaching Greatest Boom in History — 3/02/09
3) A New NASA for Colonization of Mars and the Moon? — 9/17/08
4) A Vision for The Next 100 Years — Courtesy of George Friedman — 1/10/09
5) The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age — 12/19/09

III. ALL-TIME — Readers’ Favorites

1) Economic Crisis Supports Maslow Window Forecasts — 10/20/08
2)10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space — 5/18/09
3) Was the 1960s Apollo Moon Program an Anomaly? — 2/3/09
4) Tom Wolfe’s Giant Leap to Nowhere — 7/20/09
5) How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age — 9/24/09

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