Archive for the 'Wave Guide 7: NASA Programs' Category

May 07 2017

The Maslow Window as a Self-Organized Critical System

Maslow Windows are rhythmic, transformative pulses — featuring great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and Macro Engineering Projects (e.g., Panama Canal) — that occur twice per century. A Maslow Window is often triggered by geopolitical conflict (e.g., Sputnik; Cuban Missile Crisis), but is powered by an exceptional economic and technology boom (e.g., the JFK Boom) which collapses unemployment and increases real wages across society. As a result many individuals experience “ebullience” as they ascend the Maslow hierarchy and their worldviews expand. The most recent Maslow Window culminated in the 1960s Apollo Moon program. And right on schedule, it appears we entered a new Maslow Window in 2016.

The Maslow Window as usually described here is an empirical model based on long-term trends, historical patterns, and scientific analysis that makes specific predictions about space, technology, and related areas. However, the Maslow Window also has an enticing, but still developing, theoretical side that’s featured below.

Punctuated equilibria characteristic of Maslow Windows hints they’re governed by self-organized criticality (SOC). Over the last 30 years SOC has become a popular tool to explain a wide variety of phenomena like solar flares, black holes and accretion disks, earthquakes, lunar craters, financial systems, and even wars. In this brief summary we’ll utilize the SOC model of Aschwanden et. al (2016) in Space Science Reviews (Vol. 198, Issue 1, pp 47–166).

The classic SOC system is the BTW Sand Pile described by physicist Per Bak (1948-2002) and his colleagues in 1987.
Bak
Sand is dropped grain by grain on a pile. Eventually the sand forms steep slopes that reach a critical threshold; i.e., one more grain may trigger a system-wide change called an “avalanche”. In our case the “avalanche” analog is the Maslow Window itself.

A SOC system at its critical threshold displays non-linear energy dissipation and scale-free, intermittent avalanches with power-law size-frequency distributions. In a solar flare the avalanche is associated with the explosion of electromagnetic energy emitted by the flare, and for an earthquake it’s the surge of seismic energy released during the event. The Maslow Window critical state is observed in the real world to sequentially dissipate energy in several key avalanches including: financial events (a Panic and later a Boom), major geopolitical conflicts, great human explorations, and macro-engineering projects (MEPs).

Every SOC system needs to achieve a critical threshold so it’s capable of an avalanche. For an earthquake it’s the critical strength of the rocks that’s reached when the local stress field causes a fracture. For a solar flare the threshold may be reached by a critical configuration of the sunspot magnetic fields resulting in a magnetic reconnection process.

Interestingly, all of the above mentioned events during a Maslow Window are believed to be individual SOC systems themselves (although more data on MEPs is needed). They are apparently triggered by several specific thresholds associated with the decade-long Maslow Window critical state. Perhaps the most fundamental Maslow Window threshold is provided by financial prosperity. By analogy with a solar magnetic field, imagine a “GDP field” with spatio-temporal variability across the Earth. As it approaches a threshold value, the increasing GDP field launches many people to elevated levels in Maslow’s hierarchy where they experience “ebullience”. Maslow’s ebullience and Keynes’ animal spirits — substantially different, but still related ideas — combine to trigger potentially system-wide avalanches in the financial, technology, exploration, and geopolitical arenas. When the boom ends, and ebullience declines and animal spirits reverse, the Maslow Window slams shut, usually in response to a major war (e.g., World War I) — also a SOC process.

For a SOC system to experience avalanches in its critical state, it must be continuously driven toward its critical threshold; hence the name, “self-organized criticality.” For a solar flare the magnetic fields are generated and controlled by thermal convection ascending from the Sun’s interior. In the Earth, movement of the tectonic plates continually adjusts the stress field.

Consistent with our GDP field, the international economic system (IES) is the driver for a Maslow Window through the need for profits and income. (Other long-term factors may also influence the IES such as national prestige.) For a typical Maslow Window, separation of time scales is maintained because in the real world it takes several decades for the IES to self-organize to its critical threshold, but less than a decade to dissipate its energy through an avalanche (i.e., the Maslow Window).

Our new Maslow Window is a complex system with many degrees of freedom that has slowly self-organized over decades to a critical threshold which allows short-lived avalanches — both good (e.g., SpaceX) and bad (e.g., North Korea) — to exist. However, the history of JFK’s Cuban Missile Crisis during the 1960s Maslow Window (plus all others over the last 200 years) argues convincingly that major kinetic conflicts will not occur in the next 10 years.

Major human exploration initiatives like Apollo are statistically identical and show similar generic features to other complex systems like solar flares and earthquakes. However, the physics is quite different. The Maslow Window centrally involves fundamental human nature through psychology (e.g., “ebullience”) and the basic laws of economics (e.g., “GDP field”). This and the Maslow Window’s persistence through the worst catastrophes (e.g., two world wars, the Civil War, Great Depression, several financial panics and great recessions) of the last 200+ years, suggest that Maslow Windows are robust and likely to continue into the future.

No responses yet

Jun 04 2014

New USC astronautics course “Human Spaceflight” for Fall 2014

Happy to announce that I’m teaching a new graduate course for the Department of Astronautical Engineering at USC this Fall on “Human Spaceflight.”

University of Southern California
New for FALL 2014ASTE 599, Human Spaceflight
Instructor: Dr. Bruce Cordell

Human spaceflight has become a dynamic international and commercial activity that promises to exceed even the 50-year old transformational space vision of President John F. Kennedy, which led to the first humans on the Moon in 1969. Engineers, scientists, and managers need to stay abreast of this arena as global needs and aspirations surge to new heights.

For example, the International Space Station has won approval from the White House and the International Partners (Russia, Japan, ESA, Canada) to extend operations to 2024. In 2012, the Dragon spacecraft (SpaceX) made history when it became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to ISS; Dragon is also designed to deliver crew.

In 2014, China became the first country in the 21st century to soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon. Human missions to its space station (Tiangong-1) since 2011 are well-known as are its plans to expand this human orbital infrastructure to the Moon. NASA continues with development of the Space Launch System, a heavy-lift vehicle that could support human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars, as could SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy.

At USC in Fall Semester 2014, ASTE 599 Human Spaceflight will explore a variety of attractive systems and technologies used in current and future human space missions. This includes environmental control and life support, human factors and space environments, and crew accommodations. For missions to Earth orbit and beyond we’ll examine orbit selection and astrodynamics, as well as mission operations and safety, and communications. Applications will include launch vehicles and transfer vehicles, space stations, and surface bases.

For off-campus enrollment options: http://gapp.usc.edu/graduate-programs/den/getting-started/enrollment-options

No responses yet

May 26 2014

Bruce’s ISDC 2014 Presentation — The New Apollo-level Space Age

It was a pleasure to be an invited speaker at the recent meeting of the International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2014) of the National Space Society on May 15 in Los Angeles.

The Conference theme was A Space Renaissance, and my presentation — “The New Apollo-level Space Age” — was definitely in that spirit!
CLICK

For the ppt version CLICK: ISDC.2014.Cordell.

The key points include:

1. A variety of long-term and current global indicators point to a new, international, Apollo-level Space Age (i.e., a Maslow Window) that is just around the corner.

2. Great Explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and the largest Macro Engineering Projects (e.g., Panama Canal) cluster together about twice-per-century during transformative JFK-style booms; the most recent was in the 1960s featuring Apollo.

3. During the booms, widespread real income gains result in momentary “ebullience” as many ascend Maslow’s Hierarchy; their expanded worldviews make Apollo-style initiatives seem almost irresistible.

4. An approaching “critical state” suggests the Maslow Window is imminent because of macroeconomic precursors, including the financial Panic of 2008, and increasing geopolitical stress points (e.g., Iran, North Korea) that could develop parallels with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

5. China’s recent soft-landing of a spacecraft on the Moon — the first in the 21st century — suggests we are within 1-3 years of a JFK-style economic boom that traditionally launches the unprecedented activities of the new technology and space renaissance.

For more information, CLICK: “The Maslow Window – Intro”

No responses yet

Dec 24 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Yesterday from Chicago Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell reenacted his famous 1968 Christmas Eve television broadcast from orbit around the Moon during which the crew read the first 10 verses of Genesis.

Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to leave Earth orbit, travel to the Moon and orbit it, and return safely to Earth.

Captain Lovell is an extraordinary space traveler: He is the first of only 3 people to fly to the Moon twice (although he did not make a landing), and is famous as commander of the Apollo 13 mission.
Click

For the full text of their broadcast, Click: Celebrating Christmas at the Moon!

Lovell closed yesterday with the same message the astronauts did in 1968.

From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

No responses yet

Dec 21 2012

Welcome to the Real Planetary Doomsday

It isn’t the one you think.

Sadly, NASA hasn’t been inundated with hundreds of phone calls per day from panic-stricken citizens about it, like NASA has about 12/21/12 and the end of the Mayan calendar.

Will our number finally come up today?
Click

It’s isn’t about Nibiru (aka Planet X) that magically has escaped detection for decades and threatens any minute to swoop down on Earth and flip its poles or worse — trigger an instant replay of the cosmic disaster that took out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Indeed dark comet enthusiasts — including astronomer Jocelyn Bell who discovered pulsars in the 1960s — are right about the potential threat to Earth, but there is no astrophysical reason to expect our number to come up TODAY!

And it’s certainly not about galactic alignments, where earthquakes and tsunamis are triggered on Earth by the supermassive black hole lurking at the center of the Milky Way.

Let’s get real: even if a special Sun-Earth-Galaxy Center line-up existed today — which it doesn’t — the supermassive black hole is still 27,000 light years away. That’s a long, long way from us and its force is negligible.

The Real Planetary Doomsday we face today is that cuts in NASA funding are triggering the loss of a generation of planetary scientists.

According to Mark Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute:

The US solar system exploration program is supported by NASA-funded scientists at government facilities, universities, and private companies … Their work directly advances the strategic goals of the NASA Planetary Division and strongly contributes to STEM educational efforts across the country …

Sykes ominously concludes that due to NASA cuts:
“Younger planetary scientists in particular face an imminent crisis in their careers. They will be lost first. Many more will follow. The consequences will be long term.”

While this funding situation is expected to turn around dramatically as the mid-decade Maslow Window and “Critical State” begins to engulf the world, the fact remains that many planetary scientists face near-term challenges.

Despite the bright future just around the corner, many will be lost.

No responses yet

Sep 18 2012

Bruce on The Space Show (audio) & 15th International Mars Society Convention (video)

Dr. David Livingston has archived my appearance yesterday on The Space Show; Click HERE.

We had a lively discussion — including several call-in guests — about our recent discovery that NASA space programs are “fractal” and why this, plus the financial Panic of 2008 and current unrest in the Middle East, ironically imply we’ll have an excellent shot at human spaceflight to Mars during the coming decade+ (i.e., by 2025).

My Mars Society Convention presentation on “Fractal Maslow Windows and the Near-Term Colonization of Mars” is available HERE.

On the final evening (8/5/12) of the 15th International Mars Society Convention in Pasadena, CA, I had the pleasure of being part of a panel on “Our Future in Space.” Emceed by Dr. Robert Zubrin of The Mars Society, it also included, Dr. Story Musgrave (physician and former NASA astronaut) and Prof. J. Richard Gott of Princeton University.

This panel interacted with a packed house from 8:45 pm until just after 10 pm when the Curiosity Rover landed on Mars. Here’s the YouTube version (first 30 minutes):

The remainder of this panel can be seen at The Mars Society link;
Click HERE.

No responses yet

Aug 09 2012

Celebrating Curiosity’s Landing with the Mars Society

According to the Wall Street Journal (8/4/12), the social network crowd was genuinely jazzed about Sunday evening’s landing of NASA’s “Curiosity” rover on the Red Planet. Their analysis of traffic on Twitter and Facebook between July 30 and August 3 indicated that 59% of people expressed “excitement.”

For example, the comments included:

It’s absurd how excited I am about the Curiosity landing … Is it super nerdy that I’m CRAZY excited?

They should have been at the Pasadena Convention Center Sunday evening with the truly exuberant Mars Society folks at the 15th Annual International Mars Society Convention.
Click

I was happy to be there to participate in a panel discussion on “Our Future in Space” along with former astronaut Dr. Story Musgrave, Princeton astrophysicist Dr. J. Richard Gott, and the Mars Society founder Dr. Robert Zubrin. We chatted until 10 pm in front of a packed house and then watched the JPL engineers do their thing.

Robert set the stage by reminding everyone of the singular importance of human exploration and settlement of Mars, and what a huge step Curiosity is in that process. Richard, who Saturday evening had addressed a plenary session on “The Mars Colonization Imperative,” commented on the prospects for encountering simple life on Mars. I mentioned that before Phobos-Grunt failed, I suspected that mission success would have resulted in Russia and China considering a joint Mars colonization initiative, but now they appear to be moving Moon-ward. Also, the newly recognized fractal nature of NASA space programs suggests Apollo-level programs — like a Mars colonization initiative — emerge during a “critical state” that self-organizes over decades, and both long- and short-term indicators point to the arrival of a 1960s-style critical state by mid-decade. Story indicated a strong preference for an international manned Mars exploration initiative. Due to China’s emergence as a global space power, he believes China would make a good Mars expedition partner for the U.S..

After a few audience questions we began watching operations at JPL just prior to Curiosity’s landing.

Here’s the ebullient scene at JPL as the first Curiosity images returned.
Click

No responses yet

Jul 03 2012

Happy 4th of July — Independence Day 2012 !

The 4th of July is the day Americans celebrate freedom and all its fruits, including prosperity, innovation, and the pursuit of happiness!

To read about Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Click HERE.

Dr. Harrison Schmitt, the first scientist on the Moon, shows how good the American flag — the symbol of freedom — looks on the Moon during Apollo 17.
Click

Princeton University professor Gerard O’Neill (1927-1992), author of The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space (1977), believed that the colonization of space would open up …

a hopeful future for individual human beings, with increasing personal and political freedoms, a wider range of choices, and greater opportunities to develop individual potentials … The most chilling prospect that I see for a planet-bound human race is that many of those dreams would be forever cut off for us.”

As I pointed out recently in Ad Astra of the National Space Society, the macroeconomic and technology history of the last 200+ years indicates we are approaching a transformative, 1960s-style decade known as a Maslow Window.

It will feature a new international, Apollo-level space age that will be triggered by a major economic boom … by mid-decade.

However in the short term, there is still plenty of bad news — e.g., the Wall Street Journal reported this morning (top, front page headline) that the U.S. manufacturing sector shrank in June for the first time in 3 years — and some see this as evidence for another recession.

While hopefully this will not occur, it’s important to realize that “double-dip” recessions are common in the years immediately preceding Maslow Windows, and signal the approach of much better times.
Click: “Slow Recovery Fits 200-Year Pattern”

And historical analogs indicate that — during times like now — the widespread drive for prosperity results in a political realignment that triggers a new economic boom.

Enjoy the 4th’s fireworks and remember that the new Space Age is just around the corner…!

No responses yet

Jun 19 2012

As the 1960s-Style “Critical State” Approaches, Space Surges

This morning the Wall Street Journal proclaims “A Leaderless World — Signs of disorder grow as American influence recedes.”

The list includes:
Syria, which may be heading for a civil war as Russia and Iran back Damascus;
Iran, who continues to move toward a nuclear weapon and may trigger an attack by Israel and/or nuclear proliferation throughout the region;
and the
Eurozone, who continues to try to solve a debt crisis by adding more debt.

As the 1960s Space Age began, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the edge. (President Kennedy and Premier Khruschev shown.)
Click

And the U.S. is hardly immune from growing turmoil. For example, a recent poll for The Hill revealed 75% of people are either very or somewhat worried that the U.S. is headed for another recession.

Unfortunately, double-dip recessions are typical features of the years immediately preceding a “critical state” over the last 200+ years, and growing national debt is a major contributor.
Click: Is High Debt Triggering Another Pre-Maslow Recession?

In the midst of this geopolitical turbulence, the development of space technology continues spectacularly.

For example, on Saturday China launched 3 astronauts — including its first woman — into space and achieved its first orbital rendezvous and docking with their Tiangong 1 module yesterday, becoming only the 3rd country ever to do so. China envisions a full-size space station in orbit near 2020.

The U.S. also joined the informal “Weekend Space Party” by culminating the 15 month secret mission of its X-37B spaceplace and landing at Vandenberg AFB in California. The X-37B is an unmanned, Mach 25 spaceplane that is developing technologies which will facilitate space commercialization as well as considerably enhance national security.

Given the recent kick-offs of two other space programs — asteroid mining by Seattle-based Planetary Resources and Mars colonization by the Netherlands-based group Mars One — it’s striking how this surge in space-related activity is concurrent with today’s growing international tensions, much like the early 1960s.

This suggests that the approaching critical state has major parallels with the 1960s.

The Bad News is the 1960s critical state featured a bumpy road known as the Cuban Missile Crisis — reminiscent of current threats in the Middle East and elsewhere.

The Good News is the lesson of the 1960s and all critical states over the last 200+ years: As we move through current geopolitical stress, we appear to be approaching a Camelot-style renaissance in space exploration, technology development, and commercial expansion … by mid-decade.

No responses yet

Apr 08 2012

Fractal Maslow Windows and the Near-Term Colonization of Mars

Please Note: This is my Abstract for The 15th Annual International Mars Society Convention, August, 2012, in Pasadena, CA.

Fractal Maslow Windows and the Near-Term Colonization of Mars

Self-Organized Criticality (SOC) is an emergent property of complex systems whereby they organize themselves into a critical state such that rapid changes, including catastrophes, can occur.

In 1998, based on power-law plots like this, Roberts and Turcotte concluded that “World order behaves as a self-organized critical system independent of the efforts made to control and stabilize interactions between people and countries.”
Click

SOC is indicated for space exploration by the following: 1) Apollo is the most recent in a string of rhythmic, twice-per-century clusters of great human explorations, large macro-engineering projects (MEP), and major wars, back to Lewis and Clark, suggesting punctuated equilibrium, 2) Based on their power law size-frequency distribution, Roberts & Turcotte (1998) showed that wars are SOC processes; my recent analysis of cost data suggests the same is true of NASA programs, and 3) Space programs obey Bak’s gap equation (1996), which describes the system’s evolution from weak SOC to the fractal, self organized critical state; i.e., a “Maslow Window.”

While in the critical state, large changes (e.g., in space, MEPs, and/or war) can rapidly occur in response to even a minor stimulus. The classic example is the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis which raised the stakes for the Moon Race, and suggests the road to the next critical state may also be bumpy.

Long-term and current global trends – including the financial Panic of 2008, the great recession of 2008-10, and geopolitical tensions in the Persian Gulf and in North Korea – signal that a new, 1960s-style critical state is expected by mid-decade. This should trigger a new, Apollo-level, international Space Age.

Bak’s model shows punctuated equilibrium — long periods of stasis (horizontal portions) interrupted by rapid changes (vertical sections) while in the critical state.
Click

As in Bak’s numerical simulations, the real-world transitions of a critical state are abrupt – including both into it (e.g., in 1901; in 1958) and out of it (e.g., in 1914; in 1970). To avoid another 40 years of being trapped in Earth orbit (since Apollo 17) due to sudden closing of the approaching Maslow Window, human spaceflight should establish near-term bases on or near Mars and/or the Moon by the 2020s that do not require frequent re-supply from Earth. Because of its exploration, science, and colonization potential, Mars is preferred.

No responses yet

Next »