Archive for the 'Wave Guide 8: Non-Space MEPs' Category

Jul 08 2009

Carnival of Space #110 and the Panama Canal

I. Welcome to the Carnival of Space #110 at Kentucky Space.
If you’d like to sample a number of excellent space-related weblogs, please click HERE

The Carnival is run by Fraser Cain, publisher of Universe Today.

II. Interest in Panama Canal Continues to Surge
Over the 4th weekend, “10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space” (5/18/09) moved up to #2 on the All-Time Readers’ Favorite List.

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Jun 21 2009

Panama Canal Named "Best Construction Project in the World"

One of the greatest engineering marvels in human history — and one that points directly toward the ebullient 2015 Maslow Window — the Panama Canal continues to win awards for its Expansion Program. And the Canal Authority continues to modernize the current canal and to internationally market the canal’s future.

The Panama Canal Expansion Program is a remarkable example of “early ebullience” that signals our rapid approach to the long-awaited 2015 Maslow Window. Click panamaecp.jpg.

An interesting measure of the Canal’s ability to attract major attention from an international audience — one of the key characteristics of a modern Macro-Engineering Project (MEP) — is the response to my recent post, “10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space.” Published just under 5 weeks ago on May 18, it has surged to #3 on the All-Time Readers’ Favorite List; up from #4 as recently as June 16, and it continues to climb.

The Canal itself is a magnificent story and, in combination with the International Space Station and the Apollo Moon program, provides surprising insights into the future, such as: the probable costs of future space programs, the types of future MEPs most likely to succeed, and the key role of the long wave in major programs. I think the unusual, future-oriented approach of the post appeals to many, but I’m sure that most of the international web surfers who visit are attracted by the extraordinary nature of the Panama Canal itself.

For example, at the 2009 International Logistics and Material Handling Exhibition (SIL 2009) in Barcelona, Spain, the Panama Canal Expansion Program (CEP) was given the esteemed Samoter award for “Best Construction Project in the World.” The Canal Expansion Program was also named the “Best International Project” by judges for their management of the “largest infrastructure initiative in Latin America.” To date, the Panama CEP has won a total of 11 international awards.

The Panama Canal Authority continues to modernize its operations. Recently US$ 320 M were invested in a new lighting system for increased safety, a new track and turntable system that cuts transit times, and several new tugboats. The Canal Authority has also recently signed MOUs with U.S. east coast port authorities of Philadelphia (6/12/09) and Maryland (6/2/09) to promote trade and economic growth and the “All-Water Route” connecting Asia to the U.S. east coast via the Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal Expansion Program continues to be perhaps the most visible example of “early ebullience” in the world today. And despite the global recession, the CEP remains a sparkling bridge to more properous times in the near future. With its completion scheduled for 2014, the Canal will signal the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window and stimulate economic growth throughout the world — enabling human expansion into the cosmos.

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Jun 12 2009

Nereus, Mohole, Apollo and the New Race to Space

Last week the Nereus — an unmanned submersible — ebulliently plunged to the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench near Guam in the western Pacific (Baltimore Sun, 6/5/09; F. Roylance). At 35,761 feet below sea level (SL), the Deep’s more than a mile farther below SL than the summit of Mt. Everest is above it, and the weight of the overlying water produces pressures 1100 times those at SL — “like having the weight of 3 SUVs on your big toe.”

Does Nereus point to a new race to “inner space”? Click nereus3.doc.

Indeed, “the deepest ocean trenches are cold and dark and hostile places, visited by humans even less often than the surface of the Moon,” (San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/3/09; S. Liewer). The last time the Deep’s frigid privacy was violated was in 1998 by a Japanese robotic craft, the Kaiko. But the ocean got its revenge in 2003 when Kaiko’s control cable snapped and it was lost. Although Nereus also has a cable, it can voluntarily separate from it and swim independently or float to the surface.

According to Andy Bowen, Nereus’ developer from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, “With a robot like Nereus, we can now explore virtually anywhere in the ocean… I believe it marks the start of a new era in ocean exploration.”

Although Nereus is officially a scientific and engineering project, it’s also evidence of increasing “early ebullience” as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window. Despite the global recession, early ebullience is evident around the world today — e.g., booming Antarctic tourism, architectural projects such as the Shanghai Tower, the Panama Canal Expansion Project, Spaceport America and the birth of the space tourism industry, the International Space Station itself (an “international marvel”), international plans for bases on the Moon. Widespread ebullience will fundamentally drive public interest in Apollo-style space spectaculars and MEPs and briefly become the dominant global zeitgeist from 2015 to 2025, as it did during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

Despite its ebullience, or maybe because of it (!), Nereus has its critics. For example, well-known deep ocean explorer Robert Ballard — best known for discovering the remains of the Titanic in 1985 — thinks that “reaching the bottom of the ocean isn’t worth the effort,” (San Diego U-T, 6/3/09), because other submersibles can already reach 95% of the ocean floor.

But Chris German, also of Woods Hole, offers an ebullient reply to Ballard, clearly reminiscent of past Apollo astronauts on the Moon, “It’s not just a matter of planting a flag and saying ‘Aren’t we clever?’…Going to the deepest parts of the ocean means there’s no place on Earth we can’t go,” (italics mine).

And although Bowen insists that the Nereus team doesn’t aim to break the depth record of the Trieste and Kaiko, in a revealing ebullient moment, Bowen admits that indeed “we may be looking for that extra meter.”

Project Mohole was supposed to be Earth Science’s answer to the Apollo Moon program. Click mohole.jpg.

Nereus reminds us that about one long wave ago, the ebullient race to “inner space” was closely linked to the race to outer space.

1960, January 23: The Trieste. Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh — the ocean’s most daring explorers — took the Trieste 35,813 feet straight down into the Challenger Deep. It was the first and only time that humans have made the trip. Bowen, Ballard, and others still regard the Trieste mission with awe (and a little envy)!

1961, March: Project Mohole. After this ebullient brainchild of Scripps Institute of Oceanography geophysicist Walter Munk — to drill through the crust to the upper mantle and return samples — was funded by National Science Foundation in 1958, the first test drills in spring, 1961 were very successful. Drill holes reached about 600 feet into the crust through a record 11,700 feet of water, off the west coast of Mexico.

Some ebullient geophysicists envision Project Mohole returning samples from the Earth’s mantle about the same time as Apollo astronauts arrive on the Moon. Mantle rocks and Moon rocks would provide clues to the origin of the Earth and Moon.

1961, April 9: President Kennedy Congratulates Mohole. The ebullient icon of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window admired the Mohole team: “The success of the drilling in almost 12,000 feet of water…and the penetration of the ocean crust… constitute a remarkable achievement and an historic landmark…” (New York Times, 4/9/61).

1961, May 25: JFK’s To the Moon Speech. Before a joint session of Congress, President Kennedy announces that the U.S. will send an astronaut to the Moon and return him safely before the end of the decade. He wants to “catch up to and overtake” the Soviet Union in the “space race.”

1966, April 19: Congress Cancels Mohole. Due to scientific debates, political controversy, and budget stress due to the Vietnam War, Congress voted to cut off funds for Project Mohole. It’s cost estimates had finally soared beyond $ 100 M. Project Mohole sadly became Project “No Hole.”

In his 1999 book, The Executive Decisionmaking Process, Ralph Sanders criticizes the leaders of Mohole for getting caught up in the ebullience of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, “The scientists argued that, just as in the space program, the U.S. engaged in a race with the Soviets for discovering new and important facts about the Earth’s geology.”

Sanders asserts that Mohole failed because its leadership should have been engineers and technologists (in the style of Apollo) — not Earth scientists, and that the scientists were focused on more ebullient, and less engineering-related questions like:

“Can ocean and geologic science improve the nation’s image?”
“Can U.S. science beat Soviet science in this important field?”

My point here is not to question the visionary brilliance of Munk, Hess, and others who conceived of Mohole, but to simply illustrate the power of ebullience during a Maslow Window on even the best scientific minds, as well as on society at-large.

1969, July 20: Neil Armstrong becomes the first human to step on the Moon.

By analogy with the Trieste, Mohole, and Apollo, it’s likely that Nereus may be a precursor of the 2015 Maslow Window, when oceans, energy, and other global interests will interact strongly with human expansion into the cosmos.

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May 25 2009

Kurzweil's Singularity and the Human Future in Space

The New York Times (5/24/09, J. Markoff) highlights the fun idea that developments in artificial intelligence may someday produce a Skynet-like system (as in Terminator Salvation); i.e., “a military R&D project that gained self-awareness and concluded that humans were an irritant…”

Technologist Ray Kurzweil believes The Singularity is near. Click kurzweil.jpg.

This idea dates back to the ebullient Apollo Maslow Window in a 1961 short story by Arthur C. Clarke. First called “The Singularity” in 1993 by Vernor Vinge, it referred to a future time when humans would be overwhelmed by the acceleration of technological progress. Extrapolating from Moore’s Law, AI pioneer Ray Kurzweil predicted in 2005 that technological progress would accelerate to the point when machines had “not only surpassed human intelligence but took over the process of technological invention, with unpredictable consequences.”

And he said it would occur in 2045.

This is one reason I don’t forecast beyond 2030! But all kidding aside, it’s relevant to the favorite question of many of my friends: Besides WW III or a planet-sterilizing comet impact, what would it take to throw off the long wave of the last 200+ years and invalidate the 2015 Maslow Window concept?

My usual response is that it would apparently require something worse than the Civil War, WW I, WW II, the Cold War, the Great Victorian Depression of 1873, The Great Depression of the 1930s, and numerous financial panics and major recessions (including the current one) of the last 200 years. Because amazingly, the long wave didn’t blink during any of those. However, having computers take over the process of technological invention — and probably eventually everything else — would certainly be something new!

Kurzweil, currently 61, envisions uploading the contents of a human’s brain into a computing environment — providing a type of immortality — within his lifetime. At the 2006 World Future Society meeting in Toronto where I happened to catch him, Kurzweil also suggested creating a Manhattan-style project to develop this capability. He had an enormous crowd and we all caught the symbolism when his computer malfunctioned during the presentation and nobody could fix it. Nevertheless, Kurzweil’s a genuine celebrity in the technology and futures communities.

But not everyone is buying the show. For example, William Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, believes bad news is more likely than a Kurzweilian utopia with ultra-computers attending to our every need, “I wasn’t saying we would be supplanted by something, I think a catastrophe is more likely.”

And expanding on the fact that Moore’s Law is not a law of physics, merely an industrial pattern, physicist and management consultant Theodore Modis asserts that Kurzweil’s approach is not really scientific. “Kurzweil and the singularitarians are indulging in some sort of para-science, which differs from real science in matters of methodology and rigor. They tend to overlook rigorous scientific practices such as focusing on natural laws, giving precise definitions, verifying the data meticulously, and estimating the uncertainties.”

Modis questions Kurzweil’s key forecasts, including whether The Singularity will ever occur, because Kurzweil’s exponentials are actually “S” curves. For example, regarding supercomputing power, “assuming that the exponential trend will continue until 2045 (which I personally doubt) we find that computer power will reach 6×10**23 Flops (floating-point operations per second) at ‘singularity time’. But … until computer power reaches a final ceiling, there must be further growth of less than two orders of magnitude. This translates to an ultimate computer power of less than 10**25 Flops, which is in flagrant contradiction with Kurzweil’s forecast of 10**50 and beyond!”

Modis is passionate about his anti-Singularity beliefs. Although I first read about the 56 year energy cycle in his 1992 book and have been in contact with him since my 1996 Space Policy article, he more recently gently complained about Figure 1 in Cordell (2006), because it could be misinterpreted to support The Singularity.

Neither Modis nor I actually finished Kurzweil’s book. Modis admits that “Around Page 150 I got fed up and stopped … as science fiction goes, even realistic one like Kurzweil’s, I prefer more literary prose with plot, romance, and less of this science.”

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May 18 2009

10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space

The monumental Panama Canal was — prior to Apollo — the greatest Macro-Engineering Project (MEP) of the last 200 years. The Canal brought people together by splitting the continent, and in terms of cost, management, technology, and global significance, it has strong parallels with Apollo and the International Space Station (ISS), and offers us insight into our spectacular future.

The secrets of the Panama Canal reverberate through the last 100 years and — together with Apollo and the International Space Station — illuminate future Macro-Engineering Projects in space. Click panama.jpg.

Here are 10 Lessons the Panama Canal teaches us about the human future in space.

10. “The creation of a water passage across Panama was one of the supreme human achievements of all time,” according to ultra-historian David McCullough (1977), “…the culmination of a heroic dream of over four hundred years…It is a work of civilization.”

In Cordell (2006) I adopted the definition of an MEP from Eugene Ferguson (1916-2004), who was a well-known professor of engineering, a founding member and former president (1977-78) of the Society for the History of Technology, and a da Vinci Medalist (SHoT’s highest honor) in 1977. According to Ferguson, MEPs are: 1) at the state-of-the-art of technology for their time; 2) extremely expensive and usually large in size; and 3) sometimes practical in purpose, but often they are aimed at satisfying intangible needs of a spiritual or psychological nature and are highly inspiring.

This is a demanding definition that excludes many extraordinary projects like trans-continental railroads or large highway systems because, while expensive and significant, they do not stretch technology.

The Canal’s grandeur versus Apollo’s and ISS’ off-world technology, are tantalizingly suggestive of the unprecedented MEPs and great explorations that await us in the 2015 Maslow Window, as humanity’s expansion into the cosmos accelerates.

9. “The fifty miles between the oceans were among the hardest ever won by human effort and ingenuity,” (McCullough, 1977). The enormous sacrifice in human life — called a “great war” by President Theodore Roosevelt — was in excess of 27,000, including an estimated 22,000 during the French period (1881-1889) and 5,600 deaths during the American period between 1904-1914.

The threat of tropical diseases, land slides, railroad accidents, and premature dynamite explosions contributed to the extraordinary psychological stress for the workers. And while yellow fever crippled the French effort to build the Canal, the successful medical research of Drs. Carlos Finlay and Walter Reed aided the American project tremendously.

The modern and future world is indebted beyond words to the people who risked (and often lost) their lives working on the construction of the Panama Canal. They provide a profound inspiration to those currently engaged in the human expansion into the cosmos.

8. As of the early 20th century, the Panama Canal had the highest price tag of any construction project in U.S. history; indeed, it was the largest commitment ever of resources in peacetime for any nation. It cost the U.S. about $ 375 M — $ 8.3 B in 2008 dollars — over 10 years (i.e., the Peary/Panama Maslow Window). The Canal consumed only 0.10% of U.S. GDP during that time.

Although the Panama Canal was for transportation while Apollo was the first combined MEP and Great Exploration, and it was off-world, it’s still interesting to compare their costs. In today’s dollars Apollo cost close to $ 150 B, so Apollo was almost 20x as expensive as the Canal. However, a more meaningful comparison is as fraction of GDP. During the years of their programs, Apollo averaged about 0.25% of GDP compared to 0.10% for the Canal.

Comparison of Panama and Apollo suggest that MEPs during the 2015 Maslow Window will dwarf Apollo. For example,

A. INCREASING PUBLIC INTEREST IN MEPS: If this trend of an increase in GDP fraction allocated to MEPs continues (i.e., increase by 2-3x over Apollo), then coming MEPs would dwarf Apollo by corresponding factors. (This would imply that public support for MEPs in 2015+ would have increased over Apollo by as much as it did between Panama and Apollo.)

B. BOOMING ECONOMIC GROWTH: Given the projected growth based on the last 200 years of macroeconomic data — i.e., by 2025, increase of GDP by 7x over 1969; as of 2008, GNP has increased 3.1x over 1969 –, it is reasonable to expect MEPs in the 2015 Maslow Window to dwarf Apollo by corresponding factors. (PLEASE NOTE: As they have over the last 200+ years, rhythmic twice-per-century major economic booms trigger the Maslow Window ebullience effects on society, which fundamentally drive public support for MEPs and Great Explorations.)

Socio-economic insights from the Panama/Apollo MEP experiences and macroeconomic data from the last 200 years, suggest near-future MEPs
(e.g., including planetary bases, space solar power sats, interplanetary transportation systems) during the 2015 Maslow Window will significantly dwarf Apollo by factors of from 7x to 20x — i.e., in the $ 1 T to $ 3 T ballpark (current USD).

7. Both the Panama Canal and Apollo Moon program were fundamentally about designing, constructing, and using major transportation systems in hostile environments, and their management and technology challenges have impressive parallels and lessons for the future.

The Panama Canal’s design and technology challenges centered around the location and type of canal, and construction operations. No one had ever built an enormous structure in a tropical environment that included mysterious, lethal diseases (e.g., yellow fever) and other natural hazards (e.g., climate, snakes). This led to large loss of life and contributed to eventual failure during the French period (see 9 above). However, by November, 1905 yellow fever had been eradicated in the Canal Zone by the Americans.

In the early 1880s, the French under de Lesseps decided to construct a sea-level canal based on their successful experience at Suez — the technological jewel of the 19th century. Although the American chief engineer, John Stevens, initially agreed with the French, soon after his arrival in Panama he insisted on a system of locks (e.g., Parker, 2007).

McCullough (1977) speculates that if de Lesseps had changed his plan from sea-level to locks in 1886, the French might have succeeded — and this invites an intriguing parallel with Apollo. Although locks increased the Canal’s complexity and risk, they also reduced its cost and accelerated its schedule. This is similar to NASA’s decision to use rendezvous in lunar orbit to deliver astronauts to the Moon; this likewise increased (operational) complexity and risk, but obviated the need to develop an even bigger, more expensive launch vehicle than the Saturn V (i.e., Nova).

During the American period management challenges included supervising 34,000 construction workers and dealing with the continual threats to their lives (e.g., from accidents), as well as the unparalleled engineering, financial, political, and schedule issues of construction. The Panama Canal construction was motivated and begun by President T. Roosevelt, who made the first trip of any sitting U.S. President outside the U.S., a trip to the Canal. However, President William Howard Taft provided the most active, hands-on participation over the longest period (4 years as president) for the Canal, and President Woodrow Wilson officiated at its opening in 1914. Nevertheless, Theodore Roosevelt is considered “the real builder” of the Panama Canal.

The Apollo Program’s design and technology challenges centered around space transportation and operations, and crew systems. They included: 1) delivering Max Faget’s Mercury capsule to Earth orbit using modified ICBMs (e.g. Atlas for John Glenn in 1962) and returning it using heat shields, 2) testing Buzz Aldrin’s orbital rendezvous techniques in Earth orbit in preparation for John Houbolt’s Lunar Orbit Rendezvous mission mode, and 3) using Wernher von Braun’s monumental Saturn V launch vehicle to send astronauts and hardware to the Moon.

During Apollo, NASA hired 400,000 people from about 20,000 companies and universities. NASA management was subject to two major influences that did not exist for Panama leaders: 1) the urgency of an actual race to the Moon with another superpower, and 2) the immediacy of live television news broadcasts that emphasized the national prestige and symbolic elements of Apollo. The Apollo Moon program was announced by President Kennedy in 1961 and is most closely associated with him. However, Apollo developed substantially under President Johnson, and the lunar landings (1969-72) were accomplished during President Nixon’s administration.

Even being situated within the major economic boom of a Maslow Window and having great leadership is no substitute for the required technologies, systems, and engineering designs. This preparation for the 2015 Maslow Window is currently ongoing by ISS, private entrepreneurs, national laboratories, and elsewhere. It’s highly likely that the management challenges of the 2015 Maslow Window will include close interaction with international partners in all phases of future MEPs.

6. Like Apollo, the Panama Canal vastly elevated American national prestige and was a direct result of international politics and conflicts.

In 1897, the U.S. acquired Hawaii as a US territory, and later as a result of the Spanish-American War, Spain sold the Philippines to the U.S.. Since the Philippines had previously declared their independence from Spain, these events emphasized the growing need for both a Pacific naval presence as well as an Atlantic one for the U.S. (Rohatyn, 2009).

“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.

Likewise, one long wave later, new President John F. Kennedy found himself embroiled in Cuban adventures early in the Apollo Maslow Window. The first was the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (4/17/61), followed shortly by JFK’s inspirational May 17, 1961 speech announcing our goal to “land a man on the Moon, before this decade is out…” Even more threatening was the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962 which almost triggered W.W. III. Both served to increase Soviet-U.S. tensions and intensify the competition and global political significance of the Space Race.

Many large, medium, and small space powers sense the international prestige associated with human space exploration of the Moon and planets, and intend to leverage the lessons of America’s history in this pursuit. New Maslow Windows have historically been times of increased international tensions and conflicts (e.g., the 1960s Cold War, the Spanish-American War), and it is likely such conflicts will arise again as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, possibly in connection with space. For example, Cuba has been a focal point during the last two Maslow Windows, and Stratfor suggests it may be again.

5. “To a visitor from Mars it must have seemed that the Western world in 1914 was on the brink of Utopia,” according to historians J. Harrison and R. Sullivan (1966). This pre-WW I zeitgeist was responsible for the Panama Canal, the North and South Pole expeditions, the Titanic, the ascent of President Theodore Roosevelt, and the ebullience of “Panama Fever” and “Pole mania.”

Historical accounts suggest that Teddy “Speak softly but carry a big stick!” Roosevelt may well have been the most ebullient U.S. President in the history of the country, and that the Peary/Panama Maslow Window may have been the most ebullient period in U.S. history.

In addition to his Canal initiative, T.R. was a major supporter of Adm. Robert Peary’s ebullient expeditions to the North Pole. Indeed, Roosevelt has the distinction of being the first and only President to have played major roles in both the major MEP and Great Exploration of his Maslow Window; by the 1960s, the MEP and GE had become integrated into a single project: President Kennedy’s Apollo program.

TR became the 26th President of the U.S. in 1901 while still 42 — currently the youngest person, including John F. Kennedy, to hold the presidency — and left the office in 1909, about five years before the Panama Canal opened, yet he is still known as the one who built the Canal.

The story of TR and the Panama Canal show the power of the long wave in history and for the future. Like JFK, TR appeared at the perfect time — as his Maslow Window was opening — when his ebullient personality and great leadership qualities could most benefit the U.S. and the world. According to Roosevelt himself, what was crucial for the Canal was that “somebody (namely himself) was prepared to act with decision,” (Parker, 2007). However, the last 200 years teach us that, Great leaders help, but the economy rules!

4. The Great Victorian Depression began with the collapse of the Vienna Stock Market on May 9, 1873 (the Panic of 1873) and rapidly spread to America. Also known as “The Long Depression” it continued until the late 1890s, and is considered by some to be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is in this financial context that the French under de Lesseps began work on the Panama Canal in 1881. By 1889 de Lesseps called it quits, their effort a victim of disease, inadequate technology, poor canal design, and not surprisingly, lack of money.

In 1873 the New York Stock Market closed for 10 days attempting to achieve stability, while almost 1/4 of all railroads went belly-up, businesses failed, unemployment reached an estimated 14% (in 1876), and credit crashed.

The power of the long wave is demonstrated by the MEP-related experiences of Kennedy, Roosevelt, and De Lesseps. Kennedy and Roosevelt initiated their MEPs during major economic booms in the decades prior to their long wave peaks (their Maslow Windows) and were successful. De Lesseps initiated his during a descending portion of the long wave and failed. Since TR succeeded in his Panama Canal effort while de Lesseps failed in the same endeavor, is it possible that we are seeing the effects of markedly superior leadership rather than the power of the long wave? For example, could TR have successfully initiated the Canal in 1935? Or could JFK have launched Apollo in 1985 and been successful? In fact, history illuminated this question in the 1980s (see next point).

3. The Panama Canal and the International Space Station are intriguing examples of MEPs that began at unfavorable times during the long wave and were soon discontinued, only to re-emerge later and achieve success. The goal here is to achieve insight into the relative importance of long wave timing versus great leadership, and any other factors that may be important.

For example, President Ronald Reagan first proposed Space Station Freedom in 1984 with an estimated cost of $ 8 B. As congressional support for SSF dwindled, the end of the Cold War led to SSF being included in the International Space Station plan in 1993 with an estimated cost of $ 17.4 B. ISS orbital assembly started in 1998 and will be completed in 2010 for an estimated $ 100 B, including development, assembly, and operations.

Although both the Canal and ISS went through 8-9 year initial phases that did not achieve success, both later re-emerged under “new management” and were successful. Let’s consider the long wave timing of the “initial” phases of the Canal and ISS.

The initial Panama Canal phase was run by de Lesseps and began (in 1881) 22 years before the opening of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window in 1903, and only 4 years before the LW trough in 1885. Likewise, the initial ISS Phase was proposed by President Reagan and began (in 1984) 31 years before the 2015 Maslow Window, a full 13 years before the LW trough in 1997.

Based on long wave considerations, it’s hard to say which project should have suffered most — de Lesseps’ Canal from the Victorian Depression or Reagan’s Station from economic weakness indicated by the Crash of 1987 — but both projects should have been DOA. And they were.

But a historically interesting question was also answered. Not even President Reagan — usually considered to be at least comparable in leadership and charisma to JFK and even TR — could make his MEP materialize in the decade after he proposed it, during a downward portion of the long wave. This suggests that any leadership and/or strategic deficiencies de Lesseps may have exhibited were not the deciding factor in his lack of success — because Reagan’s Station experience suggests that the long wave trumps great leadership.

The “final” phases of both projects are also interesting, because both were successful. I have already noted that, due to perfect long wave timing and his great leadership, TR’s Canal project should have been — and was — a success. However, the ISS final phase began under President Bill Clinton (in 1993) 22 years before the 2015 Maslow Window and 4 years before the long wave trough — the identical long wave circumstances of de Lesseps’ initial Canal project; the one that failed! (Is this a coincidence??)

With identical long wave circumstances, why did de Lesseps’ Canal project fail and the Clinton/Bush II Station succeed?

Globalization? The broad, robust international cooperation flavor of ISS is consistent with the post-WW II, and especially post-Cold War, trends toward increased globalization in technology and science. The space station has picked up momentum ever since it became international.

Although it has not yet had the global psychological impact of either Apollo or the Canal, ISS is regarded by its participants as an “international marvel.” And well it should be: It’s second only to Apollo as the most expensive human project in modern history, it was made by 16 countries (almost “everybody” but China), there are 1 million pounds of hardware in orbit, and over 100 elements and modules were assembled in space.

In short, ISS is both an extraordinary engineering and foreign policy accomplishment that is historically comparable to both the Saturn V and the Panama Canal.

And yet despite its success, ISS is anomalous because it hasn’t yet generated “Panama Fever” or Apollo-style ebullience! ISS has apparently been able to temporarily survive low public ebullience, by surfing on the accelerating wave of “globalization.”

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, it’s very likely that public appreciation and excitement about ISS will greatly increase.

2. In some ways, the Canal was the ultimate MEP of the last 200 years. Like the Apollo program (see point 6), it was an engineering marvel that required the coordination of huge numbers of people. In terms of ROI, the economic benefits of the Canal for seafaring commerce and strategic uses have been very significant over the last two long waves.

However, to increase the Canal’s capacity and deal with future competition — which now includes the Suez Canal — the Third Set of Locks Project was approved by Panamanians in a 2006 vote by an ebullient majority of 76.8%.

This Panama Canal expansion project will cost $ 5.25 B — about 75% of the original Canal cost — and will receive $ 2.5 B in international funding. Construction will generate thousands of jobs for Panamanians and should be complete by 2014, just in time for the 2015 Maslow Window. Major risks to the plan include finances and whether the traffic model of the business plan is realistic.

Panama recently elected a new president who’s committed to the Canal Expansion Project and continuing economic growth during the world recession. U.S.-educated, conservative Ricardo Martinelli — owner of Panama’s largest supermarket chain — was elected in a landslide with 61% of the vote. President-elect Martinelli’s landslide election is new evidence that “early ebullience” in Panama is continuing to accelerate as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window.

1. The Panama Canal is an immensely important MEP of the early 20th Century Maslow Window that — by itself and in comparison to Apollo and the International Space Station — continues to inform us of the relative importance of the long wave, great leadership, and globalization to the probable success of potential MEPs and Great Explorations during the next 20 years.

The Lessons include:

A. If an MEP starts during a Maslow Window (with wide-spread ebullience) and features a great leader, it will succeed. Examples include the Panama Canal with Teddy Roosevelt, and Apollo with John F. Kennedy.

B. If an MEP starts during the down going portion of the long wave (during a time of counter-ebullience), even with a great leader, it will probably fail. Examples include de Lesseps Panama Canal project, and Reagan’s Space Station.

A reasonable rule of thumb is: “Great leaders help, but the economy rules.”

However, If the conditions of Point B exist, but globalization is a significant factor, the program may survive and eventually even prosper as it approaches the next Maslow Window. The only example is ISS starting in 1993 under President Clinton.

By our definition, ISS is not yet officially an MEP because, although it is recognized by its participants as an “international marvel,” opinion polls indicate the U.S. public has embraced ISS only minimally.

This gives us empirically-based hope that — despite the evidence of the last 200 years — post-Maslow downturns in the long wave will not inevitably terminate spectacular Maslow Windows. And more specifically, that globalization has a significant role to play in mitigating counter-ebullient portions of the long wave for future multi-decade or multi-century space initiatives.

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Apr 05 2009

State of the Wave — The Economy, Pyongyang, Freeman Dyson…4/4/09

This State of the Wave summarizes specific progress toward the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window and movement toward real, near-term space colonization. The focus is on events and trends of long-range significance, especially in the context of the 10 Wave Guides.

1) The Economy

U.S. unemployment is 8.5% — the worst since 1983 — and forecasters say it is headed to 10% later in 2009, and “the world economy is in the midst of its deepest and most synchronized recession in our lifetimes,” according to Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (Wall Street Journal, 4/1/09).

Nevertheless, the globally slumping economy remains well within the historical envelopes of similar pre-Maslow Window panic/recessions over the last 200 years.

The New York Times (3/15/09, V. Bajaj) cautiously seeks the bottom by noting that: 1) price/earnings ratios for stocks are very low now but still about twice the P/E ratios of market bottoms for 1932 and 1982, 2) although existing house prices have declined by 1/3 (in current dollars) from their peak in 2006, they remain higher than in the housing booms of the 1970s and 1980s, and 3) Americans are starting to cut back on consumer spending of disposable income which has recently hovered near 100%. According to Obama economic advisor Lawrence Summers, these are the type of early signals that suggest the crisis is easing, although it’s not clear how soon it will end.

On the other hand, the Congressional Budget Office indicated recently that Obama’s budget would result in annual deficits of about $ 1 T over the next decade, and the total deficit from 2010 – 2019 would be “$ 2.3 T more than the administration forecast last month,” (Wall Street Journal, 3/21/09). This could weaken support for Mr. Obama’s spending initiatives. For example, North Dakota Democratic Senator Kent Conrad expressed concern over the long-term debt level because it “threatens the economic security of this country — I believe it in my bones.”

The odds of our current recession reaching depression status were estimated at only 15% recently by a Wall Street Journal (3/30/09, Justin Lahart) poll of economists. According to 94-year old economist Anna Schwartz, who studied causes of the Great Depression with Milton Friedman, “When you get an unemployment rate of 25%, everyone is conscious of that and fearful. We’re not talking in the league at all.” According to Lahart, a depression today would be different than the 1930s because fewer people work in agriculture and more are in service-related jobs today, plus the social safety net programs (e.g. unemployment insurance) would “blunt the blows.” Even without an official depression, Nobel economist Paul Samuelson, is concerned that “after the economy bottoms out, there could be a ‘lost’ four or five years of sluggish growth.”

Even Samuelson’s bleak scenario wouldn’t significantly delay the next Maslow Window. Indeed, growing global Maslow-style pressures to explore and colonize the Moon should have a positive economic effect; e.g., as they did toward the end of the 1893 panic/recession just prior to the Panama Canal/Polar Exploration Maslow Window.

2) North Korea Missile Launch

The launch of Pyongyang’s Taepodong-2 rocket occurred as I was writing this post; Stratfor reports that, “North Korea launched a satellite into orbit via a multistage rocket, Yonhap reported April 4, citing a statement by the Japanese government. The rocket lifted off at 0230 GMT, and it passed over Japan as planned in the flight path.”

The launch had generated global concern: The Los Angeles Times (2/8/09; J. Glionna)speculated that it might test the U.S. “The missile is pointing at Obama. North Korea thinks that with such gestures they can control U.S. foreign policy,” according Baek Seung-joo of the Korean Institute for Defense Analysis in Seoul. Anticipating its trajectory to be over Japan, Tokyo positioned missile interceptors against the rocket or its debris (Wall Street Journal, 3/28/09). British Foreigh Office Minister Bill Rammell, while visiting Seoul, said the launch would be “a clear breach” of the UN Security Council Resolution 1718. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton labeled the North Korean launch a “provocative act” that would have consequences.

Stratfor reported on 3/25 that according to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, “all indications suggest that North Korea will actually launch a satellite.” It appears he was right.

I suggested earlier that “the North Koreans are betting that the ‘global trend of the times’ — i.e., new space programs are developing in many countries around the world — will make the DPRK story believable.” This global trend is a major theme of featuring the approach to our next Maslow Window (expected in 2015) — the culmination of 200+ years of long-term trends in the economy and technology development, characterized by a major thrust toward international human expansion into the cosmos.

On April 3, Stratfor stated that “Ultimately, the Taepodong series missiles and SLVs are showpieces — diplomatic tools Pyongyang wields with care. They are not weapons,” for a variety of reasons including inaccuracy, low production numbers, slow launch capability, and NK’s inability to miniaturize and weaponize a nuclear bomb, according to Stratfor. They expect a few more scoldings or sanctions from the UN, and that’s about it. We’ll see what happens.

3) Growing Optimism About Technology and the Future

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, this blog has consistently forecast 2 things: 1) increasing public interest in technology and space, and 2) more optimistic public attitudes toward the future. There is evidence that, even 5 to 7 years out from the next Maslow Window and in the midst of the current global recession, both are appearing.

For example, the New York Times Magazine last Sunday (3/29/09; N. Dawidoff) featured an in-depth inteview with Princeton’s Nobel-caliber emeritus physicist Freeman Dyson, whose mind is still described by his colleagues as “infinitely smart” and “extraordinarily powerful.” He is profiled as a brilliant pro-technology scientist, who’s not comfortable with Gore-style climate crisis rhetoric. According to Dyson, “the climate-studies people who work with models…come to believe models are real and forget they are only models.” But the real global warming culprit is NASA scientist “Jim Hansen. He consistently exaggerates all the dangers.” In a recent shift in public opinion, it appears the majority of Americans agree with Dyson; Gallup reports that only 38% think that global warming will have a major impact on their lives.

Another surprise was the current issue of Foreign Affairs (March/April, 2009) whose cover features a stunningly pro-technology article “Geoengineering the Climate?” In case Dyson and others are wrong, the article, by five legal, engineering, and public policy academics, favors albedo techniques to reject solar radiation and cool the Earth. In the style of volcanic eruptions, they suggest injecting sulfate aerosols or similar reflective materials into the upper atmosphere; the space-based reflective cloud technique of Roger Angel is not mentioned, despite the fact that it would be less invasive for the biosphere. Their technology-intensive bottomline is that “the option of geoengineering exists. It would be dangerous for scientists and policymakers to ignore it.”

In another pro-technology development, Gallup reports that “a majority of Americans have been supportive of the use of nuclear energy in the United States in recent years, but this year’s Gallup Environment Poll finds new high levels of support, with 59% favoring its use, including 27% who strongly favor it.” This mirrors beliefs expressed by University of Southern California engineering professor Najmedin Meshkati, at a public event in Orange County that I organized. While acknowledging concerns about nuclear wastes and life-cycle costs, Dr. Meshkati spoke of a “nuclear renaissance” due to increased reactor safety and environment-friendly energy.

Although it is not yet obvious what mix of technologies (e.g., solar, nuclear, others) is best to address future energy/environment challenges, the trend toward pro-technology solutions and optimistic public attitudes about the future is consistent with the last 200 years and especially with our forecasts of the 2015 Maslow WIndow.

4) No NASA Administrator

Space News has concerns about President Obama’s inaction regarding a new post-Griffin Administrator. In a March 30 editorial, they suggested that the candidate vetting and Senate confirmation processes could leave NASA leader-less “well into the second quarter of 2009.” The worry is about major near-term decisions — e.g., retirement date for the Shuttle and the 5-year gap — that will affect NASA well into the 2015 Maslow Window.

This situation is consistent with my January forecast that, despite Obama’s interest and support of NASA during the capaign, he will, of necessity, need to focus on the economy and national security. Therefore, NASA will simply not be a front-burner item early in his administration.

5) ABC News Explains the Theory of Maslow Windows!

The centerpiece of is the concept of a Maslow Window. These are decade-long intervals separated by 55 to 60 years, when major economic booms produce widespread affluence-induced ebullience. For most people, this triggers their ascent to higher levels in Maslow’s heirarchy, where major exploration and technology projects seem at least intriguing and often almost irresistible.

But why, over the last 200 years, have great explorations and macro-engineering projects not been favored by the public during the decades between Maslow Windows (e.g., 1970s, 80s, 90s)?

Gina Sunseri of ABC News (11/29/08) explains that “the space station is the most complicated engineering project ever undertaken, and astronauts are…accomplishing remarkable feats in space — but it is hard for most Americans to care much about the space program when they are worried about keeping their jobs, making house payments and putting food on the table.”

In other words, low levels on Maslow’s heirarchy just don’t make it. Thank you ABC News!

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Mar 28 2009

The Shocking Truth About the Father of the Space Station

The recent completion of the solar arrays on the International Space Station (ISS) and having just marked its 10th anniversary in space, invite us to celebrate and contemplate the station’s birth way back in the 1980s.

It was in 1984 that President Ronald Reagan proposed a manned space station in low Earth orbit; named Space Station Freedom (SSF), it became the progenitor of the current ISS. Called “the next logical step” into space, Freedom was to be ambitiously multifunctional: a satellite servicing facility, spacecraft assembly center, astronomical observatory, a lab to study microgravity’s effects on astronauts, a commercial/industrial manufacturing facility. Reagan’s inspirational rhetoric soared almost as high as the station, “We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic, and scientific gain.”

Cost estimates for Space Station Freedom were $ 12.2 B in 1987 and it was to be permanently manned by April, 1997. Click ssf1987.jpg.

The day after Christmas (2008) we decided to visit Reagan’s Presidential Library in Simi Valley because — although we both admired the “Father of the Space Station” — neither of us had ever been there. We were impressed by the beautiful setting, the story of Reagan’s humble beginnings in Illinois, his movie career (including the “win one for the Gipper” video!), his ascent to the California governorship and the Presidency, and most of all, his actual Air Force 1 (a 747) that you see Contributing Editor Carol Lane smiling in front of.

Carol enjoyed this view of President Reagan’s Air Force 1, but still felt that something was missing. Click af1.jpg.

But one thing was missing, and this led to the 1st Shocking Truth about President Reagan (or at least about his library): There was NO mention of the space station!! After looking everywhere we finally gave up. It’s 3 months later now and we’re still surprised.

Of course, compared to “winning the Cold War” — which led in 1993 to the transformation of SSF into today’s ISS — and dismantling the Berlin Wall (a large piece of which is on display in the west courtyard), we know that a project (like SSF) that never came to fruition during Reagan’s 2 terms — and in fact was almost voted out of existence by Congress — would be considered small potatoes. But we still expected something!!!

More recently, as we enjoyed the mountain drive on the way to Indian Wells for a couple days at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, we began to come to psychological terms with this (to us) stunning omission in Reagan’s Library. We remembered how President John F. Kennedy played the key leadership role in the first race to space. His charisma, timing, and courage contributed to the first man on the Moon in 1969. But we also were reminded that patterns in long-term trends in the economy, technology, and society over the last 200 years suggest that the fundamental driver behind the Apollo Moon program was the unparalleled economic boom of the 1960s.

Indeed the captivating question about which was most important to Apollo — President Kennedy or the 1960s economic boom — lingered. It all boiled down to this: Could President Kennedy have successfully kicked-off Apollo at any other time than when he did it — the early 1960s? For example, could JFK, the charismatic leader of “Camelot“, have successfully motivated a large space program in the 1980s?

This led us to the 2nd Shocking Truth about President Reagan: Not even the “Great Communicator” himself, arguably at least as charismatic as JFK, could make the space station program happen during the decade after he proposed it.

Were the 1980s just not conducive to Apollo-level Great Explorations or MEPs? Or was there something “wrong” with the Space Station project itself?

Why did the space station experience endless concept redesigns, political turbulence, a hefty $ 100 B price tag, and an unbelievable delay in its completion date from Reagan’s 1994 initial target to the actual date in 2011? …Only 17 years late!!

Of course, ISS is not a Great Exploration in the sense of Apollo or Lewis and Clark, it’s a “national laboratory” circling the Earth every 90 minutes. And it is, after all, the most expensive man-made project in history, by some accounts totaling $100 billion in costs. It involves 16 countries and there is approximately 1,000,000 pounds of hardware in space. The International Space Station comprises 100 elements that were built all over the world and integrated into one structure only in space. In total, the ISS is both an extraordinary engineering and foreign policy accomplishment that guarantee it’s an MEP historically comparable to the Saturn V or the Panama Canal.

On June 12, 2008, while explaining why the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) ultimately failed to generate public support, we proposed 4 “rules” for success for MacroEngineering Projects. Although the SSC violated all four, the space station only violated two of them:

Rule 1: Never initiate a $ multi-B MEP during the downgoing portion of the 56 year energy/economic cycle (it peaked in 1969)…
Rule 3: Large MEPs like SSF or SSC that are proposed between Maslow Windows (i.e., “trough” projects) must be associated with a strategic conflict (e.g. the A-Bomb project during WW II) for them to be viable….

The two other rules were less a factor for the space station:

Rule 2: Never propose a big MEP during the downgoing portion of the 56-year energy/economic cycle when another spectacular MEP has already been approved. Although President Reagan announced Space Station Freedom in 1984 after he had proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) in 1983, they were not really competitive because SDI was a “survival” program — not typically dependent on long waves in the economy — while SSF was a genuine “Maslow Program.”
Rule 4: MEPs proposed at any time must be impressive and inspirational to achieve public approval. Unlike the pyramids, European cathedrals, and the Panama Canal, most of SSC was buried underground and invisible, while SSF/ISS is highly visible directly in space and indirectly visible through the large number of Shuttle launches since 1998 needed to construct it.

Thus it appears likely that the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window was fundamentally driven not by President Kennedy, or even by the specific Great Exploration and MEP involved — but by the huge economic boom that triggered wide-spread ebullience and momentarily elevated Maslow heirarchy levels.

A similar confluence of societal affluence and ebullience is expected near 2015.

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Dec 12 2008

'Early Ebullience' Surges at the Shanghai Tower

At this technology-obsessed weblog, ebullience is a technical term associated with a short-lived but almost irresistible attraction to Macro-Engineering Projects (MEPs) and/or great explorations. Exclusively triggered by major twice-per-century economic booms, ebullience — in its widespread, societal form — is the hallmark of spectacular Maslow Windows punctuating the last 200 years, such as the 1960s Apollo Window.
The Shanghai Tower project is evidence of ‘early ebullience’ Click shanghaitower.jpg.

However, high-end clinentele, dynamic societies, and/or groups especially excited about a particular MEP, sometimes exhibit “early ebullience” significantly before a Maslow Window, thus signaling its approach. Such is the case now with the Shanghai Tower (Associated Press, 11/28/08), a 2,073 foot high, $ 2.2 B tower planned for completion in 2014 — just in time to celebrate the 2015 Maslow Window!

How ebullient is the growing Shanghai Tower? Try this quote: “I don’t think it’s just pure ego,” according to Jun Xia, the brilliant Shanghai-born architect who designed its spectacular 120-degree spiral shape.

And it’s no accident that the Shanghai Tower is the city’s tallest structure. Bidding on the Tower was deliberately delayed until 2006 when the height of the Japanese-built Shanghai World Financial Center became set!

The ebullient Shanghai Tower is not just about a beautiful, elegant design, it’s also functional. Rainwater collected on the distinctive funnel-shaped roof supplements the plumbing system, and wind turbines power its external lighting. And an innovative “double skin” design promotes thermal stability.

In fact, even the Shanghai Tower’s ebullience is purposeful, according to Gu Jianping of the Shanghai Tower Construction & Development Co., “Launching construction at this time will help boost Shanghai’s confidence in fighting the financial crisis.”

In today’s global recession, China and the Middle East are among the few places in the world where Shanghai Tower-style projects can flourish. According to AP, the world’s tallest structure — Burj Dubai — recently surpassed 2300 feet and is expected to exceed one kilometer (3,281 feet) when completed.

How long will this economic situation continue? According to Arthur Gensler, chair and founder of Gensler Architecture that created the Shanghai Tower, “China is a wonderful market. It will be one of the world’s great opportunities for the next 3 to 5 years.” Shortly after that the rest of the world will rejoin the party as the 2015 Maslow Window swings open.

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Nov 29 2008

10 Lessons Peary & Amundsen Teach Us About the Human Future in Space

Riveting polar expeditions of the 1903 Maslow Window resulted in the discovery of the north pole by Adm. Robert Peary (U.S.) in 1909 and the south pole by Roald Amundsen (Norway) in 1911; this “pole mania” featured daring adventure, international competition, and tragic accidents. The Peary/Amundsen Maslow Window has intriguing parallels with the 1960s Apollo Moon program and many lessons for the future human exploration and settlement of the Moon and Mars.
The top 10 lessons of Peary and Amundsen include:

10. The early 20th Century Peary/Amundsen Maslow Window (1903 – 1913) featured the spectacular achievement of Admiral Robert Peary — first credited with reaching the north pole — and the “Heroic Age” of Antarctic exploration including Roald Amundsen, discoverer of the south pole, the tragic deaths of Robert Scott and his crew, and the aborted transantarctic expedition of Ernest Shackleton… For more, click HERE.
The presence of both widespread ebullience and spectacular exploration of new geographical sites forms the core of Maslow Windows of the last 200 Years, and will likely be the zeitgeist of the 2015 Maslow Window

Amundsen and crew reach the “last place on Earth” in December, 1911. Click southpole.jpg.

9. Antarctic exploration in 1843 by Sir James Clark Ross — discoverer of the well-known Ross Ice Shelf — was the last mid-19th Century foray into the Antarctic by explorers for more than 50 years. Polar expeditions were replaced by the central African adventures of Dr. David Livingstone as the focus of the world’s attention during his Great Exploration. The postponement of polar exploration until the early 20th Century is consistent with the general rules of thumb for Great Explorations (GEs) during the last 200 years: a) GEs are separated by 55 to 60 years, b) their sequence is from closer geographical sites to those of greater inaccessibility (e.g., central Africa vs. poles), and c) new GE sites always stimulate great public interest. And thus our next Maslow Window should arrive near 2015 and involve humans to Mars, Moon bases, or possibly both.

8. Clarence King — a 19th Century version of both Carl Sagan and Howard Hughes –was one of the greatest explorers of the American West, but because of poor long wave timing he’s not associated with a Great Exploration. During his important exploits, Americans were devastated by the Civil War and Europeans were distraught by the financial Panic of 1873… For more, click HERE.
Scentist-Explorer Clarence King is a classic example of a great explorer not having the global impact you’d expect because his discoveries occurred in the decades between Maslow Windows; these often dark decades — over the last 200 years — are inhabited by major wars and financial contractions that quickly destroy societal ebullience and make Great Explorations temporarily impossible.

7. “This is the greatest factor — the way in which the expedition is equipped — the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck,” according to the discoverer of the south pole, Roald Amundsen. In the 15 major antarctic expeditions from 8 countries during the Heroic Age, there were a total of 17 crew deaths, including Scott’s entire party of 5 while returning from the pole. Having been overcome by extreme weather and questionable strategic decisions, Scott’s ill-fated crew is reminiscent of the famous California-bound Donner party during the ebullient mid-19th Century Maslow Window, who was trapped by unusual, early snow storms in the California mountains after ill-advised voluntary delays.
Great Explorations always involve significant risks, especially in an atmosphere of international competition. Experience has shown (see Stuster, 1996) that the best way to ensure crew safety and mission success is by trying to anticipate every potentially threatening situation and taking appropriate precautions.

Monument near Donner Lake indicating the 20+ foot depth of the snow in 1846 (B. Cordell, 1999). Click donner.pdf.

6. The international conquest of Antarctica was launched in 1895 when a general resolution at the 6th International Geographical Society in London exhorted scientific societies world-wide to support antarctic exploration. This echoed a similar theme ventilated by London’s Royal Geographical Society in 1893. Between 1901 and 1917 — the “Heroic Age” — 15 expeditions to Antarctica were mounted by 8 countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Scotland, France, Japan, Norway, and Australia.
The Heroic Age of antarctic exploration proved that international cooperation can be a powerful tool for science and exploration, and suggests that it will be essential for human expansion into the cosmos.

5. The financial Panic of 1893 caused estimated unemployment over 10% for 5+ years. The crisis initially lasted only 18 months but was followed by another recession that continued into 1897. The combination of GDP declines of several % coupled with population growth meant that GDP per capita didn’t recover to 1892 levels until 1899… For more, click HERE.
The Panics of 1893 and 2008 have interesting parallels, including that they began 10 and 8 years before their Maslow Windows opened, respectively. The Panic of 1893 suggests that the 2015 Maslow Window might be delayed only briefly as the global economy recovers to its mid-2007 “greatest ever global boom” status.

The 2015 Maslow Window may still arrive on time and feature Great Explorations even greater than Peary & Amundsen and Apollo, and MEPs more amazing than even the Panama Canal. Click panama.jpg.

4. Unike the Lewis and Clark expedition, which opened the West to human settlers, the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration did not trigger massive human migrations to the polar regions. And while important meteorological and geographical science was done, it was the sheer adventure of polar exploration that enthralled the world… For more, click HERE.
That’s why during the 1960s Maslow Window, President Kennedy did not propose sending a mission to exploit the polar areas or anywhere else on earth, he chose to go to the Moon. It was the next obvious target that would globally demonstrate America’s technological prowess (Apollo was also an MEP), as well as revitalize education and society by activating raw human exploration passions — that have been hard-wired into us for 200,000 years.

3. “To a visitor from Mars it must have seemed that the Western world in 1914 was on the brink of Utopia,” according to historians J. Harrison and R. Sullivan (1966). Unfortunately, this pinnacle of Polar Maslow Window ebullience crashed in 1914 with the onset of World War I, the “Great War.” For more, click HERE.
The Peary/Amundsen Maslow Window is consistent with the lesson of the last 200 years: public support for Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects typically vaporizes shortly after the economic boom peaks due to financial, political, and/or military factors. Maslow Windows flourish for less than a decade, and — unless we make special plans for it — the 2015 Window is unlikely to be an exception.

2. Although antarctic exploration began with an international organization in the mid-1890s, the desire to be first to the pole — i.e., pole mania — was overwhelming to some explorers. When Amundsen realized that Peary had reached the north pole in 1909, he made secret plans to be first to the south pole. For more, click HERE.
The Amundsen-Scott pole mania episode is reminiscent of the 1950s Cold War, which featured the International Geophysical Year’s plans to launch satellites into Earth orbit and resulted in the surprise Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957; Sputnik ignited the Race to Space as the Apollo Maslow Window opened. As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, is an Amundsen/Sputnik-type surprise likely to trigger the Next Race to Space?

1. Will there be a Grand Alliance for Space? Although the Polar Maslow Window failed in that regard (See #2), it’s likely the technical and financial challenges of early 21st Century space colonization will require a globally coordinated approach. The last 200 years indicate that twice-per-century pulses of Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects are likely to be the focus of global ebullience in the foreseeable future — especially in space. And AIAA’s Jerry Grey and others have even suggested a multi-decade plan for unified, global settlement of the solar system. The spectacular achievement of the $ 100 B International Space Station and current international plans for Moon exploration and bases suggest hopeful movement in the right direction.

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Jul 20 2008

What Do Apollo, the Panama Canal, and John McCain Have in Common?

As a Senator from Massachusetts campaigning for the U.S. Presidency in 1960, John F. Kennedy visited this stunning 1950s Macro-Engineering Project (MEP): the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.

To see JFK and Michigan Governor Williams on the Mackinac Bridge in 1960, Click jfkmac.pdf
(See Mackinac Bridge by Mike Fornes)

JFK himself was just warming up.

Indeed, he was less than a year from setting in motion some of the most powerful exploration and technology symbols of all time: namely the Apollo Moon program.

Because he initiated the Apollo program — both the greatest Great Exploration and the greatest MEP in history — President Kennedy can rightfully be considered the Thomas Jefferson of his time (for Lewis and Clark, a Great Exploration) as well as the Theodore Roosevelt of his time (for the Panama Canal, an MEP). Revealingly, all three were president during the same portions of their respective economic booms (i.e., the Maslow Windows) during the 56 year energy/economic wave.

Last Monday the Chicago Tribune (Jill Zuckerman, 7/14/08) suggested there are parallels between John McCain and President Theodore Roosevelt that might explain why McCain sees Roosevelt as a “soulmate.” Aside from the obvious military connection, McCain admires Roosevelt’s vision for America in the 20th Century. Shockingly, the Tribune article fails to even mention the Panama Canal — the greatest pre-Apollo MEP of the last 200 years — nor Roosevelt’s quintessential role in it.

This weblog continues to test the hypothesis that the key reason Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Kennedy had many similar opportunities, accomplishments, and interests was because they all governed at similar times during the major, rhythmic, twice-per-century economic booms that produce affluence and ebullience (i.e., Maslow Windows), and invariably result in Great Explorations, MEPs. and sadly, major wars.

This similar timing, relative to their economic waves, of the 3 presidents means their electorates — although widely separated in time (about 160 years) — would have been subject to a similar economic and social framework. For example, Theodore Roosevelt took office in 1901, twelve years before his energy cycle peak in 1913. But McCain, if elected, will take office in 2009, a full 16 years prior to the next energy peak in 2025. This economically significant 4 year difference means that McCain will not experience the relative economic boom that greeted Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Kennedy when they took office; McCain’s ebullient Exploration/MEP agenda — if he has one — would have to wait 4 more years. Indeed, in 4 or 8 years is when long-term trends suggest the next JFK-like president will be elected.

This also suggests that parallels between McCain and Roosevelt may be overestimated. Instead, we continue to see impressive economic, political, and military parallels between McCain and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Because Eisenhower was elected one full 56 year cycle ago, and assuming that long-term economic and social trends are relevant to the electorate today, John McCain — the most Eisenhower-like candidate — should be favored this November.

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