May 19 2012

Tall Tales from the CTBUH Point to a New 1960s-Style Golden Age

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) in Chicago is the world’s arbiter of all things tall. They keep endless, ballistic statistics on tall buildings of all kinds, and make official, industry-recognized decisions about whose building is The One.

The 20 tallest buildings completed in 2011 point to a new 1960s-style “Golden Age” that’s just around the corner.
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For example, last month the CTBUH announced that the new One World Trade Center tower in New YorK City (at Ground Zero) might not become the tallest in the Western Hemisphere after all because the 408 foot antenna atop the building would not be enclosed in an architectural spire; according to the CTBUH, spires count, but antennas sans spires don’t (Wall Street Journal, C. Bialik, 5/12/12).

Indeed, such erigible esoterica is of considerable significance as we at 21stCenturyWaves.com continue our development of a global ebullience index.

This is because — over the last 200+ years — large Macro-Engineering Projects (e.g., Panama Canal) and Great Explorations (e.g., discovery of the N and S poles) appear to be triggered by large economic booms, but are fundamentally driven by “ebullience” (e.g., “Panama fever”, “pole mania”) — a somewhat irrational, but highly positive view of the future.

For example, In the 1960s Apollo program and Peace Corps of John F. Kennedy it was the ebullient feeling that we could do almost anything; in the early 20th century it was Theodore Roosevelt’s Panama fever and (north & south) pole mania; in the mid-19th century it was manifest destiny of James Polk and the central Africa adventures of Dr. Livingstone, I presume; and about 200 years ago it began auspiciously with Jefferson, Napoleon, and Lewis & Clark.

Earlier this year at the University of Southern California an internationally recognized architect confided to me that erecting tall buildings is usually more about egos than profits.

The CTBUH executive director agrees and the early abullience shown by Saudi plans for the first kilometer supertower — that bests the current tallest Burj Khalifa in Dubai by 500+ feet — and other recent extraordinay endeavors suggest we are indeed headed for a new 1960s-style “golden age”.

For example, in their annual review (for 2011) of tall building trends, the CTBUH noted:
1) 2011 continues the trend since 2007 that each successive year has more 200 meter+ buildings completed than ever before; this record-setting pace is now expected to continue even through the current great recession.

Looking to the future, it is now foreseeable – indeed likely – that the recent trend of an annual increase in building completions will continue for the next several years, perhaps even through the end of the decade. This represents a change in recent predictions. It had been expected that skyscraper completions would drop off very sharply after 2011, as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis and the large number of projects put on hold. Now however, due in large part to the continuing high activity of skyscraper design and construction in China, as well as the development of several relatively new markets, this global dip is no longer expected.

2) Global shifts in the locations of the top 100 buildings are significant. For example, Asia (with 46) is edging toward 50% of the all top 100 towers, and the Middle East increased by three, while Europe dropped to only one building in the top 100.

3) While China remains a dynamic market for 200 m+ buildings, its production declined from 33% in 2010 to only 26% in 2011, which indicates the market is diversifying. For example, Panama — site of one of the most ebullient MEPs in the world today: the Panama Canal Expansion Project — is enjoying a 200 m+ spurt:

Before 2008, no 200 m+ buildings existed in all of Panama. Then, between 2008 and 2010, three buildings opened. In 2011, Panama City completed ten 200 m+ skyscrapers, more than any other city and more than double the number of completions in all of North America. With these completions, there are now 12 such buildings in Panama, perhaps signaling a new day for the tall building in this region.

The CTBUH Summary for 2011 concludes by forecasting a decade-long surge in tall buildings around the globe.

With over 300 projects above the 200-meter mark currently under construction internationally, the tall building community is set to continue to develop at an incredible pace. As new markets continue to discover and develop the tall building, it is quite possible that this pace will continue through the end of this decade. Without a doubt, the skylines of the world will see tremendous change by the year 2020.

The tall building community sees beyond current global economic difficulties to a more ebullient 1960s-style “golden age” that will sparkle into the 2020s. It’s called the 2015 Maslow Window and will also feature the new international Space Age.

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May 07 2012

Sputnik-like Concerns About U.S. Education Linked to Economic Growth

Serious concerns about the quality of the U.S. education system continue to grow. Recently (Wall Street Journal, 5/1/12), former Secretary of State George Shultz and his colleague at the Hoover Institution, Eric Hanushek, have emphasized the need for K-12 reforms in the context of economic growth, income disparity, and global competitiveness.

Annual growth of GDP per capita from 1960 to 2000, is directly correlated with international math test scores.
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In the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries’ PISA rankings for 2009 the U.S. ranked only 31st in math — comparable to Portugal or Italy — while 16 other countries dwarfed the U.S. with twice as many “high achievers” per capita in math. Even the state of California — once a national leader in K-12 education — is now ranked behind 40 other states in math achievement, at about the level of Greece.

This kind of performance will condemn the U.S. to a “low-growth path,” and is consistent with record low SAT scores in reading and writing, China’s ascent to world leadership in math and science scores, and even the World Economic Forum ranking the U.S. 48th in quality of math and science education.
For example, click: State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011. (see #4).

These concerns are reminiscent of Sputnik-era anxieties about U.S. education and technology that triggered the first Space Age, and are harbingers of the approaching new Space Age, as I wrote in 2010:

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, legitimate public concerns about the state of education will skyrocket because of anxiety over America’s ability to compete with the rest of the world in space and technology. And it’s already begun.

Shultz and Hanushek suggest that if the U.S. adoped K-12 reforms that made it competitive with Canada — i.e., increasing its PISA scores by 40 points —

The improvement in GDP over the next 80 years would exceed a present value of $70 trillion. That’s equivalent to an average 20% boost in income for every U.S. worker each year over his or her entire career.

In their recent front-page Sputnik-style headline, the Wall Street Journal (4/26/12; D. Wessel, S. Banchero) suggests that an “Education Slowdown Threatens U.S.” Since Lewis and Clark, nearly each successive generation in America has had considerably more education than their parents — until now.

For example, when Babyboomers born in 1955 reached 30, they had almost 2 years more education than their parents, compared with the 30-year-olds born in 1980 who had only 8 months more. This has key implications for increased unemployment and lower wages which typically afflict less educated workers, as well as a lower general standard of living in the U.S.

Thirty years ago the U.S. led the world in young people (25-34) with at least 2 years of college. Since 2009, the U.S. has been superseded by 14 other developed countries. By the way, The Space Report 2012 indicates that China is currently the leader in production of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) university bachelor degrees, having doubled their production between 2002 and 2006.

Part of the reason for the decline in college education in the U.S. is rising tuition costs and large student debt, but the New York Times Sunday page one story (5/6/12; S. Greenhouse) also blames it on:

the worst job market in decades.

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Mar 12 2012

State of the Wave: The Geopolitics of a Moon Base

Ex-NASA executive Charles Miller’s recent (Wall Street Journal, 2/3/12) op-ed on returing to the Moon was particularly interesting for its explicit linkage to commercial space and national security.

In the short term — As I commented last year in Space News (6/29/11) — such front-burner aspects of a Moon program will be trumped by the slow economic recovery.

President Obama’s cancellation of Constellation — the U.S. program to return to the Moon by 2020 — was not a big surprise. It appears to be merely a speed bump on the road to near-term international commercial and scientific development of Earth-Moon space and even humans to Mars.

For more perspective on a Moon base, Click: Is the Moon a “Golden Oldie” or a “One Hit Wonder”?

In 1990, Lawrence Livermore scientists proposed an inflatable base on the Moon within a decade that would become self-sufficient, require only 60 tons of hardware transported to the Moon, and cost only ~ $ 11 B.
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Miller makes the Moon base cost-effective by reducing Earth launch costs by a factor of 10+ to $ 500 per pound and achieves this by focusing on development of a totally reusable spaceplane. The technology requirements remind Miller of the X-37, an unmanned Mach 25 resuable spacecraft that launches like a rocket and lands like an airplane similar to the Space Shuttle.

According to Miller, reusable spaceplanes are the key to commercial space.

The nation that builds the first true reusable spaceplane will be in a position to dominate the much broader commercial space industry … such as satellite servicing, tourism, and medical breakthroughs from zero-gravity research.

The X-37 began as a NASA project in 1999 but was transferred to DARPA in 2004 where it became a secret program. Recently the X-37B spaceplane celebrated one year in orbit although its mission is classfied as is its return date.

In 2010 Tom Burghardt (Space Daily; May 11) asserted that the X-37 will help achieve Air Force Space Command’s stated goal of “space dominance” that includes,

a johnny-on-the-spot weapons platform to take out the satellite assets of an enemy, or as a launch vehicle that can deliver bombs, missiles or kinetic weapons anywhere on earth in less than two hours.

Miller confirms that our critical strategic assets in space (e.g. comsats, surveillance satellites) are currently vulnerable to potential anti-satellite weapons being developed by China (successfully tested in 2007) and even North Korea and Iran, but that spaceplanes “will transform national security” by their ability to rapidly replace such orbiting assets, and thus reduce the incentive to attack them in the first place.

Traditionally, the Moon has been viewed as the most secure location for Earth surveillance, as expressed in 1984 by the famous physicist Edward Teller at the Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century Conference. (I also spoke at this event on importing water from the moons of Mars for use in the Earth-Moon system.)

Teller stated he would like to see an outpost on the Moon (~12 people) as soon as possible. As a “special proposal” he recommended that,

Surveillance of the Earth — permanent continuous surveillance that is hard to interfere with — is an extremely important question, important to us, important to the international community, important for peace-keeping … It is in everyone’s best interest to have observation stations that are not easy to interfere with.

Teller also suggested that in the name of global peace, Earth surveillance images obtained from Moon orbit should be made “universally available.”

More recently (1/6/12), Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt — the first scientist on the Moon — sees the current status of civilian space as a geopolitical crisis for America.

America’s eroding geopolitical stature, highlighted by the July 21, 2011, end to flights of the United States Space Shuttle, has reached crisis proportions. Obama Administration officials now spin the nebulous thought of Astronauts flying many months to an undetermined asteroid in 2025 as an actual “National Space Policy”. On the other hand, Republican candidates for President have not yet recognized the importance of international civil space competition in the federal government’s constitutional function to provide for the nation’s “common defence”. Candidates appear to be uninterested in having the United States lead deep space exploration, including establishing American settlements on the Moon …

Meanwhile, China is building a major new deep space launch facility in Hainan and developing new rockets and spacecraft to take over the exploration of the Moon from the United States and the free world.

Given the geopolitical significance of the Moon in the coming mid-decade Maslow Window, I have surveyed several friends in the military and NASA communities, and none claims knowledge of any studies of potential national security applications of a Moon base done over the last 10-15 years.

The closest I could come was a chilling Moon-related military scenario in George Friedman’s (Stratfor.com) book The Next Hundred Years (2009); he agrees with Teller’s opinion of the value of Earth surveillance from the Moon and suggests that, “Sustaining and defending a base on the Moon will actually be easier than doing the same for orbital systems.”

Although no specific references are provided, Friedman insists that:

These forecasts are based on real technology, reasonable extrapolations about future technology, and reasonable war planning.

In Friedman’s mid-21st century scenario, both Japan and Turkey — two key space powers by then — become understandably threatened by powerful U.S. command and control “battlestars” in Geostationary orbits that can very rapidly direct a variety of weapons — advanced versions of the X-37, lasers, hypersonic missiles — at any point on Earth or in space.

By this time many nations will have bases on the Moon, however Japan and Turkey build an underground base on the Moon’s farside where they secretly use lunar materials to develop, build, and launch missiles to attack the Battlestars in Earth orbit.

I won’t give away how the story ends here. However, it is unlikely that “secret” military activities could go unnoticed for long on the anti-Earth side of the Moon. For example, many astronomers have already chosen the Moon’s farside as the best location for a radio observatory in this part of the solar system.

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Mar 04 2012

Readers’ Favorite Posts — February, 2012

SPECIAL NOTE: Be sure to look for my new article in Ad Astra (Spring, 2012): “A New Apollo-Level Space Age.”

This is an updated end-of-February list of our readers’ favorite posts, based on the number of times each post was visited during the times indicated below.

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

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

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

Updated 3/1/2012

I. FEBRUARY — Readers’ Favorites

1) Are Stratfor’s “Generational Shifts” Like “Falling Grains of Sand”? — 2/13/12
2) Parallels Between Presidents Truman and Bush Provide Insights into the Future — 4/15/10
3) Phobos — The Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia and China! — 3/27/10
4) Long-Term Stock Trends Support Maslow Window Forecasts — 11/3/11
5) State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012 — 1/10/12

II. THE LAST 7 DAYS — Readers’ Favorites

1) Foreign Affairs Features the Case for Space — 2/27/12
2) The Moon is Not Enough…! — 11/22/08
3) Long-Term Stock Trends Suppport Maslow Window Forecasts — 11/3/11
4) The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space Age — 10/30/10
5) Parallels Between Presidents Truman and Bush Provide Insights into the Future — 4/15/10

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Feb 13 2012

Are Stratfor’s “Generational Shifts” like “Falling Grains of Sand”?

In their most interesting Annual Forecast for 2012, Stratfor.com has identified this year as a very special time that they call a “generational shift”:

There are periods when the international system undergoes radical shifts in a short time … We are in a similar cycle, one that began in 2008 and is still playing out.

In Les Miserables (1862), French novelist Victor Hugo asked, “How do we know that the creations of worlds are not determined by falling grains of sand?”
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Another way to think of Stratfor’s description is as a “critical state” in the international economic system that has been self-organizing for decades. As we approach the critical state small triggers can have rapid, often unexpected — even system-wide — effects.

Over the last 200+ years, critical states are intimately associated with the emergence of Maslow Windows — transformative, 1960s-style decades always featuring huge engineering projects like the Panama Canal, a great exploration like the Apollo Moon program, and a Camelot-style zeitgeist.

In his remarkable book — How Nature Works (1996) — former Brookhaven professor of physics Per Bak (1948-2002) imagined that the real world was analogous to a sand pile, created by dropping one grain of sand at a time. Initially and for some time, as grains began to pile up nothing much happens. But eventually the sand pile slopes become large and unstable — i.e., it reaches a self-organized “critical state.” Then one more tiny grain of sand could rapidly trigger an “avalanche” that might be small or medium in size, or large enough to change the whole sand pile.

Based on Stratfor’s observations and my analysis, it appears that the world is approaching a critical state today, which will feature Bak-style “avalanches”. The question is: How big will they be?

According to Stratfor, the current generational shift since 2008 features the following:

The European Union has stopped functioning as it did five years ago and has yet to see its new form defined. China has moved into a difficult social and economic phase, with the global recession severely affecting its export-oriented economy and its products increasingly uncompetitive due to inflation. The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq has created opportunities for an Iranian assertion of power that could change the balance of power in the region. The simultaneous shifts in Europe, China and the Middle East open the door to a new international framework …

During the world’s most recent critical state (in the 1960s), the Cuban Missile Crisis prsented an existential crisis for the U.S and U.S.S.R. that, fortunately, was rapidly resolved. In the language of self-organized criticality, a major nuclear exchange between the US and USSR in 1962 would have brutally terminated the 1960s critical state (i.e., leveled Bak’s sand pile) seven years before the first manned landing on the Moon actually occurred.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was not the first existential threat to the US during the approach to a critical state. Prior to 1803 when Jefferson finally secured the Louisiana Purchase, it was widely believed that Napoleon had his eye on a North American empire.

Stratfor observes that this generational shift is still associated with much uncertainty.

The 2012 forecast is unique in that it is not a forecast for one year in a succession of years, all basically framed by the same realities. Rather, it is a year in which the individual forecasts point to a new generational reality and a redefinition of how the world works.

Although potential conflicts involving countries like North Korea and Iran present very dangerous threats during the approaching critical state, the good news is that — over the last 200+ years — each critical state has triggered major economic booms and an ebullient population that have enabled monumental macro-engineering projects and great explorations like Apollo.

There’s every reason to expect this multi-century pattern will persist.

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Jan 10 2012

State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012

2011 featured continuing economic difficulties and the retirement of the Space Shuttle, and followed most of the trends identified here last January ( “State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011“) as well as the expected directions sketched almost two years ago for the coming decade (“DecaState of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020“).

2012 will be the “Year of Decision” especially in the U.S. as presidential and other major elections occur that will impact our trajectory toward prosperity, the impending Maslow Window, and the new international Space Age — all expected to begin emerging by mid-decade.

For a brief intro, see my recent Ad Astra article; Click: A New Apollo Level Space Age.

Here are 10 key Space-related Trends for 2012:

10. Phobos-Grunt Symbolized A Key Approach to Mars Exploration:
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission was to be the first sample return of Phobos material to Earth — a highly attractive Mars science and colonization strategy that was recommended by us at The Case for Mars III Conference — as well as to deliver the Chinese Mars orbiter Yinghuo-1 and the Planetary Society’s LIFE capsule. Sadly, Phobos-Grunt became stranded in low Earth orbit shortly after launch on November 9 and its launch window closed on November 21.

In Space News (9/2010) I had indicated that a Phobos-first approach is a “safe, inexpensive, and smart” strategy for Mars colonization and a successful Phobos-Grunt mission might tempt Russia and China to employ it jointly. Last January I concluded that:

Two key indicators to watch in 2011 are plans for an international Moon base and a successful Russian/Chinese Phobos-Grunt mission. They’re important because they point in different directions.

It’s interesting that less than 2 months after the loss of Phobos-Grunt, China announced its development of a “preliminary plan for a human lunar landing,” (see 9 below).

However, interest in Mars remains high, including the successful launch of NASA’s $ 2.5 B Mars Science Laboratory, the continuing success of ESA’s Mars Express, NRC’s identification of Mars Sample Return as highest priority, and continued advocacy for near-term human spaceflight to Phobos (Unified Space Vision) and Mars (The Mars Society).

9. China Ascends in Space and Global Power
On December 29, shortly after the loss of Phobos-Grunt, China released a white paper announcing its intention — within the next 5 years — to pursue preliminary planning for a human landing on the Moon. In addition to the continued development of their space station and enhancing their Long March series,

China will launch orbiters for lunar soft landing, roving and surveying to implement the second stage of lunar exploration. In the third stage, China will start to conduct sampling the moon’s surface matters and get those samples back to Earth.

China’s rise as a global power has accelerated. In its “New Military Strategy” report released last February, the Pentagon sees connections between China’s growing military and its aspirations in space and elsewhere,

We remain concerned about the extent and strategic intent of China’s military modernization, and its assertiveness in space, cyberspace, in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and the South China Sea.

Surprisingly, China’s economy may become its biggest challenge due to aging demographics, a difficult regulatory environment, and bad debt; Strafor predicts China will experience a Japan-like economic collapse by 2015.

China is well positioned to competitively encourage the U.S. to become a dynamic leader in deep space as we approach the next Maslow Window.

8. A Global “Critical State” Continues to Self-Organize and Points to the New International Space Age
Iran’s actions include war games in the Persian Gulf and threats to close the Strait of Hormuz if the U.S. returns its aircraft carrier (the USS John C. Stennis) to the Gulf. Recently the US Secretary of Defense reiterated that the US would not allow the Straits to be closed by Iran, and that attempts by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon will “get stopped.”

Iran’s provocations suggest irrationality. For example, most of the oil through the Strait goes to asian markets, not the U.S., although global oil price spikes might be the result of closure. Iran knows the US can use force to keep the Staits open if necessary, and also that covert operations have been utilized to delay their development of nukes. And speaking of irrationality, nuclear North Korea — who apparently shares its rocket technology with Iran — has previously threatened its neighbors and others with attacks. The recent loss of their long-time dictator has heightened tensions there.

So why all the turmoil — now? “Maslow Windows” — the rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses of great explorations, macro-engineering projects, and major wars — are actually brief critical states of the international economic system, achieved through decades of self organized criticality processes. And serious conflicts or wars are typical features of the years just before a Maslow Window or early in the Window itself.

The most recent example of such a pre- or early Maslow Window conflict was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (early in the Apollo Maslow Window;1958-69) which almost led to a major nuclear exchange. The Iran/Korea-style conflicts suggest a world rapidly approaching a 1960s-style “critical state” that is expected to trigger the next transformative Maslow Window — including the new international Apollo-level Space Age — by mid-decade.

7. NASA’s Kepler Discoveries Trigger A Copernican-level Expansion of Worldviews
One of the most important space programs of all time — NASA’s Kepler mission — is currently searching the skies for Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars, with considerable success. As of today its website lists 33 confirmed new planet discoveries, 2,326 planet candidates, and most importantly, the recent discovery of the first Earth-size planets orbiting a Sun-like star.

In what Berkeley astronomer and planet hunter Geoffrey Marcy calls “a benchmark moment in the history of science” (Wall Street Journal, 12/21/11), many people and some astronomers are naturally jumping on the Earth-like planet bandwagon. For example, following scientific meetings in 2009 at the Vatican on extraterrestrials, the prestigious UK Royal Society had 2 scientific meetings in 2010 to consider if extraterrestrials are here on Earth and how to properly greet them.

This current growth of interest in ETs and Earth-like planets is part of a multi-century trend that extends back to at least the 19th century and has presaged and figured prominently in each transformative Maslow Window since that time.

However, Howard A. Smith (Harvard Center for Astrophysics) recently concluded in American Scientist (July, 2011) that the Rare Earth Hypothesis remains viable:

“Despite the growing catalog of extrasolar planets, data so far do not alter estimates that we are effectively on our own.”

In December, UK astronomer John Gribbin published Alone in the Universe (2011) in which he traces the development of human intelligence and civilization from the Big Bang to now, and concludes that the odds of our development are so low that we are probably alone. He cites, as just one of a large number of unlikely events, the exceptional circumstances of the large impact that produced our Moon and yet did not destroy Earth’s spin or axial tilt.

This is a scientific debate of Copernican proportions that has major implications for the presence of ETs in our Galaxy and elsewhere, the importance of human civilization and space colonization, and theological perspectives. It’s intensity will grow as more Earth-size planets are discovered.

6. Apocalypse Not Now, but the Doomsday Story will “go nuts in 2012”

The UCLA magazine (1/2012) interviews Dr. Ed Krupp (Ph.D., UCLA, 1972), 35-year director of Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory and an authority on prehistoric and ancient astronomy. Given his research and professional background, he’s ideally qualified to comment on the end-of-days prophecies for 2012.

According to Dr. Krupp,

The great thing about astronomy is that you actually can predict some things. I can predict that (the doomsday story) is going to go nuts in 2012.

The pop culture fixation that when the Maya cycle of time ends on December 21, 2012 and the winter solstice Sun aligns with the center of the Milky Way – 27,000 light years away, by the way – that global havoc will ensue is “just totally untrue,” Krupp assures us.

Indeed, the Mexico Tourism Board expects more visitors in 2012 focused on the relevant Maya sites.

However, it’s important to realize that many people do not relate to space in terms of business plans, scientific advancements, technology development, national prestige, or even the excitement of discovery, but through the mystical world of astrologers and psychics. And because of the coincidental alignment of Maya end times with the approaching Maslow Window, it’s reasonable to expect that the magnitude of the public’s response – suggested by Dr. Krupp — will be intensified by the by the same “critical state” that is currently rippling into global business, geopolitics, science, and technology.

5. Slow U.S. Recovery Fits a 200-Year Pattern and Points to a JFK-style Boom by Mid-Decade
The financial Panic of 2008 and the subsequent great recession are classic precursors of the twice-per-century “critical state” over the last 200 years. While creating great hardship for many, the panic/great recession also signaled that the next JFK-style economic boom – not seen since the 1960s Maslow Window – is due by mid-decade (~2015), and would trigger the next transformative Maslow Window, featuring a new international Space Age.

That’s been the pattern over the last 200+ years, and explains why Apollo occurred during the 1960s and why we’ve been trapped in low Earth orbit for 40 years.

Stanford economist John B. Taylor (Wall Street Journal, 11/1/11) suggested recently that,

With a weak recovery – retarded by new health-care legislation and financial regulations, an exploding debt, and threats of higher taxes – the U.S. is in no position to lead as it has in the past.

Unfortunately this impacts U.S. leadership in space as well as in business, education, and technology.

Although previous pre-Maslow Window panic/great recessions have featured “double-dips” – and such concerns still exist today – the pace of the recovery will be strongly influenced by the elections of 2012 and the wildcards of Trend #1 below.

The eerie parallels between the economic and political trajectory of the 1890s – which led directly to one of the most ebullient booms in U.S. history and a transformative Maslow Window featuring the Panama Canal – and today, suggest that the prospects for prosperity will trump party affiliation or candidate identity for voter approval in 2012.

4. Solar Activity May Decline Significantly

The solar cycle may be going into a hiatus. This is highly unusual and unexpected, but the fact that three completely different views of the sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation,

according to Frank Hill of the National Solar Observatory last June. He was reporting the results of a 300-person meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The Sun’s erratic behavior is based on long-term observations of its missing east-west jet stream (discovered by Hill’s group 15 years ago), the Sun’s erratic corona, and the declining strength of sunspot magnetic fields. Indeed, a simple extrapolation of the sunspot data indicates sunspots could completely disappear by 2022 (an earlier, less conservative interpretation of the data suggested 2015).

Hill suggested that one possibility is a nearly spot-free condition like that observed between 1645 and 1715 known as the Maunder Minimum.

Due to increases in solar activity over the last few months, the Solar Physics group of NASA/MSFC updated their forecast this week for the next solar max (in February, 2013) to 96. This is still the smallest solar cycle in more than 80 years but about 50% greater than during the Dalton Minimum (1790-1820).

Both the Maunder and Dalton Minima are associated with significant coolings on Earth (The Little Ice Age; B. Fagan, 2000). and are active areas of research. Likewise, breakthrough research at CERN is illuminating the possible connections between solar activity, cosmic rays, cloud formation, and global climate change on Earth. These studies are important to radio communication, power grids, satellite longevity, human spaceflight, and major climate and economic events.

3. The Commercial Space Age Has Begun:

I wanted to create a spaceship where myself and my children could go into space, and our friends could go into space,

explains Virgin Galactic founder and CEO Richard Branson (Wall Street Journal, 12/17/11).

I think it just simply goes back to watching the moon landing on blurry black-and-white television when I was a teenager and thinking, one day I would go to the moon—and then realizing that governments are not interested in us individuals and creating products that enable us to go into space.

In October, Branson christened Spaceport America – “the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport” – near Las Cruces, NM, and despite delays, predicts his first commercial flight by next Christmas.

Msnbc.com (Leonard David, 1/3/12) predicts that 2012 will be “a pivotal year” for private spaceflight. According to Carissa Christensen, of the Tauri Group in Alexandria, VA, the commercial achievement in human spaceflight by companies like Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and Blue Origin made “the end of the Shuttle program (feel) as if we mourned the passing of the mainframe but overlooked the emergence of the PC.”

Author/engineer Homer Hickam (Wall Street Journal, 11/17/11) concludes that:

What’s a government for if it isn’t funding research and development to make new stuff so we can all make new money? Human spaceflight is in that category. If we’re looking for a way to stimulate our economy today and in the future, a new space race—not relying on the Russians—is a good place to start.

2. Is the U.S. approaching a 21st Century “Sputnik Moment”?
The first “Sputnik Moment” occurred in 1957 when – in the context of an intense Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and attempts to work together in the International Geophysical Year – the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite, without warning. It was called the “Shock of the Century.” Americans who had provided leadership during W. W. II and promoted international economic growth in the post-War world suddenly experienced a crisis of confidence in their educational system, their ability to compete in technology development and space, and even in their ability to guarantee national security. It seemed that the U.S. trend was down while others were headed up.

Something similar may be occurring today.

For example, the U.S. educational system seems to be in the middle of the pack in international tests of math, science, and reading. On tests given to 15-year-olds in 65 countries in 2009, Shanghai’s teenagers topped every other jurisdiction in all three subjects, and in 2011 SAT scores in reading and writing have set new lows. Many students are looking for inspiration.

NASA seems to be adrift. While visits to asteroids and possible human missions to Mars (in the 2030s) are discussed, there is no plan or financial roadmap.

The U.S. is experiencing a slow economic recovery and uncertain future in response to the financial Panic of 2008 and the subsequent great recession. There is the perception of a lack of leadership in Washington.

President Obama’s proposed “historic shift” in military strategy involves major cuts in the Army and would limit U.S. ability to endure long-term conflicts and project power around the world (Wall Street Journal, 1/6/12).

There seems to be an unusual number of tipping points or wildcards (See Trend #1 below) that could have a major impact on the U.S. in 2012 and beyond.

Highlighting our “Sputnik Moment,” Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. Senator Harrison H. Schmitt summarized it recently this way:

America’s eroding geopolitical stature, highlighted by the July 21, 2011, end to flights of the United States Space Shuttle, has reached crisis proportions. Obama Administration officials now spin the nebulous thought of Astronauts flying many months to an undetermined asteroid in 2025 as an actual “National Space Policy”. On the other hand, Republican candidates for President have not yet recognized the importance of international civil space competition in the federal government’s constitutional function to provide for the nation’s “common defense”. Candidates appear to be uninterested in having the United States lead deep space exploration, including establishing American settlements on the Moon…

Over the last 200+ years, at this stage of the recovery from a financial panic/great recession just prior to the next “critical state” and Maslow Window, a political realignment (such as the one that began in 2008 and is continuing) has typically put the U.S. back on the road to prosperity and geopolitical ascent.

1. Several Wildcards Could Dramatically Influence U.S. and Global Trends in 2012 and Beyond
There is a perception today of an unusual number of wildcards that have the potential to dramatically influence current economic, geopolitical, and political realities. This is typical of the unusually dynamic and highly interactive environment seen during previous “critical states.”

For example, during a brief period of President Kennedy’s administration in the early 1960s, the tipping points included: the first human in space (Gargarin), the first American in space (Shepard), the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, the beginning of the Peace Corps, JFK’s “To the Moon” speech, and JFK’s offer to the Soviets to go to the Moon jointly.

Here are just a few well-known wildcards – and potential tipping points — that face the U.S. and the world in 2012:

a. A major recession in the Eurozone could trigger a global depression.
b. The threat of nuclear weapons could trigger a war with Iran.
c. The threat of oil flow disruptions in the Gulf might trigger a price spike and a recession.
d. The constitutionality of Obamacare will be decided in the Supreme Court.
e. As we approach solar max in early 2013, a major solar flare produces blackouts and other EMP-related effects on Earth, resulting in economic stress.

After a list like this it’s comforting to contemplate the good news: Over the last 200+ years – that included the Great Depression, several financial panics and great recessions, the Civil War, and two world wars — no Critical State/Maslow Window renaissance has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way.

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Jan 01 2012

Happy New Year and The Top 10 for 2011

Happy New Year!

PLEASE NOTE: This year’s “State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2012” will be appearing very soon! (See #9 below for 2011 trends.)

Also, be sure to catch Bruce on The Space Show on Tuesday, January 10, 2012.

Here is the Top 10 for 2011:
This is a special updated New Year’s edition of our readers’ favorite posts, based on the number of times each post was visited during 2011.

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

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

Updated 1/1/2012

THE LAST 365 DAYS (2011) — Readers’ Favorites

1) 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space — 5/18/09
2) The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space Age — 10/30/10
3) The Moon is Not Enough…! — 11/22/08
4) Phobos: The Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia and China! — 3/27/10
5) Kepler, Watson, and Gott Point to the Rare Earth Hypothesis — 3/20/11
6) Happy Fourth of July — Independence Day! — …and Readers’ Favorite Posts — June, 2010 — 7/4/10
7) AIAA — Analyst Predicts New Space Age Coming Soon — 6/30/11
8 ) State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom — 8/29/10
9) State of the Wave: 10 Space Trends for 2011 — 1/23/11
10) Standard Chartered Bank’s “New Super-Cycle” Points to the New Apollo-Style Space Age — 3/5/11

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May 17 2011

The Klaatu Effect Signals an Accelerating Cultural Focus on Space

Recently, the Wall Street Journal (5/6/11; J. Hookway) featured a grabby, partly tongue-in-cheek page 1 piece about strange events in Asia. “Alien Signtings Go Into Hyperdrive” — this time in Thailand — reminded me of the Klaatu Effect.

In the 1950s traffic was so bad in Washington that not even an interstellar spacecraft could find a place to park. Apparently, now the problem’s spread to Asia.
Click

According to the Mutual UFO Network in Colorado,

Since the slump in the Western banking system in 2008, UFO sightings among Asia’s fast-growing economies have accelerated. Suspicious UFOs have shut down airports in China, buzzed resorts in Borneo and lti up the night sky in Myanmar.

However, the action in Thailand is strangely familiar. For example, dozens of UFO enthusiasts — e.g., medical students, interior decorators, others — routinely camp out at their own personal “Stargate” to experience UFOs and their effects. One participant explains that,

When we meditate we can understand what they’re trying to tell us — we feel it through our bodies and we understand.

An American medical doctor in Thailand says he had his first UFO encounter in 1996 on the phone with an alien from Mars. The ET said “not to worry about the phone bill.” Now he sees them all the time.

They warn of natural disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami or political upheavals …

Other UFO investigators in Thailand believe they communicate with UFO aliens telepathically, and one army sergeant claims to have channeled ETs.

Then an alien voice spoke to us through the sergeant and told us he was there to help human beings reach the next level of development.

This is a replay of a UFO-related subculture that developed in the U.S. and elsewhere during the 1950s and 1960s, before and during the Apollo Maslow Window. Although seemingly with loose screws and easily dismissed, you can read about their cultural impact in computer scientist Jacques Vallee’s intriguing book, Messengers of Deception.

It suggests we may be approaching an affluent, ebullient time with a cultural focus on space, not seen since the 1960s.

In the 1950s, the medical doctor above would have been called a “contactee.” Alleged telepathic communications and warnings of threatening natural and political events were common. From 1953 until 1973, the famous contactee George Van Tassel, who was reportedly a flight test engineer for Howard Hughes, organized large, public UFO conventions — featuring all of the above — in the Southern California desert at Giant Rock (near Landers, CA).

During the early 1960s UFOs became so respectable that one contactee, Gabriel Green, ran for the U.S. Senate from California and received 171,000 votes in the primaries (M. Sachs, The UFO Encyclopedia, 1980).

About 5 years ago while casually perusing the UFOCAT (Center for UFO Studies), a computerized list of UFO sightings from 1946 to 2000, I noticed that UFO sightings were reported worldwide, including Europe, the UK, and North America. Athough they were plentiful from 1947 through the 1950s and 1960s, they petered out after 1973. The timing is coincident with the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window and the preceding decade.

Assuming the UFOCAT was accurate and complete, I still didn’t know if people were actually seeing more UFOs before 1973 than after, or if media reports were artificially stimulating the phenomenon. But I unofficially started calling this the “Klaatu Effect,” after the magnificent space alien in the original movie, The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951).

The current Klaatu Effect involves more than Bay Area-style UFO enthusiasts in Asia. For example, Dr. Lynne Kitei, a well-known physician and educator, discussed UFOs recently on Fox News Channel. She’s played a major role drawing attention to the extraordinary Phoenix Lights UFO sightings of March, 1997. They have been compared to one of the most intriguing mass witness UFO events ever: the Washington National Airport UFO sightings of 1952, when reportedly several UFOs flew in formation over the White House on consecutive weekends.

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May 15 2011

Celebrating 3 Years of 21stCenturyWaves.com at ISDC 2011 in Huntsville

This week we’re celebrating our 3rd exciting year of exploring the future of space, technology, and education at 21stCenturyWaves.com!

I’d like to thank Rachel Nishimura, who is the co-founder of 21stCenturyWaves.com, for making it possible, and all the Contributing Editors who have provided invaluable advice and information over the last 3 years, as well as new colleagues who help this quest continue to grow.

Most of all I’d like to thank the readers of 21stCenturyWaves.com from around the world who’ve visited this site for a glimpse of the future. Please come back often because long-term indicators and current global trends show we’re accelerating toward a 1960’s-style transformative decade — including a new international Space Age — by 2015. And 21stCenturyWaves.com is just getting started.

This week I’m celebrating 3 years of 21stCenturyWaves.com by speaking at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2011) at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL. In “Economic Booms and Apollo-Style Exploration” we’ll see how rhythmic, twice-per-century 1960s-style decades over the last 200+ years culminated in humans on the Moon and point to a spectacular future…

The history of the last 200+ years – back to Lewis and Clark — shows that Apollo-style explorations and macro engineering projects emerge only during brief, twice-per-century intervals called “Maslow Windows”. They are exclusively associated with major economic booms (e.g., the 1960s Kennedy boom) and appear to be fundamentally driven by long-term business and generational cycles. During the booms, affluence-induced ebullience catapults many in society to elevated states in Maslow’s hierarchy where great explorations seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible.

For your enjoyment, here are…
The Top 10 Readers’ Favorite Posts During Our 3rd Year:

1) The Moon is Not Enough…! — 11/22/08
2) 10 Lessons the Panama Canal Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space — 5/18/09
3) Phobos: The Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia and China! — 3/27/10
4) State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom — 8/29/10
5) The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space Age — 10/30/10
6) A Major Economic Boom By 2015? … The Lessons of Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Obama — 7/31/10
7) State of the Wave: Why No One’s Been to the Moon in 40 Years — How Soon We’ll Go Again — 7/11/10
8 ) Kepler, Watson, and Gott Point to the Rare Earth Hypothesis — 3/20/11
9) China Surges to #2 and Contemplates More Freedom: The Implications for Space — 8/21/10
10) Space: The Fractal Frontier — How Complexity Drives Exploration — 5/1/10

Here are a couple of Honorable Mentions…

Standard Chartered Bank’s “New Super-Cycle” Points to the New Apollo-Style Space Age — 3/5/11

State of the Wave: The Maslow Window — A Brief Intro — 4/02/11

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Apr 02 2011

State of the Wave: The Maslow Window — A Brief Intro

This is a brief introduction to the Maslow Window model that forecasts another transformative, 1960s-style “golden age” to begin by 2015. (Just click on the titles below.) Keep in mind that on the Blogroll, posts are archived according to Category, publishing date, and keywords.

Future updates of this post will be archived as a Page. Click HERE.

What follows is NOT a complete list of relevant posts, merely a few key ones to get you started.

Introduction
A good place to start is The Concept page.

Economic Growth — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration: How Soon the 40-Year Moon Hiatus Will End

Joseph Friedlander’s view of Maslow Windows at NextBigFuture.com

Trends and Forecasts
State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011

DecaState of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for the Decade 2010-2020

Ebullience and Animal Spirits are the Drivers
Are Great Explorations Driven by Keynesian “Animal Spirits” on Steroids?

The Economics of Ebullience Points to a Sparkling New Global Space Age

Is Booming Antarctic Tourism a Prelude to Earth Orbit and the Moon?

State of the Wave: Why No One’s Been to the Moon in 40 years — How Soon We’ll Go Again

Economic Growth is the Trigger
Economic Crisis Supports Maslow Window Forecasts

200 Years of GDP Trends Support a Near-Term, New Space Age

Standard Chartered Bank’s “New Super-Cycle” Points to the New Apollo-Style Space Age

Prosperity: A Technological and a Moral Imperative

The Coming Great Boom
State of the Wave — The Recession and the Next Race to Space

State of the Wave: Today’s Gloom & Doom, and the 2015 Boom

Stratfor’s George Friedman Likes Space-Based Solar Power in “The Next Decade”

“The Greatest Era in the History of Mankind”

Sketches of Each Maslow Window
1960s Apollo Maslow Window…
“The Liberal Hour” Supports Maslow Window Model and Points to the Approaching Greatest Boom in History

The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window was “Transformative”

Early 20th Century Maslow Window…
10 Lessons Peary & Amundsen Teach Us About the Human Future in Space

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

Mid-19th Century Maslow Window…
10 Lessons Dr. Livingstone (“…I presume?”) Teaches Us About the Human Future in Space

How the West Was Won — The Expansionist Effects of Ebullience

Early 19th Century Maslow Window…
10 Lessons Lewis & Clark Teach Us About the Human Future in Space

Maslow Windows as a “Critical State”
Why Humans Became #1 and How Technology and Sex Lead to Unprecedented Prosperity

Niall Ferguson — On the Edge of Chaos, Immersed in the Long Wave

Space: The Fractal Frontier — How Complexity Drives Exploration

Political Waves — Past and Present
How President Obama is Creating the New Space Age

A Major Economic Boom by 2015? … The Lessons of Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Obama

Historic, Wave Election Supports 21stCenturyWaves.com Forecasts

Key Space Policy Issues
Is the Moon a “Golden Oldie” or a “One Hit Wonder”?

The Shocking Truth About the Father of the Space Station

The Allure of Moving to Mars Points to the New Space age

Commercialization of the Moon — How Soon and Who?

“A United, Global Effort for Long-Term Human Space Exploration?” — Why Not?

Precursors Point to the New Space Age

China’s Recent Educational Quantum Leap Triggers a “Sputnik Moment”

The Cold War-style Arms Race in Asia and the New Space Age

Facebook-Aided Arab Uprisings & Their Historical Parallels Signal a Transformative Future

Korea, Iran, and the Venezuela Missile Crisis: Self-Organizing Toward a Critical State?

China Surges to #2 and Contemplates More Freedom: The Implications for Space

Xunantunich and the Large Hadron Collider Support Maslow Window Forecasts

State of the Wave: ETs Surge to Center Stage

Wildcards
Phobos, Key to the Cosmos? Just Ask Russia, China

Major Wars Threaten Future Space Initiatives

Asteroid Threats — Rusty’s Call for A Global Response

One More Thought…
In the powerfully ebullient environment of the 2015 Maslow Window — not seen since the 1960s Moon Race, the early 20th century “Panama-fever” (of the Canal) and “Pole-Mania” (of the N & S polar explorers), the mid-19th century “Manifest Destiny” of the U.S., and the seminal exploits of Lewis and Clark over 200 years ago — almost anything is possible.

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