Feb 27 2012

Foreign Affairs Features The Case for Space

The current issue of Foreign Affairs (March/April, 2012) featues “The Case for Space” by astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. In 2004 he was appointed by President Bush to the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” Commission, so he is familiar with the range of arguments relevant to U.S. space exploration policy.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D. believes we should spend more time and money reaching for the stars.
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How Much is a New Planet Worth?
Tyson initially grabs our attention by asserting that a manned mission to Mars would “surely cost hundreds of billions of dollars — maybe even $ 1 trillion.” This is a surprising number since the whole 1960s Apollo Moon program cost ~$ 150 B in today’s dollars. To approach $ 1 T you would have to look at a multi-decade program of manned Mars missions, which is not currently in the cards. Zubrin has recently shown how we can fly to Mars by 2016 for far less than the Apollo program.

On the other hand, in 2009 I estimated — based on cost ratios of pre-Maslow MEPs to the major Maslow MEPs over the last 200 years — that the coming Maslow Window (expected by mid-decade) will feature a total MEP expenditure of between $ 1 and 3 T (current USD). But this could include a variety of projects such as manned Mars, lunar bases, and space-based solar power infrastructures.

Because of their large costs, importance to national prestige, and use of high technology, major space programs become political issues, and Tyson highlights what he sees as the end of “immunity to partisanship” of the space program after 2004 when the Shuttle Columbia was lost. It got worse when President Obama took office in 2009. Partly due to his space policies and other controversial issues, Obama is the most polarizing president on record according to Gallup; his rating of 68 (the difference between the percent of Democrats and Republicans who approve of his job performance) is the highest on record for a president’s 3rd year, as were his partisan gaps for his first and second years (65 and 68).

Tyson notes that in the end, Obama’s suggestions for manned Mars missions in the 2030s have not been taken seriously because

When a president promises something beyond his years in office, he is fundamentally unaccountable … The only thing guaranteed to happen on his (Obama’s) watch is the interruption of the United States’ access to space.

While Tyson’s focus on politics is understandable, it misses the real point: Economics is the fundamental problem.

Doesn’t anyone watch Animal Planet anymore?
The last time I checked, when the main waterhole is drying up, disputes become common and everyone tends to be edgy about everything.

The same is naturally happening with the economy today. Negative animal spirits call into question positive visions of the future like space.

Tyson naturally believes — and he is right — that a visionary U.S. space program is the solution to motivating youth and revitalizing the American education system, as well as stimulating innovation and the economy. And most importantly:

The United States will once again witness how space ambitions can shape the destiny of nations.

But he does not emphasize that the fundamental reason we have been trapped in Earth orbit for 40 years (since Apollo) is because of the lack of a JFK-style economic boom that created exuberance by increasing prosperity to virtually every group in society and dropping unemployment to nearly zero.

Two hundred years of macroeconomic and political patterns as well as current global trends suggest we’re on trajectory for the next 1960s-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology… to begin by mid-decade.

The political realignment that began in 2008 is continuing and will determine its exact timing.

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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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Feb 06 2011

Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration

PLEASE NOTE: This is my abstract for the 2011 International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2011) in Huntsville, AL at the Von Braun Center in May.

It provides a concise — rare for this blog!! — summary of the fundamental idea behind 21stCenturyWaves.com.

For my ISDC 2011 Presentation, including post-meeting comments, Click HERE.

Economic Booms and Apollo-style Exploration

Bruce Cordell
formerly General Dynamics Space Systems Division
http://21stCenturyWaves.com

No one has been to the Moon for almost 40 years. And despite the nearly 500 people from 38 countries who have ventured into Earth orbit since Apollo 17, this remains one of the most extraordinary facts of the Space Age.

At last year’s ISDC in Chicago, Freeman Dyson suggested that scientists who lead unmanned space projects can point to a long string of successes that span the solar system over the last 6 decades. However, Apollo-style initiatives are highly visible, risky endeavors with big price tags and significant geopolitical implications. As a result, even “40 years after Apollo we’re still stuck in LEO!”

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.

Another way to think of Maslow Windows is in a fractal context, in which the international technology/economic/geopolitical system becomes highly interactive and self-organizes toward a critical state every 5-6 decades. This appears to be both a necessary and sufficient condition for globally transformative programs like Apollo.

The Maslow Window concept is useful because it provides: 1) a framework for long-range planning and the development of specific forecast models, 2) a marketing theme – Apollo-style exploration is in the tradition of the great transformative explorations that can be traced back to Lewis and Clark, and 3) a morale boost because program timing is reliably based on multi-century macroeconomic patterns and current global trends.

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Jan 09 2011

Is the Moon a “Golden Oldie” or a “One Hit Wonder”?

Former NASA engineer Homer Hickam recently asked, “How about a Moon base?” (Wall Street Journal, 12/14/10).

In 1984, the great NASA Administrator during the first human missions to the Moon (1968-70), Tom Paine (left, w Pres. Nixon) said “The Moon will never motivate the American prople again.” Was he right? Is the Moon a One Hit Wonder?
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The author of Rocket Boys (1998) and Back to the Moon (1999), Hickam feels that currently, NASA is up to … “Not much.” Because last year Obama sent

Mr. Bolden, the ex-astronaut, to Capitol Hill with a plan to cancel every one of NASA’s astronaut-related programs.

Hickham likes the Moon for all the usual reasons.

It’s close, it’s loaded with resources, and we can get there with existing technology.

Why not build a 21st century Moon base …

like the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Station, and invite the world to join us.

We’ll give our technological prestige a sorely needed boost, and something else will also happen: New and wondrous products based on NASA requirements for metallurgy, composite materials, solar arrays, computers and batteries will boost our economy, just as the technologies of the Apollo mission did.

Oh by the way, it won’t cost “vast amounts of money.”

Can you feel it?
That’s what we call ebullience” — the key driver of great explorations like Apollo, and macro engineering projects (MEPs) like the Panama Canal.

And Mr. Hickham, not surprisingly, has identified himself as among the elite early ebullients in the world today. We call them “early ebullients” because they are anticipating a trend that will sweep the world around 2015 — based on macroeconomic data and global trends over the last 200+ years — much like Apollo captured global headlines in the 1960s.

As an ebullience junkie myself, I personally find Hickam’s enhtusiastic Moon base idea almost irresistible. It’s spirit reminds me of the 1990 plan of Lawrence Livermore National Lab, “The Great Exploration Plan for the Human Exploration Initiative,” by three sensational physicists: Rod Hyde, Yuki Ishikawa, and Lowell Wood.

Speed was essential; the whole permanent base would take less than a decade to create, with its first inflatable hab modules in place on the Moon by 1997.

You’ve got to love their ebullient theme (circa 1990): “We already have in hand what we need for the Great Exploration of the inner solar system.” And the controversial cost estimate was great too — only $ 11 B — that’s less than $ 20 B in 2009 USD, compared to about $ 150+ B (2009 USD) for the entire Apollo program.

So simple, inexpensive starter-homes on the Moon are possible today. But the real question is: Will the American people get as excited about it as Homer and I are — or was Tom Paine correct?

This is where the long-term, empirical approach of 21stCenturyWaves.com can provide unique insights.

How Maslow Windows Work
Over the last 200+ years Americans and many others have gone exploring whenever they could afford it. These transformative, great explorations — always accompanied by MEPs and sadly punctuated by a major war — have clustered exclusively around rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms, such as the Kennedy Boom in the 1960s.

During the major booms, affluence-induced ebullience catapults many to higher levels in the Maslow hierarchy. Their momentarily expanded worldviews — due to elevated Maslow states — make great explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. Trends associated with these “Maslow Windows” provide insights to our future.

The chronology of great explorations is as follows:
Late 18th/Early 19th Century Maslow Window: Lewis and Clark
Mid-19th Century Maslow Window: Dr. Livingstone (equatorial Africa)
Early 20th Century Maslow Window: N and S Polar Expeditions
1960s Maslow Window: Apollo Moon missions

It’s clear that great explorations of new, interesting geographical sites progress from more-to-less accessible regions, consistent with the technologies of the times. For example, President Theodore Roosevelt could not outfit Adm. Peary to explore the Moon, but he did encourage him to reach the North Pole. And John F. Kennedy chose to go to the Moon — rather than Mars — because he thought it would be a challenging, yet doable global demonstration of America’s technology and economic system.

Where Will the Next Great Exploration Be?
A reasonable forecast for the next great human exploration during the 2015 Maslow Window would be Mars colonization. No one’s ever been there and it’s the next accessible (beyond the Moon) new site of interest. Plus it’s the most Earth-like world.

But suppost Mars colonization does not begin after 2015? What then?

Over the last 200+ years each Maslow Window has featured a “great exploration.” If the 2015 Maslow Window doesn’t have one it would be the first time in over 200 years that’s happened.

What about the Moon? We know it has major commercial and scientific potential, but could the Moon again have the power to rivet the attention of the global public like Apollo, the polar expeditions, Dr. Livingstone, and Lewis and Clark did generations before? Will the public see the Moon as an Earth-style “golden oldie” (i.e., a pleasant memory) with real potential for more excitement, or a “one hit wonder.”

Does the Moon Have the Right Stuff?
As we saw above, over the last 200+ years the great explorations on Earth opened up spectacular new geographic vistas through a succession of quantum leaps from Lewis and Clark to (ultimately) the polar regions. And like the Earth, the Moon has many tantalizing surface locations awaiting intrepid human explorers.

But here are 3 reasons why the Moon may become a “one hit wonder” and prove Tom Paine’s forecast correct.
1) The Moon is subtle. The Moon is a small, airless, dry (at least on the surface!), impact crater-dominated world with a month-long day-night cycle. It’s omnipresent shades-of-gray color scheme completes its alien, repetitive presentation, at least to public eyes.
2) Space technology and the “Been there, done that” Syndrome. Since the 1960s the Moon has been studied in surprising detail with satellite technology, and we have a fair idea of what’s there — at least on and near the surface. So relative to pre-1960s Earth — when many regions were truly unknown — robotic and human exploration of the Moon has accelerated our understanding such that it may not provide another riveting, Apollo-style transformative milestone for public enjoyment.
3) Apollo 11 was a hit. During the 1960s Apollo program the Moon was a One Hit Wonder. Although the first humans on the Moon (Apollo 11) made a big splash globally — as did Apollo 13 because lives were threatened — subsequent Apollo landings featuring spectacular geologic sites were greeted by an increasingly distracted public.

On the other hand, here are 3 reasons why the Moon might again acquire the wonder and excitement required for a great human exploration.
1) Star Trek — The Next Generation. A new generation of young people, who are unaware of Dr. Paine and did not personally witness Apollo, are increasingly excited about exploring and developing the Moon.
2) ISS and Interspace:. Many of these folks are in countries (like China and India) with growing space programs and dynamic economies. International cooperation and competition — based on the International Space Station model — may focus attention on lunar exploration starting from an Antarctica-style base like that advocated by Hickham.
3) “Potential for cultural shock and social disorientation…”. According to Dr. Heywood Floyd at the American lunar base in Clavius (“2001: A Space Odyssey”, 1968), describing the alien monolith recently excavated on the Moon. Anything even remotely like this and you know the answer.
Click 2001’s Monolith on the Moon

The Tentative Bottom Line
Based on its questionable ability to motivate, Apollo-style the new Space Age, the Moon is probably a One Hit Wonder, although it will become much more than just a Golden Oldie (a pleasant memory). Indeed, the Moon is a scientific bonanza and has long-term potential for multiple MEPs supporting its future role as a major commercial, energy, and tourist center.

But barring some civilization-altering discovery on the Moon, the next great exploration will likely be in the Mars system.

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

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May 01 2010

Space: The Fractal Frontier — How Complexity Drives Exploration

Like a breath of fresh air, the science of self organized criticality has illuminated many disciplines, including astrophysics, biology, climate, economics, geopolitics, and others (see Turcotte & Rundle (2002) PNAS, “Self-organized criticality in the physical, biological, and social sciences.”)

What do Apollo and the new international Space Age have in common?
…Self organized criticality?

Click .

The brainchild of Danish physicist Per Bak (1948-2002) — “one of the most original people in science” — SOC is an emergent property of complex systems whereby they organize themselves into a critical state such that rapid changes, including catastrophes, can occur. You can see the famous “Bak sandpile” conceptual model of SOC in Aschwanden (2010) as well as in Bak (1996), How Nature Works.

The captivating assertion of social scientist and SOC enthusiast Gregory Brunk (2002) that,

Virtually all aggregate-level, monumental events are somehow ’caused’ by the process of self-organized criticality,

suggests that SOC may have played a major role in the Apollo program and other major MEPs over the last 200 years. This post is a brief sketch how that might work.

Apollo Was the Most Recent of the Great Explorations
Cordell (1996) described the extraordinary pulses of great human explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal), and major wars (e.g., WW I) that cluster together exclusively every 55 to 60 years, over the last 200 years. I speculated that the decade from 2015 to 2025 would have economic, technology, and geopolitical parallels with the spectacular Apollo 1960s, including a JFK/Camelot-style zeitgeist.

Cordell (2006) introduced the concept of a “Maslow Window,” triggered by rhythmic, twice-per-century economic booms. Affluence-induced ebullience propels many to higher states in the Maslow hierarchy, where their momentarily expanded worldviews make great explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. As ebullience decays — due to widespread perceptions of budget stresses, a war, etc. — the Maslow Window closes.

The Bottomline is: The realization that Apollo is the most recent in a rhythmic, 200-year long string of great human explorations starting with Lewis and Clark, potentially opens the door to Bak-style SOC.

Wars and the Evidence for Complexity
According to Bak, a complex system exhibits SOC only if it has some form of power-law scaling, called “fractal” by Mandelbrot (1963). Based on their size-frequency plots for wars, Roberts and Turcotte (1998) conclude that,

The results we have shown indicate that world order behaves as a self-organized critical system independent of the efforts made to control and stabilize interactions between people and countries; and wars, like forest fires, are SOC processes.

Although Roberts and Turcotte (1998) only had data up to 150,000 deaths per war, the fact that “medium-size” wars are almost pure SOC indicates that the major wars of Maslow Windows are also fractal, as suggested recently for World War I by Harvard historian Niall Ferguson.

Punctuated Equilibria and Exploration
In 1994, the National Academy of Sciences held a major colloquium in Irvine, CA on “Physics: The Opening to Complexity.”

In Bak’s conference paper, he considers SOC in the contexts of geology, biological evolution, and macroeconomics. For example, in economics each system consists of many “agents” that interact together,

such as producers, governments, thieves, and economists. These agents each make decisions optimizing their own idiosyncratic goals. The actions of one agent affect other agents. In biology, individual organisms … (or individual species) interact with one another. The actions of one organism affect the survivability, or fitness, of others. If one species changes by mutation to improve its own fitness, other species in the ecology are also affected.

Bak generalizes Stephen Jay Gould’s biological theory of “punctuated equilibrium” to all complex systems:

The system exhibits punctuated equilibrium behavior, where periods of stasis are interrupted by intermittant bursts of activity … They are intrinsic to the dynamics of biology, history, and economics … Large, catastrophic events occur as a consequence of the same dynamics that produces small, ordinary events … We believe that this punctuated equilibrium behavior, first noted by Gould and Eldredge (1977, 1993), is common to all complex dynamical systems.

The Bottomline is: The Apollo program — seen in the context of 200 years of great explorations — exhibits punctuated equilibrium behavior, an important step toward identifying it and the other MEPs as a SOC process.

Dynamics of SOC — The Gap Equation
Bak’s Gap Equation governs the system’s evolution from weak SOC to the fractal, self organized critical state.

The model is so general that it can also be thought of as a model for macroeconomics. The individual sites represent economic agents, and the random numbers f1 represent their “utility functions.” Agents modify their behavior to increase their wealth. The agents with lowest utility functions disappear and are replaced by others. This, in turn, affects other agents and changes their utility functions.

Bak’s quote above could apply just as well to agents of particular space projects modifying their behavior and vying for funding at NASA (or elsewhere) and/or Macro-Engineering Projects likewise seeking support of all types. Agents and projects with the “lowest utility functions” soon disappear (a Darwinian principle), no matter how big they are – just ask Constellation advocates!

The Bottomline is: This compatibility with Bak’s law indicates that space projects and MEPs are most likely governed by SOC. The Space Project/MEP System is most fractal just before and during a Maslow Window. As in Bak’s computer simulations, transitions into and out of the strong SOC state are abrupt just before (e.g., in 1901; in 1958) or just after the Maslow Windows (e.g., in 1914 and in 1970). While in the critical state, large changes (i.e., great explorations, MEPs, major wars) can occur in response to even a minor stimulus.

Predictability and SOC
The fractal nature of SOC inhibits long-term predictability of specific events during the critical state (i.e., during a Maslow Window). However, the last 200+ years show that, especially during the non-fractal decades between Maslow Windows, the long wave has been a reliable guide to the rhythmic, twice-per-century timing of Maslow Windows from Lewis and Clark through 1960s Apollo to the present. And other intriguing regularities are also observable.

For example, according to former UCLA geophysics professor Didier Sornette — who more recently founded the Financial Crisis Observatory in Zurich — in reference to the U.S. stock market, “It is possible to identify clear signatures of near-critical behavior many years before the crashes and use them to ‘‘predict’’ the date where the system will go critical …”

Bak also hints at predictability (by analogy with his sandpile model, he refers to major changes during the critical SOC state as “avalanches”):

During an avalanche, a great deal of rapid activity occurs in which species come and go at a fast pace. Nature “experiments” until it finds another “stable” ecology with high fitnesses. The Cambrian explosion 500 million years ago can be thought of as the grandmother of all such avalanches.

So what should we expect prior to a Maslow Window? What’s the analog for Nature looking for a more “stable” ecology while “species come and go” in a Darwinian sense? What signal should we see of “near-critical behavior many years before” the critical Maslow Window?

Two potential candidates have been identified that appear regularly over the last 200+ years:
1) Major financial panic/great recession combinations (e.g., Panic of 1893) that usually begin 6-8 years before a Maslow Window (including the Panic of 2008 and current great recession),
and
2) Moderate wars and/or dangerous confrontations (e.g., Cuban Missile Crisis) that are rapidly resolved and occur early in or just before Maslow Windows (including the current Iran crisis).

These precursors are consistent with both long wave patterns and self organized criticality, when our complex international economic system self-organizes into a critical state — characterized by Great Explorations, Macro-Engineering Projects, and major wars — that we call a Maslow Window.

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Dec 19 2009

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

Special thanks to Contributing Editor and psychologist Dr. Ken Meehan for helping me think more clearly about this discussion.  (This post is taken from a working paper soon to be submitted to a journal.)

Here at 21stCenturyWaves.com, “ebullience” is a technical term. 

It’s defined as a very positive, somewhat irrational — almost giddy — emotional state,  that’s usually due to widespread affluence during a 1960s-style major economic boom.  In response to affluence-induced ebullience, many people ascend the Maslow hierarchy where their expanded world views make Great Explorations and MEPs seem not just intriguing, but almost irresistible  —  hence the name “Maslow Window.”  

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 is 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

However,  even during these rhythmic,  twice-per-century waves of ebullience, some people remain stalled at lower Maslow levels and thus are empowered negatively; i.e., they sometimes trigger conflicts or even major wars (e.g., WW I) that can terminate Maslow Windows. 

SOCIETAL EBULLIENCE DRIVES MASLOW WINDOWS

It appears that ebullience has been the fundamental driving force behind the stunning exploration and engineering activities during Maslow Windows over the last 200 years, and ebullience appears to be similar to the “animal spirits” of behavioral economist John Maynard Keynes and the “irrational exhuberance” of Alan Greenspan.    Historically, widespread ebullience is usually short-lived because it is fundamentally a psychological phenomenon that often responds to feelings and perceptions — both positive or negative —  more than facts.

Societal ebullience is usually triggered by a major economic boom, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.  For example,  if benevolent extraterrestrials landed at the White House, this would probably trigger at least momentary global ebullience, regardless of our financial state.  Conversely, ebullience is often terminated by bad financial trends (such as the economic boom moving past its peak and declining), but the psychology of ebullience can be eroded by almost anything negative, such as a war or even unfriendly extraterrestrials landing at the White House.

However,  recently we’ve seen again that even the availability of large amounts of funds — e.g.,  the $ 787 B stimulus package — does not guarantee ebullience, as evidenced by negative attitudes and actions of the U.S. public (documented through surveys and opinion polls).  Even a small fraction of the stimulus money would enable the greatest human space program of all time, but it hasn’t happened yet because the public isn’t in the mood. They are simply not ebullient.

THE ECONOMICS OF EBULLIENCE

The issues are:  What specific economic factors trigger ebullience?  And can we create a numerical Ebullience Index composed of economic parameters that will allow us to track and analyze it?

 One possibility is that the public is responding to increases in GDP like those experienced before and during the 1960 Apollo Maslow Window; see plot below.

Figure 1 — The U.S. GDP (in B of 2000 USD) since 1950 shows the 1950s post-WW II boom and the major economic boom of the Apollo Maslow Window between 1961 and 1969.    CLICK   

It’s clear that rapid economic growth occurred until about 1961 when the economy went into even higher gear and produced the greatest economic boom up to that time.  But who really cares about GDP?  Undoubtedly economists and business forecasters do as well as some politicians, but nobody can spend GDP so it’s probably not triggering ebullience in typical American employees.

Better hints are found in Benjamin Friedman’s 2005 book, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. The Harvard professor suggests that sustained economic growth is important because these are times when typical workers feel like they are really getting ahead; i.e., their wages are increasing relative to inflation.

But common sense informs us that ebullience will not result from a comfortable increase in real wages if we’re worried about losing our jobs.  So healthy growth in real wages coupled with low unemployment rates may be related to the widespread feeling of ebullience in society.

THE EBULLIENCE RATIO AND THE 1960s APOLLO MASLOW WINDOW

As an experiment, let’s define the Ebullience Ratio (ER) as proportional to real wages divided by the rate of unemployment as percent of workforce.  Keep in mind this is an attempt to express widespread feelings of affluence-induced ebullience in terms of common economic parameters.  Annual values for the ER have been computed for the 1950s and 1960s Apollo Maslow Window; see plot below.

Figure 2 — The Ebullience Ratio from 1950 to 1974 peaks at 1969 (Apollo 11 Moon landing) and clearly displays the Apollo Maslow Window from about 1961 to 1969.  

CLICK   

As unemployment drops, the ER increases, and as unemployment approaches full employment, the ER dramatically increases,  reflecting the presence of a major economic boom during the 1960s Maslow Window (from about 1961 to 1969).  Short business cycles are seen in the 1950s ER data that are superimposed on pre-Maslow Window economic growth.  In 1958 the short business cycles subside as unemployment declines signaling the approach of the Maslow Window.  The highest ER is in 1969 and drops rapidly thereafter as the Maslow Window closes.

The consistency of both the economic (GDP) and ebullience (ER) trends — especially between 1961 and 1969 — suggests that the Apollo Maslow Window is well described by these parameters.

THE EBULLIENCE INDEX

As another experiment,  let’s define the Ebullience Index (EI) for an interval of time as the integral of the ER function (i.e., the fractional ER increase per year as a function of time) over the duration of the interval in question (e.g., the Maslow Window).   This synthesizes the annual rate of change of real wages divided by their rates of unemployment — the two things that matter most to a typical worker — into a single index for any Maslow Window.

Using ER values for the interval between 1961 and 1969, the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window has an Ebullience Index of 4.9.  This number is most meaningful in comparison with other Maslow Windows and/or intervals, so we’ll  look now at the economics and ebullience of the Peary/Panama Maslow WIndow.

WHAT  ABOUT THE EARLY 1900s PEARY/PANAMA MASLOW WINDOW?

It’s interesting to compare the 1960s Maslow Window ebullience values with those of the early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window, because Peary/Panama was preceded by the financial Panic of 1893 and the great recession of the 1890s (like our current panic/recession), while neither existed before the Apollo Window (although WW II did).

Figure 3 —  This U.S. GDP (B in 2000 USD) plot from 1890 to 1914 clearly shows the great 1890s recession that transitions into rapid growth, interrupted by two brief recessions, until 1913 when the Peary/Panama Maslow Window ends abruptly.
CLICK
  

Notice that GDP is flat during the 1890s great recession but perks up — signaling the onset of the Peary/Panama Maslow WIndow — after 1901.

Figure 4 — Ebullience Ratios from 1890 onward clearly convey the psychological dimensions of the 1890s great recession which began with the financial Panic of 1893, and the supersonic Maslow Window recovery beginning in 1898. 

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If you compare the 1960s ER trends (Fig. 2) with Fig. 4 you see that Maslow Windows preceded by a financial panic are quite different from those without. Athough GDP data (Fig. 3) suggest the economy was already humming again by 1896, the ER data (Fig. 4)  suggest the psychological impact of the 1890s great recession lingered until about 1898 when the Maslow Window opened.  Although ER peaks in 1906, historical events suggest the Window itself continued until 1913; WW I began in 1914.

Just to give you a little chronology here: Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency ran from 1901 to 1909; U.S. construction of the Panama Canal began in 1904 and was completed in 1914;  the international races to the poles culminated between 1909 (Peary first to N pole) and 1911 (Amundsen first to S. pole).

For  the first 8 years of the Peary/Panama Maslow Window — from 1898 to 1906 — the Ebullience Index is 13.9,  almost 3x the value (4.9) for the Apollo Window.  This supports my impression from reading historical accounts of the era (e.g., America 1908 by Jim Rasenberger) that the Peary/Panama Maslow Window was even more ebullient  — if that’s possible!! —  than the 1960s Apollo Moon decade.

The Peary/Panama Window apparently produced so much affluence and ebullience  that extraordinary exploration and engineering activities  — characteristic of populations at elevated Maslow states —  continued until 1913, well after the 1906 ER peak.  On the other hand, this may suggest our Ebullience Index may not include all psychologically relevant factors.

OUR CURRENT LACK OF EBULLIENCE AND THE COMING GLOBAL SPACE AGE

 Over the last 200 years, Maslow Windows tend to culminate every 55 or 60 years near peaks of the energy cycle; and open about 10 years earlier.  This led to my initial forecast (made in 1996) for another spectacular, 1960s-style Maslow Window  opening near 2015 and culminating by 2025.  Although wildcards can alter this nominal timing,  the economics of ebullience suggests our time is coming soon:  indeed, we appear to be only a few more years from the next Maslow Window.

In particular, the financial Panic of 2008 suggests that our current trajectory might be more similar to the Peary/Panama Maslow Window than the 1960s Apollo Window, which had no financial panic/great recession in the decade just preceding it. 

Figure 5 —  The U.S. GDP (B in 2000 USD) from 1985 to 2009 displays the Panic of 2008 and our current great recession in the 2 points on the right adge. 

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The recessions of 1990 and 2001 are seen by flattenings of the GDP curve, and the Panic of 2008 (next to the right edge) preceded the current great recession.  Note that the theoretical trough of the 56-year energy cycle is in 1997.

 Figure 6 — Ebullience Ratios from 1985 to 2009 show the Panic of 2008 and our current great recession, as well as a very interesting boom from 1991 to 2001. 

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 The dramatic collapse of ER starting in 2007  just preceded the Panic of 2008 and the great recession continuing to the present.  If you compare Figure 6 to Figure 4 you’ll see that our future could evolve something like the Peary/Panama Maslow Window — a rather exciting prospect once we recover from our current challenges.  We’ll return to this in a minute.

Notice the impressive economic boom in the center of  Figure 6, from 1991 to 2001; it’s the longest expansion in U.S. history.  Although it occurred at the long wave trough (1997), the 1990s boom has many basic economic characteristics of a Maslow Window  — duration of 10 years, rapid real GDP increase, and an amazingly large Ebullience Index of 5.3 (compared to Apollo’s 4.9 and Peary’s 13.9)  —  but, although plans for the International Space Station (to be completed in 2011) began in the early 1990s and construction began in 1998, the next major international thrust into space did not occur then.

The Apollo-size Ebullience Index of the great 1990s boom suggests this parameter, as defined above,  is incomplete.  To make a long story short: the answer is provided by the economics of the 1990s and the nature of ebullience.  To have widespread ebullience, large segments of the population must share in the boom’s affluence, but during the 1990s income inequality grew appreciably;  this continued a long trend that interestingly began in 1968 near the end of the Apollo Window.  Without going into the numbers here, merely inserting an income inequality factor (e.g., the Gini index) into the denominator of the Ebullience Ratio will significantly decrease the Ebullience Index of the 1990s boom and increase Apollo’s EI (when income inequality declined).

The bottomline is that the appearance of the Panic of 2008 was historically monumental.  It signaled that our future trajectory will be more like that of the early 20th century Peary/Panama Maslow Window and less like the 1950s.

This is both good news and bad news:

The Bad News is that the current great recession could last up to 5 years, like the 1890s great recession did (1893 to 1898; See Fig. 4).  Ebullience and a shorter recession will be favored by government policies that stimulate economic growth,  increase real wages, and reduce unemployment for most segments of society.

The Good News is that once we survive the recession, the future’s so bright we’ll all need shades!  The Peary/Panama Maslow Window had a measurable ebullience of nearly 3 times the Apollo Moon decade and suggests that  — if unabridged by wildcards —  global space-related investment between 2015 and 2025 should be at the $ 1 T to 3 T (2007 USD) level.  Empowering the 2015 Maslow Window with Peary/Panama-level ebullience points to  many of our fondest, unprecedented dreams like major space-based solar energy systems, international lunar commercialization, and even the first Mars colonists.

 

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Dec 13 2009

Are We Entering the “Superproject Void”?

The New York Times (11/29/09) thinks we are.  According to Louis Uchitelle,

Generation after generation, giant public works projects have altered the American landscape. The Erie Canal and the transcontinental railroad come to mind. So do massive urban sewer and sanitation systems, the Tennessee Valley Authority, rural electrification, the Hoover Dam, the Interstate System, the subway networks in San Francisco and Washington, the Big Dig in Boston … and the list abruptly stops.

For the first time in memory, the nation has no outsize public works project under way.

Actually, the Times’ Superproject data is supportive of  21stCenturyWaves.com’s  Maslow Window model and its relation to Macro-Engineering Projects (MEPs) over the last 200 years — including the early 19th century, near-MEP Erie Canal mentioned by the Times — as well as current MEPs and those anticipated during the 2015 Maslow Window.

1. The 1960s Apollo Maslow Window appears in public works spending data for the last 60 years.
The signature of the long economic wave is visible in the Times‘ graphic of public works spending as a percentage of GDP from the late 1940s to the present; Click HERE.

The rapid rise in spending during the 1960s was enabled by  the major economic boom that triggered the 1960s Maslow Window;  it slammed shut just before 1970 and was followed by a precipitous decline across the 1970s and beyond. Both mirrored the trends of the long wave at those times.  As Uchitelle points out, “the strongest periods of economic growth in America have generally coincided with big outlays for new public works and the transformations they bring once completed.”

The  post-WW II spending boom of the 1950s and late 1940s has not been replicated in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Instead, the Panic of 2008 and our current great recession appears to be following the pattern of the Panic of 1893 and the great 1890s recession, which, after 1899,  rapidly rebounded into one of the most ebullient decades in U.S. history:  the 1903-1913 Maslow Window.  It featured Theodore Roosevelt’s transformative Panama Canal and the spectacular international races to both the north and south poles.

2.  Over the last 200 years, MEPs tend to cluster in rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses.
In The Way MEPs Really Work,”  I adopted the definition of an MEP from Eugene Ferguson (1916-2004), a well-known professor of engineering and later history, and a founding member and former president (1977-78) of the Society for the History of Technology  According to Ferguson,

MEPs are: 1) at the state-of-the-art of technology for their time; 2) extremely expensive (at least $ 1 B,  in 2007 USD) 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 rhythmic, twice-per-century pulses of MEPs are visible in Cordell (1996).  Their association with Maslow Windows and regular timing suggests that the next flurry of Superprojects and MEPs will begin near 2015.  So, any “Superproject void” should be short-lived.

3. The Erie Canal was considered by Thomas Jefferson to be “a little short of madness.”

ErieCourtesy of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.

Uchitelle correctly identifies the Erie Canal as the key Superproject of early America, although I have been unable to convince myself that it is a true Ferguson-style MEP in the context of other MEPs of the last 200 years (e.g., the Panama Canal or Apollo Saturn V).

The Erie Canal is considered to be the greatest engineering marvel of its day and was often referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World.  Construction began in 1817 and it opened in 1825; the canal featured 18 aqueducts and 83 locks to accommodate the 568 foot rise from Albany to Buffalo.  It led to a population boom in western New York state, caused a drop in transportation costs by more than 90%, and opened up the western Great Lakes area to new settlers. In essence, the canal was a response to the pressures for westward expansion that had been ignited by the Great Exploration of Lewis and Clark earlier in the Maslow Window.

Jefferson’s “madness” quote referred to the canal’s cost: $ 7 M, courtesy of the New York state legislature; that’s about $ 0.1 B in 2007 USD, which is a little low for a true primary MEP. More impressive is its cost expressed as a fraction of GDP: 0.1 %.  That’s large and puts it in the same class as the Panama Canal (Apollo was 0.2 % of GDP); this is the best case for Erie being a Ferguson-style MEP.   However, despite the Erie Canal’s “engineering marvel” reputation, the project leaders were ebullient amateurs, not professional engineers because there were none in the U.S. at that time.  And its key technology advancements were limited to new, efficient techniques for removing tree stumps so the canal could be kept on schedule and within budget. 

The Erie Canal is definitely a Times-style Superproject, but not quite a Ferguson-style MEP.  I view it as transitional between the smaller, but still important, engineering projects of the late 18th century, and the more modern, true MEPs beginning in the mid-19th century Dr. Livingstone-Suez Canal Maslow Window.

4. Construction of the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge from 1932-37 did not end the Great Depression.
Uchitelle’s interest in the history of American superprojects relates to our recovery from the current great recession. 

President Obama has earmarked just $80 billion — a tenth of his stimulus package — for megaprojects, and put off most of that down payment until next year. His focus instead has been on spending hundreds of billions to quickly and visibly repair existing public works, especially highways, and also levees, dams and locks, particularly in the New Orleans area. That’s not a bad thing — those repairs are certainly needed — but it doesn’t create permanent wealth.

By the standards of the past, however, they are not the spectacular feats of engineering and ingenuity that greatly enhance the economy. The Erie Canal was just such a feat …

“Last year at this time we were debating whether we should be concentrating our spending on big projects that, in the long run, add to economic growth,” said John J. Wallis, an economic historian at the University of Maryland. “That debate never got resolved, and the stimulus bill we enacted in February ended up focused instead on quick spending.”

This is consistent with Harvard economics professor Robert Barro who finds that stimulus spending doesn’t work to stimulate the economy; “The available empirical evidence does not support the idea that spending multipliers typically exceed one, and thus spending stimulus programs will likely raise GDP by less than the increase in government spending,” (Wall Street Journal, 10/1/09)

The Golden Gate Bridge is a spectacular Northern California landmark that was built between 1932 and 1937 during the Great Depression  for $ 35 M; that’s about $ 530 M in 2007 USD.  As a fraction of GDP it’s 0.01%, much smaller than the Erie or Panama Canals, but still a sizeable amount of cash.

It’s significant that GGB was financed privately (without any significant expenditures of state or federal money), so it could have stimulated the economy, but in 1938 — almost a decade after the Crash of 1929 that triggered the Great Depression and 6 years after Franklin Roosevelt was elected — U.S. unemployment was still about 14%.  Well-known Keynesian economists George Akerloff and Robert Schiller believe that FDR and Hoover were ineffective. In fact, “Confidence — and the economy itself — was not restored until World War II completely changed the dominant story of people’s lives, transforming the economy,” (Animal Spirits; 2009).

5. Current MEPs, the Panic/Recession of 2008+, and our current recovery suggest that any “Superproject void” will be brief. 
Indeed, the 2015 Maslow Window — a Golden Age of Prosperity, Exploration, and Technology — should not be late, based on the last 200 years of financial panics and great recessions (e.g., the 1890s great recession) that commonly occur in the decade just prior to Maslow Windows.  Plus pre-Maslow Window secondary MEPs — like the Large Hadron Collider and the International Space Station — point to the on-time opening of the 2015 Maslow Window.

 

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Sep 17 2009

Japan's New Space Energy Initiative Supports Maslow Window Forecasts

Special Thanks to Contributing Editors Carol Lane and Anny Wong for information and advice on this topic.

Just before last week’s International Symposium on Solar Energy in Space (in Toronto), Japan announced their spectacular new $ 21 B space-based solar power initiative. According to Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics, the Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and IHI Corp. will lead a 15-company team that will build the first major solar power plant in space. Via microwaves, it will eventually beam enough energy back to Japan for nearly 300,000 houses.

Japan is betting that Space-Based Solar Power will make the future so bright, we’ll all need shades! Click sbsp.jpg.

Their giant, 1-gigawatt space power station will eventually have photovoltaic panels that span about 4 square kilometers. During the next few years, the team will focus on technology development for wireless transmission of electricity via microwaves. By 2015 — the anticipated opening of the next Maslow Window — JAXA plans to launch a satellite with solar panels and test the concept of power beaming into the atmosphere. “The government hopes to have the solar station fully operational in the 2030s.”

In both its timing and scale, Japan’s space-based solar power (SBSP) initiative is an impressive macro-engineering project (MEP) that practically screams, “The next Maslow Window is just around the corner!” Their project bespeaks the kind of extraordinary ebullience and technological vision that — over the last 200+ years — are rarely witnessed outside a Maslow Window.

It’s interesting to compare the timing of Japan’s new initiative with the energy-related forecasts of Stratfor’s George Friedman in The Next Hundred Years (2009). Friedman sees a bright future for SBSP, especially in the military realm:

The American obsession with space will intersect another intensifying problem: energy … NASA has been involved in research on space-based energy since the 1970s, in the form of space solar power … Vast numbers of photovoltaic cells … will be placed in geostationary orbit or on the surface of the Moon. The electricity will be converted to microwaves and transmitted to Earth …

And in the space-based energy project of the 2060s, it will become a feature of everyday life.

So Friedman sees gigawatt-level space-based solar power being developed in the 2060s — the decade just prior to the late 21st Century Maslow Window that theoretically opens near 2071. That’s certainly possible but it sounds a little pessimistic to me. I think it’s more likely that the growing global demand for clean energy, and our increasing experience with complex ISS-style operations in space, will drive SBSP development during the 2015 Maslow Window, as exemplified by Japan’s initiative.

My main concern with the timing of Japan’s Space Energy Initiative is it’s duration: It’s a 30 year program. Successfully executing any multi-decade, multi-billion USD space program is always dicey. This is because Maslow Windows rarely persist longer than a decade and the recent trend is toward shorter, not longer. Unless the inevitable early 1970s-style economic and social decline — i.e., the decay of ebullience — characteristic of the end of a Maslow Window is specifically included in program planning, the lesson of the last 200 years is that it will undermine the program. Just ask, for example, the astronauts chosen for the early 1970s Moon missions, Apollo 18 – 20. (They were canceled.)

In late 2007 the U.S. National Security Space Office (NSSO) released an enthusiastic report on Space-based solar power primarily in the context of strategic security. They conclude that Space-Based Solar Power…

is more technically executable than ever before and current technological vectors promise to further improve its viability…For the DoD specifically, beamed energy from space in quantities greater than 5 MW has the potential to be a disruptive game changer on the battlefield … there is enormous potential for energy security, economic development, advancement of general space-faring, improved environmental stewardship…for those nations (with SBSP).

According to NSSO, the issues for SBSP include Earth-to-orbit costs and the capability for large-scale operations in space, which will also challenge Japan’s space energy system. Since 1968, the U.S. has spent only $ 80 M on SBSP technology studies compared to, for example, about $ 21 B in fusion energy research since the 1950s.

Japan’s new space energy initiative provides a intriguing preview of the 2015 Maslow Window and the likely scale of its MEPs. Based on its timing and estimated cost, as well as technology development patterns near Maslow Windows over the last 200 years, I interpret Japan’s SBSP program as a secondary MEP that will develop during the 2015 Maslow Window. It’s similar in timing and relative scale with the Titanic ship, another secondary MEP (vs the primary MEP, the Panama Canal) that occurred during the Peary/Panama Maslow Window. Japan’s SBSP is also reminiscent of another secondary MEP — the Large Hadron Collider — except that LHC is a pre-Window project.

Given this framework, and using primary-to-secondary MEP cost ratios from previous Maslow Windows (back to the Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window) it’s possible to use the cost of Japan’s SBSP initiative to estimate the expense of the primary MEP (currently unknown in detail) for the 2015 Maslow Window. Cost ratios vary from 50 to 200 over the last 150 years, so a $21 B price tag for Japan’s project suggests primary MEP costs should range from $ 1 T to 4 T (current USD). This is similar to my earlier estimates from direct cost extrapolations into the 21st Century and cost ratios from other MEPs.

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Sep 02 2009

The Carnival of Space #118 and A New NASA?

21stCenturyWaves.com is again happily participating in the Carnival of Space #118.

This week the Carnival is at Cumbrian Sky. Thanks to Stuart Atkinson of Cumbrian Sky for his kind comments about 21stCenturyWaves.com.

Commercial Space, a Canadian blog, probes the fun topic of “NASA as the next General Motors…”

But his bottomline is really:

What will happen to NASA?

That’s easy to predict. NASA employees and their subcontractors will either develop new skills, associations and capabilities to survive or the organization will become irrelevant and either slowly die or be changed into something else useful but in a different (perhaps less inspiring) way.

This is important stuff.

NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was formed just after the Peary/Panama Maslow Window slammed shut, as an emergency measure during World War I. NACA’s assets were incorporated into the new NASA in 1957 as an emergency response to the surprise launch of Sputnik. In 2013, NASA will be 56 years old — one long wave in age — and it’s likely there will be another major transition in that timeframe.

The “new” NASA might be a product of an international Sputnik-like shock near 2013, involving a consortium of non-US countries which trigger another race to space (like Apollo). They might announce, for example, their plans to commercially develop the Moon, create solar power satelites, and/or colonize space. The post-2013, Sputnik-style NASA would be highly competitive, focused on deep space, and involve relatively few international partners. On the other hand, we might be fortunate enough to create a “Grand Alliance for Space” including all key global space powers. It would have dramatic, unprecedented goals in space and might resemble “Interspace.”

In any case, as Commercial Space suggests, NASA is likely to change dramatically in the next few years.

Next Big Future offers highlights of ambitious Russian hopes for manned missions to Mars — featuring joint missions with the United States. The Russians advocate a Mars-first strategy, leaving the Moon temporarily to the more space-challenged. Their “Interplanetary Expeditionary Complex” (IEC) includes a nuclear-powered space tug and a full interplanetary infrastructure.

The Russians see IEC as more of a prospectus than a realistic engineering plan, hoping to share the financial, technology, and human requirements with several international partners.

Perhaps the largest fantasy element is the timescale: Their manned space initiative would span 3 decades. Multi-decade space plans are unrealistic unless they take into account the history of Great Explorations and Macro-Engineering Projects (as well as major wars) over the last 200 years. Unless a major program is carefully coordinated with the opening of the 2015 Maslow Window it’s likely to lose momentum rapidly and fail.

Consistent with the conclusions above by Commercial Space, the Russian proposals — if taken seriously — would require major, near-term changes in NASA.

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Aug 23 2009

Kepler, Carl Sagan, and the Guzman Prize — Our Century-Long Search for Space Aliens

Special thanks to Dr. Sean for vectoring me toward this week’s Newsweek.

Newsweek this week (8/24 & 31/09) features “In Search of Aliens” on its cover and uses NASA’s new $ 600 M Kepler spacecraft as our most recent attempt. On March 6 Kepler became the first spacecraft ever launched whose mission is to directly detect Earth-like planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars.

This is huge.

Kepler’s mission is among the most important in the history of space science. Click kepler.gif.

Although early science results already exist — the HAT-P-7 light curves — Kepler’s monumental significance is not yet fully appreciated by the global community. However, it will grow in global esteem as we approach the 2015 Maslow Window because Kepler feeds directly into 2 of the basic rationales driving near-term space colonization: 1) detection and international exploration of Earth-like planets, and 2) discovery of extraterrestrial life, especially intelligent space aliens. And it motivates the third: Human settlement of the solar system and beyond.

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, the way we currently search for extrasolar Earthlike planets (including their possible residents!) is with Kepler. But by 2015 we’ll have an even more sophisticated and powerful tool: the Terrestrial Planet Finder!

Of course, our search for space aliens didn’t start with Kepler, it goes back at least to the late 19th century discovery of canali on Mars by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. And as we scan the last century it becomes apparent that the public’s interest in space aliens has been modulated by the long wave. During times of economic upswings (especially during Maslow Windows) there is great interest in detecting and communicating with space aliens, but as the long wave plummets toward its trough between Maslow Windows, the public becomes more negative toward them.

During the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, astronomer Frank Drake launched ebullient radio searches for messages from space aliens, and popularized the “Drake Equation” — familiar to every introductory astronomy student — that attempted to estimate N: the number of high-tech civilizations in our Galaxy.

Interest in Drake’s seminal work encouraged the development of extraordinary NASA concepts for advanced searches (Project Cyclops). Bernard Oliver’s favorite featured a phased array of one thousand, 100 – meter radio attennas covering an area 10 km in diameter! Now that’s 1960s ebullience! It’s scope was exceeded only by its pricetag: $ 6 to 10 B.

Toward the end of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, a directed beam from the Kelvans, Kelinda and Rojan, in the Andromeda Galaxy could have theoretically been detected by Cyclops. Click kelvans.jpg.
© 1968 Paramount Pictures

Of course Project Cyclops was never built because it broke a fundamental rule for Macro-Engineering Projects: Never propose a multi-billion dollar MEP toward the end of a Maslow Window. The last 3 Apollo missions had already been canceled, and as the Apollo program wound down, there was little political or public interest in another MEP — no matter how exciting — that cost 1/2 of Apollo.

One of the most ebullient scientists of the late 20th century and maybe the best science popularizer of all time, Carl Sagan was not one to avoid the infectious ebullience of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. In 1963 he wrote a scientific paper (Planetary and Space Science Vol. 11, May, 1963, pp. 485-498) asserting that space aliens could come here (and probably had already done so) in real interstellar spaceships and would be aided by relativisitic time dilation!

Although Cyclops became an early casualty of the collapsing Apollo Maslow Window, a much smaller version was eventually funded by NASA. Unfortunately, it was canceled by Congress in 1993 — a victim of the “Giggle Factor” as constituents began to ridicule the public-funded search for space aliens. This was only a few years before the long wave trough — an anti-ebullient time for sure.

During perhaps the most ebullient decade in US history — the Peary/Panama Maslow Window (1903-1913) — space alien fans had a field day. Lowell Observatory was founded to study Mars and its presumably modern, canal-based civilization. The Guzman Prize was offered to anyone who could prove contact with space aliens; But they couldn’t be from Mars because that was considered too easy! But that’s hardly surprising because the Wall Street Journal published an article in 1907 on “the proof by astronomical observations . . . that conscious, intelligent human life exists upon the planet Mars.” And some ebullient folks even suggested we should light huge fires at night to signal the Martians directly.

By contrast, during the Great Depression in 1938 — almost exactly one 56 year long wave before Congress canceled SETI — Orson Welles did his famous radio broadcast of the War of the Worlds, in which the Martians invaded New Jersey. It reportedly resulted in panic and mass hysteria.

Near long wave troughs we ridicule search attempts for space aliens (and cancel funding) or imagine the aliens actually attacking us; either way we’re pretty negative toward them. But as we approach Maslow Windows, such as the one in 2015, interest in space aliens picks up.

Just ask Newsweek.

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