WANTED: A New Band of Brothers

Posted October 28, 2011 by XiNeutrino
Categories: Humankind and Exploration, World

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Original photo of Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic Explorer Team.

Yes, wars create bands of brothers who often act as one and who always have each others “back.” The new band of brothers would grow together not from war, but from the incredible bond created by exploratory expeditions.  We know this too because our global history testifies to those many challenging, exciting, and sometimes deadly human probes into the unknown. In the majority of cases, it was a “band of brothers” involved in those explorations. To this very day, we continue to remember and honor their heroic efforts to explore, discover and then explain to us all the many wonders of our Earth and all that surrounds it.

Right now, we have a clear and active example of the band of brothers we are envisioning here. That example is the International Space Station. Participation in the ISS program has included astronauts from 5 countries and also includes shared launch support of both spacecraft and launch facilities. In the new band of brothers concept this shared support would increase in both the number of participating nations and in the services provided. China would be one of the new member nations along with Brazil, the ESA space familyIndia, Japan,  SouthAfrica, Russia, and the UK .

Successfully achieving this impressive band of space brothers will require some significant shifts in national policies regarding space exploration. The old competitive spirit that existed in the earliest days of space exploration would need to mellow out and instead redirect that zest in support of this new international alliance. In fact we can easily envision a formal organization known as the International Alliance for Space Exploration (IASE). We also envision the first joint space program of the IASE to be the establishment of a Lunar Research Base; more realistically known as the IASE SpaceStation. This exploration concept would enable many of the IASE members to participate in Lunar research that would otherwise be beyond their overall financial and sci-tech capabilities. This is exactly as it should be and as such insures the widest possible global dispersal of Lunar research results and benefits. At last, human space exploration is no longer reserved for just a few, but actually is the  international sharing of  space exploration goals and accomplishments.

Luna as the next International Space Station: Yes, returning to the Moon has been and remains a heavily debated mission. Many space enthusiasts see returning to the Moon as a step backwards or a kind of side step. Others, including the first human to stand on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, call for a return to the Moon as both a continuation of a mission that was never allowed to finish and as a vital preparatory step for future explorations. Supporters of a return to the Moon, that include both Russia and China, envision not just another set of short visits, but instead the establishment of a long term, perhaps permanent,  Lunar Research Base. We need to avoid a politically motivated space race, which as we have learned collapses as the politicians and public lose interest. The only way this is avoided is if we truly create the IASE. When this happens, we eliminate some of the political frenzy and on again off again publicity that controlled our earlier efforts.  Yes, it can become boring for many, but they awaken again each time there are new discoveries and accomplishments. IASE needs to be driven by program goals not political and public cheers or yawns.

Who will be the leader of the band? Russia and the United States have the greatest human spaceflight experience, and should definitely hold key positions, but as we have done with the ISS, leadership of the IASE should rotate and this again keeps involvement interest high and makes sure that many good ideas from smaller or less prominent members are presented, considered and implemented. One of the most important aspects of IASE is it lays the groundwork for commercial activities on Luna after there have been successful investigations by the IASE teams. This insures that we have exploration without desecration.

The video below clearly illustrates the unique values and public support of the ISS astro-brotherhood and its significant “first step” toward the IASE concept. As you watch please look at all images including the people who are reaching out to the astronauts right up to the launch site. We had this here for awhile in America, but  are losing it again as the shuttle program fades from our memories. IASE will not fade, because as boring as some of it may be, it moves forward and produces an array of new discoveries that will benefit us all. Can we do it? Will we do it? United we can and will with an enduring new band of international brothers.


Exploring The Digital Classroom

Posted September 29, 2011 by XiNeutrino
Categories: Culture, Education, Humankind and Exploration, Imagination, Technology

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Digitizing the classroom, especially, in elementary education is on its way to becoming a standard. It is possible that youngsters intent on their laptops and digital subject-matter will rarely interact with their teacher or with each other. How good is this, and how bad could it be? A former New York city schools chancellor and education professor, Rudy Crew, states that. “the best of technology is never proxy for the best of instruction.”   Similarly, in an elementary school in Arizona that has a digital classroom curriculum, records show that although digital learning is exciting, test scores are not reflecting the same level of exciting progress.

Good, Bad or Indifferent: Considering the above, both many parents and teachers have reservations about the efficacy of a totally digital curriculum. As professor Crew exclaims the absence of direct personal instruction by a teacher cannot be as effective as parents should expect in their children’s education. So is technology-based education leading our future in the wrong direction?

A direct yes or no answer would be misleading in either case. The ideal, of course, is a mix of direct teacher instruction and computer instruction/exercises.  There is incredible potential in digital programs that can expand on a teacher’s efforts and increase individual student participation in the learning process. The key is an integrated curriculum that applies the very best of both methodologies. Let’s examine how that might be accomplished.

Curriculum Breakthroughs: The ideal mix will require a great deal of planning, teacher training and orientation, programming magic, and full-scale administrative and school board support. Most importantly, it is essential to understand that the digital classroom is not just the simple act of placing a laptop at the desk of every student. The teacher then is relied upon to bridge the gap between standard instructional methods and the new technology. This will spell F A I L.  Here are five key milestones that must be fully accomplished before a successful digital classroom enhances the education process.

  1. Teacher Readiness: This is a process of blending technology and curriculum with new presentation methods that link the teacher’s personal instruction with digitized course material. Separating the two will defeat all of the potential benefits of a digital classroom. System programming is a vital element of this process. The desired interactive instruction just won’t happen without an effective and efficient technology linkage that binds program, teacher and student into a fully interactive learning relationship.
  2. Student Readiness: Today’s youngsters are born almost computer literate. They take to the digital quickly and with great skill. With this realization, preparation of students for the digital classroom should start at the very beginning of their school experience – kindergarten. At this start-up level it is just introductory, but strictly within the context they will experience when they enter the digital classroom. This exposure increases in each successive grade with the student participating fully in a digital learning environment by the third grade.  Are we ready for this? Not right now, but adopting this concept insures that digital learning gets fully integrated into the curriculum and quickly loses its uniqueness. This latter phasing out of the “oooh ahhh” effect is vital to achieving full implementation of the technology into the curriculum.
  3. Programming Innovations: Some of the most creative people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing are computer programmers. Their ability to envision topic areas and then convert them to attractive, compelling digital presentations is a powerful combination of art and science. This is exactly what must be the pattern for digital learning systems in a school classroom setting. As stated above in the item on Teacher Readiness there must be a direct and essentially unnoticeable linkage between whats on the computer screen and what is being presented by the teacher. They must be mutually supportive. This will be a huge creative challenge for the programmers, but that is also a guarantee of some absolutely innovative programs. These efforts are expected to produce breakthrough technology in this new instructional methodology.
  4. Curriculum Development: Reading, writing and arithmetic are still essential regardless of the method of presentation. Additionally, presentations on the arts, history, and broader areas of science are also vital, especially in today’s high sci-tech society. Cramming all of this into an elementary school program is very demanding. Digital instruction directly linked to teacher presentations can better facilitate these efforts and also more vividly present the information to students. The key requirement is for the entire educational system to work with teachers and programmers to produce well integrated material. Patchwork, quick digital presentations will be forgotten two seconds after the laptop is shut down.  What you want is the youngster to go home and excitedly exclaim, “you know what we learned today?” This incident is very rare right now. In most cases parents have to pry from the youngster what was learned today, and some parents are too busy or stressed to do that.
  5. Bring In The Parents: There is nothing new here. Parent involvement remains an essential that is an extreme variable from a reality standpoint. There are a host of reasons or excuses for limited to poor parent involvement in the entire educational process of their children. Where there is direct involvement the overall benefit to the school, the teachers, the students and, most importantly, the parents is awesome. It moves the entire system smoothly forward. With digital learning, it must be stressed that the computer does not replace parent involvement with the school or at home. In fact, it should increase that involvement with a host of specific rewards for the parents. Parent-child interactive homework on a laptop can be structured so that the parent’s participation is recorded, acknowledged and rewarded. A unique bond begins to be created that reaches all the way back into the classroom. Now there can be an open dialog, almost daily, between parent and child on school lessons. It could even evolve into an exclamation by both parent and child stating, “look what WE learned today.”
Summary: Yes, I understand the above five key items are generalities that include many important details that will require creative efforts by all parties. This in itself poses a major evolution in our education system and its structure. To implant digital learning without going the full course of this evolution will at most present a fractured and frustrating learning system. The importance of increasing STEM instruction is an added demand that if the new system is only a haphazard effort then STEM staggers. In addition to STEM there must be both a renewed and expanded presentation of the arts, literature and history. This can be both highly challenging and exciting. Suddenly imparting knowledge to young minds reaches across to teachers, programmers, administrators, parents and even you and I as we welcome our future with both open arms and minds.
  • The video below is a very simple example of a combination of techniques to produce a memorable instruction, in this case on the importance of Zero. Certainly digital learning systems will be more sophisticated, but should not overlook or intentionally exclude fantasy or cartoon style presentations to make an important point. The grade level, the age of the students are key factors in the development of such presentations. Memorable, enjoyable are important factors, silly and forgetful are obviously to be avoided.
IMAGE CREDIT:
School children in a digital classroom: Courtesy   morrisworldnews.com

WHAT!?! Abandon the ISS?

Posted August 31, 2011 by XiNeutrino
Categories: Commercial Space Programs, Humankind and Exploration, Scientific Research, World

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AN EDITORIAL: The opinions are exclusively the author’s.

In answer to the question about the current astronaut crew on the ISS and the future staffing and support of that vital space research system, the obvious answer should NOT be ABANDON SHIP!

It is so patently obvious that it is US politics not international decisions that is driving this possible outcome. Regardless of the anticipated duration of abandonment, it sets the stage for a complete cancellation of the future of this spacecraft and the research it supports.

The accidental failure of a ROSCOSMOS rocket system should have been anticipated and backup plans in existence. Our view is that ROSCOSMOS has such a plan and is making sure that the next human launching is both safe and successful. Space politicians running up and down the hallways muttering to the media about abandoning the ISS is another knife in the back of space exploration. It has nothing, in our opinion, to do with safety or progress, but is one more slice at science and especially space science by the growing popularity of the political assassination of all science.

Yes, the cancellation of the shuttle program certainly put a large crimp in the support plans for the ISS. Equally challenged is the commercial efforts to provide that support. The time-frame was greater than what faces them now. We are pushing them to step in, and heroically they are responding. Our worry is that they may not be quite ready.  Any failure, including ‘nogo’ launches sets them back, and that should not be their future.

Yes, positive, aggressive action on an international basis is needed. Defeatist, ‘give-up’ chatter is not wanted and is totally damaging. Meanwhile, get off the “sell news at any price” kick, media, and come out instead with loud supportive urging for us to succeed in sustaining the ISS.

We can do it, and we will do it, if we affirm the entire philosophy of space exploration – WE WILL GO THERE.  Spock, Yoda, ObiWan, Captain Piccard, Apollo Astronauts, speak up, shout, stomp your feet and drive us forward. Don’t let them drive us into the closet.

PRO-SPOOFERS: The Assault on Scientific Integrity

Posted August 8, 2011 by XiNeutrino
Categories: Humankind and Exploration


The TV advertisement flogging a hot new anti-X drug has either a real scientist in the person of a physician or a pseudo-scientist in the form of a glib, marketing professional telling us how vital this new medicine is for our well being. Most of us have been raised to regard men and women in those long, white clinical coats with their earnest and compassionate demeanor as some of the most trusted people on Earth. Now we are learning that in many cases, not all, but many of those icons of veracity and concern are professional spoofers. It is cataclysmic even when the spoofing is restricted to the medical and pharmaceutical sciences, but today, all science is a potential victim.

Whether it is the weather (climate change and global warming), nuclear energy, clean air and water or the accuracy of science topics presented in school to our children, there is clear evidence of spoofing. This is not the babble of the deranged, this is the carefully orchestrated false information presented as hard, cold scientific fact. Yes, scientists and scientific organizations quickly move to disprove or correct both public and scientific information about the spoofed topics, but this often appears to the public as an ongoing argument between warring scientists. Furthermore the public often regards both scientists and the science they are striving to preserve as petty intellectual bickering and are dismissed. As a result, citizen indifference to scientific advances and knowledge remains strong.

Good grief, in this blossoming age of science and technology the last thing we need is a disbelieving, non-supportive society that generally cold-shoulders science. Yes, there is a history of renowned scientists (Sagan, Feynman, deGrasse-Tyson and others) who have or are directly addressing citizen distrust of science. We need more, and we need it available to the young at an early age. That is beginning to happen, but is not enough alone. The scientific community must take direct action to expose and hold accountable those professional spoofers and their sponsoring organizations. This must be done in a very organized, highly legal, and publicly understandable manner.

The “warring scientists” image must be dispelled. Natural scientific disputes over a new hypothesis is healthy and vital. The scientific community must go out of its way to instruct the public on the difference between testing a hypothesis and disputing spoofed science. This calls for more public interaction between scientists and citizens. Many scientists, deep in their own research, find this a major distraction and often intensely frustrating. This is where there should be a cooperative relationship between scientist and publicist with the publicist concentrating on presenting fact in an understandable manner with a severe and total absence of hype. This too is being done, but again needs major expansion; especially into the political world where hype and spoof dominate.

Science and all of its discoveries and revelations should be revered by all. It comprises an immense assurance that we are real, that our world is real and that all that surrounds us is dynamically real and compelling. Science should be joyous understanding for the citizen and joyous explorations and discoveries for the scientist. This interaction with the cosmos when presented clearly and enthusiastically is reassuring and reaffirms the vitality of all life here and beyond. In this setting there is no room for spoofing.

A CASE FOR UNCOMMON SENSE.

Posted June 30, 2011 by XiNeutrino
Categories: Deep Space Explorations, government, Humankind and Exploration, Imagination, Scientific Research

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Ages hence will remember our century not for its barbaric wars, but for its major contributions to fundamental scientific knowledge…..Whatever the scientific discoveries of future ages, they will be based upon the body of twentieth century science.” 

From: “Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science” by Alan Cromer ISBN 0-19-509636- 3(Pbk.)

When the brothers Robert and Courtland Gross hocked just about everything they owned to raised the $40,000+ to buy Lockheed from the Scottish Loughead brothers it was a very bold, very innovative move. One could say they definitely used uncommon sense, considering the fledgling world of aviation at that time. I personally hope, they regularly shake hands, even hug, as they look down on their dream today.

When that young, bold airmail pilot, Charles Lindbergh decided to enter the contest for a transoceanic flight to Paris, he had a dream far beyond that of winning the challenge money. Like the Gross brothers, Lindbergh was motivated to boost aviation as an up and coming means of safe transportation that also would spell great opportunity for humankind. When he declared he would enter the contest as a solo pilot in a single engine plane he used brave, stunning uncommon sense to fulfill his dream. I hope he and the Gross brothers, whom he knew well, gleefully join in frequent celebration as they look over the results of their efforts.

The above stories are just two examples of many, many cases where bold entrepreneurs have used uncommon sense to make dreams and ideas into productive reality. Well, right now in this country, we are running low on uncommon sense and running high or finger pointing and blame dodging which produces screeching halts in our reputation for striking, and successful innovation. Yes, the political cries calling for common sense in this and that is a daily diatribe. Once in awhile we here a faint whisper calling for more uncommon sense. The problem is, the investor, the bold entrepreneurs of the Gross and Loughead brothers type are today playing with paper (stocks and bonds, etc) rather than dreams and ideas. We have essentially ceded to EurAsia (Europe, India, China, etc) the uncommon sense modus operandi. Interesting enough, in America the continuing examples of that uncommon sense rests with those early pioneers that produced Lockheed, Boeing, Northrup, Ryan, Douglas and many other dreamers. So, why have we given up on what we do best – innovation?

When the shuttle Atlantis launches next month in its final flight and the closing chapter of NASA’s glorious, innovative shuttle program, the book of uncommon sense stands the chance of being slammed shut. Yes, just like in those earlier, innovative days, there are young design and development companies out there struggling to break out on their own. They are trying to do this in a national atmosphere of fear. Fear of deficit an arch enemy of innovation. This barrier is exacerbated by political opportunists who see the deficit as the lever to bring the nation into a sharp turn backwards. If this should come to pass then both common and uncommon sense will be locked away. The best and saving solution is an immediate burst of uncommon sense, or more practically speaking, an outburst of innovation.

Now, President Obama has spoken eloquently about the importance of innovation in our future and as a mechanism to invigorate our economy, but he too is hampered by the deficit aura. This is where the breakout must occur. The White House and Congress must exercise uncommon sense to defy the deficit by directly stimulating innovation in our automobile, energy, science research, and space systems activities. Yes, there are other areas, but these areas will respond most quickly to uncommon sense by exercising it themselves to design, develop, and discover new paths of growth for this nation and for humankind.  We need:

  • Fuel efficient cars – not legislation, but actual vehicles that use other energy sources efficiently and inexpensively.
  • To accept the responsibility of nuclear power generation as the greenest method of high energy production. The challenge is not design, the challenge is to innovate safety and endurance.
  • To discourage political opportunists who seek to stifle science not recognizing that our future existence depends on a broadly aggressive scientific research environment.
  • To prevent the stifling of our exploration of our solar system and deep space. To ignore this urgent matter is to essentially return humankind to darkened caves at a time when our continuing evolution demands that we seek understanding of all that surrounds us.
  • To acknowledge the warnings and cries for help from our environment and in doing so begin to recognize that a safe and living Earth is the most vital resource we have for our continuing existence.
So, uncommon sense, long in use to move humankind beneficially forward must not be discouraged or disabled. If  boosted by government support and allowed its fullest expression, we will see that deficit dragon diminish in pace with the increased innovation that will set us free again. Mr.  President, Congress, don’t tell us about it, DO IT,  get uncommon and sensible now and save this nation.

IMAGE CREDIT: Wright brothers first flight at KittyHawk, NC  http://tinyurl.com/3kjuhlj

IT’S ALL ABOUT MASTERY:Practical Expertise

Posted June 17, 2011 by XiNeutrino
Categories: Education, Humankind and Exploration, self-discovery, Technology

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Literally, with the first humans, there quickly arose members who became recognized as experts. College degrees and/or graduate degrees were not around yet so expertise grew from both experience and its careful application. Has this been supplanted by academic credentials? In my opinion, absolutely not. In fact, but sadly, it continues to play a key, but less publicized role, in our sci-tech progress.

Yes, successful academic achievement is important in many areas, but is essentially competence-in-waiting. This is true all the way up to the doctoral degrees. Until we can actually work with and experience the specific domains of art, science, and pure craftsmanship we are just newbies.

Been there, done that (btdt) is not a gasp of boredom it is, in my opinion, an acknowledgement of experience either by accident or by intent. In either case, that experience produces a heightened awareness that normally enables the person to avoid new mistakes and to perform more effectively. Revered artisans in both art and technology have years of btdt under their belts that gives them the power of expertise.

In the medical sciences, doctors must complete their apprenticeships as interns and residents before they are really ready for the independent delivery of health care to you or I. Labor unions for years have used apprenticeships to build a labor force empowered by highly experienced and competent artisans. Yes I use artisan to describe all the various competencies, from bricklayer to master machinist, that a union apprentice ultimately achieves. Post-doctoral apprenticeships for new PhD graduates is another example of the careful process of inserting experience into the mastery equation.

Yes, things have changed in some ways, but the required expertise must still be in the forefront of what we design, develop, build, repair and actually operate. Today a master machinist may sit at a computer terminal creating the code to tell an automatic milling machine how to carefully carve part of the wing of giant jet aircraft. What is important is that the code carries with it all the years of expertise when that milling was done carefully and beautifully by hand.

Deep blue ocean sailing today is supported by a host of electronics that make sure we get to our destination. Let all those electronics fail, and hopefully our navigator quickly pulls out his sextant, and like the earliest of sailors looks to the stars to guide us on our way.

Bottom line is that the experiential ingredient in all that we profess is essential. We should keep that in mind when we hear some snobbish comments that put down what they term the uneducated workers. This is a horrible outcome of our stumbles away from actually making things and into trading paper. Those nations who still both revere, honor and promote craftsman skills will eventually prevail in the world economy. No house has ever stood when made from paper or cards.

Many PhDs quickly call an artisan plumber to unclog their overflowing sinks or other facilities. Most ace pilots warmly greet every master mechanic that cares for their aircraft. For certain they do not demand to know their academic credentials.

Parents, educators, industry leaders, political leaders need to understand this vital element and both promote and support it in all of our youth. Yes, some kids will become expert plumbers others will become expert physicians or scientists and we need to honor all equally and appreciatively. Hopefully we can MASTER this behavior to hold our place in the evolution of humankind.

IMAGE CREDITS:

The Handy Craftsman – The PC Gamer http://tinyurl.com/3l4pu92

LUNAR LUNACY or LUNAR SMARTS

Posted June 7, 2011 by XiNeutrino
Categories: Commercial Space Programs, Deep Space Explorations, Humankind and Exploration, Scientific Research, The Cosmos

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Well lunacy got its first use as a way to describe the suspected effects of our Moon (lovely Luna) on human behavior.  Luna, of course is the Roman Moon Goddess and it did not take long for early philosophers to assign strange human mental behaviors to the work of Lady Luna and lunatic has been with us ever since.

There is no denying the many influences Luna has had on human history. One could fill an entire library with all the scientific studies, novels, plays, movies and music that talk about or talk to our Moon. For most of us, all the above represent deep expressions of endearment we all feel for Luna. In fact the Moon affects most of life. Wolves and dogs howl at Luna, owls hoot hello, bats dance in her light, some exotic flowers wait to bloom at her bidding, and legions of tiny creatures break into boisterous song upon her appearance. So, should we Earthlings be satisfied with just one, brief visit with Luna? Can we really be satisfied with that fleeting assignation and go galloping off to Mars and beyond?

Now some serious space exploration advocates believe a return to the Moon at this point would be a bit loony when there is Mars out there waiting for us. Well, we will go to Mars, the important thing is how we go, and how well we stay there. The establishment of a fully active and fully international Lunar Research Base will offer a host of scientific knowledge that will directly affect all of our future space explorations. There are cosmic messages waiting to be discovered and read on Luna that relate to the evolution of our solar system, and most likely to the development of exo-systems like the newly discovered GL581 system. So, returning to Luna with an international team would be what we see as Lunar Smarts. Nothing loony and filled with both scientific and promising commercial discoveries that will hold promises for both research and private development.

There will be obstacles, even life threatening ones, as well as revelations about humans existing functionally in the rather unfriendly environments of Luna and certainly Mars. What is learned in working on Luna will better ensure a safe and highly productive exploration of Mars and beyond. All of these lessons will be provided at a lower cost, than a gallop to Mars that is fueled more by “guts and glory” than by careful and concentrated scientific investigations. Of equal importance, is that while we are learning on Luna, when serious things happen that need rescue, it will come quickly whereas on Mars, it most likely will not come at all.  This development will not deter our exploration of Mars, but when we do make the trip we will go with extensive Lunar foreknowledge and an established rescue protocol based on time and distance from Earth.

Lastly, if we bypass Luna, others will not, and we will immediately lose any leverage about what should happen both scientifically and commercially on our only Moon. Those kinds of assessments and decisions should be derived and followed internationally. We can assure that only if we, this nation, take the initiative to bring it about in an orderly manner. If we wait and in a startled and rushed response seek to resolve that problem. it most likely will fail.

Brave men, dedicated support staff, tons of money were spent to visit Luna. Let us not waste all of that great achievement by casting aside those first, magnificent steps across the wide, wide river of space. Luna awaits with open arms, a greater supply of water than we initially thought, and as stated above a glorious and important history lesson about how we all came to be. So lets be Lunar Smart and set sail, soon, for lovely, lovely Luna.

IMAGE CREDIT: Image of Orion spacecraft approaching Luna courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.