Brittle Skillet

Sparks of passion and items of interest.

Posts Tagged ‘Money

Lunacy or Luna See? Virgin Galactic Mothership Takes Off

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Are you a speed junky? How would you like to travel three times the speed of sound? If Richard Branson’s vision for Virgin Galactic succeeds, you can realistically add it to your list of 100 things to do before you die.

Since 2005, Virgin Galactic has been selling tickets for a true space ride at approximately US$200,000.00 each. The venture’s longer-term intention is to reduce the price of a ticket as quickly as possible, to a price as low as possible, ultimately making space travel available to all.

Why is Virgin the company to bring this experience down to earth? According to the Virgin Galactic website, it’s a natural win given “Virgin’s vast experience in aviation, adventure, luxury travel and cutting-edge design combined with unique technology.”

Historically, Branson and his Virgin ventures have joined the ranks of environmental causes in a significant way with the likes of the Virgin Earth Challenge and the Virgin Green Fund. Appearing as big proponents of alternative energy and highly fuel-efficient aircraft and trains, what is their real agenda?

In Branson’s own words: “Virgin Galactic is investing in a space access system that is radically different from what’s gone before and many times more environmentally friendly. This, and the future technology that it inspires, will allow man to continue to reap space related environmental benefits without making an unacceptable contribution to the environmental problem.”

One can hope he’s going to be true to his words. In particular, how do you reconcile the amount of spent fuel hurled into the atmosphere so my neighbor can have a look around in space just for fun? You might argue that this is not so different from the cross-country summer vacation trek that many families take each year. However, the amount of fuel spent on one space flight makes the fuel needed for the family excursion look like a mere splash.

Perhaps you should get your memorial or logo etched on the Moon sooner rather than later. It seems that there will, after all, be orbiters able to view your lunar thumbprint within the next few years. Of course, it may well be the same folks orbiting as buying the etchings. In my mind, they’ll be the only ones affording either caper.

Who knows? Perhaps there’s a company selling the naming rights to a future space hotel too. Just imagine: the T-Mobile Hotel Intergalactic next to the Microsoft Spacewalk Conference Center.

© Julie Pierce and Brittle Skillet, 2009-2011.

Written by Julie Pierce

August 5, 2009 at 6:21 pm

U.S. and China on Common Ground: Strategic and Economic Dialogue

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By futureatlas.com

Once again, we see progress with the Obama Administration. In the area of foreign policy, today was a monumental day. In the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue was opened with its inaugural session.

In an op-ed piece published by the Wall Street Journal, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner explain the objectives of this historical dialogue. The collaborative connection between China and the U.S. is highlighted and emphasized as a significant venture for the global economy and the future of our world.

In a nutshell, there are three main modules of the larger area objectives:

  • Establishment of global economic recovery and sustainable global economic growth
  • Progress with the inseparable challenges of climate change, energy, and the environment
  • Achievement of globally favorable practices in the face of security and development challenges

Although this is an official dialogue opened between the U.S. and China, other nations will need to be engaged as these two work to discover viable solutions. Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner write, “few global problems can be solved by the U.S. or China alone. And few can be solved without the U.S. and China together.”

It will be interesting to watch the dialogue develop and unfold. How will these two nations work together? How will their coming together influence the rest of the world’s nations to unify toward global goals? Can we be as encouraged as to hope that human rights will be one of the details under “globally favorable practices in the face of security and development challenges”?

I take encouragement from a front-page article from China Daily. Despite the downplay by foreign press and various “experts,” some in China are seeing the dialogue as an important achievement.

I am optimistic for a progressive turn of events. There is light dawning at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Thank you, President Obama for carrying the torch.

Photo by futureatlas.com

© Julie Pierce and Brittle Skillet, 2009-2011.

Written by Julie Pierce

July 27, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Obama’s “Race to the Top”: Public School Improvement

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By Annaliece Balensiefen, 7 years old

What’s happening in our schools today? What’s happening to our schools today? As our economy continues to struggle, one of our hardest hit public programs is education.

If I understand the numbers correctly, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has provided $117 billion for improvements in our education system. Add to that the launch on Friday, July 24, 2009 of the “Race to the Top” competition, the Obama administration seems to be doing a lot to make improvement to public education a real priority.

We can only hope that the incentives of “Race to the Top” will compellingly inspire real change in school districts across America. But how badly are states individually interested in gaining this funding opportunity? And what checks are in place to ensure that the achieved funds will be used effectively?

The four areas “Race to the Top” targets are:

  • The adoption of rigorous standards and assessments
  • The recruitment and retention of high quality teachers
  • A significant turnaround for low-performance schools
  • The establishment of data systems to track student achievement and teacher effectiveness

School districts and states need to be creative, innovative, and very realistic when addressing these four areas. The idea behind “Race to the Top” is magnificent in its natural use of competition to create best, most effective practices. Competition works this way in the business world. Can the competitive arena do the same for our failing schools?

The national spotlight now shines on state districts, and winners win for the whole state. This is huge, and hugely important.

Extraordinary examples of how improvements are already being made do exist. Most of the time, these scarce examples fly under the radar, but in Soledad O’Brien’s series Black in America produced and run on CNN, an shining example of success stands out. Steve Perry of Hartford, Connecticut is having a significant influence on kids in his community with his Capital Preparatory Magnet School. His approach is all about the details. In his opinion, it is the details that result in a better, brighter big picture.

The success of Capital Prep is in stark contrast to what is happening at most of America’s schools. Many school districts are having to cutback on educational support, and even the kids are noticing. For example, at a school in San Jose, California a student is concerned about the number of students he’ll have in his classroom next year.

I am hopeful that all governors, school boards, principals and teachers, and anyone else who can constructively get involved with public school improvements will look at what Steve Perry and other’s successful models have achieved. If we have good ideas, let’s submit them to representatives on local school boards and our local government. Now is the time for brainstorming all the possibilities. Our kids, our economy, and our future as a global contributor and competitor demand it.

Investments by State – Click a state to see where funds are allocated and paid out.

Drawing by Annaliece Balensiefen, 7 years old

© Julie Pierce and Brittle Skillet, 2009-2011.

Written by Julie Pierce

July 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Lunar Gaffiti: Your Logo or Domain Name on the Moon

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Unbelievable! No, I take that back. Of course this is happening. Of course there are people willing to spend a minimum of $46,000 to put their logo, domain name, or memorial on the surface of the moon. What?

AngecySpy from mediabistro.com alerted me to this baffling phenomenon. There are (at least) two things wrong with this prospect. The first is that this is astro-pollution, as far as I can tell. And the second is the waste: time, money, and effect. Perhaps that totals four things wrong with the undertaking.

The technology that does the deed is referred to as “Shadow Shaping” and it makes ridges in the lunar surface using robots. The environmental pollution seems potentially enormous, no?

Inventory of waste: the material to make the robots (eventually they will become scrap), the rockets of some sort to get the robots up there (more eventual scrap), and the fuel involved in transport. Add to that the wasted time (clearly my opinion) involved in the creation and execution of said project. These engineers could be making something less polluting, perhaps even pollution reducing.

I don’t know about you, but my group of friends and family does not include anyone with $46,000 available for moon etching — as far as I’m aware. And finally, what effect of value do the representative ridges achieve? How will anyone see the ridges for them to create an effect, unless of course the viewer is doing a little sightseeing while space traveling?

Maybe I’m missing something, but moon etching strikes me as a ridiculously wasteful, self-aggrandizing exercise for folks with more money than sense. This opportunity is being brought to us by a company called Moon Publicity. So the natural question is, who (or what) is receiving the publicized message? Creepy.

© Julie Pierce and Brittle Skillet, 2009-2011.

Written by Julie Pierce

July 21, 2009 at 7:18 pm