[EAS] Visions

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Sat May 28 15:58:07 EDT 2005

WHAT'S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 27 May 05   Washington, DC

It's been traveling for 28 years and is now 8.7 billion miles
from Earth.  It just reported that it has entered the region of
the heliosheath, where the solar wind begins to dissipate.  It
may be in this region another 10 years.  Its Pt-238 radioisotope
thermoelectric generator (RTG) should keep operating until about
2020.  When Voyager 1 crosses that final boundary, becoming the
first human artifact to enter interstellar space, Earth won't
know.  Communications with Voyager will be cut off to save $4.5M
of NASA's $16.5B budget (.025%), for Bush's Moon/Mars "vision."
Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.bobpark.org
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For a comprehensive review of the Voyager 1 mission, the vast amount
of astronomical data it has sent back to researchers on Earth, with
links to NASA and JPL, see

Way back in 1993, at the beginning of his historic IBM turnaround as
CEO, Lou Gerstner famously said "The last thing we need is a vision.
We have to deliver."

By the late '90s that kind of "common sense" business style was
eclipsed by personality cults, where the visions of leaders counted
much more than execution. Deeply damaging was the underlying failure
of the assumption that leadership would include the highest levels
of accountability and ethical conduct. Ultimately this brought us
the shocks of Enron, Worldcom and the like. Business is now
returning to more sober operating premises.

All things go in cycles. With some delay we are in a somewhat
analogous cycle with science and technology policy. The
privatization of intellectual property and poor management of
interdisciplinarity are drivers. The "common sense" of quantitative
reasoning and structured "cause and effect" thinking often yields to
visions bereft of those underpinnings and their methodologies. To the
inevitable extent that they affect education, the consequences of
misleading visions will regrettably be much slower to reverse.  --PJK

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