Jon Gertner’s “The Idea Factory” tells an important story about the history of many of the communications and information technology underpinnings of our current era. More importantly, it explores (indirectly and eventually) a major question of what is needed to make large basic and applied research labs successful. I’m glad I read this book, but can’t say I necessarily enjoyed reading it. As such I’m struggling with whether to rate 3 or 4 stars … if Goodreads allowed 3.5, that’d be it.
Growing up very close to Bell Labs’ Holmdel NJ facility, I was attracted to this book because of the place the Labs occupied in our local culture. If you were bright, technically oriented, and wanted a well-paying job, Bell Labs was the place to strive for. The invention/discovery of radio astronomy at Crawford Hill added to the mystique. Read more
A while back I published a hard look at the optimistic launch demand estimates generated by FAA’s COMSTAC annual forecast. This year’s forecast has just been released. In addition to the forecast, the report has for many years included a valuable and underutilized source of information, which provides a more believable and fundamental basis for optimism in the commercial launch sector. Read more
As the global economy evolves, the U.S. continues to become a net importer, rather than exporter, of advanced technologies. Which sectors are “winners”, and which are lagging? And is there coherence between our performance in international trade, and our national R&D investments? Read more
I don’t plan to use this space often to write about work-related topics, and think it would be inappropriate to do so for anything within NASA’s current congressionally authorized mission. There are, however, a couple of “far downstream” topics I do feel strongly about, and occasionally will hit them here. So long as no one on the Hill is (yet) paying us to work them, I believe they’re fair game for a private blog.
A Game-Changing Capability
Politics-willing, within the next decade the United States will regain a strategic capability it lost nearly 40 years ago when we ended the Apollo (and Saturn) programs, namely truly heavy-lift launch capabilities. Read more