Thanksgiving 2020

This morning from my deck: these plants still have their brilliantly red leaves. I believe this is because their chlorophyll pigment is no longer present–it would have absorbed red and reflected back green. The chlorophyll has been replaced by a new pigment: anthocyanin–which reflects the red and absorbs the rest. All of this biology: this is what makes the biosphere possible–for that I am thankful. It is what keeps our spaceship Earth a home for us humans.

It also seems that we will have vaccinations soon and a new Administration. And I’m optimistic that scientists will play an important role in the tasks ahead–there are so many.

Happy thanksgiving…

A moment of joy…

I was reading the paper when I heard the news. It’s a magnificent Fall day here in DC. In the hour or so afterwards, we saw children waving American Flags in the Palisades neighborhood as cars honked and folks cheered. On my phone, the video of New York City erupting in spontaneous joy. A colleague texted about the prospect of four years freed from the negative headspace of her twitter feed–able to focus on science instead of fear.

Having worked on the Cancer Moonshot during the Obama Administration and personally witnessed the leadership of our new President-elect, I am optimistic. We used our vote to chose well.

Final thoughts before the election…

First, I subscribe to Tolstoy’s view of history rather than Carlyle’s “Great Man” viewpoint. So, from my point of view, where the US find’s itself in this particular election is not so much a function of the person currently holding the office, but more of where the US polity is right now.

Second, the problem of humanity’s position with regards to the rest of the biosphere aren’t going to really change after Tuesday. Whoever wins, the climate disruption will continue and the follow-on effects, both predicted and unknown, will continue to challenge us.

Third, much goes on outside the borders of the United States: some good, some bad, but all of interest in any case. I am intrigued by the entire notion of the Pacific Rim as a geo-political entity. Mostly, it seems to have a dynamism that the rest of the geopolitical world lacks these days.

Finally, the US continues to be beautiful–the land itself is the greatest asset of this place that I call home.

More scientists in the Senate…

I hope. Here’s one running for US Senator in Wyoming, Merav Ben-David. Anytime I see scientists entering the political arena I want to cheer them on. Our profession needs to become far more active in setting an agenda for the future. And that can’t be done entirely outside of politics. She’s running as a Dem. Now let’s see a scientist step up from the other side of the aisle. Oh wait, here’s one with an impeccable NSF record. Kelvin?

Artemis and a legal framework for human activities in Space

I’ve been following the Artemis Accords closely. They represent a follow-on to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the immediate context is the US goal of returning humans to the Moon by 2024. I’m less interested in the return trip to the Moon than I am in future legal frameworks for Space.

With regards to such legal frameworks:

To my mind there is the question of extraction of valuable resources from the Solar System and the property rights that might accompany those. Then there is the question of how, in the future, the notion of Westphalian nation states might extend off the planet. An additional question is about the militarization of space by current nations although it looks to me that the horse has already left the barn on that one.

N.B. As a matter of record, I’m inclined to oppose the notion of a separate US Space Force because I think such a DOD organization will push us further down the road of deploying offensive weapons on orbit–a bad thing, in my opinion.