Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Wednesday, February 14, 2007day link 

 Who's Funding Global Warming?
picture Interesting question. Article from AlterNet. A Texas utility company called TXU plans on building 11 new coal-fired powerplants in the US, to the tune of 11 billion dollars. That will be the biggest investment in advancing global warming ever. And who's raising the money? Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup are. Dirty money, you could say.
[ | 2007-02-14 23:43 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

 Prizes for solutions
picture Wall Street Journal: Prizes for Solutions to Problems Play Valuable Role in Innovation.
The outfit that gave $10 million in 2004 to the first team to build and fly a spacecraft capable of carrying three people into space twice within two weeks has morphed into the X-Prize Foundation. With the backing of a Canadian diamond-mining magnate, it's now offering $10 million to the first team that can build and demonstrate a device to sequence 100 human genomes within 10 days or less (visit the contest site). The Rockefeller Foundation also is getting into the act to help solve science and technology problems faced by the poor.

"'Prize philanthropy' is useful for breaking a bottleneck where government bureaucracy and markets are stuck," says Thomas Vander Ark, who recently left conventional philanthropy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to run the X-Prize Foundation. While Gates and similar foundations "push" money on people to solve problems or meet social needs, he says, prizes "pull" people to problems.

Such prizes, newly popular and possible in an age of instant, cheap global communication, have a venerable history. In 1714, Britain offered £20,000 (roughly equivalent to £2.5 million, or $5 million, today) for a way for mariners to determine their longitude. Sir Isaac Newton was convinced the solution lay in astronomy. He was wrong: John Harrison, a working-class joiner with little formal education, built a clock that did the job. In 1919, hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered $25,000 for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris. Eight years later, Charles Lindbergh won.
Interesting that it obviously isn't the actual money that does the trick. It cost more than $10 million to win the X-Price. Rather, it is the game that motivates. Rewards sometimes accomplish much more than investments could.
[ | 2007-02-14 23:48 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 ESP lab closes
NY Times. The Princeton ESP lab is closing after 28 years. Not because it didn't get any results or because it was discredited. Their experiments have continously shown that people can get better than random results with telepathy and telekinesis. Nothing earth-shattering, just consistently slightly better results than randomness. But they've also consistently been ridiculed by fundamentalist materialist scientists who'd rather sweep that kind of stuff under the carpet.
“For 28 years, we’ve done what we wanted to do, and there’s no reason to stay and generate more of the same data,” said the laboratory’s founder, Robert G. Jahn, 76, former dean of Princeton’s engineering school and an emeritus professor. “If people don’t believe us after all the results we’ve produced, then they never will.”
Yeah, that's a little sad, of course. But maybe someday science can be released from the clutches of Science-as-a-Religion, and the scientific method can be applied to other domains than what the prevalent group-think dictates.
[ | 2007-02-14 23:59 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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