by Tyler Cowen
on October 20, 2006 at 10:50 am
1. Lord Harris passes away; he helped make the UK a freer country.
2. Learn economics by playing video games with aliens; hat tip to Bildungsroman.
3. Markets in everything: Major League Baseball caskets. Thanks to Alex Chisholm.
4. Update on the space elevator prize.
NASA’s space elevator prize is a poor imitation of the Ansari X Prize which preceded it. By declaring how the next leap in space travel should occur, the contest is purging the novelty that is the great boon to prizes. Decentralization of methods should be the goal, not an outsourcing of engineering components; this is a clear attempt by NASA to maintain and possibly expand its realm of influence within the space industry. (See my post on the subject here.)
Oh, how I long for people to write those video games that will teach us to learn by doing! Each game could be like an internship in its own subject.
The prize for space elevator robot climbers seems foolish. Currently we have no idea how to make a cable
that will stay intact for any length of time when suspended from orbit, even if we had material ten times
the strength of carbon nanotubles. It’s sort of like offering a prize for designing the landing gear for
anit-gravity spacecraft before you’ve invented anti-gravity. Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to offer a
prize for a usable cable before you go worrying about what’s going to climb up and down it? I think this
robot climber prize might have a lot in common with the one red paper clip story described below this post.
It’s all about publicity that might bring in more money in the future.
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