Category Archives: Education

learning in America

Mission to Mars

Mission to Mars

I recently had the opportunity to view a documentary on National Geographic that chronicled the origins and progress of the SpaceX Company. I had heard a few reports on this company but not realize that they had been working on their mission for almost 20 years!

Just a bit of background on Elon Musk (CEO of SpaceX) from Wikipedia: “Born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa, Musk moved to Canada when he was 17 to attend Queen’s University. He transferred to the University of Pennsylvania two years later, where he received an economics degree from the Wharton School and a degree in physics from the College of Arts and Sciences. He began a Ph.D. in applied physics and material sciences at Stanford University in 1995 but dropped out after two days to pursue an entrepreneurial career. He subsequently co-founded Zip2, a web software company, which was acquired by Compaq for $340 million in 1999. Musk then founded, an online bank. It merged with Confinity in 2000 and later that year became PayPal, which was bought by eBay for $1.5 billion in October 2002.[13][14][15][16]

In May 2002, Musk founded SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company, of which he is CEO and lead designer. He helped fund Tesla, Inc., an electric vehicle and solar panel manufacturer, in 2003, and became its CEO and product architect. In 2006, he inspired the creation of SolarCity, a solar energy services company that is now a subsidiary of Tesla, and operates as its chairman.

The ultimate goal of SpaceX is to colonize Mars. Their approach is to make the process more economical by reusing the some (or eventually all) of the orbital components.

I highly recommend that the reader check out the SpaceX documentary on the National Geographic Chanel.

In the meantime, check out a couple of brief videos, the 2nd one demonstrates a successful test of reusable components from a recent orbital mission: i(t=

The opinion of Voters

The opinion of Voters

Do our elected representatives really represent the voters? One way of looking at this issue is to view the opinion of voters and determine if our representatives actually represent the will of the people. I’m not expressing my personal opinion on any of these, just stating the facts:

70 % of voters are in favor of term limits for both the house & the Senate

63% are in favor of eliminating the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote

65% are in favor of stricter election campaign spending limits

54% are in favor of reducing the amount of time allowed for election campaigning

65% do not believe the two-party system is doing a good job for the country

65% are not in favor of increasing military spending

A vast majority are not in favor of increasing the national debt beyond the level of annual GDP

65% believe that climate change is a serious issue and is being caused by human activities

A vast majority are in favor of our elected representatives having the same set of benefits as the people they represent N

Better Life Index

Better Life Index

The OECD Better Life Index, in May 2011 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development following a decade of work on this issue, is a first attempt to bring together internationally comparable measures of well-being in line with the recommendations of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress also known as the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission. The recommendations made by this Commission sought to address concerns that standard macroeconomic statistics like GDP failed to give a true account of people’s current and future well-being.

There are 11 areas that comprise the BLI rating factors: Housing, Income, Jobs, Community, Education, Environment, Civic Engagement, Health, Life satisfaction, safety & work-Life Balance

The specific elements within the above areas are: Dwellings without basic facilities, Housing Expenditures, Persons per room, Household net adjusted disposable income, Household net worth, Labor market insecurity, Employment rate, Long-term unemployment rate, Personal earnings, quality of support network, Educational attainment, Student skills, Years in education, Air pollution, Water quality, Stakeholder engagement for developing regulations, Voter turnout, Life expectancy, Self-reported health, Life satisfaction, Feeling safe walking alone at night, Homicide rate, Employees working very long hours & time devoted to leisure and personal care.

The USA still ranks in the top 10 (we are 10th) on the better life index. At one time I suspect we were at the top or very near the top. We have been slowly slipping, primarily replaced by EU countries. The top 20 can be seen below.

1 Norway
2  Australia
3  Iceland
4  Canada
5  Denmark
6   Switzerland
7  Netherlands
8  Sweden
9  Finland
10  United States
11  Luxembourg
12  New Zealand
13  Belgium
14  United Kingdom
15  Germany
16  Ireland
17  Austria
18  France
19  Spain
20  Slovenia

Another view of the Success of countries is the Quality of Life Index. It is a bit more basic, but still considers many important factors and demonstrates the high ratings of many of the EU countries as can be seen below:

RankCountryQuality of Life IndexPurchasing Power IndexSafety IndexHealth Care IndexCost of Living IndexProperty Price to Income RatioTraffic Commute Time IndexPollution IndexClimate Index
9New Zealand185.6101.160.573.672.68.331.222.795.5
13United States179.2122.052.969.469.93.632.934.077.5
17United Kingdom170.8105.757.374.765.39.234.639.487.8
20United Arab Emirates167.8119.683.768.056.24.437.553.145.2