Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
Annals of science/commerce (double issue)
Now that the division series and the second debate are past, we can think about the guy who jumped out of the balloon thingy. The scientific payoff from this show was amazing.Â First, it was observed that Baumgartner indisputably fell toward the earth, generalizing Galileo’s Tower of Pisa results (not to mention all the other stuff like airplane and rocketship parts that have done that from really really high up).Â He went faster and faster up where there was almost no air, then slower as the air got thicker, then even slower when his parachute opened, and he stopped exactly when he hit the ground, not a moment before or after!Â Who could have possibly predicted that sequence?!!? This is why scientific theory has to be confirmed with experiments, folks.
Big lessons here: there is gravity even with almost no air, air is very different from New Mexico soil (not being solid, and like that), and the air is thicker down here than up there!Â OK, not amazing.
There’s more: because he was wearing a space suit with an oxygen supply, he survived when he depressurized his capsule and stepped out whereas he wouldn’t have if he were in gym shorts.Â So we learn that if you wear a space suit (or a pressurized capsule, or an airplane with a pressurized cabin) you can not only live in no air (like the guys in space program doing their space walks, moonwalks, etc.) but in hardly any air!Â Also, he seems to have exceeded the speed of sound.Â Exactly like the folks whizzing around in the space capsule, duh.Â Why is this interesting?Â Because if you did it down here dressed as he was, the shock wave would tear your space suit off, and probably some body parts.Â Why is this not interesting?Â Because the air he was falling through was so thin it didn’t matter. And if my grandmother had wheels…
The science (and the entertainment value, come to think of it) here is right up there with the physiological effects of the sponsor’s product: like drinking one cup of coffee, but way more expensive.Â It’s the perfect match of a useless product with a pointless trick.
Author: Michael O'Hare
Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training.
He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at UniversitÃ Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs.
At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4Ã—5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.
View all posts by Michael O'Hare
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