Four Entities Succeeded in Sending a Capsule to Orbit and Returning It to Earth: “the United States, Russia, China and Elon Musk”

(p. A14) “In the history of space flight,” Scott Pelley intones in a “60 Minutes” segment, “only four entities have launched a space capsule into orbit and successfully brought it back to the Earth—the United States, Russia, China and Elon Musk.”

For the full film review, see:

Joe Morgenstern. “‘Return to Space’: A Double Booster.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, April 8, 2022): A14.

(Note: the online version of the film review was updated April 7, 2022, and has the title “FILM REVIEW; ‘Return to Space’ Review: A Double Booster.”)

“I Wish That All Chinese People Can Have Freedom and Peace”

(p. A19) Bao Tong, who was the highest-ranking Chinese official imprisoned over the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square that ended in mass carnage in 1989, and who later became an acerbic outsider-critic of the Communist Party, died on Nov. 9 [2022] in Beijing. He was 90.

The cause was acute leukemia, said his son, Bao Pu.

For a decade, Mr. Bao was a top aide to Zhao Ziyang, the liberalizing party leader who was ousted shortly before the Tiananmen crackdown. After his release from prison, Mr. Bao — who spent the rest of his life under surveillance — used essays, interviews and Twitter to denounce China’s autocratic turn.

In the mid-1980s, he was central to devising Mr. Zhao’s political reform proposals to rein in the party’s power and expand public oversight of officials. In his later years, he saw little near-term hope that the party would reopen the way for democratic changes, yet he stayed optimistic that China would eventually take that path. And that shift, Mr. Bao said, would demand confronting the traumas of June 1989, when troops shot protesters in Beijing and other Chinese cities, with estimates of the death toll ranging from the hundreds to the thousands.

“The ‘June 4’ student democracy movement of 1989 was the great event, the one most worthy of the Chinese people’s pride, that I experienced in my life,” Mr. Bao wrote this year in an article for Radio Free Asia. But the bloodshed, he added, had “brazenly opened up a new era where state power has no constraints and civic rights have lost their safeguards.”

. . .

In 1987, Deng abruptly demoted Hu Yaobang, the party’s liberal-minded general secretary. After Mr. Zhao replaced Mr. Hu as party leader, he and Mr. Bao scored a major victory when Deng approved — and a party congress endorsed — their proposals for measured political change. Mr. Bao’s role in helping to draft the main report for that congress, a high-water mark for liberalizing hopes in China, was one of his proudest moments, his son said.

. . .

“In the past I believed in Communism; now I don’t think it’s worth believing in,” he told a foreign reporter in 2012 as security officers looked on. “Now I just think that Marx had some nice ideas. He said the poor are worth helping.”

. . .

Mr. Bao was never allowed to meet with Mr. Zhao after 1989. But in 2019, the authorities let him visit the grave of Mr. Zhao and Mr. Zhao’s wife.

“They’re finally free and at peace,” Mr. Bao wrote at the time. “I wish that all Chinese people can have freedom and peace in this world.”

For the full obituary, see:

Chris Buckley and Vivian Wang. “Bao Tong, Reformist Official Imprisoned After Tiananmen, Is Dead at 90.” The New York Times, First Section (Wednesday, November 23, 2022): A19.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Nov. 21, 2022, and has the title “Bao Tong, 90, Dies; Top Chinese Official Imprisoned After Tiananmen.”)

CEO Ackerman Sold Corning’s Cookware to Focus on Fiber Optics

(p. A8) When Roger Ackerman was named chairman and chief executive of Corning Inc. in 1996, the company depicted him as a technologically savvy leader who would guide the company into the internet age.

“I’m absolutely ready to take over at Corning, and have no fear or trepidation,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Ackerman sold Corning’s housewares division, featuring cookware and such brands as Pyrex, to focus on making optical fibers, liquid-crystal-display glass and other high-tech marvels. Optical fibers were in hot demand as telecom companies rushed to lace the globe with voice and data networks.

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Corning CEO Put Focus on Technology.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022): A8.

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date August 18, 2022, and has the title “Corning CEO Shifted Focus From Cookware to Photonics.”)

Independent Bookstores Shun Wuhan Book by Independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

I am generally not as skeptical of the safety and efficacy of vaccines as is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. But I strongly believe in the right to free speech. And I believe that truth in general, and truth in science in particular, advance fastest when we defend free speech and open discussion.

(p. B3) Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a member of the most famous political family in the U.S. and a bestselling author. But it may be hard to find his newest book at the local bookstore when it comes out next week [on Dec. 5, 2023].

Some booksellers have decided not to stock Kennedy’s latest, “The Wuhan Cover-Up and the Terrifying Bioweapons Arms Race,” citing concerns about the author’s past positions.

. . .

Kennedy expressed disappointment that independent bookstores may not be stocking his new book. “Independent bookstores are the traditional bulwarks against corporate propaganda and government censorship,” he said.

Kennedy, the nephew of the late president John F. Kennedy and son of the late attorney general and senator Robert F. Kennedy, has become a vocal critic of U.S. government agencies, in particular their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

. . .

In an interview, Kennedy, 69 years old, said he thinks “The Wuhan Cover-Up” will appeal to anybody interested in learning more about the origins of Covid-19 as well as foreign-policy issues.

. . .

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Energy Department have said that a “laboratory-related incident” was most likely responsible for the pandemic, while other agencies believe natural infection was the cause.

For the full story, see:

Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Eliza Collins. “Small Bookstores Shun RFK Jr.’s Coming Book.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023): B3.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 28, 2023, and has the title “Small Bookstores Shun Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Upcoming Book.”)

The book shunned by many independent bookstores is:

Kennedy, Robert F. , Jr. The Wuhan Cover-Up: And the Terrifying Bioweapons Arms Race. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2023.

Wolfspeed Startup Survived Because “We Were Small, We Were Nimble, We Were Crazy”

(p. A12) As a graduate student in materials science in the early 1980s, John Palmour took a chance on an unproven way to make semiconductors, substituting silicon carbide for the usual pure silicon.

. . .

In 1987, Dr. Palmour and other researchers at NC State were among the co-founders of Cree Research, now known as Wolfspeed Inc.

. . .

In a sign of the technology’s strategic importance, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. in 2017 blocked the sale of a large part of the company to Infineon Technologies AG of Germany.

As Wolfspeed flourished over the past five years, Dr. Palmour remained chief technology officer, even while being treated for lymphoma.

. . .

Frugality was a helpful trait at a tech company that was slow to blossom. Wolfspeed was able to keep going because “we were small, we were nimble, we were crazy,” Dr. Edmond said.

. . .

Of his early days as an entrepreneur, Dr. Palmour wrote: “We were full of big plans and high hopes, but we were too young and stupid to know how hard it was going to be, how long it would take, or if it was even possible.”

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Scientist Changed Recipe For Making Microchips.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022): A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date December 2, 2022, and has the title “John Palmour Changed Recipe for Making Microchips.”)

“I Do What I Want; You Don’t Like It, Don’t Buy It”

(p. 27) Terry Castro, a New York-based jewelry designer whose knack for blending the fantastical with the elegant propelled him from selling on the sidewalks of New York to adorning celebrities like Rihanna and Steven Tyler, died on July 18 [2022] at his home in Istanbul.

. . .

Mr. Castro, who worked under the single name Castro, considered himself a “creator of dreams.”

. . .

Passionate and at times confrontational, Mr. Castro considered himself a rebel within the industry.

“I do what I want; you don’t like it, don’t buy it,” he said in a 2012 interview with The Black Nouveau, a style blog. Recounting his scattered efforts to “go commercial,” he concluded that the income was not worth the creative price paid.

For the full obituary, see:

Alex Williams. “Terry Castro, 50, Rebel Who Created Exquisite Jewelry.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, August 7, 2022): 27.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Aug. 4, 2022, and has the title “Terry Castro, a Proud Outsider in the Jewelry World, Dies at 50.”)

“If You Work Forever, You Can Live Forever”

(p. B12) At age 80, Byron Wien compiled “20 Life Lessons” from a long career as a Wall Street soothsayer. “Never retire” was No. 20. “If you work forever, you can live forever,’’ he explained. “I know there is an abundance of biological evidence against this theory, but I’m going with it anyway.”

Mr. Wien (pronounced ween) didn’t outrun biology. But when he died on Oct. 25 [2023], at 90, he was still engrossed daily in reading the economic tea leaves for his most recent employer, the private equity firm Blackstone. He continued to call politicians, central bankers and financial titans around the world for intelligence to help shape his strategic reports for his firm. And if he felt that his own colleagues weren’t picking his brain enough or adding him to enough meetings, he would tell them he had plenty of bandwidth.

“He was thirsty for knowledge and probably the most curious individual I have ever come across,” said Joan Solotar, the global head of the private wealth division at Blackstone, who was Mr. Wien’s boss.

“I had the pleasure of giving Byron his annual review,” she added, in an interview, “and he would sit down and every year ask the same question: ‘Tell me what I can do better.’”

For the full obituary, see:

Trip Gabriel. “Byron Wien, 90, Wall Street Seer of the Unexpected.” The New York Times (Saturday, November 11, 2023): B12.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Nov. 9, 2023, and has the title “Byron Wien, Wall Street Seer of the Unexpected, Dies at 90.”)

“Adding Manpower to a Late Software Project Makes It Later”

(p. 24) Dr. Brooks had a wide-ranging career that included creating the computer science department at the University of North Carolina and leading influential research in computer graphics and virtual reality.

But he is best known for being one of the technical leaders of IBM’s 360 computer project in the 1960s.

. . .

Until the 360, each model of computer had its own bespoke hardware design. That required engineers to overhaul their software programs to run on every new machine that was introduced.

But IBM promised to eliminate that costly, repetitive labor with an approach championed by Dr. Brooks, a young engineering star at the company, and a few colleagues. In April 1964, IBM announced the 360 as a family of six compatible computers. Programs written for one 360 model could run on the others, without the need to rewrite software, as customers moved from smaller to larger computers.

. . .

The hard-earned lessons he learned from grappling with the OS/360 software became grist for his book “The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering.” First published in 1975, it became recognized as a quirky classic, selling briskly year after year and routinely cited as gospel by computer scientists.

The tone is witty and self-deprecating, with pithy quotes from Shakespeare and Sophocles and chapter titles like “Ten Pounds in a Five-Pound Sack” and “Hatching a Catastrophe.” There are practical tips along the way. For example: Organize engineers on big software projects into small groups, which Dr. Brooks called “surgical teams.”

The most well known of his principles was what he called Brooks’s law: “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”

Dr. Brooks himself acknowledged that with the “law” he was “oversimplifying outrageously.” But he was exaggerating to make a point: It is often smarter to rethink things, he suggested, than to add more people. And in software engineering, a profession with elements of artistry and creativity, workers are not interchangeable units of labor.

In the internet era, some software developers have suggested that Brooks’s law no longer applies. Large open-source software projects — so named because the underlying “source” code is open for all to see — have armies of internet-connected engineers to spot flaws in code and recommend fixes. Still, even open-source projects are typically governed by a small group of individuals, more surgical team than the wisdom of the crowd.

For the full obituary, see:

Steve Lohr. “Frederick P. Brooks Jr., an Innovator of Computer Design, Dies at 91.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, November 27, 2022): 24.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Nov. 25, 2022, and has the title “Frederick P. Brooks Jr., Computer Design Innovator, Dies at 91.”)

The Brooks’s book mentioned above is:

Brooks, Frederick P., Jr. The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995.

Global Warming Reduces Deaths from Cold Temps Much More Than It Increases Deaths From Hot Temps

(p. A15) Globally, a recent Lancet study found 4.5 million cold deaths, nine times more than global heat deaths. The study also finds that temperatures increased half a degree Celsius in the first two decades of this century, causing an additional 116,000 heat deaths annually. But warmer temperatures now also avoid 283,000 cold deaths annually. Reporting only on the former leaves us badly informed.

. . .

Even if all the world’s ambitious carbon-cutting promises were magically enacted, these policies would only slow future warming. Stronger heat waves would still kill more people, just slightly fewer than they would have. A sensible response would focus first on resilience, meaning more air conditioning and cooler cities through greenery and water features. After 2003’s heat waves, France required air conditioning in nursing homes, reducing heat deaths tenfold despite higher temperatures.

For the full commentary, see:

Bjorn Lomborg. “Adapting Will Be Key, Not Hype and Panic.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 16, 2023, and has the title “Bjorn Lomborg: Don’t panic about global warming.”)

The Lancet Planet Health study summarized in the passage quoted above is:

Qi Zhao, Yuming Guo, Tingting Ye, Antonio Gasparrini, Shilu Tong, Ala Overcenco, Aleš Urban, Alexandra Schneider, Alireza Entezari, Ana Maria Vicedo-Cabrera, Antonella Zanobetti, Antonis Analitis, Ariana Zeka, Aurelio Tobias, Baltazar Nunes, Barrak Alahmad, Ben Armstrong, Bertil Forsberg, Shih-Chun Pan, Carmen Íñiguez, Caroline Ameling, César De la Cruz Valencia, Christofer Åström, Danny Houthuijs, Do Van Dung, Dominic Royé, Eric Lavigne Ene Indermitte, Fatemeh Mayvaneh, Fiorella Acquaotta, Francesca de’Donato, Francesco Di Ruscio, Francesco Sera,, Haidong Kan Gabriel Carrasco-Escobar, Hans Orru, Ho Kim, Iulian-Horia Holobaca, Jan Kyselý, Joana Madureira, Joel Schwartz, Jouni J K Jaakkola,, Magali Hurtado Diaz Klea Katsouyanni, Martina S Ragettli, Masahiro Hashizume, Mathilde Pascal, Micheline de Sousa Zanotti Stagliorio Coélho,, Niilo Ryti Nicolás Valdés Ortega, Noah Scovronick, Paola Michelozzi, Patricia Matus Correa, Patrick Goodman, Paulo Hilario Nascimento Saldiva,, Samuel Osorio Rosana Abrutzky, Shilpa Rao, Simona Fratianni, Tran Ngoc Dang, Valentina Colistro, Veronika Huber, Whanhee Lee, Xerxes Seposo, Yue Leon Guo, Yasushi Honda, Michelle L Bell, Shanshan Li. “Global, Regional, and National Burden of Mortality Associated with Non-Optimal Ambient Temperatures from 2000 to 2019: A Three-Stage Modelling Study.” Lancet Planet Health 5 (July 2021): e415–e425.

Costly Sanctimonious Green New Skyscraper Already in Violation of Latest New York Environmental Regulations

(p. A13) One Vanderbilt, a commanding new skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan, seems to be reaching for the future. One of the world’s tallest buildings, it pierces the sky like an inverted icicle and fuses seamlessly with an expanding network of trains and other transport at its foundations.

It is also the rare skyscraper designed with climate change in mind.

. . .

But One Vanderbilt is also something else. It is already out of date.

Some of the building’s most important green features were the right answer to the climate problem in 2016, when design work was completed. “And then the answer changed,” Mr. Wilcox said.

Unlike many skyscrapers, One Vanderbilt generates much of its own electricity. This was a leap forward a decade or so ago — a way of producing power that saved money for landlords and was cleaner than the local grid.

However, One Vanderbilt’s turbines burn natural gas. And while natural gas is cleaner than oil or coal, it is falling from favor, particularly in New York City, which in recent years has adopted some of the most ambitious climate laws in the world, including a ban on fossil fuels in new buildings.

. . .

The truth is that most buildings in New York, big or small, old or new, are bad for the environment. Boilers and furnaces burning fuel in basements are the city’s single largest producer of carbon dioxide, emitting more than double the amount from millions of cars and trucks traveling its roads.

One Vanderbilt, according to its owner, is designed to be more energy-efficient than most new buildings. The structure features several design elements, some exorbitantly expensive, to minimize energy use, such as high ceilings to let in more natural light.

Yet because of the rapidly evolving energy-policy landscape, driven by increasing global concern over climate change, even the most ambitious attempts at sustainability often find themselves facing the possibility of retrofitting the moment the elevator doors open. One Vanderbilt is one such case.

. . .

Landlords such as SL Green say New York City’s new laws will force dramatic changes. Unlike energy codes of the past, one of the key laws, which restricts pollution, doesn’t merely apply to new construction: Existing buildings, no matter how small or how old, must gradually comply and retrofit as well, potentially at eye-watering cost.

For the full story, see:

Ben Ryder Howe. “Built to Be Green, Skyscraper Was Dated From the Beginning.” The New York Times (Thursday, February 16, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 16, 2023, and has the title “New Skyscraper, Built to Be an Environmental Marvel, Is Already Dated.”)