Mars Can Be Terraformed to Reduce Costs of Colonization

(p. D5) Since joining NASA in 1980, Jim Green has seen it all. He has helped the space agency understand Earth’s magnetic field, explore the outer solar system and search for life on Mars. As the new year arrived on Saturday, he bade farewell to the agency.

Over the past four decades, which includes 12 years as the director of NASA’s planetary science division and the last three years as its chief scientist, he has shaped much of NASA’s scientific inquiry, overseeing missions across the solar system and contributing to more than 100 scientific papers across a range of topics. While specializing in Earth’s magnetic field and plasma waves early in his career, he went on to diversify his research portfolio.

. . .

Ahead of a December [2021] meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans, Dr. Green spoke about some of this wide-ranging work and the search for life in the solar system. Below are edited and condensed excerpts from our interview.

. . .

    You’ve previously suggested it might be possible to terraform Mars by placing a giant magnetic shield between the planet and the sun, which would stop the sun from stripping its atmosphere, allowing the planet to trap more heat and warm its climate to make it habitable. Is that really doable?

Yeah, it’s doable. Stop the stripping, and the pressure is going to increase. Mars is going to start terraforming itself. That’s what we want: the planet to participate in this any way it can. When the pressure goes up, the temperature goes up.

The first level of terraforming is at 60 millibars, a factor of 10 from where we are now. That’s called the Armstrong limit, where your blood doesn’t boil if you walked out on the surface. If you didn’t need a spacesuit, you could have much more flexibility and mobility. The higher temperature and pressure enable you to begin the process of growing plants in the soils.

There are several scenarios on how to do the magnetic shield. I’m trying to get a paper out I’ve been working on for about two years. It’s not going to be well received. The planetary community does not like the idea of terraforming anything. But you know. I think we can change Venus, too, with a physical shield that reflects light. We create a shield, and the whole temperature starts going down.

For the full story, see:

Jonathan O’Callaghan, interviewer. “Inhabiting Mars? He Calls It ‘Doable.’” The New York Times (Tuesday, January 4, 2022): D5.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 2, 2021, and has the title “NASA’s Retiring Top Scientist Says We Can Terraform Mars and Maybe Venus, Too.” The first three paragraphs, and the block-indented sentence and question, are by the interviewer Jonathan O’Callaghan. The answer after the question is by Jim Green.)

“Unsettling” and “Remarkable” That the “Early Atlantification” of the Arctic Was Not Predicted by “Climate Models”

The research summarized below supports the thesis of Steven Koonin’s recent Unsettled book.

(p. D2) Long ago, the two oceans existed in harmony, with warm and salty Atlantic waters gently flowing into the Arctic.

. . .

But everything changed when the larger ocean began flowing faster than the polar ocean could accommodate, weakening the distinction between the layers and transforming Arctic waters into something closer to the Atlantic. This process, called Atlantification, is part of the reason the Arctic is warming faster than any other ocean.

. . .

In a paper published Wednesday [Nov. 24, 2021] in the journal Science Advances, Dr. Tesi and colleagues were able to turn back time with yard-long sediment cores taken from the seafloor, which archived 800 years of historical changes in Arctic waters. Their analysis found Atlantification started at the beginning of the 20th century — decades before the process had been documented by satellite imagery. The Arctic has warmed by around 2 degrees Celsius since 1900. But this early Atlantification did not appear in existing historical climate models, a discrepancy that the authors say may reveal gaps in those estimates.

“It’s a bit unsettling because we rely on these models for future climate predictions,” Dr. Tesi said.

Mohamed Ezat, a researcher at the Tromso campus of the Arctic University of Norway, who was not involved with the research, called the findings “remarkable.”

“Information on long-term past changes in Arctic Ocean hydrography are needed, and long overdue,” Dr. Ezat wrote in an email.

For the full story, see:

Sabrina Imbler. “This Ocean Invaded Its Neighbor Earlier Than Anyone Thought.” The New York Times (Tuesday, November 30, 2021): D2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 27, 2021, and has the same title as the print version. The last three sentences quoted above, appear in the online version, but not in the shorter print version. Where there is a slight difference in wording between the two versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

The paper co-authored by Tesi is:

Tesi, Tommaso, Francesco Muschitiello, Gesine Mollenhauer, Stefano Miserocchi, Leonardo Langone, Chiara Ceccarelli, Giuliana Panieri, Jacopo Chiggiato, Alessio Nogarotto, Jens Hefter, Gianmarco Ingrosso, Federico Giglio, Patrizia Giordano, and Lucilla Capotondi. “Rapid Atlantification Along the Fram Strait at the Beginning of the 20th Century.” Science Advances 7, no. 48 (Nov. 24, 2021): eabj2946.

The Koonin book that I mention above is:

Koonin, Steven E. Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2021.

Beijing University Bans Visiting Harvard Students from Singing the National Anthem on the Fourth of July

(p. A4) TAIPEI, Taiwan — Harvard University will move a popular Chinese-language program to Taipei from Beijing amid a broad chill in academic and cultural exchanges between the United States and China.

The program’s director, Jennifer L. Liu, told The Harvard Crimson that the move had been driven by a perceived lack of friendliness on the part of the Chinese host institution, the Beijing Language and Culture University.

. . .

. . . Professor Liu said that the program had been experiencing difficulties securing access to the classrooms and dormitories needed from Beijing Language and Culture University, according to an account she provided to The Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper. She also said that in 2019, the Chinese university told the program that it could no longer hold an annual gathering to celebrate the Fourth of July, during which students and faculty would typically eat pizza and sing the American national anthem.

Though China has instituted stringent pandemic restrictions, with provinces undergoing snap lockdowns as coronavirus cases have flared up, Professor Liu said she believed that the unwelcoming environment was related to a shift in the Chinese government’s attitudes toward American institutions.

. . .

The Harvard program’s relocation to Taiwan also comes as the island has supplanted Hong Kong as a bastion of free speech in the Chinese-speaking world, an idea that Taiwanese officials have been keen to emphasize.

Joanne Ou, a spokeswoman for Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry, said the agency “believes that the democratic and liberal system and pluralistic society will enable young American students to have a deeper understanding of Taiwan and the Chinese-speaking world.”

She added, “Only in a free environment where speech is not censored can the best results of learning be achieved.”

For the full story, see:

Amy Qin. “Chill in Beijing, Harvard Shifts Program to Taiwan.” The New York Times (Thursday, October 14, 2021): A4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. [sic] 10, 2021, and has the same title “Amid U.S.-China Chill, Harvard Moves a Top Language Program to Taiwan.” The last three sentences quoted above, appear in the online version, but not in the shorter print version. Where there is a slight difference in wording between the two versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

When Iztapalapians Fear Crime, Their Government Paints Murals

(p. A6) MEXICO CITY — Observed from a soaring cable car, the city is a sea of concrete stretching to the horizon, ruptured only by clusters of skyscrapers and the remains of ancient volcanoes.

. . .

The 6.5-mile line, inaugurated in August [2021]When I, is the longest public cableway in the world, according to the city government. As well as halving the commute time for many workers in the capital’s most populous borough, the cable car has an added attraction: exuberant murals painted by an army of local artists, many of which can be viewed only from above.

. . .

The rooftop paintings are the latest step in a beautification project from Iztapalapa’s government, which has hired some 140 artists over the past three years to blanket the neighborhood with almost 7,000 pieces of public art, creating explosions of color in one of the most crime-ridden areas of Mexico City.

. . .

But despite the government’s efforts, most in Iztapalapa continue to live in fear: According to a June survey from Mexico’s national statistics agency, nearly eight of 10 residents said they felt unsafe — among the highest rate for any city in the country.

Women in particular face pervasive violence in Iztapalapa, which ranks among the top 25 municipalities in the country for femicide, in which a woman is killed because of her gender. From 2012 to 2017, city security cameras recorded more instances of sexual assault against women in Iztapalapa than in any other Mexico City borough, according to a 2019 report from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

That gender-based violence is what prompted the mural and lighting project in the first place, according to the mayor: to create pathways where women could feel safe walking home. Many of the murals celebrate women, either residents like Ms. Bautista or famous figures from history as well as feminist symbols.

. . .

Daniela Cerón, 46, was born in Iztapalapa when it was just a rugged community, with open fields where farmers grew crops.

“It was like the little town,” Ms. Cerón recalled. “You used to see the beautiful hills.”

. . .

As far as the murals go, she says they look beautiful but have done little to make her feel safer.

“It does nothing for me to have a very pretty painted street if three blocks away, they’re robbing or murdering people,” she said.

Alejandra Atrisco Amilpas, an artist who has painted some 300 murals across Iztapalapa, believes they can make residents prouder of where they live, but she admits they can only go so far.

“Paint helps a lot, but sadly it can’t change the reality of social problems,” she said.“A mural isn’t going to change whether you care about the woman being beat up on the corner.”

For the full story, see:

Oscar Lopez. “MEXICO CITY DISPATCH; A Respite for Lives Battered by Poverty and Crime.” The New York Times (Thursday, October 14, 2021): A6.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “MEXICO CITY DISPATCH; Frida Kahlo, Aztec Gods: Can Art Lift Up a Poor Neighborhood?”)

Californians Move to Texas, to Prosper

(p. 5) A Californian will feel right at home in Dallas even before touching the ground. Like the suburbs around Los Angeles, San Diego and across the Bay Area, Dallas and other Texas metros are built on the certainty of cars and infinite sprawl; from the air, as I landed, I could see the familiar landscape of endless blocks of strip malls and single-family houses, all connected by a circulatory system of freeways.

. . .

My guide through the Dallas suburbs was Marie Bailey, a real estate agent who runs Move to Texas From California!, a Facebook group that helps disillusioned Californians find their way to the promised land. Bailey is herself a Californian. She and her family moved in 2017 from El Segundo, a beach city next to Los Angeles International Airport, to Prosper, a landlocked oasis of new housing developments north of Dallas. In El Segundo, the median home list price is $1.3 million; in Prosper, it’s less than half that.

And in Prosper, the houses are palatial, many of them part of sprawling new developments that brim with amenities unheard-of in California. “It’s like living in a country club,” Bailey told me, which sounded like hyperbole until she showed me the five-acre lagoon and white sand beach in the development where she and her husband purchased a home. Their house is 5,000 square feet; they bought it for about the same price for which they sold a home they owned in Orange County, which was 1,500 square feet.

Bailey’s move gets to the heart of the great California-Texas migration: housing. As she drove me around Dallas’s suburbs, Bailey would point out cute house after cute house now occupied by a Californian. I had been talking about the idea of choosing between California and Texas, but for many people moving here, Bailey suggested, there really was not much choice at all — it was simply that, economically, they could not make their lives work in California, and in Texas, they could.

. . .

Texas, now, feels a bit like California did when I first moved here in the late 1980s — a thriving, dynamic place where it doesn’t take a lot to establish a good life. For many people, that’s more than enough.

For the full commentary, see:

Farhad Manjoo, Gus Wezerek and Yaryna Serkez. “Is Texas the New California?” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sunday, November 28, 2021): 4-5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 23, 2021, and has the title “Everyone’s Moving to Texas. Here’s Why.”)

Butterworth Made “Steady Forward Progress” an “Ingenious” Business Model for Tractor Success

(p. A15) The story of Ford’s dream of perfecting an affordable, all-purpose tractor—or, as Ford later imagined it, a gasoline-powered “automobile plow”—is seldom told. Neil Dahlstrom’s “Tractor Wars” tells it well.

. . .

By 1918 there were many competitors in America’s great tractor pull. Most were small or mid-sized firms, including the Gas Traction Co. of Minneapolis, and the Moline (Ill.) Plow Co. and the Waterloo (Iowa) Gasoline Engine Co. Two ultimately broke out of the pack with loud, gas-guzzling chugs.

. . .

Early attempts by International Harvester to develop a gas-powered tractor were only moderately successful, but in 1920 its engineers made a breakthrough, converting the two front wheels into “traction wheels,” moving the engine from the rear to the middle, and adding three reverse speeds. All of this, plus enhancements to compatible cultivating attachments, made Harvester’s Farmall tractor competitive with the Fordson.

Ford’s other chief rival was the John Deere Co. Its earliest claim to fame was becoming the “world’s largest manufacturer of steel plows.” The company shifted course in 1907 when William Butterworth, the son-in-law of Charles Deere, took control. According to Mr. Dahlstrom, Butterworth was “cautious with the family money that still financed the company, pushing for long-term gains in a cyclical, low-margin, weather-dependent business.” While some outsiders “mistook Butterworth’s preference for steady forward progress as indecision,” his business model turned out to be ingenious.

. . .

Mr. Dahlstrom, to his credit, has written a superb history of the tractor and this long-forgotten period of capitalism in U.S. agriculture.

For the full review, see:

Michael Taube. “BOOKSHELF; American Power Pull.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, December 30, 2021): A15.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 29, 2021, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Tractor Wars’ Review: American Power Pull.”)

The book under review is:

Dahlstrom, Neil. Tractor Wars: John Deere, Henry Ford, International Harvester, and the Birth of Modern Agriculture. Dallas, TX: Matt Holt Books, 2022.

Colorful Spawning of Great Barrier Reef Is “Strong Demonstration” of Ecological “Recovery”

(p. D2) Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is spawning in an explosion of color as the World Heritage-listed natural wonder recovers from life-threatening coral bleaching episodes.

. . .

“It is gratifying to see the reef give birth,” Phillips said in a statement on Wednesday. “It’s a strong demonstration that its ecological functions are intact and working after being in a recovery phase for more than 18 months.”

For the full story, see:

AP. “In the Great Barrier Reef, Spawning Prompts a Burst of Color.” The New York Times (Tuesday, November 30, 2021): D2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: I could not find an online version of this story on the NYT web site.)

The “Adventure” and “Fun” of Driving Cars

(p. B6) For one Monday in early December, the New York Stock Exchange played the role of vintage car museum. At one end of Broad Street, outside the exchange, sat a high-roofed and stately 1921 Duesenberg coupe. At the other, a fearsome 1966 Ford GT40 racecar. Between them, encased in a glass vitrine, was an imperturbably cheery 1967 Porsche 911S.

Shaking hands by the coffee stand was McKeel Hagerty. The chief executive of the classic car insurance company that bears his name, Mr. Hagerty was there to ring the opening bell, and celebrate the first day of trading for his newly public company (HGTY). Later, at a brunch in the Big Board’s boardroom, Mr. Hagerty wielded a ceremonial gavel and said, “This is only just the beginning.”

The origins of Hagerty, the company, are far humbler. It was founded by his parents, Frank and Louise, in 1984, in their basement in Traverse City, Mich., as a boutique insurer of wooden boats.

In the early 1990s, the company began insuring collectible cars. With Mr. Hagerty at the helm, it has become one of the largest indemnifiers of vintage vehicles, with over two million classics on its rolls. The actuarial data necessary to determine repair and replacement costs on these cars has also made it a foremost authority on their valuation.

. . .

Hagerty went public via a SPAC, or special-purpose acquisition company, raising roughly $265 million in the process with a goal of expanding. So, what are Hagerty’s ambitions now? And why did it need to become a publicly traded company in order to achieve them?

“The purpose of the company is to save driving and car culture,” Mr. Hagerty said flatly, as we piloted a zippy, Hagerty-insured 1972 BMW 2002 tii toward the tip of Lower Manhattan. “If we’re going to save car culture, we have to make investments outside of the core business, and really help create a whole ecosystem.” Achieving this lofty goal required hundreds of millions of dollars in additional investment, he said: “That would have been tough for us to afford just as a private company.”

. . .

Outside experts agreed with this assessment of Mr. Hagerty’s vocation. “They encourage driving. Their tag lines all the time are, ‘Drive your cars,’” Mr. Gross said. “In some ways, you think, that’s a little strange for an insurance company. You think they’d want you to drive as little as possible to minimize the risk.” He laughed.

Instead, Mr. Hagerty said he sincerely wants to help people find the pleasure in “the experiential sides” of the automobile, those organized around adventure, preservation, culture and legacy. “I think that if we can help steward along the reasons that people drive and love cars, other than to get from Point A to Point B, then we win.”

Mr. Gross concurred with this plan. “I don’t know how many companies there are that take the long way around. And that’s what Hagerty is doing here. They’re not only selling insurance. They’re trying to make sure that the reason you need that insurance is viable and fun, and lots of people are doing it,” he said. “As a business strategy, it’s pretty smart.”

For the full commentary, see:

Brett Berk. “A Classic Car Insurer’s Vision to ‘Save Driving’.” The New York Times (Friday, Dec. 17, 2021): B6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date December 16, 2021, and has the title “A Classic Car Giant With a Lofty Mission: Save Driving.”)

Most of Supply-Chain Delays Occur in U.S.

(p. A17) Mr. Levy, 53, says he doesn’t see the supply chain’s “unprecedented crisis” ending before 2023. He’s chief economist for Flexport, a San Francisco-based tech company for global-logistic services.

. . .

The typical transit time for a container in pre-pandemic days was 71 days, Mr. Levy says. That’s how long it took for a full container to depart from Shanghai; discharge in Los Angeles; proceed to a warehouse near, say, Chicago; get trucked empty back to California; and then return to Shanghai. The current transit time is 117 days or more. The greatest delays are in the U.S., owing to port bottlenecks and trucking shortages. The Los Angeles to Chicago leg, for instance, now takes 22 days, 12 more than before. It takes 33 days for the empty container to return to California, compared with 20 in the old days.

Not only does it take much longer to import goods, it’s also become eye-wateringly expensive. “Where it might have cost $1,500 to move a container across the Pacific,” Mr. Levy says, “you’re seeing them go for more like $15,000 per container.”

This surge in transport costs has hit lower-value goods hardest and made quick restocking all the more of a challenge. Mr. Levy talked to a company that sells office supplies. “They were moving a container whose contents were in the order of $15,000 in value. Well, if that now costs $15,000 to move, you have a problem, right?”

. . .

The key question: “When will we start seeing people behave the way they used to in their consumption?” It’s possible we won’t. “People are creatures of habit,” Mr. Levy observes, and the pandemic has led them to take on new habits. So far, at any rate, “we have not seen a reversion to the previous patterns.”

The supply-chain crisis, Mr. Levy contends, has no parallel in history. We’ve had shocks before, such as the oil crisis of 1973. But “global-trade liberalization and distributed specialization,” allied to an ease of shipping and transport, fueled by ideas like “just-in-time inventory”—that’s all new.

. . .

There are specific short-term measures that governments can take, such as liberalization of trucking rules, traffic control, land-use regulation for stacking containers and port-opening hours. But Mr. Levy is “loath to put a small subset of these forward as a panacea.”

For the full interview, see:

Tunku Varadarajan. “THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW; An Insider Explains the Supply-Chain Crisis.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date December 17, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

Scientists Should Not Censor Contrarian Conjectures from Outsiders

On Nov. 3, 2021 I presented my paper “Galilean Science: The Impediment to Progress When Science as Doctrine Wins Over Science as Process” at Day 3 of the Organisation [sic] for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “Workshop on AI and the Productivity of Science.” The OECD has 38, mainly European, governments as members and has the objective of finding policies to advance the economic progress of the world.

The link above is to OECD’s recently posted YouTube Zoom recording of all of Day 3. My presentation starts at about 1:23.

In the session where I presented my paper, we were asked to answer one of a couple of questions. I chose to focus on the question: “What is the most important impediment to raising the productivity of science, and why?” My answer, in brief, was that science is impeded when authorities require adherence to the dominant doctrines, censoring rather than permitting the contrarian conjectures from outsiders who advance us toward truth.

Galilean science is also discussed on p. 129 of my Openness book:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Concentrating at the Office Can Be Harder than Concentrating at Home

(p. A4) Many people returning to offices are starting to wonder how they ever managed to be productive in a place with so many distractions. On top of standard interruptions to the workday that have long existed—say, small talk while making a fresh cup of coffee—there are now new temptations and annoyances (depending on whom you ask) spawned by staggered schedules, hybrid work, and the pandemic-induced realization that socializing can be exhausting.

. . .

Valerie Warshaw, 40, an interior designer with an architecture firm in Richmond, Va., also has trouble focusing with people chatting near her desk, but for different reasons.

“I get distracted just from hearing other people’s conversation and then I’m like, ‘Ooh! I want to chime in on that,’ ” she said. “The group that I’m in is very social.”

. . .

Her noise-canceling AirPods can help but have a downside: she gets startled when people come up behind her desk without warning. Ms. Warshaw has learned the best way to get anything done is to barricade herself in a conference room.

“People don’t disturb you because they think you’re on a call,” she said.

For the full story, see:

Katherine Bindley. “Working From Work Can Be Hard.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021): A1 & A4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated December 17, 2021, and has the title “Working From Work Is Harder Than It Sounds.”)