April 14, 2008

On "The Next Giant Leap for Mankind"

While I enjoyed reading a recent 60 Minutes' story on "The Next Giant Leap for Mankind", I was amazed at how the American public assesses the contributions of NASA (and other government-based research agencies for that matter) throughout history.

The comments section opened my eyes on where the above-average American stands when it comes to mankind's scientific curiosity and quest for finding answers to important questions. It's true that leading scientists often make controversial decisions that cost a fortune, but no real lessons are learned unless someone makes a very very big mistake. And the humankind has learned a lot from our big mistakes (we didn't send astronauts to moon again to prove that we can do it).

The commenters view and assess all of the space research only with respect to the current domestic issues of the US (such as the lack of a global public health care system). Some of the commenters point to the urgency to spend all the money on finding a solution to the global warming problem, or other next big questions. But I think, the answers to the next big questions need not be sought sequentially. The logic behind, "we should solve global warming in our backyard first, then see if there is evidence of life elsewhere in the solar system," is simply very wrong to me.

There are billions of us (much less curious and/or motivated enough to take action), and enough resources sitting around. We should work in parallel on any of the next big problems and make sure that the scientific community involved in answering any of these questions, gets a share of the tax money.

April 12, 2008

I want to be a Mathebotician

And thus I coin a new word, mathebotics, to refer to the science which utilizes appropriate mathematical techniques to do robotics. Most roboticists (people who do robotics as a hobby or as a profession) are not matheboticians. And that is exactly why robotics has not yet dominated, despite the large-scale efforts of the thousands of roboticists in the world.