The Earthshot Prize – Kennedy’s Space Race Didn’t Do That

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A claim that Kennedy’s Space Race produced all sorts of lovely things. When, in fact, well, not quite so.

The point they’re attempting to make is that if lots and lots is thrown at directed research then we’ll get spin offs. Which indeed we might well do. But even so it’s important to claim as spin offs things which actually were:

It is hoped that its launch will spawn new technologies, systems and policies just as the moonshot that John F. Kennedy proposed in the 1960s led to the development of new technology such as the MRI scanner and satellite dishes, smoke detectors and advanced water filters.

Smoke detectors, for example, pre-date the spare program. In fact, the basic technology we use today – americium doped detectors – was licenced for use in 1963. No, because something was coincident with NASA aiming for the stars does not mean it was caused by that splashing the cash.

So too with NMR. There is no connection at all with a Brit refining earlier techniques and wanting to beat the Russians to the Moon.

Sure and fine, claim all sorts of things as a justification for your latest idea. But they really should actually be a justification, no?

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jgh
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jgh

Surely Velcro(tm) was a result of the space race? If an alien visitor hadn’t been stranded in 1930s America….

Pcar
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Pcar

@jgh

Kevlar frequently attributed to space race/NASA too – more bunkim

Spike
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Spike

Yes, frittering money around leads to pro-consumer innovation, because on Earth, everything leads to something else. A huge NASA budget employs thousands with nothing better to do than claim the budget was worthwhile. Maybe the entire budget should be cash prizes; in the manner of the Worstall Carbon Tax, individuals would decide the best way to win it. Or, if we kept the cash in taxpayers’ pockets, the same march of innovation would occur without wasteful moon shots.

Pcar
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Pcar

@Tim W

the moonshot that John F. Kennedy proposed in the 1960s led to the development of new technology such as the MRI scanner

We can stop reading there and dismiss as nonsence.

MRI scanner was invented by chap at Aberdeen Uni and developed to sellable product by Thorn, London

Satellite dishes: developed from UK WWII ‘Sound Dishes’ which led to UK WWII RADAR

Spike
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Spike

Well, you can’t deny Tang breakfast drink.

John B
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John B

And large cavity magnetron developed by a team at Birmingham Uni (I think) late 1930s to improve RDF (RADAR) and thus microwave technology for ovens and communications without which no satellite dishes or Moonshot. MRI, originally Nuclear Magnetic Resonance but thanks to the β€˜Green’ loonies who had frightened everyone about nuclear energy, the name was changed. Developed and first machine, by Sir Peter Mansfield Nottingham Uni in 1978. It relied on digital computed image rendering developed by EMI as a spin-off from their digital sound programme, and used in CAT Scanning. EMI Medical built the first CT Scanners in the… Read more »

Pcar
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Pcar

@John B

The MRI scanner was developed at the University of Aberdeen through the 1970s by a team of visionary medical physicists led by Professor John Mallard

1 https://aberdeenmedlib.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/worlds-first-mri-scanner-now-on-display/
2 https://www.abdn.ac.uk/news/12225/
3 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-44616538

EMI – CT Yes, MRI maybe if before Med Div sold to Thorn. Thorn EMI (1979) is easier!

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

The PC. Bar codes. Metal-coated reflective film. Teflon. Have you ever wondered how the space wonks lubricate machinery that one moment is heated to a few hundred degrees and the next chilled to a couple of degrees above absolute zero? Few of those television, comms and GPS satellites would have got into orbit without a NASA or ESA to launch them. As with the iPhone, these technologies may not have been invented in response to the space race. It took the moon shot to rescue them from obscurity. High-tech industries have high economic multipliers, and the wonks who work in… Read more »

Pcar
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Pcar

@Michael van der Riet

Oh dear, Kevlar etc again; before posting, check accuracy:

PTFE was accidentally discovered in 1938 by Roy J. Plunkett while he was working in New Jersey for DuPont. Patented the new fluorinated plastic (analogous to the already known polyethylene) in 1941,] and registered the Teflon trademark in 1945.

By 1948, DuPont, which founded Kinetic Chemicals in partnership with General Motors, was producing over two million pounds (900 tons) of Teflon brand PTFE per year in Parkersburg, West Virginia