A round-up of the week’s causes for optimism, discussions of optimism/pessimism gap, and debunkings of pessimism, as noticed in the media.
* “NASA’s New Nuclear Reactor for Future Space Missions”. NASA has tested a new type of ‘Kilopower’ nuclear reactor in the Nevada desert. The reactor is intended to power human colonies on the Moon and the Mars for more than a decade. The tests prove that the reactor will not melt even after failure during operation.
* “Small-town American newspapers are surprisingly resilient”. In American terms, a ‘small town’ means a place with 100,000 people or less. The sort of place where both readers and advertisers will rally round their local newspaper.
* “Public EV charging points on UK lamp posts”. Public open-access electric vehicle (EV) charging points have been launched in the UK. They’re fitted into street lamp-posts.
* “Hypergrowth and The Law of Startup Physics”. “I started noticing patterns in [business] startups — which I’ve validated with executives and VCs over the years — that how companies scale and break matches military groupings. So, the most efficient group in the military is a group of three, then a group of eight, and then three groups of eight, so 24.”
How is this relevant to optimism? It’s another example of our newly applying certain time-tested ‘rules of organisation’ to traditional activities, which is just as important as discovering new drugs or energy sources.
* Development + Cooperation reviews Hans Rosling’s new book on world mega-trends: “Why things are better than people in rich countries think”.
* Here’s one I missed, a 2017 Futerra briefing-paper for Vodaphone. “An Insights Report On Optimism” (October 2017). Ten key trends, in a brief summary PDF.
* “Technological Progress Freed Children from Hard Labor” “It’s summertime and across the United States, children are away from school. … Washing machines and tractors have accomplished more than just cleaning clothes and ploughing fields. They also freed America’s children [from the farms] to receive an education.”
* “U.S. Hispanic Unemployment Reaches All-time Record Low”, as the Trump economy continues to build.
* The Economist on a major priorities-tallying project in India ($). Over three days an Expert Panel, including Nobel laureate Prof. Finn Kydland and Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg, produced over 1,000 pages of new thinking and quantification on various spending priorities. The panel then presented a prioritized list of 77 interventions for development and growth in Haryana, a state that abuts the national capital of Delhi. Lomborg’s personal newsletter especially highlighted that… “Two education interventions are among the top-ten priorities chosen by the Eminent Panel: teaching children in groups at the right level, and computer-assisted learning.”
* The Royal Observatory in Greenwich ceased night-sky observations in 1957 due to the air pollution then prevalent in London. But the famous Observatory is now re-starting observations with a newly installed cutting-edge telescope.
* Visits to city parks and green spaces in England were up by 25 per cent in 2016, compared to 2010, new research by Natural England has revealed. And that was despite a string of relatively poor summers. One imagines that the near-perfect spring and summer of 2018 have sent the stats leaping up even further.
* The pleasantly warm and rain-less summer in the British Isles is revealing abundant new archaeological sites, in combination with newly-affordable HD photography drones. As grass turns yellow, marks from ancient sites show up on the parched grass and in field crops. New finds include a huge new Neolithic henge near the famous Newgrange in Ireland…
* And finally, in a dry summer, The grass really is is ‘greener on the other side’.