Monday, June 23, 2008

Floods and Fires

I'm sitting in the lobby of the Westin hotel, across the street from the train station, waiting for my train and using their wireless Internet. My train will be delayed a couple of hours leaving because of the flooding in Iowa and Missouri. While the trains between Kansas City and Los Angeles are not affected, the trains from Chicago to Kansas City cannot get through, and have been replaced by busses which won't arrive until around 1:00 or 1:30, despite the normal departure time of 10:55. I'm using the extra time to blog.

Weather is periodic, and it is difficult (if not impossible) to directly link any single weather event to global warming. But hearing about the 500-year flood plane makes one wonder. And my delays show that no form of transportation is immue to the whims of mother nature. As forrest fires burn in Northern California (another region of the country I'll be passing through), John McCain announced a $300 million prize for the American who can build a better car battery. This seems unfair, as Tony Stark will almost certainly win with his arc reactor, and he hardly needs the money.

In all seriousness, McCains proposal is an interesting one. I'm inclined to dislike it, not only because I dislike him, but because I feel that if you plowed $300 million into government funded research (or even, say $250 million), it would most likely yield a similar result, and be better institutionally. While the prize might be more exciting, it's hardly a model under which we can have careers for scientists, who cannot support a family ig their only incentive is prize money. That said, I do like the idea of vaccine prizes, and this is certainly similar. Plus, there would be at least some companies persuing the prize, which would offer a more stable work environment. I have to admit, if Barack Obama had prposed it, I'd be a lot more excited. I have to admit it's a good idea, and I hope Barack Obama at least considres it, if he gets elected. I'd want there to be a clause that would forbid selling the patent to oil companies, who've bought up companies with new battery inovations for suspect reasons (i.e. Chevron with Cobasys).

I should head for the train soon, so I'll end the post here. I'll try to blog from the train if possible, but if not will post next when I arrive in Los Angeles.

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