Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Review: NOVA And The Space Elevator

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Despite being fashionably late (okay 15 minuets late) I was able to catch a glimpse of the NOVA ScienceNow that was mentioned previously.

The show will be posted online for those who missed it, and should be mildly entertaining at best. After watching the shows presentation of the space elevator, here is the good, the bad and the ugly.


For the Optimist: The show did a great job at explaining the overall concept of a space elevator by comparing it with a yo-yo, not to mention explaining in layman's terms how carbon nanotubes are created in the first place.

The show also highlighted Dr. Edwards, as well as mentioning an interesting fact about Arthur C. Clark conceiving of the idea of communication satellites before there time (and linking that with the space elevator idea now).

A large portion of time was given towards the X-Prize Cup SE teams, which made up for them being overshadowed by their rocket neighbors on camera.


For the Pessimist: Dr. Edwards was only given eight seconds (or was that ten?) of air time, although the MIT student's explanation made up for his loss. Also, there was no mention of LiftPort in the entire show (that I saw).

It also seemed as if the show removed all criticism about the SE project, (a reason why LiftPort may have been removed) in order to create a positive spin. Although this may help out the SE in the short term, such criticism is necessary as it demonstrates how hard of a project this is (which helps eliminate frustration over the apparent slowness in building this project).


For the Realist: The show was very well balanced with imagery as well as breaking the whole concept into "child-like bites." This presentation is something you could show in front of most audiences, and they would come away with the general grasp of the project.

Unfortunately it looked as if the Space Elevator was a "loss leader" segment, whose main aim was to drive traffic to the other three discussions on the show (aging, mayan ruins via satellite, and the language of bacteria organisms).

Perhaps next time they feature a segment about space, they could go more in depth about the SE, which means:

  • Highlighting the potential problems and payoff's of constructing a real space elevator
  • Giving Dr. Brad Edwards five minuets of air time as well as Michael Laine of LiftPort
  • Give the public a time frame of when to expect one in their lifetime (i.e. Edwards says 2018, while LiftPort plans one in 2031).


Overall Opinion: B+ (it's a great start, but lets make the sequel to this even better) I'm definitely looking forward towards another show.

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

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