Burt Rutan: Aesthete & Visionary Space Maverick
Perhaps the world's most fiercely original aerospace engineer, Rutan has pioneered beautifully designed aircraft that (successfully) go against the grain of conventional wisdom.
What's the Latest Development?
Aerospace engineer Burt Rutan is one of the biggest proponents of private space travel and also one of the industry's most visionary leaders. Rutan is the singular designer behind SpaceShipOne, which won the $10 million Ansari X prize for completing the first manned private space flight; SpaceShipTwo, which Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic will use to take the world's space tourists to the brink of the final frontier; and StratoLaunch, which is slated to become the world's largest aircraft and be capable of carrying a rocket high into the Earth's atmosphere before launching it into outer space.
What's the Big Idea?
In his persistent desire to further explore space, Rutan understands that today's new technology can broaden tomorrow's horizons in unexpected and exponential ways. He compares private space flight to the development of the personal computer: "We didn’t know the importance of home computers before the internet. We had them mostly for fun, then the internet came along and was enabled by all the PCs out there." Similarly, today's commercial space flights, which rely on NASA contracts or wealthy patrons of space tourism, may yield advances which are unimaginable today.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.
- Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
- As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
- If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
- Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
- By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Journalism got a big wake up call in 2016. Can we be optimistic about the future of media?
- "[T]o have a democracy that thrives and actually that manages to stay alive at all, you need regular citizens being able to get good, solid information," says Craig Newmark.
- The only constructive way to deal with fake news? Support trustworthy media. In 2018, Newmark was announced as a major donor of two new media organizations, The City, which will report on New York City-area stories which may have otherwise gone unreported, and The Markup, which will report on technology.
- Greater transparency of fact-checking within media organizations could help confront and correct fake news. Organizations already exist to make media more trustworthy — are we using them? There's The Trust Project, International Fact-Checkers Network, and Tech & Check.
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