from the world's big
Icy Space Relations
Astronaut Leroy Chiao is a veteran of four space missions, recently acting as Commander of Expedition 10 aboard the International Space Station. He has logged over 229 days in space - over 36 hours of which were spent in Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA, or spacewalks). He served as a member of the White House appointed Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee.
Dr. Chiao left NASA in 2005 and is involved in entrepreneurial business ventures and works in the US, China, Japan and Russia. He is a director of Excalibur Almaz, a private manned spaceflight company. In addition, he is a director of InNexus, a biotechnology/pharmaceutical development company. Active as a consultant and public speaker, he also serves as the Chairman of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute User Panel, which is attached to the Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Chiao is a director of Challenger Center and of the Committee of 100. He is also an advisor and spokesman for the Heinlein Prize Trust.
Question: What was it like when former Soviet cosmonauts began training with NASA?
Leroy Chiao: Sure, you're right, in the early days, and in the Apollo days, it was a space race. We were battling against the Soviet Union in space trying to see who could get up into space and who could get to the Moon first. Ultimately the Apollo missions we accomplished that first.
In the '90's then, I came into NASA in 1990, so it was perfect timing and the Berlin wall was falling, or had just fallen, and pretty soon, in '92 or '93, we started working with the Russians. Then this was a weird thing. We had two Cosmonauts come over, two folks that I actually got to know pretty well later on, but at the time, we were kind of looking at them in the Astronaut office as curiosities. This was the first time we had these ex-Soviet Cosmonauts in Houston, they were going to train with us, and one of them was going to fly on the space shuttle. We were going to send a couple of Americans over to fly on Soyuz and go fly to the Mir Space Station, and it was a whole new thing.
A lot of us, including me, viewed it with some skepticism, because I grew up during the Cold War, so to me, I had been hit with all this propaganda all along that their stuff wasn't that good, it wasn't that safe and we were so much better. And of course, what I found out later was that their space stuff was very good and good enough that I was certainly comfortable flying on their equipment. So, it was kind of a revelation of sorts as the years went by and I think it underscores the importance right now of international cooperation.
I just completed an assignment as a member of a ten-member committee called, The Augustine Committee, that the White House Commissioned to study what NASA is doing and then to put forward options to the new administration for going forward. In fact, the NASA Administrators are meeting today with President Obama to discuss those matters. So, one of the conclusions that we came up with, one of the findings was the importance of the international relationships that has come out of the international space station and how we should enhance that kind of thing and actually more forward and expand that framework to move forward into what we call exploration and going beyond lower Earth orbit.
Question: What are relations like now between NASA and other country’’ space programs?
Leroy Chiao: You bet, sure. You know as far as Russia goes, they've been our partner for a long time now, since the early '90's. So you know, what's that, that's more than 15 years. And there have been times where things were a little tense, a little testy, but by and large, the partnership has been very successful. To give you two examples of that, when the Columbia accident occurred, the Russians supported us with their spacecraft faring our astronauts, including me, to the space station and also supplies.
Previous to that, when they were having troubles, the Space Shuttle supported the Space Station Mir bringing up much needed supplies and replacements, critical spares, really. That they were able to keep their space station going for much longer than they would have without us. So, I think that shows, just quickly in two examples, the value of international cooperation.
I think that cooperating in something as visible as space exploration and space flight can only improve relations between the two countries because what happens is, you're working on a common project in a very visible light and so, you're motivated to not have conflicts with each other in other areas. And bringing up China is a good example. In the early '90's, China got serious about wanting to launch astronauts into space and they were actually quite successful in launching many communication satellites. And in the mid-'90's, there was something called the ITAR laws that the U.S. passed and basically shut down western countries, most western countries from launching on Chinese launchers. But they went ahead and developed their incapability, and in 2003, they launched their first astronaut into space.
In 2006, I became the fist American to be allowed to go visit their astronaut center in China in Beijing, and that was really an interesting trip and I got to meet the first few astronauts that they launched into space and I got to know the Director pretty well.
But I think that it makes sense for the U.S. to work with China in the future and I hope to see, if the political atmosphere between the United States and China allow for us to do more cooperation together, especially in the area of human space flight. I think in the same way that it's help improve the relations between the U.S. and Russia; it would help to improve the relations between the U.S. and China.
One example I'll give is, two years ago, China tested a anti-satellite weapon that actually caused quite a bit of controversy and one of the controversies is that by blowing up a satellite, you are creating more space debris which is a hazard to satellites and spacecraft in lower Earth orbit and if they had been a partner, you'd have to do an experiment, and if they had been a partner in the international space station, would they have really done that test? Again, they would have really thought twice, I think, about creating that tension between the countries and also endangering a project, or potentially endangering a project that they were a part of.
Question: Did anyone ever question your patriotism as a second-generation Chinese American?
Leroy Chiao: Well, that never came up and what I was trying to do on that mission that was my first mission where I brought all those things. I brought a flag from China, I brought the stone sculpture from Hong Kong, and I brought a scroll from Taiwan. And what I wanted to do is, because as I was going up and I am this Chinese-American, I wanted to represent Chinese people from the major population centers around the world where there are a lot of Chinese people. And so, I picked Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China. And so, I wanted to bring something from each of those places and so it really wasn't a political thing and I hope people saw it that way because I'm certainly not going to try to – you know, I'm an American. I was born her, I was raised in the U.S., and I'm an American first, but also very proud of my heritage.
Question: Does NASA currently have good relations with the Chinese?
Leroy Chiao: No. Right now, there is very little cooperation between the U.S. and China in space. In fact, it's limited to a couple of exchanges, not exchanges, but a couple of meetings that the Chinese have been invited to and that NASA has been invited to, so there really is no cooperation to speak of in human space flight. There have been no astronauts coming over and training with us and vice versa. The only contact has been in formal and probably mostly through me, as far as contacts with astronauts because once I left NASA, of course, I was no longer affiliated any more and I could go off and do these things. So, these are strictly, you know, when I went over the astronaut center in China, that was strictly as an individual; I wasn't representing NASA. And then a couple of years ago, I attended a big human space flight conference in Beijing and again, I was going as myself. And really, there weren't any NASA astronauts there, I was the only so-called American Astronaut there. We had astronauts from most of the other countries, certainly from Russia, from France, from Japan, several other countries, but it was a little bit odd because here we are at an international gathering of a lot of astronauts and I'm talking about somewhere upwards of 30 or so astronauts, and I'm the only American. And I wasn't even there in an official capacity.
Question: What does the U.S. space program risk by having poor relations with the Chinese?
Leroy Chiao: Well, you know, if you don't think too deeply into it, you could say, wow, well China, they're our potential enemy and why would we want to cooperate with them. They're going to steal our technology and all that. Well, the other way to look at it is, well because we didn't cooperate with them, we gave them motivation to develop their own capability. You know, they developed a very capable rocket system, very capable spacecraft. And if we don't cooperate with them in the future, they're going to develop more capable systems.
And as far as stealing our technology, working in the human space flight, there's nothing in the human space flight realm that is applicable to defense. You know, we're not going -- by working together and maybe sending one of their astronauts to the space station and one of our astronauts on their spacecraft, it's not going to make their missiles more accurate. They're not going to have access to our missile guidance technology and things like that.
So, once you think about it a bit more deeply, It makes sense to cooperate with countries like China. And even in the defense establishment these days, I've talked to individuals during my work on this Augustine Committee who tell me, well now the thinking in the defense arenas is exactly the same thing. They would like to see cooperation in civil space with countries like China because of what I mentioned earlier. If we're working together on a highly visible project, there is going to be much less, or there is going to be motivation for each country to not get into a conflict or any kind of tension in the military sense.
And so, they feel that by working together on civil projects, visible civil projects, they can help accomplish their goals in the defense arena.
Question: Which country is leading in space?
Leroy Chiao: Well, right now, the Americans, I think, I feel the Americans are still the leaders in human space flight. But I have to say that I feel we have a danger here of kind of stagnating. We're kind of resting on our laurels and there's a danger going forward if we don't take bold steps to really support human space flight in this country that we could fall behind.
After the space shuttle is retired, probably in about a year and a-half, or so, the Americans will – we’re going to have a big gap, five to seven years, at least where we're not going to have the ability to send our own astronauts into space, we'll have to buy rides on the Russian Soyuz, and so that will be a pretty big step down for us. The only two countries at that time who will be able to launch people into space will be Russia and China. I've seen the Russian technology up close and I've had a chance to look at some of the Chinese technology. And I have to say, it's a very high level. The have good hardware and what China lacks is operational experience. That is, they haven't flown many missions. But as they gain more experience, as they fly more missions, they'll catch up quickly. They've made some impressive strides.
Russia, of course, has a lot of experience; they've been at this as long as we have technically, even a little bit longer. So, I think the U.S. does face the possibility of losing the lead in human space flight during this period of what we call the gap.
Question: Is American decline in space primarily an economic concern?
Leroy Chiao: I think in a big picture sense, it's more national prestige that we're risking. You know, we are proud of our space program, but as we were talking earlier, the average American doesn't think that much about it right now. So, it may seem like something we could just give up and not really worry about it, but I think it starts creeping into the national psyche. If American astronauts have to hitch rides with the Russians or other nations in the future. If we're not able to launch our own people and operate our own spacecraft anymore then, you know, space -- whether it should be or not, it's seen as like a harbinger of technology. If you can fly people into space, if you can operate into space, then you've got high technology and if you're the leader of that, then you're the leader in technology, or at least that's the way that people think, I believe.
So, if we lose that on a more or less permanent basis, or for a long period of time, my fear is that it will creep into the national psyche in all areas and we as a nation as a whole will kind of be diminished. You saw a little bit of that with Britain back in the early days of sailing ships. They were the sea power, the controlled the seas and they had colonies all over the world and then you can look at history and watch the way that their empire kind of crumbled. I certainly don't want that to happen to the United States.
Recorded on December 16, 2009
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian space program has been working closely with NASA. But current Sino-American relations in space are basically non-existent.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Be fruitful and multiply<p>Scientists in the United Kingdom collected data on more than 13,000 mothers and their children. Most of them were religious, but 12 percent were not. The data included information on their church habits, social networks, number of children, and the scores those children achieved on a standardized test.</p><p>In line with previous findings that religious women have more children than secular women in industrialized countries, a connection between at least monthly church attendance and fertility was confirmed. However, religious parents showed they could avoid the pitfalls that having more children can bring. </p><p>Typically, more children in a family leads to reduced cognitive ability and height in each <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/37/6/1408/729795" target="_blank">child</a>. Some studies find that children do less well in school for each <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13524-016-0471-0" target="_blank">additional sibling they have</a>. This makes a kind of intuitive sense, as parents with more children would have to divide their time, energy, and resources among more people as families expand. One would expect that the larger families would also lead to things like lower test scores. </p><p>Despite the expectation, the children of religious parents didn't have lower scores on standardized tests. There were small positive relationships between the size of the mother's social network, the number of co-religionists helping out, and the children's test scores. However, this association was small, didn't show up in all of the testings, and was unrelated to other variables. </p> These effects might be explained by the size and helpfulness of the social networks around the more religious. Women who went to church at least once a month had more extensive social networks than those who never go or who attend yearly. These social networks of co-religious people mean that there are more people to turn to for help with child-rearing, a point also demonstrated in the data. The amount of aid women got from their fellow churchgoers was also associated with a higher fertility rate. <br> <br> Conversely, an extensive social network was associated with fewer children for secular women. This finding is in line with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1207/s15327957pspr0904_5" target="_blank">previous studies</a> and suggests that the social networks comprised of co-religious individuals differ from those found elsewhere.
So, how quickly should I join a local religious group?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="6RrmYM8M" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9eb4740a7d1e10108a75fd2ed627a90f"> <div id="botr_6RrmYM8M_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/6RrmYM8M-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The study is not without its faults, and more investigations into the relationship between fertility, childcare, ritual, and social networks are needed.</p><p>These findings all show correlation, not causation. Though it might be said the results point towards causation, various alternative interpretations of the data are apparent. The authors note that most religions are explicitly pro-natal. It is possible that religious women have internalized these values and simply choose to have more children than secular women do.</p><p>This idea is similar to a potential interpretation of why large social networks have the opposite effect for secular women. The authors suggest that, in some cases, these more extensive social networks are associated with work and exert an anti-natal influence. Again, the people who build such networks may be people unlikely to have large families under any circumstances.</p><p>However, the researchers' hypothesis endured. The help religious women get from their church-based social networks allows them to have larger families than those who lack these support systems. In some instances, these support systems also prevent the adverse effects of larger families. </p>
The community religion offers<p>As we've mentioned <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/what-is-secular-humanism" target="_blank">before</a>, religion offers a community, and a community provides social capital. As religion continues to decline in the West, the social bonds of faith communities that used to tie social communities together begin to decay. However, as has been noted by a variety of observers for the last few decades, fewer and fewer new organizations appear ready to replace religion as a source of community in our lives.</p><p>While many different organizations might offer social support that religion once provided the whole of western society, this study shows that different social circles can differently affect the people in them. This finding must be considered by those trying to find new communities to join or the authors of future research. </p><p>The community offered by religious groups provides real benefits to those who join them. As this study shows, having the support network religious community offers allows some parents to avoid pitfalls that bedevil those lacking similar support. It suggests that previous studies demonstrating that group ritual offers benefits like increased amounts of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797612472910" target="_blank">group trust</a> and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1069397103037002003" target="_blank">cooperation</a> are onto something and that those benefits have a variety of applications. </p><p>While this study is not without its blind spots, it offers a strong starting point for further investigations into the nature of ritual in our modern lives and how local support networks remain vital in our increasingly globalized world. </p>
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
A neuroscientist argues that da Vinci shared a disorder with Picasso and Rembrandt.
- A neuroscientist at the City University of London proposes that Leonardo da Vinci may have had exotropia, allowing him to see the world with impaired depth perception.
- If true, it means that Da Vinci would have been able to see the images he wanted to paint as they would have appeared on a flat surface.
- The finding reminds us that sometimes looking at the world in a different way can have fantastic results.
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3Mjc2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTA4MDg2NH0.T-98YvLjS9mUCQkgqHyV43Q7h_JIiubrev-Fp_0j4Pg/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C38%2C0%2C579&height=700" id="58346" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="674799ba34e115a2e9a3e94c366bfc26" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Virtuvian Man. Christopher Tyler suggests that Da Vinci used his own image as a template for the face in the drawing.
Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci created c. 1480–1490<p><a href="https://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/christopher-tyler" target="_blank">Professor Christopher Tyler</a> of the City University of London's optometry division analyzed six pieces of Renaissance art by or held to be images of Da Vinci, including the famous <em>Vitruvian Man. </em>By looking at the paintings, drawings, and statues and applying the same techniques optometrists use on patients, Tyler was able to conclude that the eyes of the men depicted were misaligned.</p><p> He concluded that, if the images he analyzed were truly reflective of how Da Vinci looked, that the great artist had a mild case of exotropia. </p>
How would this have helped him paint?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b221010aa7688734d4d6a41f0df5933f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/j6F-sHhmfrY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><a href="https://shileyeye.ucsd.edu/faculty/shira-robbins" target="_blank">Shira Robbins</a>, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California at San Diego, who was not involved with the project, explained to <em><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/10/19/leonardo-da-vincis-genius-may-be-rooted-in-a-common-eye-disorder-new-study-says/?utm_term=.d3f44ed91c16" target="_blank">The Washington Post</a> </em>how individuals with exotropia often turn to additional information to help understand the world around them:</p><blockquote>"What happens in some people is when they're only using one eye . . . they develop other cues besides traditional depth perception to understand where things are in space, looking at color and shadow in a way that most of us who use both eyes at a time don't really appreciate." </blockquote><p>Dr. Robbins agrees that, if the artworks analyzed accurately depict Da Vinci, then he probably had exotropia.</p><p>If Da Vinci did have a mild form of the condition, which would allow him to focus with both eyes when concentrating and with one when relaxed, Tyler asserts that the famed artist could have viewed the world in two or three dimensions at will, showing him the world exactly as he would need to recreate it on a flat surface. Quite the superpower for an artist.</p>
Does this mean Da Vinci would have been a hack if he had normal eyesight?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3MjY5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjYwOTgxOH0.eSu3YBpCuaDj59-4lzSeZ1WgwtV2ETGiWHqczzW3how/img.png?width=980" id="9c323" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="edd4e9e9d9c1156a53242df6288d7cc0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A graph showing the difference in where each eye is focused for each painting, drawing, and statue used in the study. The larger the difference, the more pronounced the exotropia is in the image.<p>Not at all. What Dr. Tyler is suggesting is that the tendency of people who have exotropia to rely on using one eye to see the world and thereby lose some depth perception allowed Da Vinci to understand better how the three-dimensional objects in the world could be translated into a two-dimensional image on a canvas. This could account for some of Da Vinci's skill in depicting shadow and subtle changes in color, since he would have relied on these details to understand the world. <br><br>His polymathic brilliance extended far beyond art, and nobody is claiming that his ideas for flying machines, tanks, or <a href="http://www.da-vinci-inventions.com/davinci-inventions.aspx" target="_blank">other inventions </a>were at all influenced by a vision problem.</p>
How can we know this? He has been dead for five hundred years.<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c26fc51b0aebbcd6905593015fec79e5"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LRAptNtN9-A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There are reasons to be cautious anytime we make claims about people who are long dead. In this case, we have the bonus problem that we aren't 100 percent sure that the images used are supposed to look like Da Vinci. </p><p> That is the major caveat of the idea; all of the images used as evidence of his condition are assumed to look like him. While some of the images, like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Verrocchio)" target="_blank"><em>David</em> by Andrea del Verrocchio</a>, are generally agreed to be based on Leonardo the other pictures are claimed to be reflective of him based only on his statement that "[The soul] guides the painter's arm and makes him reproduce himself, since it appears to the soul that this is the best way to represent a human being." </p><p>Tyler also argues that the portraits he claims are based on Da Vinci share similarities with the images generally accepted to be portraits of him; including similar hair and facial features. This lends weight to the idea that the artist incorporated his own traits into his artwork, including his vision problem. </p><p>Leonardo da Vinci was undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses of all time. If he had exotropia, then it was merely a minor addition to his artistic skills. It does, however, give us a literal example of how people who look at the world differently can use that vantage point to their advantage to create things we all can appreciate. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.