10 years later Fukushima Daiichi still melts down my heart

Ten years ago this month, 22,000 Japanese citizens died in a huge tsunami that also caused the second-worst nuclear accident in history at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility. Because I know about nuclear safety, I wrote a total of four columns about the accident in the month that followed. You can read them in order here, here, here and here.

When I wrote within hours of the accident that none of the 11 reactors would ever operate again, I was the sole voice on the planet saying so out loud. Read the comments and you’ll see I took some flak for […]

Half a dozen little 2021 predictions about life after COVID-19

Six hundred and seventy-five thousand Americans died of the Spanish Flu in 1918, back when the total population of the United States was 103 million. In the current pandemic, American deaths are already above 540,000 (remember when a projection of 160,000 deaths seemed crazy?) but our population is now 331 million. While COVID-19 will undoubtedly kill more Americans than did the Spanish flu, the percentage of the population dying will be much lower than the 0.65 percent death rate in 1918. But the numbers are close enough that one might guess the long-term impact of this pandemic could be very similar to that one.

I don’t think it will be. I think this pandemic […]

2021 Prediction #6:  COVID-19, Clubhouse, and the Great High School Reset

To this point in my tech predictions for 2021 I have ignored COVID-19, which we all do at our peril. Now that we know the pandemic is real, that it won’t just disappear, and that half a million people are so far dead from it, what are predictable longer-term impacts? I see plenty changing in how we work, how we use social media, and how education has generally failed. Coming out the other side of this mess several aspects of life will be different, but school probably won’t be one of those.

I have an unusual perspective on these times since I am a parent of three sons (19, 16, and 14), I have […]

The Big Sky is Falling

The history of instrument flight (originally called blind flying) has had three distinct phases. The first began with Elmer Sperry’s Gyro Horizon in the 1920s that allowed skilled pilots to fly through clouds by showing them where was the horizon they couldn’t otherwise see. Race pilot Jimmy Doolittle used Sperry’s gyro and a precision altimeter, a gyro compass and a primitive navigation radio in 1929 to make the first flight entirely “under the hood” with takeoff, flight, and landing all without visual references. That Jimmy Doolittle was one hell of a pilot. But for the purposes of this column what I want to concentrate on is that in this first era of instrument flight the only thing Doolittle had to worry about hitting […]

2020-21 is the asterisk academic year

A few weeks ago I wrote a column about helping our children cope with distance learning as we hide from COVID-19. Since then I’ve watched the progress of my own children — Cole (16) and Fallon (14) are still at home — and I’ve spoken to friends and teachers all over the world. It isn’t going well. In fact, the whole distance learning experience has been a disaster that will ultimately result in this academic year being forever assigned an asterisk to separate it from every other academic year, before or after.

I hope your experience is better, but I doubt that is the case. And the fact that people […]