1,428 Americans ( so far) have signed a petition to the White House website We the People urging that the government “Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016”. A Death Star , of course , is a manmade armored planet , the size of the moon , which will be capable of pulverizing entire enemy planets with fearsome death rays . It exists only in the fertile mind of George Lucas and , even without the yawning “fiscal cliff” , we just do not have the resources or the technology to even dream of bringing it to reality. The cost of a Death Star , were we capable of fabricating one , is a whopping $ 15.6 septillion , or 1.4 trillion times the U.S national debt. Even the cost of the steel required to build this monster is a prohibitive $ 852 quadrillion . I can’t wrap my head around terms like , septillion, quadrillion and trillion but I don’t need to know them exactly to figure that building a Death Star is a non-starter. Any ninth or tenth grader should know as much but , still , 1,428 adults thought fit to sign this ridiculous petition.
The same day that Yahoo featured news of this petition , the Siemens Foundation announced the winners of its annual national science contest.Top individual honors, and a 100, 000 $ prize ,went to 17-year-old Kensen Shi of College Station, Texas. He combined two previous algorithms into a new and more efficient one that helps robots find a safe path around obstacles.The runner-up was Jiayi Peng, 17, a senior at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, N.Y., who won second place for her work building and studying a model that simulates the neuron network in the brain.
Top team honors went to a trio of seniors, Jeremy Appelbaum, William Gil and Allen Shin, from George W. Hewlett High School in Hewlett, N.Y., for their research on a protein linked to tumor formation. They will share a $100,000 scholarship. Second place team honors went to Daniel Fu and Patrick Tan of Indiana, who created new math techniques that make it easier to analyze networks of genes and proteins in the body. The networks are responsible for body rhythms involved in things like sleep. They will share a $50,000 scholarship.
Did you notice something about the names of the winners ? Of the seven, six are Asian Americans and one is a Jewish American. I mention this only to make the point that mainstream Americans still shy away from the sciences . It should be apparent by now that the future belongs to the scientists and the engineers and the technocrats and yet most young Americans don’t seem to see the writing on the wall. The only technology that they are interested in are the latest video games.and social networking. And that is why we have people who think the Death Star can actually become a reality.
Thank God for the people like those who entered the Siemens contest , the winners and the non-winners because it is they who will determine the future of this country and whether we can be competitive in the global marketplace. I am heartened to read that Jiayi Peng, the only female competing for individual honors, said she’s interested in studying math or physics in college. We need many more like her!