Archive for July, 2017

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.MassiminoSpaceman

Title: Spaceman
Author: Mike Massimino
ISBN: 978-1101903544 (hardback)
Published: October 4, 2016 by Crown Archetype
Price: $28.00 hardback/$11.50 paperback/$13.99 Kindle (7/17)
(Reviewing the Kindle version)
Length: 336 pages

Mike Massimino was an NASA astronaut from 1996 to 2014, and he flew twice in the Space Shuttle, both times to work on the Hubble space telescope. Let’s look at his book.

Book Chapters

Prologue: A Science Fiction Monster (do NOT skip this section)
Ch 1: A Perfect Good
Ch 2: Most All-Around
Ch 3: Who You Gonna Get?
Ch 4: The Smart-Kid Olympics
Ch 5: Force Feedback
Ch 6: Human Factors
Ch 7: Disqualified
Ch 8: Yes or No
Ch 9: There’s Mach 1
Ch 10: If You Have a Problem
Ch 11: Spacewalker
Ch 12: Shackleton Mode
Ch 13: Seeing Beyond the Stars
Ch 14: Ready to Go
Ch 15: Weightless
Ch 16: Earth is a Planet
Ch 17: Maybe this is Heaven
Ch 18: The Story of Space
Ch 19: February 1, 2003
Ch 20: Why We Go
Ch 21: From the Ashes
Ch 22: One Last Job
Ch 23: Line 28
Ch 24: Grounded
Epilogue: Around the Next Corner

And now, my review

Don’t skip the prologue, or you will miss some well written material.  Mike’s description of his first time outside the space shuttle Columbia, as they waited to lift off to head to the Hubble, made me feel like I was there:

“The shuttle was making these ungodly sounds.  I could hear the fuel pumps working, steam hissing, metal groaning and twisting under the extreme cold of the fuel, which was hundreds of degrees below zero.  Rocket fuel burns off at very low temperatures, sending huge billows of smoke pouring out.  Standing there, looking up, I could feel the power of this thing.  It looked like a beast waiting there for us.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Prologue

Now that is descriptive writing!

Mike talks about his childhood, seeing Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon, which made him want to be an astronaut.  During his senior year of high school, Mike decided to go on to Columbia for his undergraduate degree.  He interned before graduating and a mentor at Sperry encouraged him to go on to graduate school to find something he was passionate about, to do with his life.  He saw one of my favorite movies, “The Right Stuff“, which made him realize he really wanted to try to become an astronaut.  He decided his best bet to become an astronaut meant he needed to get a graduate degree (or two) from MIT.  He took a job and decided to wait a year or two before starting grad school, but while he was at work he saw the news about the space shuttle Challenger exploding, and he realized he needed to go ahead and start grad school at MIT.  While there, he started working on skills he needed to become an astronaut, which included scuba diving and getting a private pilot license.

After completing two Masters degrees, Mike decided he needed more education to stand out to NASA, so he started on a program Ph.D at MIT.  It was difficult, and he failed his first qualifying oral exam.  He was on his honeymoon in Portugal when he thought about the early ocean explorers that took risks and never quit, so he realized he needed to try again.  I too had issues in college when I was younger, but later in life I returned and earned my undergrad degree in Computer Science.  That graduation ceremony is one of my own personal high points in life.  Like Mike, I encourage people to not give up and continue to try, as accomplishing a major life goal is always worthwhile.

Before reading Mike’s bio, I figured that a man with a Ph.D from MIT that became an astronaut and had two shuttle missions working on the Hubble might be arrogant and full of himself.  I was wrong.  In this book, Mike credits the people around him that helped him become what he wanted.

“I owe everything I’ve ever accomplished to the people around me – people who pushed me to be the best version of myself.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch 6

It is inspirational to see someone with such a impressive career be that humble.  You don’t need to be a superman to become an astronaut – you need to work long and hard and with focus to become one.  I should add that Mike prepared differently for his second Ph.D oral exam and passed it.

After earning his Ph.D, Mike took a job with McDonnell Douglas and moved to Houston to be near NASA.  He applies and goes through the astronaut selection process, passing everything but the eye exam.  Now that his vision was a disqualifying issue, he decided to fix it instead of giving up.  He sees an eye doctor and starts vision training.  Working hard, following the advice of his doctor and friends, his vision improved enough and after reapplying, was accepted into the NASA astronaut program.  At last, he was in.

Mike undergoes new astronaut orientation and talks about flying T-38s.  I’d assumed all astronauts are pilots, but that isn’t true.  Mission specialists like Mike fly in the back seat – they get to do maneuvers including aerobatic, as well as handle the radio and navigate, but they don’t do take offs or landings.  Bummer.

“There are a couple of things you do on your first flight, kind of like your initiation.  The first thing is to go weightless.  The second thing you do is break the sound barrier.  When we reached <mach> 1.0, I said, ‘There’s Mach 1,’ in my best Chuck Yeager impression.

I loved flying.  I could not get enough of it.  Backseaters had to log a minimum of twenty-five training hours in the T-38 every quarter.  I was always near the top of my class in hours.  I had more hours than any mission specialist in my group, especially out of the civilians.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman

I’d love to have a chance to ride in a T-38, even just one time, and yeah, I’d take as many photos as my phone would hold (and maybe one or two short movies) to be able to relive the event.  Maybe some day.  Everyone can dream, can’t they?

Shortly after being accepted to the astronaut program, Mike’s father became ill and he asked his fellow astronauts for help and they gave it.  Mike said something about astronauts I hadn’t heard before and feel like I should share it with you:

“If you’ve ever wondered what the right stuff is, that’s what the right stuff is – the real right stuff.  It’s not about being crazy enough to strap yourself to the top of a bomb.  That’s actually the easy part.  It’s more about character, serving a purpose greater than yourself, putting the other guy first, and being able to do that every single day in every aspect of your life.  People ask me all the time what it takes to become an astronaut.   It’s not about being the smartest or having the most college degrees.  The real qualifications for being an astronaut are: Is this someone I’d trust with my life? Will this person help look after my family if I don’t make it home?”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman

Mike’s father recovered and was able to attend his graduation ceremony from Astronaut Candidate (ASCAN) to full Astronaut.  The way Mike’s fellow astronauts and friends rallied around when he needed help was incredible – not many companies where you matter so much to you coworkers, especially in this modern world.

When Mike was becoming an astronaut, it was the time we were preparing to build the ISS.  Assembling the ISS would require a lot of spacewalking, so Mike learned that skill.  He covers the details in depth, and I had no idea how much was involved just learning to move about in space.  Fascinating read, chapter 11.  Do not skip it.

One thing the astronauts had to learn was cold weather survival skills.  They went to Cold Lake in Canada, where it was subzero most of the the time they were there.  As a Minnesota transplant, I understand how difficult it can be for warm climate people to be forced to contend with severe cold, and they did well.  During a trip to Japan to help the Japanese Space Agency, he realized something important about his job:

“Going to space doesn’t make you an astronaut.  Being an astronaut means you’re ready to go to space.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch 12

The Hubble Space Telescope is simply incredible.  In addition to sharing the same first names, Mike Massimino and I are both impressed with the Hubble as it is a great engineering triumph for humanity.  The research done by the Hubble far exceeds the beautiful images it sends back, and it is indeed a valuable tool for discovering our place in the universe.  Before reading this book, I was unaware the Hubble has 6 gyros that keep it aligned on a target, and that the internals of the Hubble are kept at room temperature even though the outside conditions vary between -200 and 200 degrees F every day.  The Hubble had problems with gyro failure, so two missions were planned: 3A and 3B.  Mike was part of the development process for 3B and he hoped to be part of the actual mission:

“Bob Curbeam, who flew on a couple of station assembly flights (of the Shuttle), used to say, ‘Hubble guys are the Jedi.  The coolest.’  I wanted to be a Hubble guy.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch 13

Did he get to go on flight STS-109, mission 3B?  Yes he did.  He talks about the details of establishing the shuttle crew, the dynamics and skills of the people that were mission specialists and the flight deck crew, as well as the Hubble components they were to replace.  The amount of work he and other astronauts do, just to get ready for a mission, is incredible.  It is amazing how well NASA can provide different ways of duplicating conditions the astronauts face while working in space.  They not only have the pool for full size practice.  They also use virtual reality to practice how it feels to move mass in a weightless environment.  The preparation for the mission was lengthy, but finally they launched.  Mike’s description of the Earth from the shuttle is worth sharing:

“We were over the Indian Ocean, which was a beautiful shade of blue with puffy white clouds sprinkled across it.  I felt like I was in one of those dreams where you’re magically floating above everyone else.  I could see the ripples in the ocean, the horizon with the blue atmosphere in thin, hazy line.  It was like all the pictures I’d seen, only a thousand times better.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch 15

Mike continues to provide details about the mission, including that they needed to setup the toilet, galley, and exercise bike after launch.  I never thought about them being stowed, but it makes sense.  Again, great details for space enthusiasts as well as prospective astronauts.  Mike’s description of how they needed to get used to being in space was also new.  He describes how it feels to have all the fluid in your body move towards your head, and it doesn’t sound fun.  And I didn’t know that your spine stretches so you grow an inch, but the muscles in your back have to stretch and adjust, so that’s painful too.  And he gives the best description I’ve seen about space sickness:

“Then there’s the nausea.  ‘Stomach awareness’ is the official term.  That whole first day I floated around feeling like I was going to barf at any moment.  Space sickness is the opposite of seasickness,  The effect is the same, the nausea and vomiting, but the root cause is different.  … In space, you’re floating around and this time it’s your eyes that are telling your brain you are moving and your inner ear that’s telling your brain that you’re still, because your inner ear doesn’t move when you’re weightless.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch 15

It took three days to catch up to Hubble, so they had time to adjust and to prepare for the mission.  Mike was very nervous, but he remembered details he shares in this book, like how he sounded in his suit:

“My voice sounded different, too, because the sound wave travels differently through the lower atmospheric pressure.  It’s at a lower register.  I sounded like I was about to cut a blues album.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch16

Mike and his teammate do their first EVAastronauts install ACS on Hubble and replace one of the solar array panels.  It was an intense process, physically difficult and draining, and the part of the mission Mike was most concerned with.  He was stressed, but Mike says the view of the Earth was worth it.  His second EVA was working with James Neuman to replace the failed Faint Object Camera with the Advanced Camera for Surveys and NASA has a picture of the two mission specialists doing that during the 3B mission.

Astronauts have reported having an epiphany during their missions.  I’ll let Mike speak for himself on his own epiphany:

“I took a moment and turned and glanced over my shoulder at the Earth again. …

The thought that went through my head was If you were in heaven, this is what you would see.  This is my view from heaven.  Then that thought was immediately replaced by another thought.  No, it’s even more beautiful than that.  This is what heaven must look like – maybe this is heaven. …

And my thought looking down at the Earth was Wow.  How much God our Father must love us that he gave us this home.  He didn’t put us on Mars or Venus with nothing but rocks and frozen waste.  He gave us paradise and said, ‘Live here’.”

Mike Massimino Spaceman Ch 17

While he was resting after the mission finished, Mike listened to music and said certain music was better during the day or night.  He liked Sting, Phil Collins, Coldplay and U2 during the day.  At night, Radiohead, plus the soundtracks for Dances with Wolves and Meet Joe Black.

At the end of chapter 17, Mike mentions that their Hubble mission, STS-109, went before STS-107.  Both were Columbia missions.  Mike’s flight came home, STS-107 broke up during re-entry and all aboard were killed, and Mike devotes chapter 19 to explaining how the loss of the crew of STS-107 affected their families and the other astronauts.

We’ve lost too many of our astronauts – the crews of Apollo 1, the Challenger,  and the Columbia – I wish, as a country, we could have an astronaut remembrance day to remember each of these brave individuals that gave their lives exploring space, to make us better as a race.  We should remember them as they deserve: as our heroes.

Chapters 20 through 23 are about the final mission to the Hubble.  After the Columbia was destroyed during re-entry, the decision was made to cancel the last planned trip to the Hubble, as it was considered too unsafe.  NASA kept a planned robotics mission to go to Hubble, and then the NASA administrator was replaced by someone wanting to do something big for NASA, and the mission was back on.  Due to the costs of replacing entire defective systems, the decision was made to repair them in place – something that qualify as the most technically challenging repair ever done in space, on could be viewed as the most important piece of astronomical equipment ever deployed: the Hubble.  The technical challenges they faced, disassembling, repairing and reassembling equipment not designed to be worked on in orbit, were considerable, but NASA being NASA, they were addressed and the mission to upgrade and fix Hubble was on, using the Atlantis shuttle.  In addition to saving the Hubble, one other notable event happened during the flight: the first tweet from space was done by Mike on the Atlantis.

Every good thing comes to an end.  Mike decided against doing any long term Soyez missions, so he was removed from flight status and moved on from being an astronaut, but he is still using social media – I follow him on Twitter, as do many.

I took four days to read this book, because I didn’t want it to end, any more than Mike wanted his time as an Astronaut to end.  A truly great story about overcoming obstacles to accomplish what is important to you in life.  I found three videos plus a ton of podcasts about or by Mike Massimino on iTunesU – go there if you want to see and hear the man himself.  Or you can try episodes of The Big Bang Theory on TV – he’s made a number of guest appearances since the 5th season

Conclusion

I really enjoyed Mike’s bio.  Learned a ton of things about becoming and being an astronaut, as well as understanding how a shuttle mission was planned and implemented.  Like Col. Hadfield’s bio, this is one I will re-read.

I strongly encourage people to buy this book.  Mike Massimino tells a great story, and his vivid details paint a clear picture of his experiences.  He takes you inside the astronaut program and lets you see how hard it is to get in, but shows that you can overcome obstacles if you work hard enough.  I give it 5 stars out of 5.

Only one task is left for me now: I need to track down an autographed copy in hardback for my home library.  I want to read it again and then I will encourage my wife to read it.  I may even buy a few paperback copies to give as Christmas gifts.

Note

I have written book reviews for print magazines in the past.  The largest I wrote was 1000 words, but usually they were 200 – 500 words.  This review is much longer because I wanted to do justice to this biography.  It is well crafted, exciting to read, and reveals more details about NASA and space missions than other NASA bios I’ve read.  I enjoyed the book and hope Mike Massimino has another one planned – if he does, I’ll read it.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Title: The Madhouse Effect
Author: Michael E. Mann, Tom Toles
ISBN: 978-0231177863
Published: Columbia University Press (September 27, 2016)
Price: $24.95 hardback/$11.50 paperback/$13.49 Kindle (7/17)
Length: 208 pages

I’ve studied science since I was a child, and what still amazes me is how people with little or no science education find some science topics offensive.  When I was young, evolution concerned some religious people. The theory of evolution wasn’t intended to affront religion, as many scientists have religious beliefs, but the idea our world could be older than 6000 years angered some that calculate the age of the Earth using the Bible.  Scientists weren’t trying to disprove religion.  They were trying to understand why things on our planet changed to what we see today.

Another topic scientists studied when I was young was the dangers of smoking.  Smoking was socially acceptable, long after scientific studies showed smoking increased the risk of cancer.  Powerful special interests (the tobacco industry) did not want these scientific studies about the dangers of smoking to affect their sales, so they had others publish conflicting studies that tobacco was safe.  The tobacco industry’s fight against scientific studies lasted decades, until the tobacco industry finally ceased their war and settled huge lawsuits from people affected by smoking.  These days, some people smoke, but people no longer argue about the dangers of using tobacco.

The current scientific topic under attack by special interests is climate change.  The science concerning climate change is accepted by 97% of scientists trained in this area, but special interests that have products (coal, gas, oil) that contribute to global warming and have declared war on science.  These special interests pay politicians and hire their own experts to try to create doubt in the minds of the public.  Why?  So they can continue to sell products that are endangering our world.

I believe when you see something troubling, you need to learn more about it so you can discuss the topic intelligently.  No one of ordinary intelligence should want others to provide their own talking points, as that restricts how much is really known about the subject.  People should read this book because it was written by a scientist trained in climate change, and it is illustrated by an award winning illustrator that shows the issues with people attacking the science of climate change.  Let’s get into this fascinating book.

Book Chapters

Ch 1: Science: How it Works
Ch 2: Climate Change: The Basics
Ch 3: Why Should I Give a Damn?
Ch 4: The Stages of Denial
Ch 5: The War on Climate Science
Ch 6: Hypocrisy – Thy Name is Climate Change Denial
Ch 7: Geoengineering, or “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”
Ch 8: A Path Forward

Science: How it Works

The first chapter of this book explains science, so people without formal education in science understand how science works.  Why was this needed in a book on climate change?  Because many people believe there is some global conspiracy by scientists to promote climate change – completely wrong.  Some believe scientists gets rich researching climate change – ridiculous.  Let’s look at Dr. Mann’s explanation of science.

“Science is unique among human endeavors in the “self-correcting” machinery (to quote the famous Carl Sagan) by which it is governed.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 1

Self-correcting means science continues to study topics, trying to learn more and making corrections when it is mistaken.  Science embraces skepticism, as it strives to improve what it understands.  Dr. Mann points out a truth known by people that accept scientific consensus on global warming.

“Unfortunately, the term skeptic has been hijacked, especially in the climate change debate, to mean something entirely different.  It is used as a way to dodge evidence that one simply doesn’t like.  That, however, is not skepticism but rather contrarianism or denialism, the wholesale rejection of validated, widely accepted scientific principles on the basis of opinion, ideology, financial interest, self-interest, or all of these together.”

The Madhouse Effect, pages 1&2

It’s one thing to dislike something you hear.  It’s wrong to insist on new or alternate facts (a term used by Kellyanne Conway) that attack something you disagree with.  A professor at my college had an excellent sign on his wall, addressing this issue:

“You are entitled to your own opinions, not your own facts.”

But these climate change deniers don’t only want their own facts; they also attack the motives of scientists studying climate change.  These “skeptics” lack a college education, or never took a science course in an accredited college, and they believe that scientists have an economic advantage to promote global warming.  Poppycock!  I studied science in college (biology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry) and I never met a wealthy science professor.  The people I met in college studying or teaching science were motivated by learning and helping solve scientific questions and peer recognition, not money.   And climate science is far from the best paying fields these days.  I do not doubt there are some scientists that are wealthy, but people that study science are not in it for the money.

There is another misconception about science that is covered in chapter one: the belief that scientists are motivated to work together to promote something so they get research funds.  Baloney!  Scientists that find and reveal something different than what is widely accepted are the ones that get research funds and peer recognition.   Scientists are looking for issues with global warming, and it is to the benefit of any scientist to publish any studies that show if they find problems with the consensus belief.  And the mythological “super scientist” that tells all other scientists around the world what to say or teach or publish on climate change is rubbish.  Anyone suggesting a super scientist calls the shots in any field demonstrates they never took a science class in their life.

Special interests with an agenda affected by global warming use the same tool the tobacco industry used to counter studies that tobacco was dangerous: doubt.  They try to counter scientific evidence any way that causes the public to doubt the science.  This war on science is not new, but it is disappointing that many forget the tobacco industry attacks on science and how they parallel those used today against climate change.

Climate Change: The Basics

“The basics of climate science are actually very simple and always have been.  Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat, and we are adding more CO2 to the atmosphere.  The rest is details.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 15

I heard Senator James Inhofe (of Oklahoma in senate meetings) deny Carbon dioxide is involved in global warming.  Senator Inhofe is not a scientist, does not have education in climate studies, and is 100% wrong about carbon dioxide.   Senator Inhofe also brought a snowball to the senate and tossed it on the floor and proclaimed it proved that global warming was not an issue – rubbish!

There are other factors that impact global warming, but those factors do not change the fact that carbon dioxide is increasing in our atmosphere and carbon dioxide traps heat and so it contributes to global warming.

“Next time that cantankerous uncle of yours whom you see every Thanksgiving tells you that the greenhouse effect is “controversial new science,” remind him that it’s actually basic physics and chemistry that go back nearly two centuries.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 16

Scientists have studied climate change for nearly two centuries, and have known that carbon dioxide has a heat trapping property since the days of Joseph Fourier.  As Dr. Mann points out, Svante Arrhenius recognized the correlation that burning fossil fuels cause the earth temperature to increase.  That is enough evidence that climate study is a mature science.

We have ice cores dating back thousands of years, and scientists can use them to determine how much carbon dioxide was in the air in earlier periods, and are adding carbon dioxide at an alarming rate!

Global warming is indicated by more than regular heat waves, like we have been experiencing, especially in Senator Inhofe’s state of Oklahoma.  Climate scientists warn that wind patterns will start to change which can produce dry spells like those recently experienced in Texas and Senator Inhofe’s state of Oklahoma.  Other warning signs of global warming are increased flooding in same areas that have dry spells, such have also occurred in California.

A major reason for concern about global warming: rising sea levels, as they impact our coastal cities.  Dr. Mann’s book mentions the antarctic ice sheet melting as a problem, and a major part of that ice sheet broke off on July 18, 2017.  This trillion ton iceberg will be a navigation hazard until it melts, which will result in increased sea levels.

Dr. Mann points out global warming doesn’t necessarily mean that tornadoes will increase in frequency or intensity, but hurricanes should get worse.  Do we really want another Katrina?  Dr. Mann also points out that we can’t say for certain that global warming causes a specific heat wave or storm or flood, but global warming should increase how often these three events occur – increased events means increased damage.

Some of the dangers of global warming already are affecting us, but that doesn’t mean we should give up.  Decreasing carbon dioxide output by reduced dependence on burning fossil fuels will slow down changes we may not be able to recover from, but we still need to deal with too much carbon dioxide in the environment if we want to reduce the impact of this danger to our world.

Why Should I Give a Damn?

If you want a wake-up call to the seriousness of global warming, check out Tole’s illustration on page 30.  Not looking good right now.

“And if you think the effects <of global warming> will be felt only in some far away corner of the globe where only polar bears and penguins live, think again.  The consequences of a changing climate are occurring everywhere and, yes, likely right near you, affecting you, your family, your friends, your community.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 31

That’s right.  We are not alone in the world; we are all in this together.  Global warming doesn’t change based on politics, country borders (with and without walls), or fervent religious beliefs.  Everyone on Earth has a stake in global warming – some more so than others, but still we are all at risk.  This next quote of Dr. Mann should get your attention:

“Dreams of slowly adapting to climate change will have to be replaced with the hard reality of an ever-escalating pace of of disruption and unpredictability.

In what ways will the effects of climate change be felt?  In nearly every way.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 32

Do you want to know what will be effected by climate change?  This is a list:

  • Security – national and alliance security will be affected by changing shorelines;  people losing homes to rising seas need to go somewhere, and other countries as destinations will happen when the arable land of a country is gone.
  • Food – likely less food due to changing weather patterns, increasing temperatures affecting crop production rates and viability;  increasing population and decreasing food supplies is a sure recipe for conflict.
  • Water – more sea water, less fresh water, so another reason for water and land conflicts between haves and have nots;  the Keystone pipeline rejected by the Obama administration could potentially polute freshwater sources for millions of Americans, and that pipeline was approved by the Trump administration.  Ocean acidification is a very serious threat to the creatures living in it and to those of us dependent on the bounties of the ocean: food.
  • The Food-Water-Energy Nexus – using food sources like corn as energy source (ethanol) will be more problematic when more people need food.
  • Land – 33% of the population live within 60 miles of the ocean coastline, and 10% live within 30′ above sea level, and with rising seas and increasingly dangerous hurricanes, those people need to move inland – competing with agriculture and livestock for living space; we have a finite amount of land, so this is a problem when the population continues to grow.
  • Health – heat stroke, malnutrition, flooding and droughts affecting nutrition availability, mosquito-born diseases and water-born diseases, and asthma and allergies will kill a lot more than currently die.
  • Ecosystems – the Arctic, great barrier reef, and snow-covered mountains will be impacted by the rate of climate warming – shouldn’t we want these wonders to be around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy?  As ecosystems disappear, so will other species, and some reports show global warming could kill up to 1/3 of all living species within 50 years – that is a tragedy.
  • Economy – it will cost a lot to move food and water to areas lacking them, and it will cost money to pay for increasing health issues, and relocating people means increasing infrastructure costs as well as transportation and food costs; people making insurance claims to cover their losses mean insurance companies will raise rates to cover their losses, also affecting the economy.
  • Ethics – the current Trump administration is intent on rolling back changes made during the Obama administration that were intended to fight global warming.  The worse thing President Trump did was withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  This president’s cabinet is an assembly of people from the very industries (coal, oil and gas) that have a vested interest in keeping us dependent on fossil fuels, so we have President Trump to thafor vastly increasing carbon dioxide emissions, causing even more global warming than was forecast during the Obama administration.  The ethics of letting the very industries impacting global warming have control of the EPA and other government agencies intended to help and not harm Americans cannot be whitewashed – President Trump’s only legacy is that he did everything wrong climate-wise to help America and the world.

If you aren’t concerned after reading this chapter, you either plan on dying soon without an heir or are in denial.   In either case, this problem is the legacy of our generation if we do nothing to address it, or if we let politicians with a personal economic agenda destroy our chances for a better world in the future.

The Stages of Denial

“climate change is (1) real, (2) caused by humans, and (3) a grave threat, one might rightfully ask how it is that some of our most prominent elected officials can still deny that climate change is even happening.

The answer, of course, is that climate change denial isn’t really about the science; it is instead about the politics.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 53

The stages of climate change denial:

  1. It’s not happening – I do not understand why non-scientists believe they can reject the findings of scientists.  If you lack the education and background, why believe you know better than trained and educated professionals?  Of all stages, this one is the most puzzling one to me.  I’ve heard US senators deny carbon dioxide levels in the air has increased at all – EVEN THOUGH SCIENTISTS CAN PROVE IT HAS!Sometimes deniers cherry-pick data to use time ranges that don’t show temperatures rising, while ignoring long term trends that clearly show our planet is getting warmer.  It’s sad that some of these deniers rely on sites promoting inaccurate date or falsified data analysis sources, and worse that some of them state that organizations like NASA and NOAA would stoop to falsifying data to show warming trends.
  2. OK. It’s happening…but its natural – this approach tries to claim that temperatures were warming in the past, like the medieval times, but science has show the overall temperature of the Earth was cooler in the medieval times.  Essentially, this line of denial promotes the view that, since the Earth was warmer in the past, humans cannot be the source of current warming trends – poppycock!
  3. The problem is self-correcting anyway – WRONG!!  To believe that self-correcting environmental mechanisms will handle the unprecedented increase in carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere is wishful thinking or it is still trying to deny we need to make changes now to address carbon dioxide buildup.  The Tole illustration on page 60 covers this form of denial in a humorous manner.
  4. And it will be good for us – proposing that plants love carbon dioxide and will flourish with more, ignores the fact that regions of the world already borderline on high temperatures will reach conditions where plant production will decrease or cease completely.  How can rising sea levels be good for people living in coastal regions? Two prominent deniers (Bjorn Lomborg and Roger Pielke Jr, both with background in political science, not climate science) use this approach to argue against global warming or against the need to make changes to address global warming.  I doubt that people who listen to political scientists instead of climate scientists on climate change are probably not interested in scientific facts.
  5. It’s too late or too expensive to act – when you consider the costs to transport food and water to places unable to provide them, when you consider infrastructure changes needed to adapt to the loss of food or water, and the costs to provide medicine to those impacted by global warming, it doesn’t seem to be cheaper than developing and promoting technologies besides fossil fuel-driven systems.
  6. We’ll find some simple techno fix anyway – that’s optimistic but it may be inaccurate, and would you really want to try nothing now and make the problem worse for your children and grandchildren?

The truth about these forms of denial, per Dr. Mann:

“There is no simple way out.  Ultimately, we’re left with one real solution: reducing our collective carbon footprint.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 67

The War on Climate Science

Tole’s illustration on page 68 (at the start of chapter 5) does sum up denier mentality about their war on climate science.

“The war on science can be traced back more than half a century, beginning with the activities of the tobacco industry in the 1950s.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 69

Considering the current republican view on global warming (they deny it), it is amusing when Dr. Mann points out that President Richard Nixon (republican) created the EPA, considering the irony that current US President Donald Trump assigned former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the administrator to the EPA.

What I find interesting, is that republican presidents Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan signed legislation that was pro-environment and regulated industries that caused environmental problems, whereas President Trump seems intent on siding with industries like the coal, oil and gas industries against legislation protecting the environment.  Tom Toles illustration on page 73 is appropriate, and humorous.

What could motivate people to attack climate science?  Would an answer of “money” surprise anyone?  Industries producing coal and oil and gas generate a lot of money, and in turn can pay people to provide ways to attack climate science. A quote from Upton Sinclair is appropriate:

“As for money, the famous Upton Sinclair quip “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it” is once again relevant.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 75

While climate change deniers charge that real climate scientists have a motive to promote global warming, industry-financed think tanks actually paid people, providing a motive to deny climate change.  In this case, the people making the charge of money-driven-motives were actually guilty of that themselves.  This is similar to the approach of modern republican politicians that attack democrats and them decry the anger in modern politics.  Very hypocritical, to anyone being honest about the situation.

This chapter includes a list of prominent climate change deniers, as well as groups that promote climate change denial, and is a must read the next time you see someone claim that ‘climate science doesn’t prove global warming.’ Speaking of hypocrisy …

Hypocrisy – Thy Name is Climate Change Denial

Tom Toles’ illustration on page 90 sums up the concept in chapter 9: hypocrisy.

“The best examples of hypocrisy can, of course, be found in the words and actions of politicians who deny climate change. Many have quite literally buried their heads in the sand when it comes to the threat of climate change.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 91

Politicians are supposed to put the good of their constituents ahead of party or special interests, but many do not when it comes to climate change.  Why?  YOU should ask them at town halls, by writing letters and sending emails, and show up at their offices and ask why they disagree with educated professionals that know the subject of climate change better than any politician.  If you like poetic justice, you need to read about the attack on Dr. Mann (for the horrible sin of studying – are you ready? – climate change!) by Virgnia’s former attorney general (and now oyster farmer) Cuccinelli, who lost his bid for Virginia’s governor in 2013.  Cuccinelli lost to Govenor Terry McAuliffe, who is a politician that accepts scientists appraisal on climate change.

I am a native Floridian, and follow the news (and Dolphins) whenever possible.  I am unhappy to see how Gov. Rick Scott has done everything he could to fight climate change, even though most models show Florida will be devastated by rising sea levels.  I saw the news that Dr. Mann mentions: Gov. Scott banning the words ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ in all Florida state official communications.  Talk about putting special interests ahead of your own people!

I have family that live in Oklahoma, so I follow the weather there.  I’ve seen when their senator James Inhofe attacks climate change whenever possible.  I saw on CNN when he brought a snowball to the floor of the US Senate, dropped it, and proclaimed it was proof global warming was not real (Tom Toles’ illustration on page 96 is probably aimed at Inhofe).  Dr. Mann mentions two times he testified in congress about global warming, when Sen. Inhofe was trying to attack it, and the second time was interesting as Sen. Inhofe had invited science fiction writer Michael Crichton to testify.  Wow.  Why doesn’t he ask David Brin, a science fiction writer as well as a real scientist?  Because David Brin isn’t a climate change denier and I doubt he’d agree with Sen. Inhofe at all.

Joe Barton, representative from Texas, also is a climate change denier, and is well known for telling one of his constituents to ‘shut up’ during a town hall meeting.  He not only tries attacking climate science.  He also apologized to British Petroleum when they were called in to explain an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that did a lot of damage to the creatures in the area.  How can any politician apologize for asking a company to explain what happened during an ecological disaster?  And don’t forget that Texas lost a lot of cattle recently to a drought (yes, caused by climate change).  If Joe is your rep, you probably should be asking him why he doesn’t accept scientific consensus on climate change.

Texas Senator ‘Lyin’ Ted Cruz (President Trump gave him that nickname, not me) also embraces climate change denial as a way to get support for his political aspirations.   He ran once for president and will probably do so again. Sen. Cruz is not the most popular man in the senate, with his fellow senators, and Senator John McCain once famously called him a ‘wacko bird’.

Then there is Lamar Smith, another Texas republican representative, who uses his position as chair of the house committee on Science, Space, and Technology to attack science itself by redefining the science peer review process, issued subpoenas to NOAA asking for personal emails because they published a study disputing that global warming stopped, and he tried to cut NASA’s earth science budget to depress climate change study.  Rep. Smith is vocal and actively opposing climate change, and someone that prefers Breitbart News’ stance on climate change over scientists at NASA and NOAA.

Climategate was a contrived attack on climate science itself, and the people behind it cooked emails stolen from a server in the UK to make it appear that climate scientists themselves did not believe in global warming.  After numerous studies in the US and UK, it was proven that emails stolen from scientists were cherry picked for anything that cast a doubt on climate change.  The next time you see a reporter or politician rage about some issue on TV, maybe you should email or tweet and ask why no one is looking for the people behind Climategate?  Could that be An Inconvenient Truth?

The press, in an attempt to be fair, has given deniers an equal chance to state their opposition to climate change.  The problem with that, is that deniers don’t use valid science, they use contrived facts or situations to make their point, so the press has helped the deniers raise more doubt instead of showing them for being tools of special interests.  And Dr. Mann points out something I hope every denier hears and remembers:

“History will judge the actors in this debate, and many will be judged harshly.  By that time, unfortunately, it will be too late.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 115

The important thing to take away from this chapter, is that politicians have evidence of climate change – storms, hurricanes, droughts – and they still fight efforts to address it.  Isn’t it time to vote for people that care what kind of world we leave our children and grandchildren?

Geoengineering, or “What could possibly go wrong?”

Some climate change denialists promote that we will just make changes to our environment instead of needing to curtail use of fossil fuel.   Our climate is complex, so this ‘simple answer’ deludes people into thinking we can easily fix the problem down the road.  The danger of this is two-fold.

One – we stop trying to fix things now, with the hope of some tech advance in the future, which means our temperatures and seas continue to rise until that happens.  Two – that we come up with some tech solution but it has unintended side effects.  If you saw Chris Evans’ movie Snowpiercer, you  understand how this can be dangerous.

A possible solution, using artificial trees to remove carbon dioxide, is something I’d considered as viable, but the costs to implement as well as the development costs and implementation mechanism are still a too much to consider viable.

Some of the things proposed have never been done, have huge engineering issues to overcome, will not make the changes we need with any certainty, and will probably be outrageously expensive (which will cause politicians to again rage and say no).  It would be far less expensive, have faster results, and make life better for everyone, if we just deal with our excess carbon dioxide right now?  Wouldn’t it be safer and more responsible to use the means we have now – reduce use of fossil fuels and increase energy sources like solar and wind energy – than to risk the lives and health of our children and grandchildren?

The Path Forward

“The time for wishing for climate policy action has long passed.  The time for demanding it has come.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 131

Now for some scary facts:

“Human beings currently emit more than 30 gigatons (30 billion tons) of carbon dioxide pollution ever year.

If we want to avoid planetary warming of 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C)- or what many observers consider “dangerous warming”, though, as we have noted, others might reasonably argue that’s already too much – we have a very limited “carbon budget” left to work with.  No more than 1 trillion tons or so of carbon dioxide.

At the current rate of 30 gigatons per year, we will burn through our budget in about three decades.  To remain within the budget, we have to reduce emissions by several percent a year, bringing them down to 33 percent of current levels within twenty years.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 132

Why is this scary?  Because one way we could reduce our carbon output was negotiated through the Paris Climate Accord, which President Obama signed us up for, and President Trump removed us from this year.

The concerted effort of the Trump administration to remove all climate and ecological bills and rules implemented by the Obama administration is nothing short of blind trust in special interests and absolute blindness in trusting science.  The effects will be catastrophic, and we have President Trump to thank for causing incredible harm to our planet.  And our allies in countries that actually understand we need to make a change to save our world?  Well, they are shocked and appalled that the US would not lead the efforts to save our planet, and that our current administration is intent on making climate change even worse.

It shouldn’t matter what your political party is, as this affects everyone on our planet.  Removing the US from an agreement that all but two countries signed, which addressed climate change, is inexcusable.  That was no reason to do so, except that special interests in fossil fuel industry didn’t want us to cut back on using fossil fuel.

If you want to help save our world, stop accepting that politicians are more honest than scientists.  Stop accepting false statements from special interests, and start studying climate change from real sources, not shock jocks or people with agendas.  Write and email your congressman and let them know you care about your world.  Stop remaining silent when you hear people making false claims about climate change- that is silent support for their position.

Take a science class at a local junior college or university and see and speak with real scientists.  And realize that people with degrees in law or political science are not climate science, and climate scientists do not get rich promoting climate change.  In other words, you have to do something now, while we still can make a difference.  Be responsible, and make this world better for your descendants.  I promise you, they will remember what you did and did not do to fight this disaster.  You can make a difference.  It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile for this planet Earth.

Conclusion

If you read this book and still aren’t convinced global warming is a serious threat to life on our planet, I have a question for you.  If you are ill, do you go to a Political Scientist with a doctorate or visit a medical doctor?  Why should you follow advice from someone without the proper credentials and education?  Why would you trust the word of politicians over scientists?

This is an excellent book on climate change for everyone, especially climate warming skeptics.  As with any subject, you learn when you keep an open mind.  The writing flows well, is informative and logically ordered, and the Toles comics are a great addition that help provide humor and information to the book.  After reading The Madhouse Effect, I looked through all of Tole’s comics several times, and I still chuckled as he nails the deniers reactions.

I give this book 5 stars out of a possible 5, and strongly encourage people to read it.  Climate change is one of the most important issues of our day, and it directly affects our children and grandchildren, so people need to learn all they can.  What do we say about ourselves as people, if we pass along a world we destroyed to our descendants,  without trying to fix the problems?

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.Product Details

Title: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
(print versions in English, Spanish, German)
Author: Col. Chris Hadfield
ISBN: 978-0-316-25301-7
Published: October, 2013 by Little, Brown and Company (www.littlebrown.com)
Price: $28.00 for hardback/$11.99 for Kindle (7/2017)
Length: 284 pages

Chris Hadfield is a Canadian that decided to become an astronaut when he was young, when Canada did not have a space program.  Chris decided to make education and career decisions that would affect his chances if he could become an astronaut, but would also be rewarding if he failed to achieve that goal.  He devoted himself to learning in school and became a glider pilot at 15 and then a licensed private pilot at 16.

When Chris was young, the path to NASA was open to people in the military (being a jet pilot was/is very important to NASA), so Chris decided to go to military college and he earned a degree in mechanical engineering and then went the jet pilot route awhile before becoming a test pilot.  Like other test pilots, he applied to NASA, and yes he was accepted.  I’m not going to go into more detail as he does a fine job covering his education and military experiences in the first chapter of this book.

This book covers Chris’ experiences on getting accepted to NASA, on riding in the space shuttle, and on riding in a Soyuz. While those mission descriptions were very interesting, I found Chris’ work experience at NASA and in Russia fascinating.  I knew astronauts are always training for missions, but I wasn’t aware how many other roles they have at NASA.  Chris was heavily involved with so many aspects of the space program, that he is one of those people you hope to find that will share his experiences with you.  This book does that, but I’d still love to meet this person and hear from him about his adventures as an astronaut.

Book Chapters

Introduction (do NOT skip this part)
Ch 1 – The Trip Takes a Lifetime
Ch 2 – Have an Attitude
Ch 3 – The Power of Negative Thinking
Ch 4 – Sweat the Small Stuff
Ch 5 – The Last People in the World
Ch 6 – What’s the Next Thing that Can Kill Me?
Ch 7 – Tranquility Base, Kazakhstan
Ch 8 – How to Get Blasted (and Feel Good the Next Day)
Ch 9 – Aim to Be a Zero
Ch 10 – Life on Earth
Ch 11 – Square Astronaut, Round Hole
Ch 12 – Soft Landings
Ch 13 – Climbing Down the Ladder

Every chapter is worth reading – don’t be tempted to skip ahead.  My favorite chapter was Ch 7, about Chris’ experience working with the Russians.  This was fascinating, as we see so little of what goes on in Russia on NASA TV.  The main information I’d seen before was on the ceremonies that the Russians follow before and after a flight.  Very elaborate, and proof that space flight means a great deal to them.  Chris talks about his time there, and it helped me see how much our space program has been helped by cooperating with Russia.  They have helped us build and run the ISS, as well as ferry many people there.  I would hope they are part of our missions establishing outposts on the moon and on Mars.  Both of our countries would benefit from the joint effort.

The chapter that surprised me was Ch 9 Aim to Be a Zero.  I guess I assumed that, once people made it into the space program, they knew they needed to get along with others in all aspects of missions.  How could anyone not understand that human dynamics is extremely important when you have multiple people crammed together in a small space for a dangerous assignment in space?  Apparently Chris encountered some people that failed to understand that being exceptionally good doesn’t mean being exceptionally self-centered.  Chris offers great advice for future astronauts: don’t try to be difficult or cause issues, and learn how to get along with others if you want to work in space.

Conclusion

Great book, and a fast and easy read.  I’ve started re-reading it as it enjoyed it so much the first time, and this is the first time I’ve re-read a bio. There wasn’t great detail about being in the Canadian military, but that was due to the fact that this book concentrates on Chris’ life experiences that lead him to NASA, and helped him over his career.

If I had any complaint about this book, it was that it was too short at 284 pages.  I hope Chris does a followup book and provides more about specific details about his three trips to space, as well as about the daily experiences of working at NASA.  That might seem boring to people working at NASA, but not to us space flight fans that follow the space program.

I didn’t want to forget to mention that Chris was into photography when he was on the ISS, and he published another book called: “You are Here: Around the World in 92 minutes: Photographs from the International Space Station” – I haven’t seen this one yet, but I will.  To see actual pictures from the ISS would be really wild – kind of make you feel like you were there for a short visit.

Recommendation: Buy this book for yourself, and buy another copy for any space fan (young or old) in your family.  It will make a great gift this holiday season.  I give it 5 stars out of a possible 5.