Last week was an overwhelming week in Washington, with a staggering amount of really cool stuff to do interspersed with political drama unfolding, literally, minutes away. I’m too exhausted to go into much detail, but here’s some highlights of my crazy week, and all the really interesting things I got to see/do/attend.
Tuesday - At lunch, I went to “Drones, Driverless Cars and Difficult Decisions” - a debate about robots and ethics on Capitol Hill. I can walk there, and I’ve learned that there are constantly interesting briefings/events/hearings going on, and that most of them provide free food and or alcohol.* This one was at lunch, and they provided lunch, demos, and a fascinating debate. Take home message: we don’t need to worry about terminators—yet. All you need to do, friends, if a killer robot gets too close is to push it over. Provided you can get close enough, naturally.
Then, I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to the United States Energy Association to see Howard J. Herzog, a professor at MIT give a talk titled “THE STATE OF CARBON CAPTURE & STORAGE TECHNOLOGY AND POLICY.” This was a really small room, and his talk was fascinating. Take home message: carbon capture is not enough. We have to reduce emissions. We all got a free copy of his book, conveniently titled “Carbon Capture,” and he stayed around to sign them and chat.
Oh, and then I went to a random baseball game and was there to see the pitcher who is up for a Cy Young award throw his 300 strikeout and kick a lot of butt. The Nets won… by a lot.
Daily thought: “This is surreal—just surreal—that I went from robots to carbon sequestration to baseball.”
Wednesday - I spent all day making a demo video for a hands-on NASA activity that’s going to be featured on the NASA “Seeing Sound” learning module website and available for teachers in advance of the Quiet Supersonic Flight (QSF) campaign over Galveston, Texas in November. The videographer and I spent half the day in a conference room doing an overview of the experiment, then half the day in the actual NASA studio filming me introducing the stuff.
Daily thought: “Acting is really hard, and my feet really hurt from standing all day.”
Thursday - In the morning, I went downstairs to the auditorium to see our administrator’s new live show, “Watch This Space” which featured the 2017 astronaut class. I sat a few feet from people who will probably go to the Moon, Mars, and the ISS, and I was on live TV (I’m in the crowd!). After the show, I ended up behind them as they waited for the elevator. Too shy thus far to muscle my way up through the massive crowd of maybe 15 people to take a selfie with an astronaut, I waited for them to split up into two elevator loads so that I could sneak in and take an elevator picture. Alas, they all piled into one elevator load and were gone. I know, I know.** Darn their ability to cram into small, enclosed spaces!
Take Home Thought: HOLY CRAP! ASTRONAUTS!
Meanwhile, about a mile away, the Kavanaugh hearings were going on. After astronauts I was planning on going to an event at the Library of Congress called “Becoming Interplanetary,” but it was the lunch break. Instead, I went for a walk around the Capitol and ended up at the Russell Senate Office building where this was all playing out. I actually went inside to see what it was like, and even tried to get to the second floor where the hearing was happening, but the whole second floor was blocked off by capitol police. I wandered past Cory Booker’s office, went back outside, made my way past the Supreme Court building before the protestors blocked the street, and arrived at the Library of Congress for the afternoon session of Becoming Interplanetary.
The Becoming Interplanetary panel I watched discussed the implications of our species traveling to another planet, and featured an anthropologist, a Native American professor who talked about colonization, an engineer from NASA’s JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), and an astrobiologist from SETI. Seriously…
Take Home Thought: We need to be cautious that we don’t repeat mistakes of the past in our exploration and potential colonization of space.
Then, to round off my day, I went to AAAS for an event called “Science Matters - CRISPR Gene Editing” to hear about CRISPR from this guy. I honestly thought my head was going to explode at the end of it all.
Take Home Thought: all the microbes that make yogurt, cheese, etc have been CRISPR’ed to have immunity from viruses that attack them. Thus, we technically eat GMO foods constantly.
Daily Thought: Seriously… how is this my life??
Friday - A surreal week put to bed at the Willard Hotel, which boasts the best view of the mall, including a view of our nation’s most famous house.
Daily Thought: How has this been only one week??
*The government does not pay for food/alcohol, the sponsors of whatever event is happening do.
**In a cruel twist of fate, the next day I was waiting for the elevator again when they all piled off of the elevator and I froze again. Sigh.
Photos from the week. Click on the thumbnail for the larger gallery and captions.