Glacier - September 30, 2007

Somewhere maybe a third of the way to the top of Mount Gould is Grinnel Glacier. If you look at it on Google Earth, you quickly realize it's this tiny little thing, and you wonder how it even qualifies as a glacier. It doesn't look like much more than some unmelted snow sitting in the shade of Mount Gould. It turns out that it qualifies as a glacier because it moves. They know this because they place little GPS units on the ice and track it.

It's a tiny little glacier, but when you hike up there, there's a large lake with small icebergs in it. It's actually fairly amazing. But they predict that within ten years, all the glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone. That's a shame.

Having left Blue Egg, I've had the chance to listen to a lot more NPR. Today there was a story--several in fact--about the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik. Part of the coverage included description of the big push for math and science education in the United States which happened largely because of Sputnik. It seems that in the years before Sputnik, American pride had us thinking of the Soviets as backward incompetents. I think there was a joke which used to say there were no worries about the Russians being able to get a suitcase bomb into the US because they didn't have the technology to build a working suitcase. But it seems a working satellite orbiting passing over the US nine times a day shook us up some.

So we started teaching our kids a lot more math and science.

It's not exactly a secret that math and science education in this country is in pretty sorry shape these days as well. But no Sputnik--nothing to wake us up this time it seems. This was discussed in another piece on On Point called Innovation in America. Clearly there is no more space race. But there was discussion of the motivating force that might move us in that direction again. The betterment of mankind seemed to be the call.

But that seems more like turning up the heat on the frog in the pot of cool water. The frog won't jump out. It'll just swim around in there until it cooks.