Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Pushing boundaries

I have a soft spot for men who are willing to throw themselves out of balloons (I professed my undying love for Joseph Kittinger in my Day at the Science Museum post). There were a couple of things that impressed me most about the recent Baumgartner records:

1. He found himself in an out-of-control spin and pulled himself out of it. What amazing presence of mind and calmness under pressure.

2. He broke the sound barrier and highest freefall records. Definitely cool.

3. He didn't hit a bird. At least none that we know of.

4. He captured the imagination of the entire world. Eight million people watched his stream on youtube.

We can't help it, we all love people who push boundaries. Have you looked at the X prizes lately? They're super cool. The X prizes are a series of multi-million dollar competitions designed to push boundaries. They have prizes for putting robots on the moon (governments need not apply), sequencing genomes with incredible speed and accuracy, and cleaning up disatrous oil spills in oceans and seas. They try to identify "Grand Challenges" and design prizes to spur innovation and development in these areas. Go on, take a look. Maybe you should enter!