Welcome back math and science. We’ve missed you. Not since the space race has there been so much optimism around technology as our “way forward.” And, yes, that includes the rise of information technology and the Internet explosion. Where IT and Web technologies have led to greater efficiencies and dramatically increased the standard of living for many globally, the “green revolution” increases the stakes considerably. Scientists and engineers working on this problem aren’t looking to streamline operations; they’re trying to ensure the viability of our planet for our children’s children. That’s a big deal. A recent survey, conducted on behalf of EcoCAR, shows that Americans agree.
Whichever words you use to describe today’s green revolution – green, clean, eco-friendly – math and science innovation will be the path forward. In the EcoCAR survey, nearly 100% of respondents agree that the sciences are “essential for the economic welfare of our nation.” And the simple fact that opinion varies widely on which energy source will power vehicles in the future – electricity (55%), ethanol (45%), hydrogen (37%), solar (34%), reformulated gasoline (29%), biodiesel (27%), natural gas (20%), etc. – is cause for optimism. Why? Because, wisely we’re sparking innovation more broadly and placing bets more widely. And, as every gambler knows, distributing your bets around the table considerably improves your odds of success.
Wanting success and achieving success are different things, however, so as a nation we must commit to systematically, programmatically and rhetorically drive change. Judging from the EcoCAR survey, Americans overwhelming agree. 97% say our nation must encourage a spirit of innovation in young people by tapping their fresh perspectives. Sounds like EcoCAR, doesn’t it.
In October 1957, after hearing the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik, then President Dwight Eisenhower remarked: “People are alarmed and thinking about science, and perhaps this alarm could be turned into a positive result.” Alarm did indeed provide a powerful impetus in the early days of the space race and literally took us to new heights. Today, alarm over global warming and depletion of our precious natural resources is providing a powerful impetus for change. This time, however, it will be mathematicians, scientists and engineers – standing firmly on earth – who will take one giant step for mankind.