Know When Bigger Is Better

The economy size is cheaper by the pound, the gallon, the dozen. We all look for bargains in volume. The lesson that NASA should have learned from the Soviet space program is that bigger boosters are better. When the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957, Americans were shocked into a space race in which their very survival seemed to be at stake. But how could Americans compete The U.S. military-industrial complex had been frantically building nuclear warheads and...

Make It Faster Better Cheaper But Not All Three

When Dan Goldin became NASA administrator in 1992, NASA was facing a crisis cut costs or go out of existence. It was under this extreme pressure that Goldin hatched his slogan, Faster, Better, Cheaper, and sold it to Congress. Goldin's idea was born out of self-preservation fierce political winds were blowing and only the strong would survive. Goldin came up with his three-pronged optimal solution NASA would be the best by all three measures. But as Cliff Stoll said in his enlightening book...

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One way to get real is to create a game out of your problem. (Later we'll talk about the generalization of this idea, which is called simulation.) In the movie War Games, a high school computer whiz (played by Matthew Broderick) hacks into a U.S. military war simulator to play Thermonuclear War. The kid doesn't know it's not a game, and he inadvertently starts World War III. The plot of the movie is based on well-established mathematics called game theory. The potential destruction that nuclear...

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In Advice to Rocket Scientists, I talk about two bricklayers who are asked by a young boy what they are doing. The first bricklayer is annoyed at the question and says, Can't you see I'm laying bricks. The second says with a gleam in his eye, I'm building a cathedral The first bricklayer was a little-picture person. All he could see was the tedious job of laying one brick at a time. The second bricklayer was a big-picture person. He envisioned a beautiful cathedral in all its glory and he...

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