Is it Time for a New Manhattan Project?
Albert Einstein had no trouble helping to convince President Roosevelt of the importance of designing an American atom bomb to counter the one thought to be under development by Germany. Roosevelt understood both the significance and difficulty of the work to be done, and concluded that such a massive (and in that case, secret) project could only be done by the government itself, and not by contracting out the work to non-government entities. Eventually the code name for the resulting effort was the Manhattan Project. After World War II, the government did many large projects, such as dams, in this way.
Now may very well be the time for another Manhattan Project, this time with regards to solving the energy problem. Of course today, with the widespread misperception that the U.S. government can never do anything right, the idea of a large-scale scientific workforce led by the government is likely to be a much harder sell. Nevertheless, it’s my opinion that there is really no other way to completely solve the energy problem.
The technology of my proposed solution to the energy problem was discussed in my article in the last MIT Faculty Newsletter (“Solving the Energy Problem,” Vol. XIX No. 6, May/June 2007). It was only after publication that I realized that perhaps the best argument for proceeding in the way I suggested was to compare the scope of the work needing to be done with the highly successful project conceived by Roosevelt.
I urge readers to examine my article from the last Newsletter, and encourage any responses (pro or con). For unless we have a solid foundation on which to build a solution, the chances of effectively solving the energy problem decrease dramatically.