http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn1 … prize.html
http://www.xprize.org/media-center/pres … -challenge
This is a much better way than using some public government-funded approach. Why? Well simply put, there cannot be any pressure brought to bear on the X-Prize Foundation like you can with a public legislator. Since the Foundation doesn't have to run for office, the corruption of the organization is minimized. Look at Waters and Rangel, two legislators who ran afoul of corruption.
As an aside, this is also why punishing the rich by taxing them to death is a bad idea. While Washington flops around in incompetence, there are people who not only understand there is a problem with oil clean up, they are doing something about it.
I appreciate the efforts of the X Prize Foundation and all they've accomplished, but I think there is still a strong need for publicly-funded scientific research and development. Programs like NASA have led to development of many other technologies that have improved our lives in many ways. Heck, even the internet itself was created using U.S. government funds.
The X Prize is great, but it also has many inefficiencies. Scientists will naturally split into many different teams in order to achieve the goal while keeping the team small enough to make the prize worthwhile, which means information from one team will likely not be shared with other competing teams. When that lack of communication happens in a government project it's called disorganization, when it happens with the X Prize project it's just the essence of competition.
Sorry but NASA is a joke. They haven't been able to come up with a substitute for the Shuttle yet and they've had years to do so. Meanwhile Scaled Composites has had a spaceplane for years now. Sure it doesn't have the capacity of the Shuttle, but it could be used to ferry astronauts and some supplies up there, while the Shuttle replacement is wending its way through innumerable committees.
I also don't think you understand the purpose of the X-Prize. It's not to reward someone for making a new product, it's a way to defray R&D costs to produce something new. Whoever wins this prize will make all kinds of money the next time there is an oil spill. It's a mistake to think that the winner will split they money, they'll use that money to defray development costs and defray the cost of bringing that product to market.
The disorganization, as you call it, is the strength of the Prize. Because each contestant will want to be the one chosen, they'll each work harder to create a product which addresses all of the concerns of said product. Which include, I might add, ecological concerns like toxicity as well.
An intriguing new development:
http://www.kurzweilai.net/new-solar-ene … dium=email
Should this technology prove to be cost effective, we could be one step closer to a day in which we can ensure an (almost) limitless amount of power for our cities, towns and homes.
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