In the course of my work on the ALL ABOUT PUMPS tutorial I have visited many fascinating industrial sites and science-oriented museums. Some of the most exciting places were, for example, the engine room of the (non-nuclear) Aircraft Carrier Constellation (CV-64), as well as the shop floors of dozens of pump manufacturers large and small. Whenever I visit a new place I seek out first its pumps and pump museums, and then its other science, technology, war and maritime museums. I'm fascinated by technology and love learning about it. And I'm fascinated and saddened by how hard humankind has had to fight for basic human rights over the years.
The Hoover Dam's turbines are probably the greatest single industrial thing I have ever seen. (And that's a tour anyone can get; you don't need to be a journalist or tutorial author or even a big-wig, you just have to pay an extra $25.00 for the "hard hat" tour, which is what we did.) Made by GE and Westinghouse, as I recall, these massive turbines spin constantly, providing the cleanest energy man has ever devised, using just the falling of water through a canyon. My heart was a-flutter with the beauty of it all...
In the course of hosting a radio show I interviewed several score of the world's top scientists on dozens of different topics. Our interviews filled the entire half hour, so each one was for me -- the host -- like a one-on-one lesson from a master.
I have had the pleasure of meeting many people, of learning many things, and of being many places in my life. And I have tried to teach others about what I have learned, by writing the tutorials, writing letters to elected officials and to the papers, by speaking, and by animating things. By transcribing the interviews. Some of the transcriptions have become classic downloads at our web site.
Reviewers of my software and customers as well seem to be nearly unanimous in their opinions -- they say I'm pretty good at what I do. The software is used by millions. So please forgive me, but a bunch of false humility would be silly: I'm proud of what I've accomplished and I'm sure I actually am pretty good at what I do.
My software is designed to teach complex educational material to the lay person. That's what it does, and that's what it's been praised for doing. Perhaps one reason I might be particularly good at this is that in many respects, I'm more like one of the "lay people" than one of the "educated" ones. Although I come from a college-bred family, I myself had very little college and spent a number of years in semi-skilled tasks, having had around 40 different jobs before I was 23. Then I discovered computer programming and became, over a 17 year period, a professional in the field of educational software. So this has given me, I think, a fairly unique combination of spending an important part of my life talking to "lay people" yet being able to "run with" the pros and the 'intelligencia'. And I have used this position, to the best of my ability, to teach about many dozens of things.
So why is it, I ask, that when I write about CASSINI, NASA's proposed nuclear space probe, am I suddenly accused of "relying on 'scare tactics'"? I am told that I am not writing responsibly. But what is irresponsible in what I've done? I did not create the scenarios, I only report what NASA has made possible. The fact that these events are actually a whole lot more likely, not to mention more scary, than anything that happens in movies about aliens or in TV shows about asteriods, should be no cause for consideration of whether it should be reported or not. While we fool ourselves with these movies, the truth should also be allowed to seep out.
That some of these facts are scary and even nauseating is hardly our fault. Plutonium causes leukemia, one of the nastiest cancers around, and it also causes many other cancers and other diseases. And Plutonium 238, which they use in the RTGs is a particularly virulent form of Plutonium. To report these truths is to use 'scare tactics'? What is scary is that someone would actually decide to use these awful things.