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Late Night: Solar Roadways – Are You Smarter Than a NASA Engineer?

It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when the rocket scientists, engineering experts, and solar-energy experts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration get behind something having to with engineering and solar energy, it’s very likely the real deal:

We are blessed to have such a long list of interested customers from all over the world, and we know people are curious about who they are. We only mention those who have given us permission. The City of Sandpoint, Idaho has already announced their desire for sidewalks, parking lots and eventually roads. Here are some others we can now mention: Amtrak station in Sandpoint, Idaho; Sandpoint Airport; Panhandle Animal Shelter in Ponderay, Idaho; Idaho Transportation Department, Boise State University, Idaho; Wright State University, Ohio; NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

One would have thought this issue was settled back when the U.S.D.o.T’s Federal Highway Administration gave Solar Roadways a big fat research and development grant a few years ago. But noooooo: Apparently the right-wing’s anti-government, anti-American paranoid style of thinking has seeped into so many parts of America’s culture that even many of the persons in what should be the “reality-based community” are afflicted by it, to the detriment of their thinking skills, their reading skills, and their ethical well-being. What good does it do to cite NASA’s expertise in an era when a number of people still think it faked the moon landing?

It was bad enough when the denialist brigade was just made up of people like the video-spamming doofus who seems to think that glass is softer than asphalt. (Seriously.) But now, the May 23, 2014 words of Steven Novella, a physician who is a noted sciencey kinda guy – though not an expert on roads or solar energy – are being bruited about in a weird and false sort of appeal to a nonexistent authority.

After asking several questions which have already been addressed by the Solar Roadways website, their Indiegogo page and their Facebook page, and implying heavily that these questions are likely to remain unanswered or are unanswerable, Dr. Novella says the following:

It also seems likely it will be years before we start seeing these out in the world (probably Japan will have them before everyone else). If the technology does pan out, I can see it taking 20-50 years before significant implementation. It will likely take at least a decade to do sufficient testing to sort out the above questions.

This technology is still in the “hydrogen economy” stage – a great idea, but with practical hurdles that need to be sorted out, and who knows if it is truly coming.

Now, Dr. Novella did leave himself an escape route with the use of the word “significant” before the word “implementation”. This means he can play the Incredible Moving Goalposts game and not get called on it, though I would say that the number of installations planned for NASA, Amtrak and Solar Roadways’ other clients would meet most honest persons’ definitions of “significant”. However, I don’t think there’s any way to successfully pretend that the people behind Solar Roadways are Japanese. Nor are they likely to turn Japanese. But hey, that gives me an excuse to link to this video.

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