Oral History Transcript — Dr. Peter Glaser
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Interview with Dr. Peter Glaser
Peter Glaser; November 15, 1994
ABSTRACT: Some of the topics discussed include: his Jewish childhood and early education in Czechoslovakia; his family's escape from the Nazi takeover; his education as an engineer in England; fighting with the Czech army during World War II; his return to Czechoslovakia after the war; his emigration to the U.S. where he earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Columbia University; his employment as a consulting engineer at D. Little in Cambridge, Mass. where he spent his career; his resolve to obey the Hippocratic oath to "do no harm;" Cryogenic insulation; lunar surface research and experiments; von Braun rocket team; space solar power; thermal imaging; Krakatit (the book).
TranscriptSession I | Session II | Session III | Session IV | Session V | Session VI | Session VII | Session VIII | Session IX | Session X | Session XI | Session XII | Session XIII | Session XIV
Elder:This is November 15, 1994. The 13th interview with Peter Glaser by John Elder. And I'm going to go through a paper of his called The Power Relay Satellite, given at the IAF last year in Grots, and ask him one of my favorite questions. How do you know what you know? And how did you find out what you didn't know? And I guess maybe, one way to start would be the — maybe I should let you start.
Glaser:Okay. I think that's a very good question, because the thought process involved in any of these projects, when you read the paper it's somewhat like Venus coming out of the waves.
Glaser:Well, that's about as far from fact as you can get. The idea of a power relay satellite has been though about, my guess is some 70 years. Dr. Obart [?] already alluded to something like that. And there were several people in — I would think, the '30s, '40s, which who I don't even know, but one of disciples of Obart was Dr. Kraft Erica [?], and I got to know him quite well. We were friendly. He worked at the time at Rockwell; we were at various technical meetings together. I remember specifically one in Huntsville where he talked, you know, the imperative of space. A very good man, and very original in his thinking. He was very interested in the solar power satellite, he felt that was a very, you know, major kind of thing that one should be doing. And he also felt that one needs to go back again and look at some of the things that could be done. And he had the idea of, again, with Obart, the power relay satellite, so Kraft Erica, I think, published at least on paper on that, and looked at some aspects of it. And I don't know the thought process that went here, but there was a man, Angeline [?] in Italy, who became interested in the power relay satellite. I think that — and I don't know what his position was, I did meet him at one of the space conferences, and he also started to look at power relay satellites. What really interested me about power relay satellite, that I felt it was a step towards the SPS. And that the technologies that would be required to develop the PRS would have the advantage of making SPS sort of easier. Essentially, what I'm — in this terrace thing that I mentioned before —
Glaser:— what my objective throughout this work has been, that when we are ready to build this solar power satellite, the man in the street should ask, "Well, why the hell did you wait so long?" And it's obvious. In others when it becomes obvious on a large — you know, to many people —
Glaser:— they don't really care how we got there, they just want to see the result. You know, obviously we could — they could tunnel underneath the channel. How we got there, most people don't realize what it really took to do it. And to me, I felt that I had some capability of taking this original idea and working on it, because we have worked on the SPS. And a lot of the work on the SPS is transferable to the PRS.
Glaser:And I have, you know, worked with the same team since 1970, and that is Raytheon and Boeing, and my friend Gordon Woodcock, and Bill Brown and Brad Schupp at Raytheon, and others.
Elder:Who was the last one?
Glaser:Schupp. Brad S-C-H-U-P-P. He is a younger man, and became sort of a program manager at Raytheon and he and I started to work together and I — Bill Brown had retired by then. And he sort of took over some of those things Bill Brown was doing. And I working — I talked to him just the other day.
Glaser:He contributes paper to the special issue of the Solar Energy Journal. And I think that what I always felt is very important is that there's a group of people working together. This is a — you know, this isn't just like you sitting at your desk and — you recap, it comes. At most of these kinds of projects have to be worked on by a group of people like Gordon Woodcock's, absolutely marvelous feel for space launchers. I mean the whole transportation aspect; I think that's the kind of thing that he brought to this.
Glaser:And the long experience of Raytheon, in terms of some of the technical aspects of wireless power transmission, as well as safety and things of that sort. And my role here was, I don't expect to get a patent for [???] satellites, what I felt I was doing is putting it forth as a creditable step towards the SPS. And the — what we have shown, and there's a report that we did, what pleased me, that I was able to work with the European Research Center at Eastbra [?], Italy with Dr. Gretz. G-R-E-T-Z. Yohargin [?] Gretz. Just to show how these things are, I met him first when I presented a paper at the World Energy Congress in Montreal. And it's — I always felt the only way that you can meet people is by parti— you know, being in — out of your office —
Glaser:— so to speak.
Elder:Out and about.
Glaser:Yeah. And Dr. Gretz became interested in the subject and then I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Condzen. C-O-N-D-Z-E-N. He was the general manager or director of the space part of the European — of the Commission of European Communities in Brussels [?]. In fact, I had the pleasure of meeting him at dinner with his family in Brussels, and he felt that the Europeans had a goal, and their goal was not to build either coal or nuclear power plants. And essentially, their goal was to obtain 20 gig-a-watts of renewable energy. That's 20 million kilowatts of renewable energy from any place where it would be. They did look at a project where they would produce hydrogen by electrolysis at a hydroelectric complex, and then liquefy the hydrogen, put it in tankers, and ship it to Europe. I think to Hamburg. With tankers. Well, that's — you know, again, I, having been at Arthur D. Little and learned to spell cryogenics, I knew that that's not an easy thing to do, although it certainly can be done.
Elder:Can I ask you a detail?
Elder:It's curious. What language was this conversation taking place?
Glaser:Well, I can — he's German, as you see from his [???] so we sometimes spoke German and sometimes he speaks also very good English. I think that it's helpful in this whole business —
Glaser:— if you can speak as many languages as possible.
Elder:That's why I wondered, so which one do you settle into with people like —
Glaser:Well, I try and — well, that previously when I worked with Electricity d' France, my wife is always embarrassed when I speak French, but I know the French people find it easier, even with somebody like me who speaks lousy French, to speak in French. Now, I understand, you know, what they're talking about, and they understand me, and that's good enough.
Glaser:I don't have to be literate in the sense of somebody who really speaks the language perfectly. And, so I try and speak the language at least to the point that people say, "This guy is really trying to speak my language, so, I'll try and speak English." And between us, it may not be perfect, we communicate.
Elder:Okay. Sorry to interrupt, that interested me.
Glaser:No problem. So, we had an assignment, then, from Dr. Condzen, who was very interested in this through — and this research department reported to him in Eastbra, that's — you know, it's a large place in Italy. In Northern Italy. And he gave us the assignment — gave me the assignment to come up with some background, and study and projection on this power relay satellite. Now, the scenario that we had, that we will use hydro-electric power, and the scenario, again, how do know where the right places are? At Arthur D. Little, we have people who worked on these places. One in Venezuela, where we have an office. And Gury [?] Dam on Rio Corona [?]. A very large dam which will reach probably 20 gig-a-watts shortly after the turn of the century. And then we also have an office in Rio, therefore, I was able to get all of the maps, the cartographic maps, and see what they gave me information on plans, the output. And that one was an Atypia [?] Dam, they're very well-known large hydro-electric indexes. And so the other thing was that we had to have a place to beam this to in Europe. Now, I know Europe very well, and I knew you can't beam any place where there's a — to many people, there's not much land in Europe, it's a small continent. So, I had to — because I was the Chairman of the Space Power Committee of the IAF, I also arranged a luncheon in one of the IAF meetings in Washington. And I met — I knew the president, Dr. Alvarez [?].
Glaser:From IAF. So, I said, "Look, can you advise me, I think we have several options, you know, we can have the receiving antenna in the Mediterranean off the Coast of France, or Spain. This might be very interesting; we know how to do that. We had a study and, again, Brown and Root designed the floating platform thing. Whereas not like an oil rig platform, much simpler." And that would have been quite interesting, and I said, "Gee, you know, perhaps we should try and find a place in Spain?" So, he said, "Gee, I have the right place for you." I think Undelusia [?], and furthermore, he was a top executive of somewhere in Spain. I can make all the arrangements, so when you're ready we can build it there. Undelusia being a relatively sparsely populated area of Spain. So, that was enough to sort of get us going. By the way, I should mention that prior to that, I had a project with the Electric Power Research Institute on this same subject, and they were interested in it as well, because the utilities in the US face a tremendous challenge, which they have not yet internalized. And the challenge is that we probably will have electric cars. And that's another story, we worked on electric cars which would receive the energy from the roadway, was an idea of a man in California.
Glaser:Yeah. Ross, Howard Ross. And —
Elder:[???] news. I read that. I just was reading about that somewhere.
Glaser:Yeah, and I felt, well, the US utilities are somehow disconnected from the plans of the other agencies who want to get electric cars, and who are sort of beating GM and Ford and other car companies over the head, and you're going to build electric cars. And California mandated electric cars, and somehow the question was never properly asked. Assume that in 30 years, or 40, whatever the time; half of all of our cars are electric cars, where's the energy going to come from? You know, we are talking about hundreds of gig-a-watts. This is not a small scale are we going to build a hundred nuclear power plants? Or build hundred coal power plants? We're not going to use oil to the extent. Aren't going to be around. So, there's a gap, I think in the planning process that the Electric Power Institute understood, and they're the research group for the Electric Utilities, so that I've known these people quite well, and I tried to discuss with them, "You know, how is this a disconnect?" And they agreed and so we looked at power relay satellites. It was actually prior to the European thing. There is continued interest in this, because — I don't know if you — just today's New York Times had an article that In Ron [?] is building affordable takes plan in Nevada, to produce a hundred meg-a-watts, and they think that they can produce it at a reasonably competitive price, five and a half cents per kilowatt hour. And I have no reason not to believe that you can — I've always been convinced that you can do this with photo all takes. And that's the amount of the problem that I see with photo all takes is leave — is it's a one-shift operation as opposed to three-shift operation.
Glaser:And if you have this stuff operating, you want to operate it at space level power because of the cost. And, you know, if you want to put these power plants — these large areas, hundred meg-a-watt is already fairly large. The EPA may not like it, the people living in Nevada may not like it, or Arizona, or settlers of the preferred place, there aren't many — even it's a huge continent, there aren't many places you can put hundred gig-a-watt power plants with photo all takes. However, what I felt is it's a good idea because the demo says you can do things with photo all takes. Where I would put the power plant is probably in the sunny outback of Australia, or the Sahara Desert, and use them as peak power plants, or intermediate power plant — power supplies with the power relay satellite. Now, I can go, as the sun moves, from one continent to the next, essentially, with those things, and it's the wireless power transmission of energy when you need it most. And then you can use them as intermediate or peaking power plants, which I think would be very interesting. Again, this kind of looking at what if you go to electric cars? Where are we going to get the energy? The idea that we're going to burn coal, oil, or gas, is — or build nuclear power plant, just isn't on anymore. I think nobody really believes that, and nobody can tell us when fusion will be ready. So we do know we could build power relay satellites, or solar power satellites, eventually. So, the thought processes are that there are a lot of people who contribute their concepts and so on, and, if you like, I sometimes am the sort of guy who stokes the fire. Who says, "Well, wouldn't it be nice to do some of these things?" And then people come and we work together. None of the things I'm talking about is a one man show. You know, the mad scientist living in a garret, well, that just isn't there. What I think my role is that I know where I think we've got to go, and then I have to get people who want to go there with me. Does that —
Elder:It's interesting. It's interesting.
Glaser:And I only mentioned a few names, actually —
Glaser:— in most of the things that I do, you know, I haven't — you know I've talked about the Japanese; I've talked about the Germans, the French, the British. I worked for the British on solar power satellites; I think it must have been in the early '70s. So, this kind of thing is not any one country. I can't say it's going to be all this.
Glaser:You know, it's not limited since we're talking about space. Space is limitless, as far as I'm concerned, at least. And all the kind of energies that I believe we will need, we need to utilize space in the most effective way. A lot of people at NASA who have made very important contributions. For example, one man — I think I may have mentioned Hugh Davis, before. He was in Houston at the LBJ Center there, and he was in charge of space transportation systems. And essentially, he showed that the only reason that things cost $10 thousand a pound, is because the equivalent of saying that we've got one 747. And it flies six times a year. And the ticket — because after all this info-structure, cost $50 thousand to cross the Atlantic. Well, not many people would fly then. But he showed that if you have frequent flights, then the cost will approach [???] with the cost of the fuel. And I think that is really a totally a different issue, and eventually — and I don't know what eventually means, I never visualized building these things with terrestrial materials. I mean, that, I mentioned was Jerry OíNeill, which I always looked about extraterrestrial resources. Where we don't have to get out of this [???] well, and lift the stuff, and all that. We need to do this to demonstrate to the world that these things actually can be made to work. Which already the Japanese have started to demonstrate.
Elder:Can I ask you a kind of a —
Elder:— detail — a much more detailed question? That paper, for example, is full of these graphs and little charts of — where does all of that information come from? Did you —
Glaser:No, not I. That's a — in other words —
Glaser:— this is not anything that one person does. It isn't even what Gordy [?] does. You know, he's got a team, and Brad Schupp has a team, I have it. You know, and there are other — sort of primary teams, some of them many people. If I would ever graph, you know, how many people contribute, probably a thousand people, I couldn't tell you how many. And that's what I've tried to say, that we're engaged in macro-engineering projects. Any one of those is along these lines.
Glaser:Where the individual has to submerge his contribution, because all that you can do is — well, perhaps, sometimes like an orchestra conductor, you know. He doesn't play every of instrument, but he knows what it should sound like. So, I know what the thing should do or look like, and I canvas a basic requirements and then Gordy knows, "Yeah, I can do this, I can do that." And the Raytheon guys can tell me, "Yeah I can do this in terms of the wireless, the receiving and transmitting antennas." So, it's — that's characteristic of a macro-engineering project, which any of these things are.
Elder:That's why I like to ask, because that paper — you never know from reading a paper what went into producing it.
Glaser:Oh, is that — you're absolute — that's a good question. Now, I was very pleased that the IAF instituted the Peter Glaser Lectures, and asked me to be — I said, "No, that's fine, but don't expect me to lecture in every congress." I agreed to give the first lecture which I did.
Elder:Is that it?
Glaser:That's it. It was a plenary lecture. The Peter Glaser Plenary Lecture, where, you know, everyone, and you know, I don't know, there were a thousand people, or whatever they had there, came to listen. So that's — I think people understand that an individual cannot have the detailed knowledge. For example, I rely on people like Dr. John Osepchuk. He's at Raytheon. O-S-E-P-C-H-U-K. He heads the committee in the IEEE concerned with radiation effects of microwave, electric fields, and all that stuff. It's called Comar. C-O-M-A-R. And, again, I've always been very conscious of the environmental requirements, do no harm. And the one that, you know, is so obvious is, well, the microwave. When are they going to zap us? Well, you know, that's — my objective is to be at least equivalent to the house wife which is six feet away from the microwave oven with the door closed. That's its offense line.
Elder:Mm-Hum. After that, you're on your own.
Glaser:Yeah. So, it's — I think, in fact, what I enjoyed throughout this process, and on all these projects that we've talked about, is this is not a one man thing, sitting at my desk, writing all. It's really a constant effort to get the best people to contribute their thoughts, their efforts, to a common goal, and the goal in this case is energy from space.
Elder:You mentioned something that actually I had — also had on my list to ask you, so I'll bring that up now. In one of the papers I was reading there was a comment — I don't know if I can find it. Well, okay, well. I just paused to dig up this note that I'd written. In an article on — from 1992 in overview of the SPS option, you had said something about the — that the solar power satellite was — you said, "The first or a rare technical development program, which included the social, environmental factors —"
Elder:— before any commitment to develop a program — to a development program was made." So, what I thought would be interesting to ask you, is — I mean, you've talked about it. You mention it all the time, but need to say specifically —
Elder:— how did that come to be so? And for example, what did it take? And was there any sort of objection, or why are we talking about this, and never mind about that?
Glaser:Well, you have to go way back. You know, I told you my father had a factory which produced wire ropes for coal mines.
Glaser:And thus, I once was taken to a coal mine, and I saw the miners coming out of the coal mine, I could — and they were sort of black and, it made a tremendous impression on me.
Elder:What age do you think that was?
Glaser:God, I must have been seven, eight. You know, very young.
And then I saw the same thing, and if anything, worse, in England. I lived in Yorkshire. And, you know, I saw people coming out of textile mills, and people out of coal mines, where — I remember again, where sort of came back to me. And I realized that these people — and tonight I saw there was an article on — now I am in the sea — NBC, or CBS. CBS, on B
Vorkuta, which is a mining region somewhere in Russia. And, again, I saw all these miners completely covered with dust, and it was — some weren't even having any breathing apparatus. And I sat there saying, "My God, you know, isn't anybody realizing what is happening just to these miners?" And, you know, what is not known that this century, over a hundred thousand miners died in accidents. But that's a hell of a price to pay for us to use coal.
Elder:Now, when did you — did you seek out that fact? Or did it just come to you?
Glaser:No, I sort of was conscious of it. And that was — you know, I always felt, "Well, these poor people, I mean, that's terrible, I am warm because somebody's —" you know, then I didn't know about black lung, it was much later that I became that — you know, how many people suffered from black lung disease?
Elder:But just the image of them —
Glaser:The image was that.
Elder:— without really knowing what it was.
Glaser:No, and I knew that was wrong. And the other thing is I worked — I think I mentioned to you very early when I came here — with a textile management consultant firm.
Glaser:I think I mentioned to you very earlier that I worked at a textile management consulting firm, and there I had opportunity to work in — and go to textile mills. I remember one was in Chattahoochee, Georgia. You know, big mills. And again, I had a similar feeling, these people are exposed to this dust, and you know, I felt it in my throat, from the loose cotton, or whatever was floating in the air. And there wasn't much being done about that. And, again later, I found out there's something called brown lung disease. So these were two things I became aware of in terms of environmental effects on workers. I also became, of course, aware of the nuclear problem. Somehow the fact that a lot of — at Arthur D. Little, we had people who were doing work on the remediation [?], and then we had a very big assignment on all that — I forgot what it — you know, how bad is the problem of nuclear waste?
Elder:What is remediation?
Glaser:To put right what went — what was done wrong.
Glaser:I was aware of the problem of nuclear reactors, you know, a long time ago. And it obviously was not made public that there were people working to get uranium. Again, I knew about uranium, because Badon [?] Curee [?] got the oar from uranium mines near a place called Yourarkansta [?] in Bohemia, and I went skiing very close to there in the winter, and there was a huge hotel where people went and had mud bath with all this radioactive mud, supposedly doing good things for you. And again I felt, well jeepers, I don't know how many people who were exposed to all this stuff in this hotel suffered ill consequences. And then I knew that under the communist regime, if you were not a good follower, you were sent to the uranium mines. And the uranium mines were no better than those bloody coal mines. And therefore, you ingested the dust and essentially you had then cancer or [???]. I was aware that there were a lot of wrong things being done there. And I felt that our nuclear power — I was an engineer, said, "I know I design a safe nuclear power plant, but you have to start from A and go to Z and look at all of these environmental issues." And that, I felt, just wasn't done. And it was worn out because of this major programs — a million dollar program with Arthur D. Little had going to these various sights. And, for example, at Handford [?], I think there's a — I've forgotten — a million cubit yards of contaminated material in which is slowly moving into some rivers there. You know, these are problems which we have not solved. So, I felt I didn't want to be associated with anything where environmental issues were really of major concern long term. The only one that I was really worried about was microwaves, but today, you know, there are 13 thousand titles just in '83 when they looked on microwave biological effect. And a lot of people are working on it, and so far we're exposed to microwaves as we sit in this room and we're still okay. And evolved in a microwave feud because the sun generates part of the microwave spectrum. So, when the study at the DOE got underway, and Randolph had Koomanoff, who was the program manager, I felt that it was terribly important to do others environmental stuff, and he did. He then, spent about 60 percent of the funds on the all the environmental issues, societal issues, the regulatory issues.
Elder:What did he say when you brought it up? Had he thought of it himself?
Glaser:I think he became aware of the microwave stuff. You know, we discussed that.
Glaser:He's a very good friend of mine. And I think he did an outstanding job as a program manager, because in that SPS concept development evaluation program, for the first time, more than half the money was devoted to environmental issues. Now, in — as opposed to the nuclear program, where some money was devoted to it, but then what they found they didn't tell anybody about. So, you know, if you can read any of the reports and in my book he has a chapter on this, and says, what we know and what we don't know. And what we'll have to get to know. So, I think that I was always very much aware of the negative effects of various things we're doing, particularly in the energy field. The miners with coal, with uranium. The use of nuclear — the decommissioning, the waste problem. Totally unsolved problem, which nobody has solved, and I think it's absolutely mandatory that either we find a solution and we've tried many things like burying and glassy. So far, I am not aware that we've found the solution on the scale that we would have to if we used nuclear power. What we're talking about in the space power, is, of course, a totally different thing. If you don't use terrestrial resources, the number of flights will be very few, it's for the black boxes, you know, the computers or electronics.
Glaser:But most of the commodity materials would come from the moon and they wouldn't even impact anything on earth, and therefore if we can show that the microwave background radiation is not much higher than what you get from the sun then the question is, "Well, so we've evolved and it will continue to evolve in it." Perhaps it's an order of magnitude higher, well, let's find out. But it appears to me that if you're talking about supplying ten billion people on earth, with energy from space, and you want to do the same thing with energy resources which are either finite or nuclear fusion. And fusion ain't so clean in spite of the propaganda that one makes about it. You find the space has tremendous advantages. So I feel I have never proposed or done anything that would go counter to my philosophy of do no harm. And nobody has said, "Jeepers, you cannot do it because you would do something terrible to people."
Elder:What if they had? I mean, what if it turned out to be true? Or it looked like it could be true?
Glaser:Well, I think, I would say, "Well, if that's the case, if there's a really major problem don't — let's find something else to do." But you know, I've been at it for 30 years. Now, I would have thought if truly somebody would have said, "You know, there's a show stopper here." Nobody, so far, has found a show stopper. And it isn't Peter Glaser who's saying there's no show. You know, we've done it in the US, they've been looking at it in international conferences in Japan, in Russia, in China. My God, somebody would have said "You can't do this because of these environmental issues, and here's the data, and it's going to do you in if you do it." Nobody has said that. Now we have problems in the environmental, but they're the somewhat different problems. We have problems with the astronomers, because we will make it very difficult for radio astronomers if we use — if they stay here on earth. And that's why I've maintained that what you have to do is use part of the earnings the utilities would have, and construct the best radio telescope on the far side of the moon.
Elder:I have to admit, I laugh on it, there was one of these articles where you get — you boiled it down it said, "Well, radio astronomy is going to be in trouble, so let's put them on the dark side of the moon."
Glaser:Yeah, but there's a lot of thought behind it.
Elder:I know but.
Glaser:In fact, NASA has been seriously thinking about it. Radio astronomers essentially are out of business on earth. Forget about SPS, look at all the orbiting satellites, iridium and all that stuff. You know the background radiation is going to be such that they just can't stay here. So, all I'm offering is here's a way to pay for what you need in order to continue your investigations.
Elder:Another thing, I'm not sure if you had any involvement with this or not, but I thought you might have. Were you involved at all with L-5?
Elder:We haven't talked about that at all.
Glaser:Well, remember my close association with Jerry —
Glaser:— and then he sort of put the SPS as one of the goals for the L-5 Society. And I felt the L-5 Society had a vital role, was a primarily young people, enthusiastic, very bright people. You know, Eric Drixler [?], and you know, people like that. And in the '70s, you know, they were sort of counter culture. And they made people very uneasy, you know, they didn't dress quite that way, and they were outspoken. And I felt that was a group which was vital to some of the, you know, early things that had to be said and done, in which they did. After they joined the National Space Society, I felt, you know, it was hard to distinguish National Space Society from AIAA. And I just agreed to be a director of the National Space Society, I don't know if I can inject some of the more radical, or bring back some of those radical people that had ideas at the time. So, there's a lot of enthusiasm still out there. But there has been sort of a holding back [???] in the National Space Society. And also, the people need to have some realistic guidance, and what is doable under the present circumstances. You know, in the early '70s when we just managed to be on the moon, and all that, so there was a very euphoric environment. So, I think it — I would look to the next generations, you know, ISU people. It's the young people who will have to carry their own. I cannot be expected to be the flag bearer there have to be other flag bearers.
Elder:I was going to ask you also about ISU.
Glaser:I think that ISU, again, if it isn't too homogenized, and I don't know whether it will be, if it just becomes just an international university, well then, quite a few of those. As long as it is a little bit more like a gathering of the L-5 Society, I think it's okay. But if it becomes to look just like any other university, and there's, I think, some risk of that happening.
Glaser:It will lose its edge, I think. In the now it has a permanent camper, that means there's a bureaucracy going to come into being, and you know, things —
Elder:Thinks go that way.
Elder:How did you get involved with it?
Glaser:With ISU? I think Peter — you know, they were right here. At Mass Avenue, and they got me to come and talk to groups, and I talked with them and, of course I know Peter, and what's the other guy?
Glaser:And Bertha and [???], and of course, Greg. So, they asked —
Elder:Did they get you to come talk to Seds [?], or things like that before?
Glaser:Yes. Yes. I talked — I've talked to so many groups, from Seds to — what Allan Ladweek [?], it doesn't call Sautes, I don't know what it was called even before then. And I've talked to various ISU in Toronto, and here at MIT and, you know, the lecture in the ISU thing. They wanted me in Barcelona, but you know, I just can't be every place.
Elder:What did you think of that session at MIT? What was it like?
Glaser:I think it was good. There were many different speakers and I think it was a good session to me. I also liked the Toronto meeting. It was good. I think they were all — I haven't been to Barcelona, and I understand that was very good, too.
Elder:What was it like being at that, because it was the first one? It must have been somewhat chaotic?
Glaser:Oh, but that's part of the, if you like, attraction to it.
Glaser:I feel once it gets to organized, and you know, there's a director, and an assistant director, and an assistant to the assistant, then you've got the sort of bureaucracy in the spontaneity is of the students is not what it ought to be.
Elder:Were there surprises at that one? For you?
Glaser:Not really, no. My concern is ISU becomes just another university. That would be a shame, because there has to be some fire brands, if you like. And new ideas, and by the way, I think this report they did in Japan was outstanding and Gaye [?] Conoff [?], who did this, and how she did this report, I don't know in that short of time. Excellent work.
Glaser:Yeah, I know.
Glaser:Not as hard work as I think though. Does this give you a —?
Elder:Well, I'm — I'm — there I've been studying ISU and also somewhat involved with it. But it began by just study — I became interested in how it was created. Just collecting the history. So, I've done a lot of interviews with people involved in the early stages of it.
Glaser:That's — I was involved in —
Elder:That's why I'm interested in it.
Glaser:— the early stages of it, and I always supported it very much. Because I felt it wasn't just another MIT. You know, it doesn't matter which university it is well, if it doesn't fit the department head's preconceived notion of what should be said, you may not be very popular. And some of the things that I'm saying are not very popular, but, you know, if you have a nuclear department, if you hear me say some of these things, well, that's not popular. Even the solar people who said, "Jeepers, you know, I want something small is beautiful, and here this Glaser is talking about these big things."
Elder:Did it give you any kind of a thrill to contemplate these vast projects?
Glaser:Well, I don't know that I would say thrill. What I think I can say that I have at least been able to have the vision to realize that unless we are capable of dealing with micro-engineering projects successfully, and that starts with sort of the management organization, all the way to actually operating it. We will have tremendous problems, primarily because we are in a — on a small planet. And there'll be to many people here, and I don't think wars or pestilence is the answer to population growth. So, I think that we will have to find other ways to expand beyond this planet eventually. And power from space — whether it works out to the extent that I believe it can, and if it does, I think then if you want to go to Mars or the asteroid people will say, "Well, why the hell didn't we do this earlier?" We'll have all the capabilities to set up settlements wherever we need to, you know, asteroids or get commentary material, whatever we — I can't tell you what we'll need in a hundred or two hundred years, but by being able to do the things I'm talking about, then, that's a step towards Jerry OíNeillís ideas of colonizing space.
Elder:Hum. I was just going to ask that question, when I read — it was some of the things, you know, that were in there, or you find this in — oh, there was a book called Interstellar Migration of the Human Experience.
Elder:And it was full of articles on a grand scale. And, yeah, I do, I just find it thrilling to read them. I can't even judge whether they're reasonable or not.
Glaser:The thing that we have to recognize —
Elder:But there's just something about the bigness of such an act [???]
Glaser:Yeah, we take it as if it were in our time that these things are going to happen. And, you know, I can — we now find human beings existed ten millions, you know, or something looks like, you know, thought about like we are. Certainly they existed a million years ago. Now, if I would project what we've done in a thousand years, based on knowledge which was created a thousand or two thousand or three thousand, just take ten thousand years, what we've done in ten thousand years. Where — if you look at where was the human race — homo-sapiens ten thousand years ago, where are we today, and to say, "My God, we are accelerating on knowledge that all those things. Where will we be ten thousand years in this other thing?" The universe is the limit. So, I'm, if you like, a technological optimist, that there is nothing that will prevent life on earth to expand. And we will have to expand. You know, if you would calculate what is surface area of skin that is being generated per year by population growth, and then extrapolate exponentially that growth, it's less [???] like the speed of light. You know, I remember we had two and a half billion people on Earth.
Elder:I remember three.
Glaser:You see, so think of the surface area of the human body, and now multiply that out and say now; we'll have ten billion in that short of time. Essentially, that's three generations we will have expanded at an enormous rate. Just in the area of human skin.
Elder:How about length of human nervous systems?
Glaser:Well, you see our brains haven't developed that quickly. Well, we haven't used them fully. There's a lot more there than we've ever used. So, I think that it's important for us to look to the future in different ways. Now politicians can look only to the next election, and, you know, that's very tough. There are very few people who have — in this country — who can plan decades ahead, and we're at the point that in our evolution, that unless we learn to think in terms of 50 year planning horizons, we're going to miss things. And somewhere, some people had better think in terms of 100 years. The Japanese do. I know they have a group of people who say, "What's it going to look like 100 years from now?" There's nobody in the US that thinks in those terms. Except past philosophers. Does this give you a feel?
Elder:Yeah, indeed. I don't know, I might let it rest there.
Elder:A lot of little odds and ends I could ask about, but it seems sort of funny trailing after this.