Wednesday, December 17, 2008

NASA, the Psychologists, Gender and the Goldilocks Phenomenon

During research for "Psychological Officers" - Submarine - Part 1-3, we uncovered two, recommendations for NASA that may influence our culture overall.

But first, if you are not familiar with the Goldilocks Phenomenon here's a 2-minute review you will need to better understand:

The Goldilocks Phenomenon and the Habitable zone (HZ)

The Three Bears story is the origin of the term "Goldilocks" in academic contexts. Generally, the Goldilocks phenomenon describes a situation which is just right, not too big, too hot, too cold, or too small. The phenomenon is discussed in both astronomy and economics contexts. That's right, the Goldilocks phenomenon is a term with which folks having doctorate degrees are likely to be more familiar than pre-schoolers. Example:

The HZ may also be referred to as the "life zone", "Comfort Zone", "Green Belt" or "Goldilocks Zone" (because it's neither too hot nor too cold, but "just right"). In our own solar system, the HZ is thought to extend from a distance of 0.95 to 1.37 astronomical units. Gliese 581 d, the third planet of the red dwarf star Gliese 581 (approximately 20 light years distance from Earth), appears to be the best example which has been found so far of an extrasolar planet which orbits in the theoretical habitable zone of space surrounding its star.

In the Fall of 1995, a subgroup of the Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications Advisory Committee (LMSAAC) was established for a one year period in which to a) assess the status of countermeasures routinely used by NASA to counteract the deleterious physiological changes in humans that occur in response to the microgravity environment involving space flight; and b) determine appropriate recommendations concerning essential research and development activities relevant to enhancing the effectiveness of the countermeasure program.

In May 1997, NASA' s Task Force issued a Final Report on Countermeasures.
APPENDIX F-3 contains the recommendations of the Behavior and Performance Working Group (BPWG), comprised largely of psychologists and psychiatrists.

You can certainly have a ball reading the full report. M.E. expects submariners will be particularly interested in two of the BPWG's eleven General recommendations in Section 6, found on page F-10:

8. Research on gender with respect to behavior and performance on space missions needs to be assessed with respect to space crews, ground crews, families.

M.E. observation: Did NASA follow or discard the 1997 recommendation for space crew gender research? By what the public has heard so far, the recommendation has been dismissed due to political sensitivities. Ever wonder about the slow pace of NASA'a space program? Absence of critical research could certainly be one reason.

10. Assessment of the right amount of training is critical to avoid over or under training.
( Remember Goldilocks and the last bowl of porridge? She said, "Ahhh, this porridge is just right." )

M.E.'s observation: We can assume NASA paid for the study resulting in the Goldilocks recommendation (#10). Does anyone besides M.E. find the recommendation lame?

Submarines are always silent and strange. Rarely, however, relevant information is leaked through the space program.



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