December 16, 2015

Dr. G’s #AGU15 Spotlight – Elon Musk

Posted by Laura Guertin

IMG_0846The hype before this Presidential Forum at the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting was incredible (as was the line that formed over an hour before the event was to begin!) – Elon Musk was coming! How did AGU get Elon Musk to speak at the annual meeting? I’m 99% sure I heard the AGU President thank Elon at the beginning of the Forum for accepting her invitation to the meeting that she delivered through YouTube(!).  [still trying to hunt down that video….]

To summarize the conversation between AGU President Margaret Leinen and Elon Musk, I went through the tweets on Twitter (and there were many of them!) and compiled them into a Storify. If you want to see how the conversation unfolded, click here to “hear” the voice of Elon Musk – through Twitter! I also found Christina Williamson’s blog and her interpretation of the session with Elon.

At the very beginning of the session, President Leinen referred to two other videos with Elon – one is his TED talk, and the other is an interview with Stephen Colbert. I have embedded both below so you can see a bit of content that is similar to what he discussed at the Fall Meeting.

[When a link to the session is archived on the AGU website, I will include that here as well]

But what did I learn from hearing Elon Musk speak to the AGUniverse in a Q&A format? Here are my top five soundbytes from the Forum:

  1. One of the questions asked via Twitter was from a middle school science teacher. The teacher asked what middle school kids should learn about STEM? Elon’s answer – software engineering is the biggest area, then physics, economics, and critical thinking.
  2. Elon is a supporter of traveling to and colonizing the surface of Mars. He doesn’t believe life exists at the surface, but perhaps in the sub-surface as microbial life. And (according to Elon) if we just leave that life alone, then we won’t be interfering with its existence.
  3. Elon doesn’t want to think about “failing forward” and would rather have “success forward,” especially after the Falcon 9 rocket failure, which happened to occur on his birthday (June 28).
  4. Elon believes that “you can learn anything if you have access to a $100 internet device.”
  5. Elon finds a lot of things hard to do. He stated that it is hard to build a good rocket, and it will be “super-hard” to be a multi-planet species.

Finally, I cannot resist including some photos from the Presidential Forum and the Tesla parked outside of Hall E in Moscone North. It will be interesting to see who AGU brings in for the Presidential Forum in 2016 – Elon Musk is a hard act to follow!

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