Google exaggerates their projects when compared to a lunar launch
The term "moon shot" ("Moon shot") originated in the USA during the space race to the moon and today is used to describe projects of great technical difficulty completed shortly. Lately the term has been on everyone's lips, especially by Google X, the advertising arm of the search company.
Well, actually his secret Google X lab.
The last time the term was used was last Friday, when the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Google was planning a study X biomedical research. The headline was "Google's New Moonshot" (or "The new release of Google to the Moon") and describes the "most ambitious and difficult science project" in the history of the company.
Google said in a newsletter sent to reporters that the study would involve "a type of clinical research that has never been done before."
However the investigation, known as Baseline Study, seems quite normal: consists of measuring genes and blood chemistry of 175 healthy people (and ultimately thousands of others) and try to establish some molecular information on the appearance of normal.
The CEO of Google, Larry Page, started a couple of years to say "you have to think as if we were to make a lunar launch" ago. Wanted to make sure Google did not get stuck focusing on incremental ideas and is able to create the next Android or Gmail. So the company created Google X, a laboratory of radical innovation where visionary researchers can experiment with whatever they want.
Among current "moon shots" of Google's autonomous cars are, Google Glass, high altitude airships from which internet connectivity issue, contact lenses that track glucose, a company of life extension plans for "solve the death" and something about walking robots. Half of these projects have been announced over the past eight months.
But back for a moment to the original lunar voyage. In 1961, President Kennedy challenged the United States to carry men to the moon in a decade. This seemingly impossible was achieved eight years later, on July 20, 1969 As defined by Google, launch a lunar must combine "a big problem, a radical solution and advanced technology with which to reach a solution."
The Baseline Study does not meet this definition. It does not seem particularly novel. There is little doubt that it can be done. And Google has not clearly established destination or a scientific problem. The aim of the study, to "investigate the chemical composition of a healthy body" has no clear end. How will we know if it has been achieved?
There is also something about the Baseline Study that sounds a bit cheesy. Google X manager who directs the study, Andrew Conrad, previously co-founded the Institute for Health and Longevity of California (USA). It is a luxury spa near Malibu where wealthy people can choose from a menu that includes acupuncture, healthy cooking classes or use a CT 64-slice scanner.
The study was funded by the former benefactor Conrad, 91 years billionaire David Murdock, chairman of Dole Foods and has expressed his plans to live to 125 years eating only healthy foods. In fact executive $ 4,000 (3,000 euros) offered at the spa (technicians check vitamin levels and analyze the results of the scan for cancer while you get a massage) vaguely resemble physicals exams will receive 175 volunteers as part of the Baseline Study.
And then there's just the matter of scale. Google has created a team of "70 to 100" image experts and biomedical analysis, reports the WSJ. It is not a small figure, but neither has the size of a lunar launch. The Apollo program worked about 400,000 people, and involved a business of such magnitude that sometimes took up to 4% of GDP in the USA.
According to historian Roger Launius of the National Museum of Air and Space and USA, bring the man to the moon cost 24,000 million (18,000 million), or about 180,000 million dollars today (135,000 million euros) .
Adding spending on R & D Google for the past eight years (a period of time comparable to the Apollo), I worked out a figure of about 36,000 million (27,000 million euros). It is an important quantity. It means that spending on R & D of Google accounts for nearly a fifth of the Apollo project, continuously.
Google X, however, represents only a fraction of the R & D of Google, and on the other hand, Google is not only a lunar launch but half a dozen of them. It is only an estimate, but the biggest launch of Google Lunar probably represents 1% of the actual launch spending budget.
What they have in common the lunar launch from NASA and Google X is that generators are great advertising. I'm not sure that going to the moon has no practical use. The astronauts brought several hundred kilos of rocks and took some amazing pictures, but the psychological impact was immense. Made USA dominate aerospace during the following years.
Similarly, Google X lab has changed the way people perceive the company. I've been thinking about Google as a company that makes money selling search ads to get easy credit, educational titles online and car insurance. Now, when I hear the name of Google, I think technological prowess capable of changing the world.
But Google could break the spell if exaggerates things. The Baseline Study is not a lunar launch.