Monday, 27 April 2015

TEDWeek @UCLAAnderson Stephen Petranek – Out of this world

This piece was originally written for UCLA Anderson, as such I made it a little hammy in place and drop in a few of the business school's taglines, such as "Think in the Next". While the talk was a bit wacky, I did genuinely find it interesting and a very engaging experience.

Stephen Petranek – Out of this world

Coming to Anderson I had long anticipated TED Week @UCLA. Having watched dozens of TED talks and podcasts over the years, with their mantra of “Ideas worth spreading” and the passion with which each speaker takes to the stage, I signed up for a talk and panel discussion titled “Out of this World” by Stephen Petranek. I was excited to see what we were in store for with this Partnership to Advance Ideas.

Billed as a Technology Forecaster, I knew little about Stephen or his background, and with spring quarter in full swing didn’t have a chance to read the preface to the talk. Finding space in the Executive dinner room at Anderson, transformed for Ted week, with all purple spotlights, bean bag chairs and cloth drapes UCLA could muster. I sat back a wait for the talk to begin.

“500 years ago Christopher Columbus sailed across an ocean and changed the world. We’re on the verge of another great age of discover.....We're going to Mars”…. And so it began, for the next forty minutes I was engrossed. From duel stage rocket boosters to the “MOXIE” oxygen conversion machines we will needed when setting up our first colonies. With Stephen’s guidance I found myself mentally planning out each step of my very own mission to Mars, such is the power of a great TedTalk!

The talk’s premise was clear, exploration is in our DNA. Some of our greatest advances have come about from discovering the world around us. In much the same way JFK inspired a generation to dream and reach for the Moon in the 60’s, the same would be true for the exploration of Mars. A mission to Mars would be the catalyst for a new golden age as we push to become a two planet species. Petranek, as only some with the title “Technology Forecaster” could, went further; Not only were we as humans born to explore our solar system, it would happen far quicker than most of us could ever imagine possible. He confidently stated “I guarantee some of your children will end up living there!”

Some of Stephen’s quick facts on the Red planet:
   -  It’s the 4th planet from the Sun, about half the size of Earth, with 38% of the gravity
   -  The average temperature is around -81F, with an atmosphere 95% CO2
   -   A Martian day is 24hours and 39min long
   -  Mars is 100 times further away than the moon, that’s about 25 million miles

Not going to be easy

As Stephen went through his list of Red plant factoids, I couldn’t help feeling he didn’t really need to follow up by stating “This isn’t going to be easy”. Of the 44 rockets man has sent to Mars only about 1/3 have successfully reached the forth planet from the Sun. Missions have only a short launch window, with planetary orbits aligning just once every two years. And even then you looking at a 240 day one-way journey. A long time stuck in what amount to little more than a glorified tin can.

So who’s going to make this happen? Step forward Tony Sparks Elon Musk and SpaceX. Elon’s penciled in 2025 for the first Mars landings and already has designs on the first Mars colonizers; Stephen’s prudently pointed out that Musk might be a little optimistic, stating 2027 was a little more realistic.

Straight out of Sci-Fi

But why stop there. Taking a lead from the Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic Total Recall, what’s to stop us terraforming a whole darn plant. Let’s turn the Red planet Green. Take one, albeit very large, solar sail and focus the sun’s rays on Mars’ poles. The resulting warming will, over a 20 year period, melt the planets ice and release water vapor to thicken the Martian atmosphere. You’ll create your very own greenhouse effect. Yes, it will rain and it will snow....such is the power of human enterprise, we can transform a planets!

Our Forecaster finished his talk with a predictions that some 50k people may live on Mars by 2050. In much the same way Jamestown, Virginia and the Eastern states of the America were colonized some 300+ years ago, the same will be true of Mars. Mars “Colonizers” could travel there by the dozen, Human’s would become a two planet species. Enterprising individuals would open restaurants, sell extraterrestrial excursions and mine ore to become Mars’ first millionaires. No doubt our speaker claimed - “Some idiot will start a reality TV show”

Advancing Ideas Panel

Following the talk we we’re treated to a panel discussion featuring Dan Birnbaum ('10), Fay Arjomandi, Terry D. Kramer, Allen Chen ('07), with our own Zubin Davar ('15) chairing the discussion. Tackling the big questions on everything from why on Earth would you want to go? What about interplanetary communication, and uhum…. sex in a spacesuit. Among the back and forth there was however one point of consensus among our panel of experts….. Technically speaking while challenging, and financially while expensive, life on Mars certainly more than a possibe!!!

Like many of the best TED podcasts and YouTube videos I’ve seen in the past, Stephen and the panel got me exciting in an idea. While I’m not sure whether I’ll be queuing up to pay my $500,000 for a ticket on one of the first Mars Colonizer, I won’t be as quick to dismiss something as impossible.  For me that is the true power of a TEDTalk, to embrace an ideas, challenge convention and think big. For want of a better phrase to Think in the Next.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

UCLA Anderson Student Interview: Enjoying the MBA Whirlwind

Want to read  more MBA student interviews?  Click here!This interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Tom Winterton, a first year student at UCLA Anderson.
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What was your most recent pre-MBA job?
Tom: I grew up in Nantwich, a small market town in north of England and completed my undergraduate degree in Physics with Finance at the University of Surrey. A slightly unusual combination but it stood me well in getting a job in financial services in London where I worked for a number of banks.
My last role was as a Strategy Development Analyst at Brewin Dolphin, one of the UK’s largest investment management and financial planning firms.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Orientation at UCLA

MBA Orientation 
UCLA Anderson 2016

The official start to my MBA journey began with an introduction speeches in Korn Hall, at the North West corner of UCLA's Westwood campus. Addressed by Dean Olian and her Associates, the welcomes were warm but in truth I'm struggling to remember many details. It was only a few weeks ago, but there been so much else going on since. I did however manage to scalp the following video from her opening presentation.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Gstaad - Cheese making & Fondo

Mid-August, no work commitments and my good friend of some 25 years (eek - didn't realises I was that old) Simon Whitmore was back in Europe. So when he invited me to join him on a trip to Switzerland I jumped at the opportunity. We stayed in Gstaad with Simon's friend from distance travels, Alex Baltes - an excellent host, with great local knowledge which made all the difference. Thank you Alex!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Another MBA essay

After publishing my main MBA application essay to UCLA a couple on month back, I thought it would be interesting dig out one of the more esoteric essays I ended up writing when applying to business schools.
Though short I spend a good few hours drafting, tweaking and getting feedback on the passage below. After re-reading it 9 months on I'm convinced that both the essay & the question are more than a little weak. 

The essay question was for Berkeley Haas' full time MBA program - My response helped get me onto their wait list.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Spinning class @ Cyclebeat

For the last two week I've been giving spinning classes a go, taking advantage of Cyclebeat in the City of London and their 14 day introductory offerThis isn't my first time spinning, but I can safely say that the last fortnight has been some of the most tiring exercise classes I have ever done.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Thames paddle - Marlow to Kingston (60km over 16 hours)

The Big (Long) Paddle

As a follow up to last year's Big Walk along the Thames we looked to repeat the challenge, this year on top of the water, paddling from Marlow to Kingston-upon-Thames.This epic challenge was again organised by the ever adventurous Tristan Steen. 

Ambitious to the end, he had envisioned a 24 hour romp with little regard for fatigue nor fluvial hazard; be it weirs, renegade swans or the stationary pleasure boats we would encounter on our journey. The four hapless sods he convinced to join the challenge convinced him that 60km would be quite enough and if it took less that 24 hours that would still be acceptable.