Sunday, February 5, 2023

An Interlude: Sunsets and New Dawns

Gulf of Mexico sunset (Feb 1, 2023)
My past several posts have been videos from the half-day cryogenic fluid management course I taught at a NASA workshop in September of 2022. If you missed any of them and are interested, the entire series with links to the videos as they get posted can be found on the Training page of my website at

The technical nature of the course can be a bit dry, so an "interlude" at the midway point of these videos seems apropos before sharing the rest. A business trip to Tampa last week provided the opportunity to enjoy some beautiful sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico as well as the inspiration for this post.

Broader Horizons Make Better Sunsets

There's nothing like a really good book to broaden our perspective and see things in a new light. Here are two excellent ones I recently completed, and one I started reading on the flight home, that provide some metaphorical sunsets to contemplate:

  • Ray Dalio's The Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail is a fascinating quantitative exploration of the rise and fall of empires from a geo-economic perspective. Looking over the past 500 years starting with the Dutch, then the British, and then the current American empires, he describes the repeating patterns of their rise and fall. He also includes much older Chinese dynasties, as well as the recent and very rapid ascent of China as an emerging new global empire. His explanation of the comprehensive indicators of the health, status, and future prospects of nations (that he developed over decades of running the most successful hedge fund in history) is quite eye opening. Dalio's writing style is nonconventional and can be a bit repetitive, but the key insights he provides are well worth the effort.
  • Tiago Forte's Building a Second Brain is a tour de force treatment of personal knowledge management that leverages the powerful information technology tools we all now have easy access to. Forte is a truly gifted writer that adds even more value and insights beyond his very actionable strategies for creating and utilizing a personal external digital "brain". His weaving of examples across many professional, artistic, and scientific fields helps to drive the concepts home for any reader.
  • Octavia Butler's Earthseed: The Complete Series is as fascinating as the late author's personal story. She was an African American author who won the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards for her chosen genre, and was the only science fiction writer to ever receive a MacArthur (genius) Fellowship. Although I don't typically read fiction, her writing style is an intriguing extrapolation of human tendencies and societal trends into a forward-looking timeline. There's a truth that rings in every page, and the resulting effect for me is a story about a very possible "nonfiction future" rather than science fiction.

The New Dawns Ahead

Each of these books seem to me to illustrate some sunsets of their own. The inevitable decline of empires... the limits of biological intelligence... the predictable outcomes of disregarding our environment and each other. And as we all know, every sunset is followed by a period of darkness when it is difficult to clearly see what's happening around us; and where both dangers and opportunities are lurking.

But there is also no dawn without the preceding sunset and darkness. What that new dawn looks like in regards to global stability, artificial intelligence, environmental health, societal well being, and host of other areas remains to be seen.

In the hope of contributing to the best sunsets and dawns for future generations, my personal mission is to leverage decades of experience developing hydrogen systems for the transition away from fossil fuels in energy, transportation, and industry. I believe a healthy planet provides the best hope for global prosperity and equity.

Matt Moran is the Managing Member at Moran Innovation LLC, and previous Managing Partner at Isotherm Energy. He's been developing power and propulsion systems for more than 40 years; and first-of-a-kind liquid, slush and gaseous hydrogen systems since the mid-1980s. Matt was also the Sector Manager for Energy & Materials in his last position at NASA where he worked for 31 years. He's been a cofounder in seven technology based start-ups; and provided R&D and engineering support to hundreds of organizations. Matt has three patents and more than 50 publications including the Cryogenic Fluid Management report series. More about him can be found here.