Greetings, and welcome to Day 4 of Plugged In! On behalf of myself, Melissa, Scott, and Robynne, welcome to this shiny new blog of ours. There are so many things to discuss, but to get started, I want explain to you what this blog means to me and what I hope to get out of it.

Growing up, one of my favorite shows was a program called "Connections" on PBS. The program was hosted by James Burke, a nice English fellow, who with a steady delivery that is bestowed upon only the British, would trace technological innovations throughout history to get from say, the Dukes of Burgundy to the Saturn V rocket.

It's my hope that the four of us will be able to draw connections between a bunch of different topics that are important to our lives - from how we access information, interact with our environment, and use and produce the energy that will allow us to do all of these things - and explain them in a way that is both interesting and entertaining.

And seeing as today marks the end of NASA's space shuttle program, I have found myself pulling up Carl Sagan's classic "Pale Blue Dot" narration and making connections of my own.

I like to think that today isn't so much about the end of an era in space exploration, but rather the beginning of a new chapter of human ingenuity and technological innovations that will enable us to solve some of the world's most pressing challenges.

The challenges are numerous and daunting. Our climate is changing as a result of man-made and natural processes and rising global temperatures will have both positive and negative effects on our society. For example, warmer temperatures might help some countries expand agricultural production (in places like Siberia), while outbreaks of diseases and pests might increase in other regions. As our population continues to increase, we will need sustainable methods for producing and consuming the food and fuel that are needed to support billions of people, and close the inequalities in food and energy security.

I am hopeful about our possibilities for advancement because over the span of something as relatively short-lived like the space shuttle program, we have improved our understanding of the environment and changed our lives. We discovered holes in the ozone layer and limited the use of the offending chemicals; successfully crafted market-based strategies to reduce acid rain-forming gases; passed legislation to protect water sources; and are using wireless communication technology to combat malaria in the developing world.

But as we are reminded by news stories, or in our laboratories, there is still much to discover about our world. The coming decades will require an increased cooperation and collaboration between people of different political persuasions, business interests, and academic fields and institutions in order to solve our biggest challenges facing us on our pale blue dot.

Through my posts, I want to look into the history and innovation of our energy technologies and environmental policies, and learn how they developed over time and in different regions of the country (and world). There are stories and scientific facts in the way we produce and use energy (why west Texas wind different than California wind power, for example). Energy and the environment also show up in popular media, so I'm excited to explore the connections between films, music and books and the science of energy and the environment.

Until next time...