by guest blogger Stan Thompson
In my February 10, 2011, commendation of public broadcasting for its help in raising hydrail awareness, I failed to credit Ira Flatow’s excellent program, Talk of the Nation – Science Friday. On September 4, 2009, Ira ran a great segment on hydrail but never mentioned the technology by name. Web searches on the subject don’t find it. (Perhaps, if NPR’s webmaster reads this, a hydrail tag can still repair the oversight.)
While putting the segment together, the producer contacted me for experts to interview. I immediately thought of Ontario’s Dr. Alistair Miller, whom (over his strong protests) I always credit as being the “Father of Hydrail” because of his seminal 1999 paper explaining why rail and maritime hydrogen fuel cell applications are the easiest to implement.
By introducing the producer to Dr. Miller, I blew my best chance to snag the “fifteen minutes of fame” that Andy Warhol said we’re all due. If I had thought fast, I might have been on NPR!
But, being devoutly Southern, I chose to Do The Right Thing instead.
The producer did too. Given a choice between interviewing a North Carolina accent that Sheriff Andy might have heard in Mayberry barbershop or a Scottish one as articulate as Sir Walter Scott and as real-life tech savvy as “beam me up” Scotty on Star Trek, he chose the latter. It was a reasonable choice.
A less reasonable choice was omitting the word “hydrail” from the script, rendering the segment invisible to search engines. What could have been a home-run for hydrail science awareness became a bunt instead.
Still, it was a bunt heard by 1.3 million listeners—the vast majority of whom would otherwise never have guessed that fuel cells will soon power trains and streetcars (hydrolleys).
So, thanks anyway, Ira. Maybe next time.