2011-06-11 01:58 AM -0400

International Geophysical Year – the Next 50 Years

Ralph Baird, Geophysicist and Engineer

Baird Petrophysical International

1784 W Sam Houston Pkwy N, Houston, TX 77043

Tel: +1 (713) 461-1784

Email: ralph @ 

Fax: +1 (713) 461-0914


- DRAFT -  DRAFT - This is a work in progress.




Today we benefit from the inquisitive nature of men who pioneered geophysical science coordinated during the first International Geophysical Year. The first IGY was created to attract a new breed of scientist, less interested in polar exploration, and more interested in expansion of cross-disciplinary sciences: earth and space exploration.


Today we are fragmented and shall experience a new breed of middle-scientist who shall work in-between, who is less interested in narrow research and more interested in expansion of interdisciplinary earth and space science solutions.


The IPY, the IYPE, the IHY and the eGY programs and participating scientists and citizens, typify the narrowing, fragmented academics and national scientists of 2006. These same groups of qualified men shall awaken to their successful integration of cross-discipline advancements predicted for the next 50 years.


The author describes what’s next for the geophysical scientist and what he must do to succeed in the new internationally competitive environment.




The stage is set for the next 50 years. To understand how science delivered us to 2006, we must look back to the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958 and the events leading up to it. In 1951, an informal team of men met and decided to establish a third International Polar Year for 1957. They attempted to persuade scientists from many nations to join them. The results were disappointing and so the team changed their tact and expanded the invitation to include a list of geophysical scientific areas of interest, much beyond the polar anniversary endeavors. The result was the most successful multi-tiered, multi-national, a-political International Geophysical Year; 18 months actually. If the words Sputnik, Van Allen, Plate Tectonics, Air Glow, and NASA mean anything to you, then you already know something about the very successful, first International Geophysical Year.


Back to the future, we sit here in 2006. At this moment, geophysical scientists from a hundred countries are planning their parts for the second International Geophysical Year 2007-2009; 36 months actually. Instead of one-single platform with one-leader, we have, by necessity, fragmented specialized efforts by four groups at this time, the IPY, the IYPE, the IHY and the eGY organizations. Each group has specific charges which each plans to complete leading up to and through the second International Geophysical Year. These efforts rely on the directions and funding mostly by government agencies and partially by private sources. The work today, however, is not about 2006, or 2007, or 2009. It's about the future: the next 50 years.


The Electronic Geophysical Year


The most modern of the four groups is the eGY, the Electronic Geophysical Year. Most future advancements shall come from the enhanced speed and inter-operability of scientists of many nations to communicate. Previous barriers include language, transportation costs, even telephonic expenses. Today and improving in the immediate future is the now-well accepted internet. The internet and its replacements enable communications and exchange of data and ideas instantaneously. Observations  in the field and in the laboratory, or recorded in historic libraries and data libraries, can be passed along in their original form or enhanced, edited and even transformed into a real time or simulated virtual experience. In the future one might even find oneself asking, "Is it real?"


What to expect in the next 50 years: the New Adults


Nations are setting national policies for the next generation of explorer-scientists. This planning starts at the very basic levels of pre-school learning and continues through the life of children and young adults. The goal is for the new adults to be able to successfully compete in the new world of instant access. What is lacking in some countries will be made up for by other countries. For instance, today and for the past decade or two, the United States has continued to destroy the learning process of math and science in its public schools. Teachers with no specific specialization have been hired to teach; most did poorly in math and science in their own personal education. What Americans now have is teachers teaching teachers, with no personal preference, or passion for the subject taught. Sounds clinical to me and it must be boring and lustless to the new student, the next new adult. This must change and the National Academies of Science has made specific recommendations to the US Congress. Other nations have a different manner; they are where the USA was in the 50's; and this is their competitive advantage going forward, into the future.