It’s Not Magic, It’s Science  

Last Saturday in Washington, D.C. (and in more than 600 cities worldwide) Bill. Nye, the Science Guy, was one of the Leaders of  the nationally-organized March for Science (technology a strong enabler).  He addressed the crowds this way: “Greetings, fellow citizens.  We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially, of the significance of science for our health and prosperity.”  Meanwhile in the White House, a few hundred yards away, “so-called President” Trump was putting the finishing touches on a one-page news bulletin detailing the tax benefits and major reductions for the wealthiest Americans in his new plan.  I don’t think he was as concerned about insuring continued scientific progress that would advance Americans’ “health and prosperity.”  To the contrary, he was still working on how to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Trump would have us all believe that our planet is NOT environmentally endangered.  Unfortunately, he is also being supported by a rise of anti-scientific notions – the anti-vaccination movement and climate-change denial in particular.  Nye argues that “When you become scientifically literate, I claim, you become an environmentalist.  Somewhere along the way, there has developed this idea that if you believe something hard enough, it’s as true as things discovered through the process of science. And I will say that’s objectively wrong.”

Thank you, Bill Nye.  May we all “Live long and prosper!”  🖖

Ray Myers 

Climate Change – What? Me Worry?

So-called President Trump’s most recent budget proposal for NASA climate science missions would eliminate four climate science missions.  In one paragraph in their 53-page budget blueprint, the Trump administration proposed the elimination of instrumentation to study clouds, small airborne particles, the flow of carbon dioxide and other elements of the atmosphere and ocean.  I guess if we successfully fail to find these programs, we will never really know if our climate is really changing.  But maybe that’s really the point of not collecting this information?  “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.”

Unfortunately in this case, it really can hurt you.  We are talking about the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, as just two examples of our natural environment that help sustain all life on this earth.  “Climate change deniers” now have a friend in the White House.  Long before Trump was elected, climate researchers have warned that the nation’s climate monitoring capabilities – which include satellite as well as air and surface-based instruments- were less than adequate and faced data collection gaps and other uncertainties.  Elimination of any of these missions would severely limit our ability to monitor the effects on our fragile ecosystems.   Without such critical information, we are truly endangering the quality of life for all living organisms on this earth.  Al Gore was right.  This is an inconvenient truth, and one that current political leadership simply wants to deny.

We must see the world, our future and that of our children’s from a broader view.  We owe it to ourselves and to the generations that follow.  We do have to worry, as inconvenient as that may be.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will be back next Wednesday after a short Easter break.  Thank you for following TechtoExpress.

Shared Science Goes Social!

I never thought science as something that would become part of the twenty-first century phenomenon of social networking.  But this has apparently become a new form of academic “outreach” in our connected world.  So long Ivory Tower!  This new scientific social network is called ResearchGate and was started in Berlin with three partners in 2008.  Now they have signed up 12 million scientists, or about 60 percent of all such potential users worldwide.

Researchers upload roughly 2.5 million papers to ResearchGate every month.  In comparison, scientists added the same amount of research over the first four years of the network’s operation.  ResearchGate has also taken advantage of the growing trend across the scientific world to open up to the wider public and take advantage of technology like machine learning to conduct projects across borders and faster.  The network is not alone in making science more transparent and open.  Cancer researchers, for instance, recently created a video game that allows people to participate in the crunching of complex data on their smartphones by guiding a “spacecraft” along paths based on genetic sequencing from breast cancer patients.

I can remember going to science labs in high school and working in assigned teams (hopefully with people you liked who were also smarter and shared their expertise).  At that time, sharing was not always seen as a way of learning how science works.  

Ray Myers

Viva Vietnam!

So everybody knows that Obama was here last week, and it seems like the Cubans are now very interested in forging some deeper science-technology ties with their comrades here in Vietnam.  Maybe technology can really help the world become smaller, reaching across oceans and continents that share some common economic goals.  Obama actually helped us reconnect with Cuba, and now both these Communist countries see technology as a tool that will help them establish new commercial partnerships.  Or as the Vietnamese Prime Minister said: “enhance comprehensive ties with the Caribbean country.”  “Comprehensive” will do.

Similarly, the Cuban Minister of Science, Technology and Enviroment said “her visit aimed to consolidate the co-operation in science-technology and natural resources between the two countries.”  I don’t think that Obama actually intended to bring these two countries closer economically as part of opening the diplomatic and commercial doors with the U.S., but it could have played a role?  Call it an unintended consequence if you will, but increasing and consolidating trade cooperation can be a mutual benefit to all trading partners on a bi-lateral or multi-lateral basis.

It doesn’t always have to be about political ideology, but that could be a beginning to expand economies on a more global basis.  And technology may be the unintended tool that creates such an environment.

Ray Myers

Hanoi