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Tag archives: US politics

Science supporters protest in Boston

Stand up for Science rally in Boston, 19 February 2017

Gathering of minds – scientists at today’s Stand up for Science rally at Copley Square in Boston.

By Matin Durrani in Boston, US

Hundreds of scientists and science supporters gathered in Copley Square in Boston earlier today in a rally to underline the importance of science. The “Stand up for Science” event was organized to coincide with the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which is taking place a few blocks away.

To find out more about the aims and purpose of the rally, I hooked up with Geoffrey Supran (picutred below), who helped to organize the event. Having originally studied physics at the University of Cambridgein the UK, Supran obtained a PhD in materials science at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology and is now doing a postdoc in the history of science with Naomi Oreskes at nearby Harvard University.

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AAAS chief predicts “tough and uncertain times” for US science funding

physicist and former Congressman Rush Holt is the current president of the American Association for the Advvancement of Science at the AAAS annual meeting in Boston 17 February 2017

Not for me – president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Rush Holt says there’s “no chance” of him becoming Donald Trump’s science adviser but admits it would be hard to turn down if offered.

By Matin Durrani in Boston, US

Rush Holt is that rarity: a physicist who’s also been a politician, having spent 16 years as Democratic Congressman for New Jersey’s 12th congressional district from 1999 to 2015. Those two attributes make him well placed in his current role as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which is holding its annual meeting here in Boston.

So when I sat down with Holt yesterday, our conversation naturally focused on the impact on science of Donald Trump’s election as US president. The bouffant-haired, former businessman and reality-TV star may have so far said little about the subject, but Holt believes that “tough and uncertain times” lie ahead for scientific funding. “I think we will be on a very austere budget for all non-defence discretionary activity,” he warns.

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US policy chiefs explain how to handle Trump

At the AAAS meeting in Boston, February 2017, Neal Lane introduces John Holdren (left), Kerri-Ann Jones (centre) and Rosina Bierbaum

Speaking out – Neal Lane introduces John Holdren (left), Kerri-Ann Jones (centre) and Rosina Bierbaum at the 2017 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

By Matin Durrani in Boston, US

I’m here at the 2017 meeting of the American Assocation for the Advancement of Science in Boston, where the theme is “Serving society through science policy”. The focus was picked last year, but it turned out to be an auspicious choice with the election of Donald Trump throwing the science community into uncharted policy waters.

Trying to make sense of what life will be like for US scientists under the Trump administration were five people with extensive experience of working closely with recent US presidents.

Chairing the session was Neal Lane, who served as Bill Clinton’s presidential science adviser for two years in the 1990s. Also present was physicist John Holdren, who spent eight years until last month as Barack Obama’s science chief, for which the audience gave him a generous round of applause.

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3D neutrinos on your phone, Hamiltonian: an Irish Musical, is a March for Science a good idea?

 

By Hamish Johnston

How would you like to explore a giant neutrino detector in 3D from the comfort of your mobile phone? VENu is a new smartphone app that allows you explore the physics underlying the MicroBooNE neutrino detector at Fermilab. Developed by Alistair McLean of New Mexico State University and an international team of physicists, the app is used in conjunction with the Google Cardboard headset to provide users with a virtual-reality experience of MicroBooNE. VENu includes games that offer “brain teasing challenges” including working out how to spot a neutrino event in a busy background of cosmic-ray events. The app can be downloaded free of charge from the Apple Store and the Google Android Marketplace.

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Physics in the US: no longer business as usual

New rules: citizens of seven countries have been barred from the US (Courtesy: CBP)

New rules: citizens of seven countries have been barred from the US. (Courtesy: CBP)

By Matin Durrani

Over the last couple of years here at Physics World, we’ve been publishing special reports examining the state of physics in different nations around the world, including Brazil, China, Japan, India, Korea and Mexico.

When we decided in September last year to publish our next special report in 2017 on the US, it seemed reasonable to expect that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected president. For science, a Clinton presidency would pretty much have been “business as usual” and so, probably, would have been the tone of our special report.

But now that Donald Trump is in the White House, it looks as if we’re entering a period where the US is as far removed from “business as usual” as you could imagine.

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American angst

Phot of Capital building in Wasington DC

Danger ahead – Donald Trump’s election as US president will not be business as usual for science policy. (Courtesy: iStock/uschools)

By Matin Durrani

Like many people, I’m fearful of the imminent Donald Trump presidency, given the many sexist, racist and otherwise unpleasant remarks he made during the US election campaign. However, his slogan – “Make America great again” – proved powerfully effective for many voters. Who, after all, could disagree with renewed domestic glory? Sadly, Trump’s plans for achieving that goal – what little we know of them – are based on such ill-informed and ignorant views that he could damage America’s long-standing leadership in many areas, including science.

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Robots at arXiv, physicist runs for US president, Einstein emojis galore

 

Preprint pioneer: Paul Ginsparg in 2002, long before arXiv received 10,000 papers per month (Courtesy: MacArthur Foundation)

Preprint pioneer: Paul Ginsparg in 2002, long before arXiv received 10,000 papers per month. (Courtesy: MacArthur Foundation)

By Hamish Johnston

Last month the arXiv preprint server received more than 10,000 papers – the first time in the history of the physics paper depository. While arXiv papers are not peer reviewed, they are checked to ensure that they are “of interest, relevance and value” to the scientific community – which arXiv promises to do within 24 h of submission. So how do they do it? Surely someone doesn’t read every word of every paper? The answer can be found in “What counts as science?”, which appears in Nautilus. arXiv was set up in 1991 by the physicist Paul Ginsparg, who explains how the service uses machine learning to sort the wheat from the chaff – something that has attracted controversy.

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The designated survivor

By Michael Banks

Ernest Moniz

Ernest Moniz: the designated survivor.

It is not unusual for physicists to find themselves leading a country. Angela Merkel, who studied physics at the University of Leipzig from 1973 to 1978, has been Germany’s chancellor since 2005, while in 2010 Japan elected former physicist Naoto Kan as its prime minister – a position he held for just over a year.

Yet while the nuclear physicist and current US energy secretary Ernest Moniz may be 14th in the US presidential line of succession, if something really terrible had happened yesterday, he may have found himself leading the world’s biggest economy.

That is because he was appointed “designated survivor” while US president Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address.

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Stings, furloughs and women in physics

The National Institute of Standards and Technology website is on furlough this week

The National Institute of Standards and Technology website is on furlough this week.

By Hamish Johnston

This week the magazine and journal Science published an article called “Who’s afraid of peer review?“. It describes a remarkable “sting” operation by the journalist John Bohannon, who submitted a spoof scientific paper to 300 or so open-access scientific journals. The  paper claimed to offer evidence for the anti-cancer properties of a naturally occurring compound. It contained several fundamental errors that should have been caught by the peer-review process, not to mention made-up authors working at fictitious institutes.  Instead of being rejected by all the journals, more than half of the submissions (157 in total) were accepted for publication.

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NASA badly hit by government shutdown

Photo of NASA headquarters

NASA headquaters, Washington DC. (Courtesy: NASA)

By James Dacey

US citizens woke up this morning to the unbelievable news that their federal government would be shutting down all its “non-essential” services after the two houses of Congress failed to reach an agreement on a new budget. What this means in practice is that hundreds of thousands of federal employees will now face unpaid leave – and NASA’s workforce is among the most badly affected.

A staggering 97% of NASA’s 18,134 employees have been granted leave of absence, according to the Office of Management and Budget, quoted in the New York Times. This is the highest percentage of all the federal departments and agencies to be affected by the shutdown. Other federal workers affected include 94% of the 16,205 employees of the Environmental Protection Agency, along with 69% of the 13,814 working within energy.

“Due to the gov’t shutdown, all public NASA activities/events are cancelled or postponed until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience,” read a rather understated tweet from NASA earlier today. Within the past few hours, the NASA website has also shutdown indefinitely.

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