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Showing posts from December, 2012

Vertigo: on the edge of the fiscal cliff

Vertigo -- a dizzy, confused, disoriented state of mind -- is a nearly universal response when looking out over the edge of a cliff.

But the managers and researchers at labs and universities across the United States don’t have time for vertigo as they contemplate the brink of the impending “fiscal cliff.” With 10 days (and a major holiday week) before a deadline that would among other things substantially reduce federal funding for scientific research, the House of Representatives has adjourned until after the first of the year, delaying or eliminating the opportunity for a different resolution.

After the first of the year, more than $500 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts will begin to take effect, threatening to undermine the sluggish recovery and prompt a new recession, a Washington Post article noted yesterday. (The New York Times provides detailed analysis as well.)
So, labs and universities are reviewing contingency plans for worst-case scenarios while hoping …

A Congressional pledge for science? Respect could only help

In the face of recent comments by lawmakers and others in the public eye suggesting that accepting scientific evidence is akin to the decision to believe in a particular religion or political dogma, NPR commentator Adam Frank has suggested a clarifying solution.
Congress, he said in a Cosmos & Culture post on 11 December, should consider making a pledge to science -- not to wholesale acceptance of all published research, but simply to “uphold the integrity of basic scientific research and take no actions to undermine the broadest public education in empirically verifiable scientific truths." 

His underlying point that science and technology are “the engines of our economic competitiveness” echoes the words of leaders of 120 science, engineering, and STEM education organizations in a letter last week to Congress and President Obama urging them to avoid the “fiscal cliff” deadline. If policymakers are unable to work out a solution by the end of the year, blunt budget cuts wil…

'Sky at Night' host Sir Patrick Moore: astronomer, writer, inspiration

Sir Patrick Moore, who introduced generations to the wonders of astronomy through his BBC TV show “The Sky at Night,” died 9 December. According to news reports, Moore was the longest-running host of the same television show ever. “The Sky at Night” began its run in April 1957. Moore appeared on its most recent episode, which aired last week, on 3 December.


"He counted himself as a writer and broadcaster first and foremost. But as Britain's most recognisable scientist for more than 50 years, he inspired countless people to take up astronomy as a hobby or astrophysics as a career,” said colleague Chris Lintott in a tribute published on the BBCwebsite.
Among those many who Moore inspired is Nobel Laureate John Mather, Senior Project Scientist and chair of the Science Working Group for the James Webb Space Telescope and a Fellow of SPIE. Remembering Moore this week, he spoke of his enjoyment of Moore's writings, from childhood on.

Moore was entirely self-taught, passing …