Stimulating Morning

The Computing Research Policy Blog is reporting possible good news for science funding:

Speaker Pelosi’s office just released a fact sheet on the conference agreement for the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act and, wow, it looks good for science agencies in the bill. Here’s the relevant bit:

Transform our Economy with Science and Technology: To secure America’s role as a world leader in a competitive global economy, we are renewing America’s investments in basic research and development, in training students for an innovation economy, and in deploying new technologies into the marketplace. This will help businesses in every community succeed in a global economy.
Investing in Scientific Research (More than $15 Billion)

  • Provides $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, for basic research in fundamental science and engineering – which spurs discovery and innovation.
  • Provides $1.6 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which funds research in such areas as climate science, biofuels, high-energy physics, nuclear physics and fusion energy sciences – areas crucial to our energy future.
  • Provides $400 million for the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to support high-risk, high-payoff research into energy sources and energy efficiency in collaboration with industry
  • Provides $580 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, including the Technology Innovation Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
  • Provides $8.5 billion for NIH, including expanding good jobs in biomedical research to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease.
  • Provides $1 billion for NASA, including $400 million to put more scientists to work doing climate change research.
  • Provides $1.5 billion for NIH to renovate university research facilities and help them compete for biomedical research grants.

Extending Broadband Services

  • Provides $7 billion for extending broadband services to underserved communities across the country, so that rural and inner-city businesses can compete with any company in the world.
  • For every dollar invested in broadband, the economy sees a ten-fold return on that investment.

The Risk-Takers, the Doers, the Makers of Things

My favorite line from today’s inauguration speech:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

The following line, as you can imagine, made crowd gathered in the Paul Allen Center to watch the speech pretty damn happy:

We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Laser Cooler Next Energy Secretary

Well I’m sure the physics blogosphere is abuzz with the news that Steven Chu is expected to be named by President-elect Obama to head the Department of Energy. Wait let me look. Yep: heisendad, varyingsean, chunothsu, angryphysicist, nanodude, lubotic, toinfinityandbeyond and thedeterminantsnotzero. (OK that last comes from non-physicists, but I couldn’t resist a linear algebra joke.)
Since I have little to add besides the fact that laser cooling rocks, I present the first few lines of a song that was sung by a band at Berkeley concerning the person Chu shared the Nobel prize with, Cohen-Tannoudji:

Does quantum mechanics
His book’s in two volumes
I think it’s satanic

And a question: the first cabinet member who has a paper on the arXiv?

A Bit Unclear on History


Mr. Blagojevich seemed not to mind earlier news reports that his conversations had been recorded. “I should say if anybody wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead, feel free to do it,” he said, though he added that those who carried out such recordings sneakily, “I would remind them that it kind of smells like Nixon and Watergate.”

Random Question of the Day

A common refrain among members of the left in the United States in the last two presidential elections has been that if the right wins then they would “move to Canada.” This was, of course, recently one-upped by Tina Fey who quipped that if McCain-Palin won this year, she would “leave the Earth.” Today I spent way to much time trying to figure out where the right would say they are going if the left wins. Anyone?

John McCain v RIM

This morning, John McCain’s top economic adviser made a bit of a mistake:

Asked what work John McCain did as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee that helped him understand the financial markets, the candidate’s top economic adviser wielded visual evidence: his BlackBerry.
“He did this,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin told reporters this morning, holding up his BlackBerry. “Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce Committee. So you’re looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that’s what he did.”
Al Gore, call your office.
(Courtesy of Amie Parnes, on the trail with McCain)

Great fodder for the late night television hosts, considering the fact that Research In Motion is a Canadian company funded by the Canadian institutional investors. Maybe this is really a foreign policy announcement that John McCain supports invading the 51st state Canada. If he can get this going before the election, I’m pretty sure that his selection of Palin as a VP candidate will be seen as forward looking, because I’ve been told that as Alaska goes, so goes Canada.
But what amazes me more is how quickly wikipedia gets updated.
Continue reading “John McCain v RIM”

Google Polarizes America?

The techno wonder pundits say that the internet revolutionizes democracy by leveling the playing field (everyone can be an ass online, oh yeah!) But what I find more fascinating about the internet and politics is the role that search plays in polarizing politics. I mean, sure there are dissenting voices all over the internet, but google “John McCain” or “Obama” or “Sarah Palin” or “Joe Biden” and you won’t discover a single dissenting opinion about any of these candidates on the front page of the search results (the exceptions to this rule are probably the small news items that Google includes: but these tend to be main stream media fluff pieces.) If the world is full of dissent but the main lens by which people view the world never reveals this, does this really make a positive impact on democracy? Indeed if I were totally crazy, I might even argue that Google was aiding tyranny when it decided to combat google bombing.
In other words what I’m saying is that I’m tired of blaming the white male voter for going against my political leanings and today I’ve decided it would be fun to pick on Google instead 🙂 (And yes I picked Google arbitrarily. If by “picked arbitrarily” you mean decided because it was most dominate search webite.)
Update: In a related note, has anyone tried Spinoculers?