Posts about USA

President Obama Speaks on Getting Students Excited About Science and Engineering

The President announces the “Educate to Innovate” initiative, a campaign to get students excited about pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Quotes from President Obama from his speech – (see webcast above):

“As President, I believe that robotics can inspire young people to pursue science and engineering.”

“Now the hard truth is that for decades we’ve been losing ground. One assessment shows American 15-year-olds now rank 21st in science and 25th in math when compared to their peers around the world.”

“And today, I’m announcing that we’re going to have an annual science fair at the White House with the winners of national competitions in science and technology. If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you’ve produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too. Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models, and here at the White House we’re going to lead by example. We’re going to show young people how cool science can be.”

“improving education in math and science is about producing engineers and researchers and scientists and innovators who are going to help transform our economy and our lives for the better.”

Related: 2008 Intel Science Talent SearchReport on K-12 Science Education in USAFun k-12 Science and Engineering LearningScience Education in the 21st CenturyHigh School Inventor Teams @ MITEngineering Education Program for k-1276 Nobel Laureates in Science Endorse ObamaLego Learning

Re-engineering the Food System for Better Health

Good food nation

According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 1980 and 2006 the percentage of obese teenagers in the United States grew from 5 to 18, while the percentage of pre-teens suffering from obesity increased from 7 to 17.

Obesity is widespread due to our national-scale system of food production and distribution, which surrounds children – especially lower-income children – with high-calorie products…
90 percent of American food is processed – according to the United States Department of Agriculture – meaning it has been mixed with ingredients, often acting as preservatives, that can make food fattening.

Now, in another report finished this October after meetings with food-industry leaders, the MIT and Columbia researchers propose a solution: America should increase its regional food consumption.

Only 1 to 2 percent of all food consumed in the United States today is locally produced. But the MIT and Columbia team, which includes urban planners and architects, believes widespread adoption of some modest projects could change that, by increasing regional food production and distribution.

To help production, the group advocates widespread adoption of small-scale innovations such as “lawn to farm” conversions in urban and suburban areas, and the “10 x 10 project,” an effort to develop vegetable plots in schools and community centers. Lawns require more equipment, labor and fuel than industrial farming nationwide, yet produce no goods. But many vegetables, including lettuce, cucumbers and peppers, can be grown efficiently in small plots.

As Albright sees it, the effort to produce healthier foods “fits right in with the health-care reform effort right now because chronic diseases are so costly for the nation.” America currently spends $14 billion annually treating childhood obesity, and $147 billion treating all forms of obesity.

Good stuff. We need to improve health in the USA. The current system is unhealthy and needs to be improved. The public good from improving the health of society is huge (both in terms of individual happiness and economic benefits).

Related: Rethinking the Food Production SystemStudy Finds Obesity as Teen as Deadly as SmokingEat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.Active Amish Avoid ObesityObesity Epidemic ExplainedAnother Strike Against Cola

Energy Secretary Steve Chu Speaks On Funding Science Research

Energy Secretary Steve Chu (and Nobel Laureate) speaks with Google CEO Eric Schmidt about science research. One of the things Steve Chu is doing is funding high risk experiments that have great potential. This is something that is often said should be done but then people resort to safe investments in research. Taking these risks is a very good idea.

This is another example the remarkable way Google operates. The CEO actually understands science and the public good. Google also provides a huge amount of great material online in the form of webcasts of those speaking at Google. Google behaves like a company run by engineers. Other companies have engineers in positions of power but behave like companies run by any MBAs (whether they are lawyers, accountants, marketers or engineers).

Related: President’s Council of Advisors on Science and TechnologyScientists and Engineers in CongressEric Schmidt on Google, Education and EconomicsLarry Page on How to Change the WorldDiplomacy and Science ResearchGoogle Investing Huge Sums in Renewable Energy and is Hiring

2008 National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation

Presidential Medal of Science - USA
The winners of the 2008 National Medals of Science, and National Medals of Technology and Innovation, have been announced. The recipients will receive the awards a White House ceremony in October.

“These scientists, engineers and inventors are national icons, embodying the very best of American ingenuity and inspiring a new generation of thinkers and innovators,” President Obama said. “Their extraordinary achievements strengthen our nation every day – not just intellectually and technologically but also economically, by helping create new industries and opportunities that others before them could never have imagined.”

National Medal of Science
Dr. Berni Alder, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, CA
Dr. Francis Collins, National Institutes of Health, MD
Dr. Joanna Fowler, Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY
Dr. Elaine Fuchs, The Rockefeller University, NY
Dr. James Gunn, Princeton University, NJ
Dr. Rudolf Kalman, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich
Dr. Michael Posner, University of Oregon, OR
Dr. JoAnne Stubbe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
Dr. J. Craig Venter, J. Craig Venter Institute, MD & CA

National Medal of Technology and Innovation
Dr. Forrest M. Bird, Percussionaire Corp., ID
Dr. Esther Sans Takeuchi, University at Buffalo, SUNY, NY
Team: Dr. John E. Warnock and Dr. Charles M. Geschke (Adobe Systems Inc., CA)
Company: IBM Corporation, NY

Related: 2007 National Medals of Science and TechnologyNational Science and Technology Medals (for 2005 and 2006)2004 Medal of Science Winners (including Norman E. Borlaug)

Global Installed Wind Power Now Over 1.5% of Global Electricity Demand

graph of global installed wind power capacityChart showing global installed wind energy capacity by Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog, Creative Commons Attribution. Data from World Wind Energy Association, for installed Mega Watts of global wind power capacity.

_________________________

Globally 27,339 MW of capacity were added in 2008, bringing the total to 121,188 MW, a 29% increase. The graph shows the top 10 producers (with the exceptions of Denmark and Portugal) and includes Japan (which is 13th).

In 2007, Europe had for 61% of installed capacity and the USA 18%. At the end of 2008 Europe had 55% of installed capacity, North America 23%, Asia 20%, Australia 1.5%, Latin America .6% and Africa .5%. Country shares of global capacity at the end of 2008: USA 21%, Germany 20%, Spain 14%, China 10%, India 8% (those 5 countries account for 73% of global capacity).

USA capacity grew 50% in 2008, moving it into the global lead for the first time in a decade. China grew 107%, the 3rd year in a row it more than doubled capacity.

Related: Wind Power Provided Over 1% of Global Electricity in 2007USA Wind Power Installed Capacity 1981 to 2005Wind Power has the Potential to Produce 20% of Electricity by 2030Top 12 Manufacturing Countries in 2007

Keeping Out Technology Workers is not a Good Economic Strategy

The barriers between countries, related to jobs, are decreasing. Jobs are more international today than 20 years ago and that trend will continue. People are going to move to different countries to do jobs (especially in science, engineering and advanced technology). The USA has a good market on those jobs (for many reasons). But there is nothing that requires those jobs to be in the USA.

The biggest impact of the USA turning away great scientists and engineers will be that they go to work outside the USA and increase the speed at which the USA loses its place as the leading location for science, engineering and technology work. This is no longer the 1960′s. Back then those turned away by the USA had trouble finding work elsewhere that could compete with the work done in the USA. If the USA wants to isolate ourselves (with 5% of the population) from a fairly open global science and engineering job market, other countries will step in (they already are trying, realizing what a huge economic benefit doing so provides).

Those other countries will be able to put together great centers of science and engineering innovation. Those areas will create great companies that create great jobs. I can understand wanting this to be 1960, but wanting it doesn’t make it happen.

You could go even further and shut off science and engineering students access to USA universities (which are the best in the world). That would put a crimp in plans for a very short while. Soon many professors would move to foreign schools. The foreign schools would need those professors, and offer a great deal of pay. And those professors would need jobs as their schools laid off professors as students disappeared. Granted the best schools and best professors could stay in the USA, but plenty of very good ones would leave.

I just don’t think the idea of closing off the companies in the USA from using foreign workers will work. We are lucky now that, for several reasons, it is still easiest to move people from Germany, India, Korea, Mexico and Brazil all to the USA to work on advanced technology projects. The advantage today however, is much much smaller than it was 30 years ago. Today just moving all those people to some other location, say Singapore, England, Canada or China will work pretty well (and 5 years from now will work much better in whatever locations start to emerge as the leading alternative sites). Making the alternative of setting up centers of excellence outside the USA more appealing is not a good strategy for those in the USA wanting science, engineering and computer programming jobs. We should instead do what we can to encourage more companies in the USA that are centralizing technology excellence in the USA.

Comment on Reddit discussion.

Related: Science and Engineering in Global EconomicsGlobal technology job economyCountries Should Encourage Immigration of Technology WorkersThe Software Developer Labor MarketWhat Graduates Should Know About an IT CareerRelative Engineering Economic PositionsChina’s Technology Savvy LeadershipEducation, Entrepreneurship and ImmigrationThe Future is EngineeringGlobal Technology Leadership

USA Losing Scientists and Engineers Educated in the USA

The USA continues to lose ground, in retaining the relative science and engineering strength it has retained for the last 50 plus years. As I have said before this trend is nearly inevitable – the challenge for the USA is to reduce the speed of their decline in relative position.

A new open access report, Losing the World’s Best and Brightest, explores the minds of current foreign science and engineering students that are studying in the USA. This is another in the list of reports on similar topics by Vivek Wadhwa and Richard Freeman. And again they point out the long term economic losses the USA is setting up by failing to retain the talent trained at our universities. It is a problem for the USA and a great benefit for countries like India and China.

“Foreign students receive nearly 60% of all engineering doctorates and more than half of all mathematics, computer sciences, physics and economics doctorates awarded in the United States. These foreign nationals end up making jobs, not taking jobs,” said Wadhwa. “They bring insights into growing global markets and fresh ideas. Research has shown that they even end up boosting innovation by U.S. inventors. Losing them is an economic tragedy.”

According to the study’s findings, very few foreign students would like to stay in the United States permanently—only 6% of Indian, 10 percent of Chinese and 15% of Europeans. And fewer foreign students than the historical norm expressed interest in staying in the United States after they graduate. Only 58% of Indian, 54% of Chinese and 40% of European students wish to stay for several years after graduation. Previous National Science Foundation research has shown 68% of foreigners who received science and engineering doctorates stayed for extended periods of time, including 73% of those who studied computer science. The five-year minimum stay rate was 92% for Chinese students and 85% for Indian students.

The vast majority of foreign student and 85% of Indians and Chinese and 72% of Europeans are concerned about obtaining work visas. 74% of Indians, 76% of Chinese, and 58% of Europeans are also worried about obtaining jobs in their fields. Students appear to be less concerned about getting permanent-resident visas than they are about short-term jobs. Only 38% of Indian students, 55% of Chinese, and 53% of Europeans expressed concerns about obtaining permanent residency in the USA.

On the tonight show yesterday, President Obama said

we need young people, instead of — a smart kid coming out of school, instead of wanting to be an investment banker, we need them to decide they want to be an engineer, they want to be a scientist, they want to be a doctor or a teacher.

And if we’re rewarding those kinds of things that actually contribute to making things and making people’s lives better, that’s going to put our economy on solid footing. We won’t have this kind of bubble-and-bust economy that we’ve gotten so caught up in for the last several years.

Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, recently expressed his frustration with the policies discouraging science and engineering graduates staying in the USA after they complete their education.

That is a brilliant [actually not brilliant at all] strategy take the best people hire them in American universities and then kick them out” It happens. “Its shocking.” It happens. “I know we are fighting against it.” “We America remain, by far the place of choice for education, particularly higher education.”

Related: Invest in Science for a Strong EconomyScience, Engineering and the Future of the American EconomyUSA Under-counting Engineering GraduatesLosing scientists and engineers will reduce economic performance of the USADiplomacy and Science Research

Presidential Memo to Insulate Science From Politics

Presidential Memo to Insulate Science From Politics

When President Obama lifts restrictions on funding for human embryonic stem cell research Monday, he will also issue a presidential memorandum aimed at insulating scientific decisions across the federal government from political influence, officials said today.

“The president believes that it’s particularly important to sign this memorandum so that we can put science and technology back at the heart of pursuing a broad range of national goals,” said Melody Barnes, director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.

While officials would not go into details, the memorandum will order the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to “assure a number of effective standards and practices that will help our society feel that we have the highest-quality individuals carrying out scientific jobs and that information is shared with the public,” said Harold Varmus, who co-chairs Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The decision by President George W. Bush to restrict funding for stem cell research was seen by critics as part of a pattern of allowing political ideology to influence scientific decisions, affecting issues including whether to approve the morning-after pill Plan B for over-the-counter sales and climate change.

Related: Scientists Denounce Global Warming Report ‘Edits’76 Nobel Laureates in Science Endorse ObamaScience and Engineering in PoliticsThe A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science

Science Seeks Stimulas Spending

Scientists Hope Stimulus Will Give Jolt To Research by Richard Harris

The stimulus package contains billions of dollars of funding for the National Institutes of Health — money that could create a quick financial jolt for young workers and university towns.

There are 3,000 institutions around the country that receive NIH grants to fund biomedical research. Raynard Kington, the NIH’s acting director, says those labs are also well-positioned to absorb a jolt of financial stimulus quickly.

“We have literally 14,000 applications that have been peer reviewed, that have been found to be scientifically meritorious and that have been approved for funding — but that we don’t have funds to support,” he says.

Give the NIH the money, he says, and in just a few weeks the money can flow out the door and into a thousand labs or more.

Related: Billions for Science in Stimulus Billposts on fundingSymptom of America’s Decline in Particle PhysicsFunding Medical Research

Billions for Science in Stimulus Bill

Science wins big in US economic plan

Democratic leadership in the US House of Representatives unveiled on Thursday an $825 billion economic stimulus bill that includes tens of billions of dollars in new funding for basic research, science infrastructure and clean-energy initiatives.

House appropriators would pump $3 billion into the National Science Foundation (NSF), $2 billion into the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $1.9 billion into the Department of Energy and $1.5 billion into university research facilities. Much of that money would be directed toward science infrastructure like renovating buildings or laboratories, but the NSF and NIH would receive $2 billion and $1.5 billion respectively that could be used to pay for thousands of basic research grants that have already been approved but for which there was previously not enough money.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. And short term spikes in funding are problematic for numerous reasons. But I have long argued for the value of investing in science and engineering excellence for long term economic benefit. I am worried the government will fail to provide adequate strategic thought to investments.

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the USA: Watch the entire I Have a Dream Speech.

Related: Science and Engineering in Global EconomicsEngineering the Future EconomyThe Future is EngineeringChina and USA Basic Science ResearchTapping America’s Potential

Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake Photos

Yellow flower on Antelope Island

I have posted photos from the first day of my Utah trip: Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake and Salt Lake City. The Great Salt Lake is

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