Yesterday, the Senate subcommittee that funds the NSF, NASA, and research agencies in the Department of Commerce announced that they could see no way out of startlingly drastic budget cuts.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which develops and curates technical standards for science and industry, will see a 10% drop in its budget, and the National Science Foundation, responsible for 20% of the basic research funding in the nation, will lose $162 million, or 2.4% of its budget. Under the plan, which passed 15-1 in the subcommittee, other programs will be wiped completely, like the Technology Innovation Program, which funds high-risk, high-reward research. “We’ve gone beyond frugality and are into austerity. … We didn’t want to do this, but that’s the way the world is,” said an unhappy Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) (via ScienceNOW), who has frequently gone to bat for science funding and heads the subcommittee. Today, the whole Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on the plan—for more news as it develops, head over to Science NOW.
[Disclosure: DISCOVER Magazine is a media partner of the NSF, helping produce public-science programs like Changing Planet.]
Whip out that red pen and make just a few…little…tweaks…
The physical world should feel a little more comfy now: Gravity is a little bit less than it was last Thursday. And the electromagnetic force? A smidge stronger.
Every four years, the National Institute of Standards and Technology posts internationally determined adjustments to the official values of such natural constants to reflect more accurate measurements made possible by advancing technology. This week, in the latest update, the radius of a proton, the speed of light, the Planck constant, and many, many others have received facelifts that will decrease uncertainty in physics measurements. But this update will also affect units much closer to home: In October, the General Conference on Weights and Measures will vote on a measure to base the definition of a kilogram on the values of such natural constants, instead of the 130-year-old slug of platinum and iridium that currently holds the title.
For the time being, the current upgrade will likely trickle down to we armchair physicists once Google Calculator, the search giant’s handy-dandy constant provider, starts using the new numbers. Judging from its current value for the Planck constant, it’s still working from the 2006 data.
Image credit: Mohr,Talbott/NIST