• And we’re a go, people: Get ready for the world’s first study on human embryonic stem cell therapy.
• But first, bye bye absurd abortion laws!
• The Inauguration killed the Internets! No mere series of tubes can withstand the pressure of this seminal moment in history.
• “BarackBerry,” “ObamaBerry”—call it what you will, we still can’t get over the fact that he’s the first president ever to use e-mail while in office.
• An economist explains why all those hospital procedures cost what they do.
• The trees are dying! The trees are dying!
• OMG! We’re in the White House! Blogging, presidential style.
• No, Virginia, there’s no such thing as truly clean coal.
The scientific community has spent plenty of time rejoicing the new pro-science era, and our spanking new president has continued to give every assurance (including a shout-out in his inauguration speech!) that he will make good on his promises to prioritize science and base policy decisions on actual scientific evidence.
But could all this pro-science fervor have secondary benefits besides, oh, say, putting big dents in global warming and the looming health care crisis? The New York Times takes on this question, asking whether the new administration will enable scientists to “tackle a chronic conundrum of their beloved enterprise: how to attract more women into the fold, and keep them once they are there.”
The general hypothesis behind the supposed Obama-boost for women is that the rise of science awareness and “geek chic” will be good for all scientists, and thus women will eventually get some trickle-down benefit—a somewhat weak line of reasoning, particularly when you consider how well it worked in Reaganomics. And critics of the argument point out—quite rightly—that what could really give women a boost is if a single female scientist was appointed to the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.
Of course, the real capacity for a pro-female boost, which the article eventually hits on, lies in the new president’s ability to grant additional family leave and parental benefits to the recipients of federal grants—a group that includes a ton of research scientists, many of them women. Though whether that’ll have any affect on the dearth of female physicists is anyone’s guess.
So it happened: Barack Obama has officially taken his place as the country’s 44th President (complete with a shout-out to science during the inaugural address!). And, with the country facing enough massive problems to sink a fleet of aircraft carriers, the word is he’ll waste no time getting to work. But what can a new president accomplish in his first few days in office? Plenty, if you count issuing executive orders that reverse policies from the previous administration (which should by all means be counted). And when it comes to science and medicine, there are miles to go before the new POTUS sleeps.
So what are some top science priorities that President Obama can stick on his “ASAP” list? Here’s a few ideas, along with the likelihood that they’ll be addressed in the super/semi/not-so-near future:
In a little under a half hour, Barack Obama will officially take his place as the country’s next POTUS. And while the event will be brimming with historic firsts for the country, the coverage contains plenty of firsts for the integration of technology, politics, and major events.
Sure, there’ll be some people who actually attend the event in person—around 2 million brave souls have packed into the Mall in frigid temperatures, with questionable bathroom status (for comparison, around 400,000 showed up for Bush’s first inauguration). But for the rest of the world that didn’t make it to D.C. for the party, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of real-time coverage and information all over the airwaves. For those who still watch TV, you can see Obama take the reins on any cable or broadcast news station, or watch live feeds online from CNN, MSNBC, and just about every other news source. Then there are the liveblogs and Twitters, ot to mention Facebook statuses which, according to CNN (which has partnered with Facebook to offer simultaneous Web viewing and status-updating), are being updated at around 2,000 updates per minute, and 3,000 comments per minute. Not to mention the conversation rampaging among the 4 million fans on Obama’s official Facebook page.
Text messaging the event is rampant as well, to the point where the CEO of EzTexting.com Shane Neman issued a press release saying he believes millions of text messages will be lost, on the level of New Year’s Eve.
So there you have it—500 different ways to find out what’s going on in D.C. And if you miss all of it, not to worry—the replays will show up on YouTube momentarily.
• A ruckus brews over cookies at the White House—and we don’t mean the kind with sugar and sprinkles.
• Recession? What recession? Pass the console.
• Happy Friday! Half the world’s population could face a global-warming-induced food crisis by 2100, according to a new study.
• And then there’s the floods…
• Need proof that evolution’s more than just a “theory”? Look no further.
• “Dear Obama: Please bring me cap and trade legislation this year.” A wish list from environmentalists.
• The U.S. isn’t the only tech sector getting slammed by the downturn.
• And now for a lesson in brutal honesty: How much does racism really bother you?
The tech world is literally (and virtually) beside itself over Obama’s announcement that he plans to appoint the first ever chief technology officer to oversee the full-fledged technologization (not actually a word, but it should be) of his administration. Today, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and entrepreneur Andrea Weckerle took to CNN to extol the president-elect’s decision and offer their advice for the fledgling CTO. Among their more interesting suggestions:
Ruthlessly modernize: Examine the technology used within the federal system and determine what is outdated, redundant and inadequate, then keep what works and expel what doesn’t. Examine procurement polices and demand they are in line with best practices. The results of this endeavor alone will save the federal government massive amounts of money…
Create openness of information: This will serve two important functions, namely allowing people to see what the government is doing, thus fostering accountability born of transparency, and also providing access to data that will inevitably inspire and support innovation and collaboration within the private sector. In this realm, the old adage from the free software movement of “release early, release often” is quite helpful…
Physicists, rejoice! (Even more!)
Science magazine is reporting that Obama has chosen to nominate physicist John Holdren as his science adviser. The well-credentialed and -bearded Holdren is currently a professor of environmental policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, as well as the director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. A top adviser to Obama’s campaign and world renowned expert on climate change, energy policy, and nuclear proliferation, Holdren is the second physicist to join the president-elect’s team, following Nobel Laureate Stephen Chu’s appointment as Secretary of Energy.
Cosmic Variance: Steven Chu Nominated to be Secretary of Energy
• Don’t have ADD, or any conceivable medical need for prescription drugs like Ritalin? Take ’em anyway, says a group of experts. Granted, whether the people who do need them really need them is still up for discussion.
• Next in this week’s “just what the health care system needs” news: Special guns for the elderly may be classified as medical tools.
• Ask Obama! The transition team launches a new site to take your questions for the president-elect.
• Christmas, green-style: solar gingerbread houses!
• And finally, the best global warming protest we’ve seen yet.
You’d think that NASA might have some heavy incentive to make nice with the new president-elect. But instead, it appears NASA administrator Mike Griffin is doing just about everything in his power to give Obama’s transition team the proverbial middle finger. Via the Orlando Sentinel, Griffin’s current acts of un-hospitality include obstructing efforts to obtain information, dictating what NASA employees and civilian contractors can tell the space transition team, and insulting the team’s leader to her face. Charming!
No bad deed comes without a motive, and Griffin’s is clear: to make darned well sure that his pet project, the absurdly over-delayed and over-budget Constellation program, escapes the ax in the new administration. And worry he should: Now that the Bush “go forth and conquer” agenda for space (an agenda accompanied by liberal check-writing) are leaving Washington, there’s a good chance Obama might scrap large parts of the program.
When Griffin got wind of this possibility, he started in with the gestapo tactics: