ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Dawn About To Arrive At One Of Solar System’s “Fossils.”

The AP  (3/2, Chang) continues coverage of NASA’s Dawn mission, which arrives at Ceres on Friday. On Monday, project manager Robert Mase of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “It’s been a roller coaster ride. It’s been extremely thrilling.” Deputy project scientist Carol Raymond said that the team members are “really, really excited about” unusual bright spots on Ceres surface because they are “unique in the solar system. … We will be revealing its true nature as we get closer and closer to the surface. So the mystery will be solved, but it is one that’s really got us on the edge of our seats.” Raymond added that Ceres and Vesta, which Dawn visited in 2011, are “literally fossils” dating back to the formation of the solar system.

The Los Angeles Times  (3/2, Khan) “Science Now” website notes that there initially will not be “a deluge of fresh photos” from the spacecraft after it arrives because the spacecraft is “approaching…from the dark side of the dwarf planet.” Mase said, “The floodgates are really going to open when we get to our first science orbit, in late April.”

According to Washington Post  (3/2, Feltman) “Speaking of Science” website, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Charles Elachi said during the news conference, “We’re planning to move in and stay” at Ceres. Jim Green, director of planetary science for NASA, added, “Dawn [the mission name] is not an acronym, which is most unusual here at NASA. … It really refers to what this mission is all about, which is going back in time.” As for the bright spots, Raymond said yesterday that scientists should know what they are by the time Dawn lowers itself to “less than 250 miles above the surface of Ceres” by December.

Reuters  (3/2, Klotz) reports that Mase said that Dawn’s “approach has gone flawlessly so far.”

Mashable  (3/2, Ries) posts a new GIF of Ceres formed from new images of the dwarf planet “showing the mysterious lights that have scientists scratching their heads.”

Also covering the story are the KCAL-TV  Los Angeles (3/2) website, CNN  (3/2, Barnett), BBC News  (3/2, Amos), SPACE  (3/2, Wall), NBC News  (3/2, Boyle) website, Sputnik News  (3/3), International Business Times  (3/2, Poladian), Global News (CAN)  (3/2, Mortillaro), Business Insider  (3/2, Orwig), Pasadena (CA) Star-News  (3/2, Vuong), Discovery News  (3/3, O’Neill), Daily Mail (UK)  (3/2, O’Callaghan, Zolfagharifard), and Boing Boing  (3/2, Jardin).

Rayman: Ceres Is Of “Special Importance” For Scientists. In an essay for Zócalo Public Square  (3/2) “Thinking LA”, Marc Rayman, chief engineer and mission director for Dawn, writes about why Ceres has “a special importance” scientifically. With Dawn’s arrival, the world will “be introduced to a fascinating and expansive new world.”

Dawn Among Five Important Space Events In March. The WAAY-TV  Huntsville, AL (3/2, Barrett) website reports on the “very busy March” for NASA, with “multiple events” making “space history.” These include Dawn’s arrival at Ceres, the start of the year-long mission at the ISS, the launch of the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, the solid rocket booster qualification test for the Space Launch System, and the end of the MESSENGER mission, which has run out of fuel.

Higher Education

California Legislator Calls For New UC STEAM Campus.

The Inside Bay Area (CA)  (3/3) reports that California Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) is calling for a new technology-focused University of California campus as a means to meet rising demand. Gatto has proposed legislation that would establish a new campus “akin to the private California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.” The piece notes that the measure “would set aside $50 million for land acquisition and initial building costs for a campus specializing in science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.”

DOE Secretary Says Minorities In Energy Initiative Taking Advantage Of Industry’s Growth.

The Root  (3/3, Burke) reports on the Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy Initiative, with a conversation with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and former president of Spelman College and Bennett College Johnnetta B. Cole. Cole said that the DOE is “focusing on the need to increase the number of people of color in STEM fields,” adding that “Spelman and Bennett College, along with other women’s colleges, are doing a far better job of preparing women of color for STEM and for the arts.” Moniz pointed out that “the energy industry is predicting several million jobs added over the next decade,” with “the turnover of a pretty aged workforce of today,” adding to that. He also pointed out that “there are eight different cities where the Petroleum Institute is working with African Americans and Hispanics on entering the energy arena.” Finally, Moniz said, “we have to have a 10- to 20-year horizon.”

NSF Report Ranks Colleges By African-American Graduates Who Earn STEM Ph.D.s.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune  (3/3, Lipinski) reports that a National Science Foundation report  (pdf) on “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering,” listed Xavier University in third place for “the number of African-American graduates who go on to obtain Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math fields” with 72 from 2008 to 2012. First and second were Howard University (106) and Spelman College (86).

ASEE Members Elected to National Academy of Engineering. Mory Gharib (Cal Tech), Jack Hu (University of Michigan), Clayton Radke (UC Berkeley), Vigor Yang (Georgia Tech), and Ajit Yoganathan (Georgia Tech) were elected to the honorific society.

#ASEEYoADiversity. These institutions have model programs for student retention, many focused on minorities and women.

Diversity Committee Newsletter. Read the Winter edition, with updates on the Year of Action.

ASEE Perks
Learn about the broad collection of benefits available to ASEE members.

Research and Development

Study Examines Disconnect Between Science, Politics.

The Washington Post  (3/2, Mooney) reports on a new study about “how Americans feel about the use of scientific information to determine government policy, and how they feel about the extent to which it should be funded by the federal government.” The Post reports that the results go beyond the well-worn narrative that “conservatives are more likely to doubt climate change and evolution, liberals are more likely to distrust nuclear power, and that both political camps include anti-vaccine minorities.” The Post reports that the results show a greater understanding of “the politics of science,” explaining that science “is too concerned with theory and speculation to be of much use in making concrete government policy decisions that will affect the way we live.”

Oklahoma Researchers Developing Robots For Elder Care.

The Goshen (IN) News  (3/3) reports researchers at Oklahoma State University received a $725,000 National Science Foundation grant in November “to develop robots that will act as companion caregivers” for the elderly, monitoring medications, daily activities, and other issues. A patient’s biometric sensors would allow the technology “to learn their health needs and daily activities,” while a “microphone and camera would give the robots the ability to map the living space in its memory, hear what’s happening around it and react to emergencies.”

Congressmen Urge Colleagues To Fund Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program.

In a piece titled “Supercomputing: The Key To America’s Innovation Edge,” Republican Reps. Randy Hultgren and Chuck Fleischmann, and Democratic Reps. Chaka Fattah and Ben Ray Luján, write in The Hill  (3/3) that “America’s leadership in supercomputing technology is being challenged by several sovereign nations” that “have seen firsthand that funding research in advanced computing contributes to the growth of their domestic industries and their influence on the global stage.” The congressmen call “on our colleagues in Congress to fund the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science in order to promote advancements in exascale computing.” They conclude that “in the supercomputing race, America cannot afford to come in second.”

Industry News

Location Technology Said To Be Needed On All Airliners.

In a Product Design and Development  (3/3) blog post, Karl Stephan, a consulting engineer at Texas State University at San Marcos, argues that all airliners should have a satellite flight tracking system similar to the one used for semi-trailer trucks. While commending the NTSB’s recent appeal to the FAA to require the technology on all domestic flights, Stephan asserts that real change must be made internationally, as the ICAO needs to follow suit.

IBM Chip Could Change How Computers Are Built.

The Washington Post  (2/28, Jayakumar) reports that “with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and partnerships from national laboratories,” IBM engineers “created a chip last year that could imitate the structure of the human brain, in the hope that it would lead to a more efficient model of computing.” The company believes “the result has the potential to transform the way computers are built in the future…while consuming as much power as a hearing-aid battery.” The Post notes that “applications for this technology range from national security to disaster response” and that is “why IBM’s team and scientists from Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge and other national laboratories took a trip to Capitol Hill last week to demonstrate the technology before lawmakers.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Scientists Turn To Microbes For Fracking Water Cleanup.

CBS News  (3/2, Casey) reports that scientists are looking for new ways to clean up contaminated water used during fracking through the use of microbes. A study published by the Environmental Science Water Research & Technology showcases an invention by University of Colorado Boulder scientists “of a way to remove both salts and organic contaminants from fracking wastewater using microbes that gobble up the latter, leading to a reaction that does away with the former.” “The beauty of the technology is that it tackles two different problems in one single system,” said Zhiyong Jason Ren, a CU-Boulder associate professor of environmental and sustainability engineering and co-author of the paper. Treated water “can be used for anything except drinking at this level.” Yet, Stanford’s environmental scientist Rob Jackson said, “Call me skeptical that we’ll be treating a trillion gallons of oil and gas wastewater a year in the US using approaches like this.” He added, “It’s too expensive, when companies can deep inject wastewater for a few dollars a barrel.”

Senate To Vote On Keystone Veto Override On Thursday.

The Hill  (3/2, Barron-Lopez) reported the Senate “will vote Thursday on whether to override President Obama’s veto of legislation authorizing the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.” Since “nine centrist Democrats support” the legislation, override “supporters are likely to win more than the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural hurdles, but they are unlikely to win the 67 votes necessary to override the president’s veto.” The Hill noted that “supporters appear to have 63 votes.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

Solar Power May Transition From Large, Utility Scale Installations.
Obama’s Free CC Tuition Proposal Brings Issue To Fore.
Dearth Of Federal Funding May Be Harming US Research.
Companies Look To Woman To Address Skills Gap In Manufacturing.
“Active SETI” Advocates Push For “More Aggressive” Astronomical Agenda.
Technology Will Help Architects 3D Print Concrete Moulds.
WPost Bemoans Inhofe’s Rejection Of Global Warming.

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