Leading the News
Nadella, Immelt Discuss Augmented Reality Technology.
At Toronto’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Carl Fortt of CNBC’s Squawk On The Street (7/11) that he wants “the politics in our country to get to a place where people can win elections by making a case for both globalization and addressing the inequities that do exist in our society.” GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt added, “Everybody looks at these trade deals and things like that to be for Microsoft and GE or big companies like that,” but noted that both Microsoft and GE are “already globalized.” Immelt also said GE’s partnership with technology companies will allow GE to progress faster “in the industrial world” and create “a bridge between enterprise and industrial” industries.
Nadella told CNBC’s Squawk On The Street (7/11) that the implementation of augmented reality technology in games and apps is “fantastic” because the popularity of such implementations, including Pokémon GO, will generate interest in higher-end implementations, like Microsoft’s HoloLens. GE chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt added, “I’m not a great gamer, so I can’t really say how much that’s worth–but the industrial applications of this are going to be billions of dollars of productivity,” and potentially $50 billion to GE, because engineers can “fix everything right the first time.”
Business Insider (7/11) reports that Nadella also told Microsoft software developers, partners, and customers at the conference that “pretty much everyone today who’s building applications, whether they be desktop apps, or mobile apps, or websites, will build bots as the new interface” because the bots can work across smartphones, tablets, and other machines to take plain-speech instructions and return meaningful, digestible information. Nadella demonstrated Microsoft’s virtual assistant bot, Cortana, and predicted that so-called “chatbot” conversational interfaces, “born on the devices you use today,” will increasingly handle everyday tasks.
Nonprofit Colleges Also Concerned About ED Loan Forgiveness Rule Proposal.
Inside Higher Ed (7/11) reports that while for-profit colleges are “aggressively fighting the Obama administration’s proposed rule for federal loan forgiveness,” higher education group attorneys say the rule could also impact nonprofit colleges, which “also face financial and reputational challenges due to the scope of the so-called borrower-defense-to-repayment proposal.” The piece says that “the rule’s broad definition of what constitutes a misrepresentation in marketing to students and its new requirements for the financial stability of institutions in particular could pose risks.” The article quotes Education Secretary John King saying of the rule, “The Obama administration won’t sit idly by while dodgy schools leave students with piles of debt and taxpayers holding the bag.”
Origins, Impact Of Student Debt Crisis Examined.
Eric Westervelt writes at the NPR (7/11) “NPR Ed” blog about recent reporting from the Center for Investigative Reporting about the origins of the student debt crisis and “who has profited most” from rising student debt levels. Westervelt relates the content of a conversation with “CIR reporter Lance Williams, who co-investigated the story with journalist James B. Steel.” Topics include the impact of the privatization of Sallie Mae in 1997, reduced state funding for higher education, and the ways that high student debt levels can negatively impact individual borrowers.
Study: College Students Performed Worse When Allowed To Use Laptops, Devices.
In a 1,300-word analysis for NPR (7/11), psychology professor Tania Lombrozo examines the debate over whether college instructors should “restrict the use of laptops and other devices in their classrooms.” Researchers recently published the results of a large-scale randomized control trial conducted at West Point, where they randomly assigned 726 sophomores to versions of an introductory economics course “that adopted one of three policies: a ban on all devices, unrestricted use, or permission to have a tablet, face-up, on one’s desk.” At the end of the semester, students “in either of the conditions that allowed devices performed significantly worse, on average, than their peers in the condition that banned devices.” Lombrozo says the “findings to date suggest that banning computers from classrooms may be the most sensible policy to adopt,” but “there’s a more general policy that’s also worth keeping in mind: the policy of constant experimentation and improvement.”
Research and Development
Carnegie Mellon Researchers Studying Robot Fish Propulsion.
The Pittsburgh Business Times (7/11, Tascarella) reports online that Carnegie Mellon University “is part of a study that used a robot version of an African mudskipper fish to learn how early terrestrial animals began moving about on mud and sand 360 million years ago.” The piece says the results were published in Science, and could “help designers create amphibious robots able to move across granular surfaces more efficiently.”
Rowan University Researchers Using 3D Printing To Improve Joint Replacement.
The Gloucester County (NJ) Times (7/6) reports that researchers in the engineering department at New Jersey’s Rowan University are using 3D printing to fabricate “an FDA-approved piece of plastic that could one day be a knee replacement capable of releasing medicine to fight off infections in someone’s leg.” The technology is meant to fight the incidence of postoperative infections.
Scientists Could Use Bacteria-Powered “Windfarms” To Power Future Smartphones.
Citing a new Oxford University study, TechRadar (7/11, Geere) says that “tiny bacteria-powered ‘windfarms’” could generate enough energy to power your smartphone, possibly in the very near future. Describing the study, Oxford University researcher Tyler Shendruk said that “One potential way to generate tiny amounts of power for micromachines might be to harvest it directly from biological systems such as bacteria suspensions.” While TechRadar cautions that the amount of power ultimately generated by the system could be somewhat limited, research suggests the possibilities are still extremely wide-ranging, and could even be used in devices from “miniature sensors to microscopic robots.”
NYIT President Touts Green Building Revolution.
In a piece for the Huffington Post (7/5), New York Institute of Technology President Edward Guiliano writes that in recent decades, there has been a “rapid evolution” in the affordability of green technology for buildings. He writes that green buildings “cut operating costs, in water, energy, waste disposal, and maintenance,” likening them to “cars that get great mileage.” Guiliano describes the efforts of such schools as his in educating workers “to join the ranks of the energy management elite across all fields.”
Cybersecurity Expert: Tesla Cars Difficult To Hack.
Business Insider (7/11, Szoldra) reports TrustedSec CEO David Kennedy “says that Tesla’s cars are some of the toughest to hack” because Tesla hires hackers to research and test its cars. Kennedy also says that Tesla is unique in that it started a bug bounty program in 2014 in which the company will pay money to outside individuals who find security vulnerabilities with their vehicles.
Engineering and Public Policy
Study: Flammable Tapwater Often From Natural Processes, Not Gas Leaks.
Researchers at the University of Colorado have found that upwards of 95% of methane natural gas dissolved in the state’s groundwater occurred in natural microbial processes, the Denver Post (7/11, Finley) reports. According to the Post, the National Science Foundation-funded study “concluded that the industrial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is not a primary cause of methane contamination of groundwater” – which has led to “flammable drinking water pouring out of household taps.” The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, and indicate that the rate of groundwater contamination by methane leaking from oil and gas well bores is “about two times a year on average” and “has stayed about the same since 2001.” Between 2001 and 2014, “dissolved methane linked directly to geological formations holding oil and gas reached 42 water wells in 32 cases,” according to the researchers.
According to the AP (7/11, Elliott), the study found that “fewer than 5 percent of the region’s water wells” examined were tainted by oil and gas leaks, while approximately “18 percent had methane that came from coal seams that underlie the area.”
NREL, Colorado Partner On Wind Technology Center.
The Denver Post (7/11, Worthington) reports Colorado helped finance a $1.6 million facility at the National Wind Technology Center. Colorado, along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the national Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, is building the Wind Blade Component Manufacturing Facility on the site with the goal of driving down wind turbine costs. “Everything we do (at the facility) has to have some focus on reducing the cost,” said Derek Berry, a wind technology engineer for NREL and IACMI. In addition to the jobs created by US-produces wind energy equipment, costs may someday be reduced with on-site manufacturing and segmented blades, or shipping parts separately, Berry said.
Energy Industry, Regulators Aim To Reduce Methane Leaks.
The New York Times (7/11, Krauss, Subscription Publication) reports there is an effort underway by federal regulators and some American energy companies to crack down on methane leaks. The oil and natural gas industry “lets enough natural gas escape each year to meet the heating and cooking needs of about seven million homes annually.” However, the Bureau of Land Management plans to enact new rules this year to reduce leaks on federal and tribal lands, while an ongoing EPA data collection program on oil and gas operations within the US “could lead to far broader regulations on the industry in the next few years.” Meanwhile, Southwestern Energy, the third-largest natural gas producer in the US, is “helping to lead an industry group, One Future, which aims to reduce methane leakage to less than 1 percent of total national gas production.”
Obama Administration Aims To Update Rule Limiting Methane Emissions From Landfills.
The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (7/11, Cheney) reported the Obama Administration “wants to use updated rules to regulate the methane emissions from landfills to create a precedent for further regulating the carbon emissions from power plants.” According to a report by Politico Pro, the Administration wants to update a rule from 1996 “to limit methane emission from landfills.” The “rule relies on the same catch-all section of the Clean Air Act as the Clean Power Plan, section 111, but the law only specifically directs EPA to update rules for new sources as technology improves.” The Administration is planning “to issue a more stringent rule for methane emissions from existing landfills, potentially establishing a precedent for a future administration to tighten up carbon rules on existing power plants — if everything survives in court.”
Waxman: House Spending Bill Would Mark Biomass Carbon Neutral, Curb Clean Power Plan.
Former House Rep. Henry Waxman writes for The Hill (7/11, Waxman) that the House will soon take up an appropriations bill “that threatens to reverse decades of progress in cleaning our air and water” by cutting programs like the Clean Power Plan and “ignoring the pollution from burning wood for energy.” The Fiscal Year 2017 Departments of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill would block implementation of the Waters of the United States or Clean Water rule, “slams the brake on carbon pollution cuts by blocking the Clean Power Plan,” designate biomass burned for power as carbon neutral. Waxman urges the House to “cut to the chase by promptly eliminating the anti-environment provisions” before President Obama issues a veto threat. TheWashington Examiner (7/11, Giaritelli) reports on Waxman’s remarks.
Solar Seen Noncompetitive In Texas Amid Cheap Wind, Natural Gas.
Fuel Fix (TX) (7/11, Blum) reports despite natural advantages, Texas ranks 10th in solar installation due to low natural gas prices and a lack of state incentives. Additionally, “solar doesn’t compete with wind, which costs about 15 percent less than solar, according to renewable energy developers.” Travis Miller, director of utilities research at Morningstar, said that at current prices, “it’s going to struggle to be competitive in Texas given the low cost of gas and the huge amount of wind generation.”
NSA, National Academy Of Sciences Sponsoring “GenCyber Camps” For Girls.
The Washington Post (7/11, Lane) reports the NSA and the National Academy of Sciences are sponsoring 119 summer camps, called “GenCyber camps,” where young girls focus on problem-solving and learn to “understand how the Internet, computers, smartphones and other wireless devices can be kept safe from bullies, hackers, spies and terrorists.” The Post adds that some campers “visited NSA’s National Cryptologic Museum near Fort Meade in Maryland to learn how national security data protection works.” The Post says 200 camps are planned for next summer and are free to attend.
Wyoming’s First Website Development School To Open In Downtown Cheyenne.
The Chicago Tribune (7/11, Paul) reports that Array School of Technology and Design, a private school which “will teach coding skills and prepare students for careers in professional website development,” is scheduled to open in downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming, on October 3. Eric Trowbridge, who was employed at Apple Inc. for eight years, is the school’s executive director and headmaster.KGWN-TV Cheyenne, WY (7/11) also reports on the story.
UC Davis Launches Math And Science Program For Minority And Low-Income Students.
The Sacramento (CA) Bee (7/11, Kirk) reports that the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH) has added UC Davis to its list of top universities that offer “a five-week program of science and technology classes” to “low-income and minority high school students.” The head of Level Playing Field Institute, a non-profit organization that supports SMASH, Eli Kennedy, said they chose UC Davis because they were “looking for communities that are trying to build out their STEM sector and have this need for a really strong pipeline of folks who are diverse and come from low-income communities and are looking to be inclusive as they grow their economies.”
Middle School Students Inspired At NSWCDD-Sponsored STEM Summer Academy.
Southern Maryland Online (7/11, Joyce) reports that middle school students attending the 2016 STEM Summer Academy sponsored by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) are being inspired to explore STEM careers. NSWCDD electromagnetic railgun engineer David Campbell said, “It’s like a progression…You start at this camp and it gives you an interest and idea of what a STEM career could be like. You’re surrounded by people who do STEM careers. You’re surrounded by activities where you can be creative and you can keep getting involved. There’s a lot of opportunity out there.”
California State Campuses Receive Funding To Train Future Science, Math Teachers.
The Modesto (CA) Bee (7/11) reports, “Eleven California State University campuses will split $10 million in grant funding from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation” to help train teachers in Next Generation Science Standards. The funding will go toward “activities designed to elevate new teachers’ abilities to teach mathematics and science to highly diverse student populations,” with an emphasis on “clinical placements with professional learning activities focused on math, science and teaching skills with the mentoring of expert teachers.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• “Zero Days” Documentary Looks At the Future Of Cyberwar, Stuxnet.
• UC San Diego Recruits New Robotics Institute Director.
• WPost: NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Is Influential For Science And Humanity Alike.
• Amazon Announces Bursaries To Draw Women Into IT.
• Pentagon, Lockheed Martin Expected To Reach Deal Soon Over Fighter Jet Contracts.
• Virginia Unveils $1.4 Billion Atlantic Gateway Transportation Plan.
• Oregon High School Focuses On Marketable Job Skills.