Leading the News
Tech CEOs Meet With Administration Officials.
Ahead of a meeting Monday with President Trump “on cutting government waste and improving information technology services,” major US tech CEOs met with Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and other top Administration officials, Reuters (6/19, Shepardson) reports, adding that Vice President Pence, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, and Commerce Secretary Ross also met with the executives. Monday’s meeting “comes as the White House pushes to shrink government, cut federal employees and eliminate regulations.” The New York Times (6/19, Kang, Subscription Publication) says the 18 tech executives and investors who attend the meeting included Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, and Eric Schmidt of Alphabet. The Times says it was “another demonstration of the administration’s ability to summon top business executives, even amid controversy.”
USA Today (6/19, Jackson, Swartz) says “the inaugural meeting of Trump’s American Technology Council,” kicked off “what aides have dubbed a ‘technology week’ of events focused on innovation in the government.” The Wall Street Journal (6/19, Bender, Subscription Publication) reports that Trump called for an overhaul of the government’s outdated computer systems and information technology improvements that would result in more than $1 trillion in savings. Trump told the executives, “Our goal is to lead a sweeping transformation of the federal government’s technology that will deliver dramatically better services for citizens, stronger protection from cyberattacks. … That’s a big problem, no question about it. We’re going to be working on it, and we’re going to solve the problem.”
The AP (6/19, Lucey) says that Kushner, who “tends to keep his mouth shut” and “addresses a meeting when cameras are rolling, preferring to work behind the scenes,” addressed the executives, pledging that “by modernizing these systems we will meaningfully improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans.” The AP piece focuses more on the fact that Kushner spoke publicly than what he actually said, however, saying the mere fact that Kushner spoke in public “counted as news.” Similarly, on NBC Nightly News (6/19, story 6, 2:20), Lester Holt said Kushner’s public comments were “so rare it was likely the first time most Americans had even heard the sound of his voice.”
Also on NBC Nightly News (6/19, story 6, 2:20), Chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson reported that Monday’s meeting was “part of a massive portfolio” for Kushner that “includes overhauling the federal bureaucracy and Mid-East peace. For that, Kushner will head to Jerusalem and Ramallah this week to jump-start the negotiations with Israelis and Palestinians.”
Tech Leaders Concerned Administration Doesn’t Understand Their Needs On H-1B Visas. McClatchy (6/19, Siripurapu) says the tech industry “badly needs high-skilled tech workers and plenty live in other countries – and America’s tech titans are concerned the Trump administration doesn’t understand their needs.” Peter Leroe-Muñoz, vice president of technology and innovation policy for the trade association the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a public policy trade association, “said tech officials have long wanted an increase in H-1B visas.” However, when White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked Monday if the President was open to expanding the program, he “would only say, ‘We’ve talked a lot about visa reform in the past, and I think the president wants to make sure that he listens to the various people who have interest in this subject.’”
ED Announces Pell Grants Will Be Available Year-Round.
The AP (6/19) reports that ED announced on Monday that “Pell Grants for low-income college students can now be used for summer studies” because the starting on July 1, the grants will be available year-round, “allowing students to take summer classes and graduate sooner. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says the decision ‘is about empowering students and giving them the flexibility and support needed to achieve their goals.’”
House To Vote On Perkins Reauthorization Thursday.
Politico Morning Education (6/19) reports House Republicans have scheduled a Thursday vote on “a bipartisan bill that overhauls” the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, “the main federal law governing funding for career and technical education.” A similar bill cleared the House in the last Congress, but “hit a snag in the Senate as Democrats and Republicans disagreed over provisions that would have curtailed the Education secretary’s authority over how states spend money under the law.”
University Of Utah Trustees Approve Undergraduate Electronic Gaming Degree.
The AP (6/19) reports the University of Utah’s board of trustees approved a new electronic gaming undergraduate degree. Pending the Utah State Board of Regents’ approval, the new degree will launch in spring 2018. Roger Altizer, who founded the school’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering department, “says the bachelors will fulfill a growing interest in the subject that’s an increasingly popular and powerful economic force.” The school has offered an electronics gaming masters degree since 2010, and undergraduate students interested in the field have thus far enrolled in classes offered by the School of Computing and Division of Film Studies.
Research and Development
Exxon Announces Breakthrough In Development Of Algae-Based Oil Alternative.
Reuters (6/19, Scheyder) reports that Exxon Mobil and Synthetic Genomics announced Monday the discovery of a method to “more than double the amount of lipids produced by algae in a lab,” which could lead to the development a commercially viable alternative to crude oil. Exxon vice president for research and development Vijay Swarup said “algae can be a viable, renewable source for volumes of oil at scale,” adding that the organism is “fast-growing, doesn’t compete for food and water and can grow in all sorts of climates and brackish water.” Bloomberg News (6/19, Dlouhy) also reports that the “breakthrough” could facilitate the “widespread commercialization of algae-based biofuels.” Sythentic Genomics co-founder J. Craig Venter said that “to my knowledge, no other group has achieved this level of lipid production by modifying algae,” and the new discovery is the “first super-strong indication that there is a path to getting to where we need to go.” However, Bloomberg suggests that “even with this newest discovery, commercialization of this kind of modified algae is decades away.” The Financial Times (6/19, Cookson, Subscription Publication) also covers the announcement.
Engineers Build Stretchy Batteries For Wearables.
Scientific American (6/19, Intagliata) reports that researchers have built “bendy and stretchy” silver–zinc batteries, which will allow them to “be more elegantly integrated into future wearable devices.” Alla Zamarayeva, a materials scientist at U.C. Berkeley, and her team used “serpentine designs.” The study is in the journal Science Advances.
Ohio Seeking To Become Key Player In Transportation Research.
The Springfield (OH) News Sun (6/19, Sanctis) reports the Transportation Research Center outside of East Liberty, Ohio has served as a “4,500-acre playground where manufacturers and engineers could test prototypes of the newest sports cars, motorcycles and trucks” for decades. Despite having served “nearly every automaker,” the company is seeking to expand to attract more customers. State and federal agencies are investing more as the state “tries to position itself as a home for transportation manufacturing and research.” The News Sun notes that the city of Columbus won the Smart City Challenge in 2016, which included a $40 million Department of Transportation grant.
Instrument To Study Neutron Stars Installed On ISS.
Spaceflight Now (6/19, Clark) reports that NASA’s Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) has been successfully installed aboard the ISS and is undergoing “alignment checks and test scans, allowing scientists to fine-tune the instrument.” NICER will be used to “learn about the structure and behavior of neutron stars” over the course of its 18-month mission. NICER’s shell contains “56 individual X-ray mirrors…with matching silicon detectors that will register individual photons of X-ray light, measuring their energies and times of arrival.”
Researchers Develop Method To Dope Graphene Molecules With Nitrogen Atoms.
Nanowerk (6/19) reports researchers from Empa and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research “have now developed a new method to selectively dope graphene molecules with nitrogen atoms.” The pieces says, “By seamlessly stringing together doped and undoped graphene pieces, they were able to form ‘heterojunctions’ in the nanoribbons, thereby fulfilling a basic requirement for electronic current to flow in only one direction when voltage is applied – the first step towards a graphene transistor.” In addition, the team “has successfully managed to remove graphene nanoribbons from the gold substrate on which they were grown and to transfer them onto a non-conductive material.”
Kepler Mission Identifies 219 More Candidate Planets.
SPACE (6/19, Lewin) reports that the Kepler Space Telescope mission has discovered 219 more candidate planets in the Cygnus constellation, “including 10 near-Earth-size planet candidates in the so-called habitable zone around their stars,” bringing the total in Kepler’s catalog to 4,034. Kepler research scientist Susan Thompson said, “This survey catalog will be the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy’s most compelling questions: How many planets like our Earth are actually in the galaxy?”
The New York Times (6/19, Overbye, Subscription Publication) quotes mission scientist Natalie Batalha, who said, “The search for planets is the search for life,” and that, “These results will form the basis for future searches for life.” Batalha said that among the candidates is KOI 7711, whose profile nearly matches that of Earth.
New Cyber Training Center In Georgia.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (6/19) reports, “A new training on the banks of the Savannah River here will help bolster Georgia and Augusta’s status as a cyber intelligence and information security hub, officials said Monday at a groundbreaking ceremony.” The Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center “will become the state’s centerpiece for cyber security research and development” and “will merge public and private sector security research and serve the workforce needs of the U.S. Army.”
Alaska Airlines To Increase Effort To Prepare For Upcoming Technician Shortage.
Aviation Week (6/19, Canaday) reports Alaska Airlines plans to increase its use of military-to-corporate transition programs and to do a better job looking for talented technicians coming from MRO shops and its partnership with A&P schools in order to make sure it’s prepared for the anticipated shortage of technicians within the aviation industry. Kurt Kinder, Alaska Airlines’ Vice President of Maintenance and Engineering, said that they’ve “been strategic with hiring and so far haven’t experienced a technician shortage.” However, Kinder says they “see it coming.”
Israel To Build Quantum Communications Tech Lab.
ZDNet (6/19) reports Israel’s Hebrew University will be home to “a new research push focused on developing quantum computing communications systems.” Hebrew University says the national quantum communications system “paves the way for massive improvements in computational speed and secure communication.” The goal of the project “is not to introduce quantum theory into consumer and home products. Rather, it is hoped the scheme will result in a government communication system that cannot be compromised for the purposes of eavesdropping or spying and will also protect data transfers alongside the country’s critical infrastructure.”
Amazon Go’s Director Of Technology Leaves Company.
Re/code (6/19, Del Ray) reports one of Amazon’s executives responsible for developing the “store of the future with no cashiers,” Amazon Go, has left the company for a role at a startup. Bali Raghavan “has joined the heavily funded real estate startup Opendoor as its vice president of engineering.” The Amazon Go concept “uses a combination of sensors, cameras and, sometimes, behind-the-scenes humans, too, to bill shoppers for the items they pull from shelves, without them having to stop and check out before leaving the store.” However, the opening of the store was delayed due to tech problems “that arose when the shop was too crowded or an item was moved on a shelf.” Two people familiar with Raghavan’s departure “told Recode that it was not related to the store’s early issues.”
Boeing Announces Data Analytics Division, Five Agreements.
Aviation Today (6/19, Fuller) reports Boeing announced Boeing AnalytX as the name of its data analytics capabilities at the Paris Air Show. Boeing said the new division “unites existing analytics services and products across Boeing’s commercial, defense and services businesses, its research and information technology capabilities and its family of companies.” Ted Colbert, CIO and SVP of information and analytics, said, “Through the products Boeing AnalytX powers, we are applying scientific processes to data to solve our customers’ most pressing problems today while creating a world of limitless possibilities for the future.” Boeing also announced five AnalytX agreements with AirBridgeCargo, China Airlines, Delta, Korean Air, and Turkish Airlines.
Engineering and Public Policy
Perry: CO2 Not Prime Climate Change Driver.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CNBC (6/19) yesterday during an interview on “Squawk Box” that “he does not believe carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are the main driver of climate change,” joining EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “in casting doubt on the conclusion of some of the government’s top scientists.” When asked if carbon emissions are the prime driver of climate change, Perry said, “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in. … The fact is this shouldn’t be a debate about, ‘Is the climate changing, is man having an effect on it?’ Yeah, we are. The question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to effect that?” Perry’s comments are “at odds with the conclusion of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.” The AP (6/19, Matthew Daly |, Ap) reports Perry said, “This idea that science is just absolutely settled and if you don’t believe it’s settled then you’re somehow another Neanderthal, that is so inappropriate from my perspective.” The Washington Examiner (6/19, Siciliano) reports Perry said. “If you are going to be a wise, intellectually engaged person, being a skeptic about these issues is quite all right.”
Greenwire (6/19, Subscription Publication) called Perry’s comments yesterday morning “his most detailed on the subject since becoming Energy secretary, and come a week after the agency confirmed it was closing its international climate office.” The agency said it was “looking for ways to consolidate the many duplicative programs that currently exist.” The Hill (6/19, Henry) reports the Energy Department, which Perry heads up, “is charged, in part, with researching technologies designed to green the energy sector, a leading producer of emissions.” The Washington Post (6/19, Mufson) reports the former Texas governor “has long avoided getting pinned down on mankind’s contribution to climate change, and he has said that action on climate change should be weighed against economic costs.”
The Dallas Morning News (6/19, Benning, Bureau) reports Perry’s comments on CNBC “drew immediate blowback from environmental groups.” Liz Perera, climate policy director for The Sierra Club, said, “Rick Perry’s outrageous comments are the latest indication that this administration will do everything in its power to put polluter profits ahead of science and public health.” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (6/19, Connelly) reports when “pressed” by Sen. Maria Cantwell, during his confirmation hearing, “Perry promised to ‘protect all the science’ being conducted by the Department of Energy.” Cantwell on Monday “lamented” that his “promise was not kept.” Cantwell stated, “His comments this morning that ignore the reality of climate change were profoundly disappointing, and wrong. … What’s worse, he plans to defend a budget this week that shutters a climate office, and cuts the biological and environmental research program at DOE – key to its climate portfolio – almost in half.”
TAMEST Study Links Shale Drilling, Air Pollution, Earthquakes.
The Houston Chronicle (6/19, Hunn) reports a new study from the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas found that oil and gas drilling in the state’s shale basins pollutes the air, erodes the soil and contaminates the air, while disposing of the wastewater causes earthquakes. The scientists found that the shale boom “degraded natural resources, overwhelmed small communities, and even boosted the frequency and severity of traffic collisions as workers and equipment rush to oil fields.” The study also clarified that surface spills are the most likely drinking water contaminants, rather than fracking, and that contamination between oil reservoirs and freshwater aquifers is unlikely. There is also little evidence to connect shale production emissions to health effects. The AP (6/19) reports the group started its analysis two years ago with a task force consisting of “attorneys, geologists, seismologists and engineers, including representatives from oil companies and an environmental group.” The Houston Chronicle (6/19, Hunn) reports the task force chair Christine Ehlig-Economides, a former Schlumberger petroleum engineer, said that scientists, regulators and politicians need to understand the environmental risks of shale drilling before air pollution or water contamination leads to regulations that could derail the industry. She said, “We really do thrive on the availability of energy in the United States. … Where there are things that could threaten the future for this kind of development, those are the things we really must address.” The Dallas Morning News (6/19, Mosier) reports the study proposed 25 recommendations, many calling for new research. The commission wants to study the effects of exposure to drilling emissions, find whether Texas needs a law to protect surface owners who do not own their mineral rights, and discover the use of brackish water in fracking.
DOE Says Nuclear Power Is Key Part Of Trump Administration Energy Strategy.
During an interview on CNBC (6/19), Energy Secretary Rick Perry signaled that “the Trump administration sees nuclear power as ‘a very important part’ of an all-of-the-above energy strategy.” Perry stated, “Bringing our nuclear energy industry back, small modular reactors for instance, that’s on the front burner so to speak.” His “comment offers some insight into the administration’s spending priorities as it seeks to slash funding for Energy’s research and development programs by 54 percent.” CNBC adds that “offices that would see deep cuts — unless Congress intervenes — include those responsible for promoting energy efficiency and extending the life of nuclear power plants.” DOE “has promoted research into the small modular reactors that Perry mentioned.”
Scientists Debate Role Of Renewables In US Energy Grid.
The Washington Post (6/19, Mooney) reports on a debate within the scientific community over how much of the United States’ power it can get from renewable sources. Stanford professor Mark Jacobson claims that by 2055, “the U.S. could be entirely powered by ‘clean’ energy sources and ‘no natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries are needed.’” However, 21 researchers have published a study contesting Jacobson’s work, claiming he used “invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.”
New England Struggles With Risk Of Overtaxed Natural Gas Pipelines.
The Wall Street Journal (6/19, Kamp, Subscription Publication) reports that natural gas-fired generation in New England has increased exponentially in the past decade, which has taxed the pipelines that supply the region. Increasing pipeline capacity has proven difficult due to permitting delays and public opposition. Next year the regional grid operator plans to implement a new program that will offer financial rewards to generators that continue to operate even when the system is taxed. Meanwhile, some experts are recommending that New England rely on backup oil to run power plants until renewable energy gains a stronger foothold.
National Society Of Black Engineers Hosts Birmingham Summer Camp.
Alabama Live (6/19) highlights the “Summer Engineer Experience for Kids (SEEK)” camp being hosted by the National Society of Black Engineers and Alabama Power in Birmingham this month, a free event for third through fifth-grade students featuring hands-on activities meant to boost their interest in science, technology and engineering. The camp in Birmingham is one of 15 across the country, which combined represent “the nation’s largest summer engineering program geared toward African-American students.” Students will also “be able to engage with real engineers and mentors, which is key to increasing African American representation in STEM.” SEEK site director Janet Jones-Fields said the program can also help dispel the “thug stereotype” that many minority students face.
Chemical Education Foundation Hosts Chemistry Challenge.
The Washington Times (6/19, Ayers) reports the nonprofit Chemical Education Foundation hosted its nationwide “You Be the Chemist National Challenge” on Monday, enabling “42 fifth- to eighth-graders to showcase their scientific knowledge in a format similar to that of a spelling bee.” The foundation’s senior manager, Emily Belson, said the grand prize “champion receives a $12,000 educational scholarship,” and “the three runners-up receive scholarships as well.” CEF executive Bryan Stattler “said STEM innovation in elementary and middle school is vital to the health of the economy.” Stattler explained, “From a research perspective, if we are able to connect with elementary and middle-school students and get them interested in science, they are much more likely to continue in it. But middle school is where we lose people.” The Times notes a National Science Foundation report found only 16 percent of high school graduates consider STEM field majors in college.
Female Astronaut Recruit Encourages Girls To Risk Failure.
Fortune (6/19) profiles Kayla Barron, a US Navy lieutenant and one of five women and one of 12 recruits selected for NASA’s next class of astronaut candidates. Barron was selected “from the biggest-ever pool of applicants: 18,300.” In “a message for any girls who might want to add to that number, especially those interested in science, technology, engineering, and math fields,” Barron stressed the importance of learning to risk failure and moving on from those failures to achieve.
South Dakota Students Participate In Drone Camp.
The AP (6/19, Emerson) reports Brad Strangeland and Tim Meyer taught 25 students “everything from drone safety to learning the characteristics of flight to building Lego drones” at a two-day Bismarck Public Schools Career Academy camp in South Dakota. Strangeland is an instructor at the Career Academy’s aviation program, which teaches students “what it takes to become a pilot, as well as other career paths.” He said interest in the aviation programs is growing, and participation doubled this school year compared to last year. The AP notes that the two-day drone camp was sponsored by a $75,000 Tesoro grant awarded for STEM-related activities.
Monday’s Lead Stories
• China Makes Major Breakthrough In Quantum Cryptography Research.
• Russia, China Lead Student Teams At The Computer Programming Olympics.
• Researchers Create Patch That Could One Day Benefit Heart Attack Patients.
• Aerospace Companies Recruit Engineers From Race Car Competitions.
• Safety Issues At Los Alamos May Be Setting Back Nuclear Arsenal Update.
• Girl Scouts Announce Cybersecurity Badges.