Leading the News
Perry Defends Trump Budget For DOE, Cuts To Energy Research.
The Houston Chronicle (6/20, Osborne) reports Energy Secretary Rick Perry, during a House Appropriations Committee budget hearing, “defended President Donald Trump’s proposal to slash funding for energy research programs Tuesday as necessary to reduce the government’s budget deficit.” The Energy Secretary “said the budgets cuts were necessary to preserve spending for modernizing the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal and other ‘key missions.’” Perry stated, “This budget proposal makes some difficult choices, but it is paramount we execute our fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayer.” E&E Publishing (6/20, Subscription Publication) reports Perry promised “that no national laboratories would be ‘shut down’ and said he was confident that the labs — which he called national treasures — would function at a level that Americans ‘need and deserve.’”
The Tri-City Herald (WA) (6/20) reports the Energy Secretary “disputed whether Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland is at risk of losing 1,000 jobs under the administration’s budget proposal during a House subcommittee hearing Tuesday.” Following a question from Rep. Dan Newhouse, Perry said, “I am comfortable that we will manage these labs in a way that continues to keep the employment levels at the level to deliver the innovation and the technology that this country is going to need.” PNNL, Hanford and the Bonneville Power Administration “were among topics Perry addressed under questioning from Northwest lawmakers.”
The Dallas Morning News (6/20, Benning, Bureau) reports that the “House panel grilled Perry – albeit cordially – on a spending plan that would pursue deep cuts in science and energy programs.” The “treatment” by the panel “highlighted Perry’s central role in the battle over the Trump administration’s approach to science.”
The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (6/20, Adragna) previewed Perry’s appearance before the hearing.
Study Finds Lack Of Diversity Among College Presidents.
The New York Times (6/20, Chen, Subscription Publication) reports the American Council on Education released its latest American College President Study on Tuesday. The report, which “has traditionally been viewed as an important census in higher education,” found that despite college campuses’ recent efforts to diversity their student bodies, the average “college president continues to be a white man in his early 60s.” The study also found college presidents are “increasingly preoccupied by (and worried about) budgeting and fund-raising.” More than half of public college presidents said they predict state funding to decrease over the next five years, and three-fourths forecast tuition and fee increases. The Times says that the study “comes as accessibility to affordable higher education is increasingly part of the national discourse, particularly with support from state governments dropping and the Trump administration proposing deep cuts in many programs.”
Policy Researcher Urges Posts-Secondary Institutions To Increase Faculty Diversity.
Renée Byng Yancey, the national program director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program New Connections, said in a piece for Diverse Education (6/19) that the growing graduation gap between white students and underrepresented groups may be narrowed by “having more faculty who reflect the race and ethnicity of those students.” The National Center for Education Statistics found “the overwhelming majority” of the 1.5 million faculty members at degree-granting post-secondary institutions in 2013 were white, and black men and women and Latino men and women held only three percent and two percent of faculty positions, respectively. Yancey stressed that post-secondary institutions must “address this disparity for the benefit of all students” and “give a critical eye to their own hiring practices and how they support a culture and climate that is conducive for underrepresented faculty.” Those decisions, Yancey argued, “can have a far-reaching impact on what opportunities their students will encounter.”
Arizona Court Overturns Decision Granting DREAMers In-State Tuition.
The AP (6/20, Christie) reports the Arizona Court of Appeals, in a Tuesday ruling, decided “a 2015 decision that deferred action recipients were considered legally present in the U.S. and therefore qualify for state benefits was incorrect.” The court explained the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, did not confer this status, and Federal law defers to each state the authority “to decide on optional benefits for DACA recipients – known as DREAMers – and Arizona law bars in-state tuition.” The AP notes Tuesday’s ruling affects nearly 28,000 DACA recipients in the state, including “at least several hundred current state university students and an unknown number attending community colleges.”
Research and Development
MIT Engineers Design Microchip For Photonic Processing.
Science Magazine (6/20, Hutson) reports MIT engineers “designed a computer chip that uses beams of light to mimic neurons,” adding that “such ‘optical neural networks’ could make any application of so-called deep learning–from virtual assistants to language translators–many times faster and more efficient.” Although scientists have for years “used optical equipment to build simple neural nets…these setups required tabletops full of sensitive mirrors and lenses,” which caused photonic processing to be “dismissed as impractical.” However, MIT researchers’ condensed that equipment into a microchip that “is made of silicon, and…simulates a network of 16 neurons in four ‘layers’ of four.”
Tesla Ramps Up Production Of Model 3 Battery Cells At Nevada Gigafactory.
TechRadar (6/20, Lynch) reports Tesla “is ramping up production of battery cells at its Nevada gigafactory, pointing towards the long-awaited, mass-market Tesla Model 3 vehicle being on track for its own summer production line kick-off,” according to Electrek , which cited Tesla CTO JB Straubel as saying Saturday at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s Energy Fair 2017, “We’ve started production of Model 3 cells actually right now, so we’re starting to ramp up those cell manufacturing lines and crank this up as we begin to ramp Model 3.” TechRadar states that the production is “an important step for the vehicle, which will make use of the 2170 lithium-ion battery cells engineered in conjunction with Panasonic.”
Brigham And Women’s Hospital Recently Installed 7-Tesla MRI Scanner For Research.
Aunt Minnie (6/21, Forrest) reports Brigham and Women’s Hospital recently installed “an investigational 7-tesla MRI scanner.” The article reports that “while the unit initially will be used for research, the hospital is open to the idea of someday using the scanner clinically,” if the Food and Drug Administration clears the device for clinical use.
Xerion Advanced Battery Considering $50M Investment In Ohio Research Park.
The My Dayton (OH) Daily News (6/20, Gnau) reports that “Xerion Advanced Battery Corp.’s CEO said his company is considering spending more than $50 million on manufacturing operations at his company’s Miami Valley Research Park location in Kettering.” The article adds, “A producer of what it touts as a quick-charging battery material, Xerion moved to Kettering from Illinois last year, and city officials hope the business will eventually create 52 full-time jobs.”
Astrophysicist Warns Of Future Impact Threat As Asteroid Day Nears.
The Daily Mail (6/20, Weston) reports that astrophysicist Alan Fitzsimmons is “highlighting the threat” of a potential asteroid collision for Asteroid Day, which will be observed internationally Friday, June 30, the anniversary of a 1908 explosion “thought to have been produced by a comet or asteroid hurtling through Earth’s atmosphere at over 33,500 miles per hour.” The explosion occurred “over the Tunguska region of Siberia, flattening trees nearly 31 miles around.” Speaking from Queen’s University Belfast Astrophysics Research Centre, Fitzsimmons said that “over 1,800 potentially hazardous objects have been discovered so far, but there are many more waiting to be found.” He said that it is “still possible the next Tunguska would take us by surprise, and although we are much better at finding larger asteroids, that does us no good if we are not prepared to do something about them.”
China May Surpass US In Terms Of Scientific Research Spending.
The Washington Post (6/20, Gebelhoff) reports China now “seems poised to surpass US research spending in the near future.” The article points out that many people have criticized proposed budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers Develop New “Super-Strong,” Lightweight Glassy Carbon.
Tech Briefs (6/20, Hurley) reports a new compressed form of glassy carbon, created by researchers at the Carnegie Institute for Science, uses high pressure and temperatures to form a “super-strong, elastic, electrically-conductive carbon.” The article speculates that the new “carbon opens up possibilities for applications requiring low weight and high strength– from aerospace parts to football helmets.”
Rigetti Aims To Rival Google In Commercializing Quantum Computing.
Wired (6/20) contributor Tom Simonite offers a 1,200-word profile of Rigetti Computing, highlighting its work on quantum computing. Simonite says that “no company is yet very close to offering up a quantum computer ready to do useful work existing computers can’t,” because “quantum computing chips in existence are too small,” but Google “pledged to commercialize the technology within five years.” Simonite concludes that “Rigetti will need time, more money, and some hard science to get to [a] successful product.”
Aston Martin To Conduct Global Recall Of 1,658 Vantage Cars Over Transmission Software Update.
Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd “is ordering a global recall of 1,658 Vantage cars after problems with a routine transmission software update led to incidents in China in which some cars stalled and lost power,” CEO Andy Palmer told Reuters (6/20, Shirouzu), which reports in an exclusive that Palmer “said the decision was taken after a team of Aston Martin engineers went to China in May to investigate a problem that several customers there had been complaining about since 2014.” According to Reuters, “Palmer did not say how much the recall would cost, but knowledgeable people close to the company estimated the total cost at around 300,000 pounds ($380,760).” Reuters adds that “The global recall will be unwelcome publicity for a company that has said for years it wants to go public. It reported its first Q1 profit in a decade in May.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Officials Devise Fix For Road Affected By River Erosion At Grand Teton National Park.
The Jackson Hole (WY) News & Guide (6/20, Dahlby, Daily) reports that the asphalt of Gros Ventre Road in Grand Teton National Park has crumbled due to encroaching river erosion. While a temporary fix has been planned, the piece says “officials are meeting in Kelly tonight to discuss long-term solutions for the road, which has been closed since June 6.” Experts from the Federal Highway Administration and a local geotech firm, along with park engineers, “have assessed the road and erosion and think one-lane traffic can be safely managed through the closed section of roadway.”
Solar Energy Prices Continue Falling.
CNN Money (6/20, Egan) reports that despite President Trump’s rollback of environmental regulations meant to boost the US coal industry, market forces will remain a long-term challenge to the industry. According to a forecast from the research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “coal-fired power is projected to plunge by 51% in the United States” by 2040, whereas “U.S. power generation from renewable energy is likely to skyrocket by 169%.” While solar energy is already “at least as cheap as coal” in some countries, renewable energy costs are poised to continue dropping thanks to “a gush of investments.”
Scholars Face Off Over Stanford Professor’s Claims On Clean-Energy Future.
The New York Times (6/20, Porter, Subscription Publication) reports lawmakers have proposed legislation calling for a full transition to renewable energy sources that relies on “what looks like [the] watertight scholarly analysis” of Stanford professor Mark Jacobson. His “widely heralded” 2015 paper says running the American economy on wind, solar, and hydro power would be cheaper than fossil fuels, a feat that likely would be feasible by mid-century. However, the Times says the “proposition is hardly as solid as Professor Jacobson asserts,” based on a “damning” critique due out this week that “took a fine comb” to the oft-cited article. The new article’s conclusions are that Jacobson relied on “invalid modeling tools,” made “modeling errors,” and arrived at “implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.” Yet, “with the stakes so high, the gloves are clearly off,” and Jacobson “is punching back hard” by arguing in a new article that the critique “is riddled with errors and has no impact” on his findings.
LA Programs Aims To Bring Electric Car-Sharing Service To Low-Income Communities.
USA Today (6/20, Tulp) reports that Los Angeles has started a new program aimed at expanding electric car-sharing opportunities to less affluent areas. Known as BlueLA, the program “provides battery-powered vehicles as cheap as 15 cents a minute, or $9 an hour, to lower-income people who qualify.” Electric-car advocates say the program will help to “open the benefits of the emission-free cars up to the masses.”
White House May Intervene On Behalf Of Domestic Solar Panel Manufacturers.
The Hill (6/20, Cama) reports that Suniva Inc. and SolarWorld USA are calling for trade penalties on imports of solar panels and related technology, claiming that “a surge of cheap imports from China and elsewhere are destroying domestic manufacturing of the panels.” The Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents “much of the rest of the solar industry,” is opposing the effort, “which it claims would decimate solar power and threaten the growth the sector has seen over the last decade by significantly raising prices.” Citing the wide-ranging authority of the White House to implement trade protections, some trade economists are predicting that Trump could grant the trade penalties “if he believes that the domestic industry has been injured seriously.”
Schools Debate Teaching Climate Change.
The AP (6/20) reports on the controversy surrounding the instruction of climate science and global warming in public schools, saying “conservative lawmakers, climate change doubters and others” are working to “push rejected or debunked theories into the classroom.” The piece reports that though climate scientists “overwhelmingly” link manmade emissions with global warming, but says “there’s no such consensus among educators over how climate change and its causes should be taught.” Several states are considering “allowing or requiring teachers to present alternatives to widely accepted viewpoints on such topics.”
Nebraska Summer Program Encourages Girls To Pursue STEAM Fields.
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (6/20) cites a National Science Foundation study two years ago that found “259,585 graduate students in science and engineering were women, or 42 percent of the total,” and “of those women, only 38,494, or 14.8 percent, were black, Hispanic or American Indian.” In an effort “to pique the interest of African-American and other girls in science, technology, engineering, agriculture, the arts and math,” or STEAM, the Urban League of Nebraska hosts a summer STEAM Academy. The six-week program launched five years ago and, with the help of donors, offers free tuition. On Tuesday, about 15 participating girls visited DLR Group and spoke with the firm’s engineers and architects, toured the facility, and constructed paper towers. In earlier weeks, the girls “visited the University of Nebraska Medical Center, NET in Lincoln and Union Pacific,” and “listened to speakers from TD Ameritrade, College Possible and other places.”
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Tech CEOs Meet With Administration Officials.
• ED Announces Pell Grants Will Be Available Year-Round.
• Exxon Announces Breakthrough In Development Of Algae-Based Oil Alternative.
• Alaska Airlines To Increase Effort To Prepare For Upcoming Technician Shortage.
• Israel To Build Quantum Communications Tech Lab.
• Amazon Go’s Director Of Technology Leaves Company.
• Perry: CO2 Not Prime Climate Change Driver.