Leading the News
Tech Giants Join Online Protest Against Net Neutrality Repeal.
Reuters (7/12, Moon, Shepardson) reports that Twitter, Alphabet Inc., Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and “dozens” of other major technology firms “are participating in an online protest” Wednesday in which more than 80,000 websites “are displaying alerts, ads and short videos to urge the public to oppose the overturn of the landmark 2015 net neutrality rules,” which forbid broadband providers from “giving or selling access to certain internet services over others.” Supporters of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to repeal net neutrality rules claim that the rules hurt jobs and investment, but opponents argue that repeal would signify “worse internet for consumers and less innovation online.” The public has until mid-August to submit comments to the FCC before its final vote.
The Los Angeles Times (7/12, Puzzanghera) reports that participants in the “Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality” say the protest was “the first major salvo of what they promised would be a long battle” involving the courts, the FCC, and potentially Congress. Commissioner Pai hasn’t publicly acknowledged the online protest but assured lawmakers in a letter Tuesday that the FCC’s staff would be “on high alert” to ensure that the public comment system on the agency’s website did not shut down from the volume of comments.
ED Begins Process Of Revising Student Loan Consumer Protection Rules.
The NPR (7/12) “NPR Ed” blog reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “has put the brakes on two Obama-era regulations aimed at protecting student borrowers,” and reports that ED is holding hearings this week in which it is “asking stakeholders to go back to the starting line.” The piece says that on Monday, “Speaker after speaker in favor of the rules expressed weariness” at the prospect of going through the negotiated rulemaking process again, noting that the process “took several years and much legal wrangling” last time.
Mentioning that the second hearing took place at Southern Methodist University in University Park, Texas, the Dallas Morning News (7/12, Smith) reports that ED “plans to reopen a link the rule-making process to rework two important provisions:” the gainful employment rule and the borrower defense to repayment rule. The Morning News reports that both rules are “aimed at protecting student borrowers from predatory practices of for-profit colleges.”
Coalition Of Consumer Groups Defends Current Rules. Consumer Reports (7/12, Kieler) reports that a coalition of some 50 consumer groups has “stepped forward to join the opposition against a ‘reset’ of regulations put in place to protect students at for-profit colleges.” The groups wrote to DeVos “expressing their ‘strong opposition’ to the ‘delay, dismantling, and weakening’ of the Gainful Employment and the Borrower Defense to repayment regulations.”
Consultant: Pennsylvania State University System Should Not Merge, Close Colleges.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (7/12, Snyder) reports that the National Center on Higher Education Management Systems has issued a “highly anticipated report on restructuring Pennsylvania’s struggling state university system.” The article says the report recommends that the state “should keep all 14 state universities rather than close or merge institutions to solve ongoing financial and enrollment woes.” However, the report says that “schools with the largest enrollment declines and budget gaps should face consolidation and staff cuts while keeping core programs.”
Research and Development
Carnegie Mellon Researchers Make Progress In Exoskeleton Technology.
The AP (7/12) reports that researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, in research published in the journal Science, have demonstrated that “a computer-controlled system” developed at Carnegie Mellon – “essentially an ankle brace with a motor that helps flex the ankle to push off the ground more easily during walking – brings notable energy savings for those with normal walking ability.” The AP reports the study was led by Stephen H. Collins, associate professor in CMU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
University Of Washington Researchers Place Battery-Free Cell Phone Calls.
WUSA-TV Washington (7/12) reports that University of Washington computer science and electrical engineering research associate Vamsi Talla says researchers at the school “have developed a method for placing calls from a battery-free device using a technique called ‘backscatter.’” The piece quotes Talla saying, “the key idea behind backscatter is that instead of generating your own signal for communication, which is extremely power-hungry and drains the battery, we leverage existing ambient RF signals. Backscatter works by either reflecting or absorbing existing RF signals, like a mirror.”
Researchers To Conduct Massive Atmospheric Experiment During August Eclipse.
The Washington Post (7/12, Guarino) reports that during the August 21 solar eclipse, a group of “citizen scientists” “will be glued to 150 custom-made radio receivers set up across the country.” The EclipseMob project will be “the largest experiment of its kind in history.” The researchers will collect data on the ionosphere, which “plays a crucial role in some forms of long-distance communication.”
NSF Data Show Federal Research, Engineering Support For Universities Fell 2% In 2015.
Inside Higher Ed (7/12) reports that according to new data from the National Science Foundation, “federal obligations to universities for science and engineering declined by 2 percent in the 2015 fiscal year.” Total federal obligations for that year reached $30.5 billion, down from $31.1 billion the previous year. The article reports that the lion’s share of total funding was for research and development.
Scientists Store And Retrieve Short Film In Bacteria.
The New York Times (7/12, Kolata, Subscription Publication) reports for the first time, scientists have used DNA to store and retrieve a short film, which “can be retrieved at will and multiplied indefinitely as the host divides and grows.” STAT (7/12, Empinado) reports the study was published in Nature. The scientists “said they eventually want to create…living cells that could sense things in the environment, like toxins or heavy metals, and record and store that information within their DNA.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune (7/12, Fikes) reports the National Institutes of Health helped fund the research.
Researchers Use Lithium-Wrapped Graphene To Make Battery Electrode.
Ars Technica (7/12, Timmer) reports a research team from Stanford has discovered a way to “wrap lots of lithium in graphene.” According to Ars, “the resulting structure holds a place open for lithium when it leaves, allowing it to flow back to where it started.” The research team found that “tests of the resulting material, which they call a lithium-graphene foil, show it could enable batteries with close to twice the energy density of existing lithium batteries.”
Energy Department Awarding $19.4 Million For Electric Car Research.
The Washington Examiner (7/12, Siciliano) reports the Energy Department announced $19.4 million to cover research and development costs of electric vehicles. The funding will be spread out on 22 new cost-shared projects through the Vehicle Technologies Office “meant to accelerate research on advanced batteries to power electric vehicles, lightweight materials, engine technologies and more energy-efficient mobility systems.” However, the Vehicle Technologies Officer is part of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office, which is slated for cuts under President Trump’s budget proposal.
Newsmax (7/12, Crowe) also covers this story.
Scientists Around The World Advance Biofuels Research.
The Manila (PHL) Times (7/12) reports scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology “have shown that oil extracted from algae can be converted into diesel by using sand from Rajasthan,” the north Indian state where IIT is located, in Jodhpur. The chair of IIT’s chemistry department, Rakesh Kumar Sharma, said, “We have developed a catalyst using sand, nickel and cobalt to convert algae oil into diesel,” calling the technique “low cost because sand is abundant and nickel and cobalt are cheap metals” in the current market. In comparison, European researchers have been employing rhodium and other rare metals to make biofuel, adding to the final cost.
Nanowerk (7/12) reports researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan have developed a faster method of producing methane from fermented forestry waste products.
iPhone 8 Could Face “3 to 4 Week” Delay Amid Touch ID, Software Issues.
CNBC (7/12) reports Apple’s upcoming iPhone 8 could be “delayed by 3 weeks or more” according to analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The firm’s Wamsi Mohan and Stefano Pascale said in a Wednesday report that “Our conversations with the Supply Chain suggest that the iPhone 8 will ship 3-4 weeks delayed given technological issues which Apple and its suppliers are working through.” They also “maintained their buy rating on the stock,” despite believing that “problems with fingerprint and 3D sensors” could be to blame. The firm has, according to Seeking Alpha (7/12), lowered it shipment estimates following a supply chain visit. The article also cites Mohan and Pascale’s indication that “delays of 3 to 4 weeks” are likely to affect the device’s release “due to tech issues with fingerprint and 3D sensors in the premium model.” The Street (7/12) also reports on the “slashed” shipment estimates. With related coverage regarding the delay, Phone Arena (7/12) points to recent reporting from a source who says Apple is in “a full-blown sense of panic” with respect to issues surrounding the wireless charging mechanism and Touch ID. The Street (7/12) also cited the “sense of panic in the air” for Apple engineers racing “to fix software glitches” in the device, though according to CNBC (7/12), which disputes that characterization, those concerns may be overstated.
Engineering and Public Policy
WSJournal Analysis: Aging Waterway Infrastructure In US Near Breaking Point.
In a 2,000-word analysis, the Wall Street Journal (7/12, Maher, Subscription Publication) reports that decades of underinvestment in US infrastructure have caused damage to much of the nation’s network of dams and locks that allow commercial waterway traffic accounting for more than $70 billion in cargo to be transported annually along the country’s 12,000 miles of river. The Journal highlights two major waterways infrastructure projects already underway that the US Army Corps of Engineers views as top priorities for completion – the repair of three locks along the Monongahela River in southwest Pennsylvania and improvements to several locks along the Ohio River near Cairo, Illinois – and emphasizes the potential economic losses should commercial waterway traffic be impeded because of poorly maintained infrastructure.
Energy Department Awards $46 Million For Solar Power Research Grants.
Bloomberg News (7/12, Martin) reports the Energy Department awarded $46 million in research grants “to improve solar energy technologies and reduce costs to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2030.” According to Bloomberg, the funds will “be partly matched by the 48 projects awarded to laboratories and universities.” Charlie Gay, director of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, said in the statement: “These projects ensure there’s a pipeline of knowledge, human resources, transformative technology solutions and research to support the industry.”
Energy Department Begins Tracking Rooftop Solar Power. The Houston Chronicle (7/12, Handy) reports the Energy Department will start forecasting “energy output from small-scale solar panel systems, like the ones installed on residential rooftops, the agency announced on Tuesday.” The DOE already “releases monthly energy forecasts that overview inventories of crude oil and natural gas and offer projections for energy and power use.” but the forecast will now include solar. According to the article, the department “expects capacity for these small-scale systems to grow from 14,300 megawatts in April of this year to 21,900 megawatts by the end of 2018, which will mostly consist of additions to residential rooftop solar.”
Energy Department Begins Tracking Rooftop Solar Power.
The Houston Chronicle (7/12, Handy) reports the Energy Department will start forecasting “energy output from small-scale solar panel systems, like the ones installed on residential rooftops, the agency announced on Tuesday.” The DOE already “releases monthly energy forecasts that overview inventories of crude oil and natural gas and offer projections for energy and power use.” but the forecast will now include solar. According to the article, the department “expects capacity for these small-scale systems to grow from 14,300 megawatts in April of this year to 21,900 megawatts by the end of 2018, which will mostly consist of additions to residential rooftop solar.”
New York Solar Power Installations On The Rise As It Declines Nationwide.
Habitat Magazine (7/12) reports New York-supported solar power “has boomed by 800 percent over the past five years, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.” The number of solar installations in New York City jumped from 1,037 to 9,700 since the start of 2013 due to “incentives, tax credits, and falling costs.” However, after a 900 percent increase nationwide over the past six years, rooftop solar panel installation is expected to decline by 2 percent nationwide this year, according to projections from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This reversal is caused by several factors, but the biggest factor, according to the New York Times, is a “well funded lobbying campaign by traditional utilities, which have been working successfully to get state legislatures to do away with one of solar energy’s biggest selling points: net metering.”
Research: Students Who See Science As Collaborative Field More Likely To Pursue STEM Careers.
Sarah D. Sparks writes at the Education Week (7/12) “Inside School Research” blog that notwithstanding popular perceptions of scientists as being “socially awkward” or working in isolation, science and engineering feature “increasingly team-oriented” work environments. Moreover, new research published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science indicates that “correcting that misconception could encourage more American students to engage in science.” The research showed that students of both genders “who perceived science as a communal activity were more likely to say they wanted to pursue a career in science than those who saw science as a ‘lone wolf’ field.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Amazon Expanding Boston Operations, To Eventually Employ 3,000 In Massachusetts.
• Syracuse University Wins $4M NSF Grant To Recruit STEM Students.
• USC Looking To Expand Research Footprint.
• Tesla To Add 100 Service Centers, 1,000 Technicians Ahead Of Model 3 Debut.
• Media Analysis: Cost Of Hawaii’s Rail Option Examined.
• Microsoft Looks To Expand Broadband Access To Two Million Rural Americans By 2022.