Leading the News
Musk Says He Has “Verbal” Approval For Ultra-High-Speed Train Tunnel.
Bloomberg News (7/20, Randall) reports that Elon Musk said Thursday he was won “verbal” approval from the government “to build the world’s longest tunnel for an ultra-high-speed train line to connect New York to Washington.” Musk said in a tweet that the “hyperloop” train “would make the 220 mile connection in 29 minutes.” Bloomberg adds that the “ambitious project would require billions of dollars in funding and extensive approvals from federal, state, and local authorities.” A spokesman for the White House “confirmed that the administration has had ‘promising conversations to date’ with Musk” and executives for his digging firm, the Boring Company, but “would only say the administration is ‘committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector.’” The Los Angeles Times (7/20, Masunaga) also covers this story.
Former Under Secretary Mitchell To Lead American Council On Education.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (7/20) reports that former Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, “an architect of several of the college and student-loan accountability regulations the Trump administration is now trying to dismantle, was named on Thursday as the new president of the American Council on Education.” The council represents some “1,800 college presidents on national policy issues.” Mitchell indicated he will focus on “advocacy for the value of academic research and correcting public misimpressions about student debt that discourage from attending college ‘exactly the people’ who need it most.”
Saying Mitchell had “an eventful and influential stint” at ED, Inside Higher Ed (7/20)reports that his “hire is sure to turn heads, and not just because he’s a former Obama official who takes the reins at a time when Republicans dominate both Washington and state capitols.” Mitchell’s “career has been more wide-ranging than that of his predecessors at ACE, who tend to have left prominent college presidencies shortly before taking the job.”
Politico Morning Education (7/20) reports that ACE is “the nation’s leading higher education lobbying group, which was often critical of [Mitchell’s] efforts to hold colleges and universities accountable.”
Commentary: Math Achievement Key To STEM Success.
In commentary for Diverse Education (7/20), Dr. Marcus Bright, executive director of Education for a Better America, writes that “the ability to successfully complete high-level math courses” is an absolute necessity for getting degrees in engineering, computer science, and chemistry. Therefore, “placing a laser-like focus on academic achievement in mathematics will help more students get past gatekeeper courses like calculus.” Bright recommends a number of steps universities can take, such as expanding summer bridge programs focused on math, boosting peer-to-peer tutoring, and providing other support systems for struggling students.
Research and Development
Swiss Engineers Make 3-D Printed Artificial Heart.
CNN (7/20, Scutti) reports that according to research recently published in the journal Artificial Organs, “Engineers at ETH Zurich used 3-D printing to make a soft, artificial heart made of” silicon. The prototype “cannot beat for more than about 30 minutes at a stretch,” but the article says the “artificial heart nevertheless possesses left and right ventricles, pumps a liquid resembling blood and weighs about the same as a natural human heart.”
University Of Washington Loses Lawsuit Involving Historic Research Reactor Building.
The Seattle Times (7/20) reports that while the University of Washington “lost its bid to declare itself free of Seattle’s landmarks-preservation law,” it is unlikely that the university will face penalties “for its controversial demolition last year of a architecturally unusual building that once housed a nuclear reactor.” Though the “legal challenge stemmed from a debate over the fate of the reactor building, More Hall Annex, the outcome has significance beyond that dispute, according to Roger Wynne, an assistant city attorney.” Wynne said that broadly, it means “that all state universities are now on notice that they can’t take a pass on local development regulations.” The More Hall Annex “was constructed in 1961 to house the university’s nuclear reactor.” The reactor was closed in 1981 “and the university’s nuclear-engineering program ended in 1986, leaving the building vacant and unused.”
In Mouse Model, Researchers Develop Tiny, Expanding Form Of Liver Tissue.
The Science Blog (7/20) reports that using mice, researchers “have developed a new way to engineer liver tissue,” using small “subunits” that expand “50-fold” when implanted and “were able to perform normal liver tissue functions,” according to a study published online in Science Translational Medicine. The study’s lead author said the “engineered livers” could eventually increase the availability of liver transplants and help others who suffer from disease but do not qualify for transplants. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, among others.
US Navy Official: Service Targeting Railgun Testing By 2017.
Inside Defense (7/20, Hudson) reports US Navy Office of Naval Research Naval Air Warfare and Weapons head Thomas Beutner said that the service is looking to test its electromagnetic railgun by the end of 2017. Beutner said the service’s tests would use a new composite launcher, which would attempt to fire up to 10 rounds per minute.
IBM Using “Crowdsourced Supercomputer” To Help Combat Climate Change.
IBM told IFL Science (7/20, Andrews)that it is using its “crowdsourced supercomputer” known as the World Community Grid to help in the fight against climate change. IFL Science reports that IBM plans to make the supercomputer available to five “innovative climate change research projects” that IBM Director of Corporate Citizenship Sophia Tu says will “shows us how to adapt to climate change” and “how to mitigate it.”
Musk: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch Will Be Risky.
The AP (7/19) reports that at a research conference, Elon Musk spoke about the first launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, predicting there is “a real good chance” of failure. The new Falcon Heavy has three boosters and 27 engines, while SpaceX’s older Falcon 9 has one booster and nine engines. Musk stated, “There’s a lot of risk associated with Falcon Heavy, real good chance that that vehicle does not make it to orbit. … Major pucker factor, really, is like the only way to describe it.”
NASA Issues RFI For In-Space Propulsion Concepts To Power Deep Space Gateway.
Behind a paywall, Aviation Week (7/19) reported that NASA “issued a request for information (RFI) for in-space electric propulsion concepts which could potentially power the agency’s proposed Deep Space Gateway, a research station that would serve as a waypoint for human missions to the Moon and Mars.” Specifically, NASA seeks “data for the power and propulsion element (PPE) which would be capable of propelling the spaceport into transfer orbits as well as maintaining various lunar orbital paths for at least 15 years.” Aviation Week quoted William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator at NASA for human exploration and operations, who said on July 12 at the AIAA Power and Energy forum in Atlanta that the PPE concept will have “lots of commonality with commercial satellite communications buses, and we are going to Intelsat and other companies asking them what is available bus-wise.”
Study: Companies “Scrambling” For Software Engineers For Machine Learning, Data Sciences.
USA Today (7/20, Swartz) reports that according to a new study from LinkedIn, “demand for the nation’s more than 1.8 million software engineers has hundreds of companies scrambling for talent in machine learning and data sciences.” The competition for talent, the study says, is particularly fierce in “cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston and New York, where start-ups and established companies are dangling six-figure salaries, benefits and the chance to do interesting research.”
Glassdoor Releases List Of Most In-Demand Jobs That Pay Over $100K.
CNBC (7/20, Hess) reports Glassdoor released a list of the most in-demand jobs that pay more than $100,000. Software engineer was 20th on the list and, according to Glassdoor, it is a position that needs to be filled at Raytheon. Hardware engineer was also on the list (#18) and Glassdoor lists that as a position of need for Cisco Systems.
Apple Launches Promotional Campaign To Win Chinese Consumers To Apple Pay.
The South China Morning Post (HKG) (7/17, Tao) reported that Apple “is launching a large-scale promotion by offering special discount for consumers who use its mobile payment method in mainland China, where third-party mobile payments are dominated by rival Chinese technology giants Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings.” Between July 18 and 24, consumers using Apple Pay to make payments in certain designated online and offline merchants in mainland China that accept UnionPay’s quick pass service “will receive discounts of up to 50 per cent and as much as 50 times the usual amounts of reward points for credit cards, according to Apple’s official Chinese website.” A total of 28 offline retail stores, supermarkets and restaurants such as 7-Eleven, Watsons, Starbucks and Burger King, and 16 online merchants including bike-sharing app Mobike, online travel app Ctrip as well as JD.com, will be participating in the campaign, according to Apple. Near Field Communications World (7/17, Clark) reported the story as well, as did CNET News (7/17, Chong).
Apple Names Isabel Ge Mahe As Vice President Of Greater China. CNBC (7/19, Kharpal) reported that “Apple has created a major new executive role in China and appointed the head of its wireless technologies unit to run it, reporting into CEO Tim Cook, as the technology giant struggles with falling sales in the world’s second-largest economy.” Isabel Ge Mahe will take up the role of Vice President and Managing Director of Greater China, Apple said in a statement on Tuesday. In Ge Mahe’s role heading up the wireless team, she focused on the development of cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, location, and other technologies for many of Apple’s products. She has also overseen the engineering teams developing Apple Pay, HomeKit and CarPlay. CNET News (7/19, Chong) reported the story as well.
IBM Partners With Arrow Electronics To Help Grow IoT in Asia Pacific.
Zacks Investment Research (7/20) reports IBM has partnered with Arrow Electronics to “deliver pioneering solutions to accelerate the growth of Internet of Things (IoT) in Asia Pacific.” Zacks adds that the partnership will make it possible for “Arrow’s ideation-to-production services to integrate with IBM’s Watson Internet of Things (IoT) platform,” which would help its customers in Asia Pacific and provide them with analytic platforms, cloud and security technologies.
Engineering and Public Policy
Senate Measure To Establish Energy Sector Cybersecurity Pilot Program.
The Lewiston (ME) Sun Journal (7/18, Collins) reports, “With hackers taking aim at America’s electric grid, including nuclear plants, Maine’s two senators are pushing legislation they hope will keep the lights on.” Five senators back a bill that “would set up a two-year pilot program to look for security vulnerabilities in the energy sector and to figure out how the Department of Energy can isolate the nation’s power grid from attacks.”
Source Says LIPA Rejects Planned Offshore Wind Project, Solar Farm.
Newsday (NY) (7/20, Harrington) reports LIPA has denied a proposal to construct the New York’s “largest solar farm in woodlands around the shuttered Shoreham nuclear plant, saying the project faced an uphill climb for permits and lacked community support, a senior LIPA official said Thursday.” LIPA “also declined a proposal to construct a second, larger offshore wind farm beside one it has already contracted Deepwater Wind for off the Rhode Island coast.”
Bipartisan Bill Would Promote Computer Science Careers For Girls.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal (7/20) reports that Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) have sponsored legislation “to encourage girls under age 10 to explore careers in computer science.” The paper notes that Rosen “as a young woman…became a programmer during a period when the industry was male-dominated.” The piece quotes Rosen saying, “Despite the progress we’ve made, fewer than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are women. This disparity is depriving our country of talented minds that could be working on our most challenging problems.”
Education Tech Firm Releases Coding Lessons.
THE Journal (7/20) reports education technology firm Wonder Workshop, which “produces a pair of robots for use by kids has just released lessons to help young students learn how to code.” The company, “which makes the Dash and Dot robots, worked with Kodable to develop the curriculum,” which introduces “students to robotics as well as programming concepts.”
Illinois Program Teaches Latina Girls To Code.
The Will County (IL) Herald News (7/20) reports on the Latina Girls Code program at the Spanish Community Center in Joliet, Illinois, which introduces Latina girls to coding concepts such as HTML and Python. The Chicago-based program “has spread to diverse communities such as Joliet to offer free technology education for girls ages 7 through 17.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• FIRST Global Challenge Ends With Celebration.
• New York AG Investigates Debt Collection Practices Of Private Student Loan Giant.
• Army Research Lab Seeking To Build Autonomous UAVs.
• Apple Names Isabel Ge Mahe As Vice President Of Greater China.
• Fresno County, California To Implement Bio-Engineered Mosquitoes In Effort To Reduce Pest Population.
• States See Opportunities To Improve Science Instruction Under ESSA.
• Study: Humans Have Produced 18.2 Trillion Pounds Of Plastic, Most Discarded.