Science

Trump’s Tech Week did not make America great
Mon, 26 Jun 2017 15:12:53 -0400
It was a full house last week at the White House as President Donald Trump opened his doors to a gaggle of tech CEOs to talk about modernizing the U.S. government. Among the all-star lineup: Apple's Tim Cook, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and Alphabet's Eric Schmidt. This week, they're gone. They leave behind desks at departments key to bringing the government into the 21st century that have remained empty months into Trump's presidency. Trump has yet to appoint a science adviser, which breaks with decades of practice in Republican and Democratic administrations. That adviser typically heads up the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which among other things advises the government on everything from artificial intelligence to climate change. Senators have issued letters pleading with the president to fill out the OSTP staff, which is down to 37 from well over 100 during the Obama administration, according to a source familiar with the organization's staffing list. Other departments important to innovation efforts are almost comically understaffed. The U.S Digital Service, for example, is looking to recruit, via a blog post published earlier this month. And for anyone paying attention, they'll realize that this is actually the issue facing the government's efforts to modernize.  So! The White House "Tech Week" is now in the books, and aside from some quality photo ops, it's unclear if anything's actually gonna come from it. "Tech week" looks headed for the same fate as "infrastructure week"—punchlines for the Trump administration's tendency to focus on branding, over getting actual work done, as controversy swirls around his presidency.  So is Tech Week still a thing? — Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 23, 2017 Now, with "tech" having been addressed, the administration's on to "energy week" while pushing a budget that will slash research and development spending. Politico calls it "the deepest cuts in innovations investments that any administration has ever proposed." The silver lining? It's not really in Trump's hands.  "There’s a couple of interesting things that you quickly realize when you go to work in tech policy. [One] is that the federal government has very little directive power to do much of anything," said Michael Daniel, who currently works as president of the Cyber Threat Alliance and formerly served as special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator at the White House.  "In order to be effective in tech policy you actually have to build a lot of consensus among industry and other elements to persuade [tech companies] that you've got a direction that they want to go," Daniel continued. In other words, it can't happen in a week. But the Trump administration also can't really undo all the work that was done under Barack Obama's administration. The government pushed out several initiatives related to the tech sector under the former president. Most notably, Tech Hire was a campaign launched in March 2015 to expand the tech industries in local economies by building talent pipelines in those communities. Those programs don't necessarily need Trump to succeed. Initiatives like Tech Hire still exists, led by the nonprofit Opportunity@Work, and are thriving in some areas such as Atlanta. John C. Yates, the partner-in-charge of the technology practice at the law firm Morris, Manning & Martin, is referred to many as the godfather of Atlanta's tech scene.  Yates said that Tech Hire, while it may be an Obama-era program, aligns with the current administration's goal for a strong American economy.  "You can’t grow the economy unless you grow the workforce. We can either increase immigration (which the current administration has not been in favor of) or you can better train the workforce here," Yates said.  Beyond Atlanta, another bipartisan effort exists. The Tech Jobs Tour, launched earlier this year, is a private effort dedicated to placing talent in tech jobs. Leanne Pittsford, who runs the group Lesbians Who Tech, founded the tour, while Megan Smith—formerly chief technology officer under the Obama administration—serves as an adviser.  "There's conversation outside of the administration. Where is opportunity, and what do I have access to? It's meeting people where they are," said Mitali Chakraborty, chief experience officer at Tech Jobs Tour.  "No one wants to be the next Silicon Valley. They just want to be the best version of their city," Chakraborty said. "They know it’s the identity of their own city and their future." They aren't turning a blind eye to the administration, of course.  "We just feel like we have a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do on the state level, the local level, the private level," Chakraborty said. "Regardless of who’s in office, we’re doing the work ... businesses are going to keep starting and stopping, the economy is going to keep moving. I always say red states, blue states, it doesn’t matter. Jobs are purple. WATCH: Take your summer picnics to the next level with this portable grill


New Zealand law student launches climate change court case
Mon, 26 Jun 2017 03:03:08 -0400
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand law student is taking the government to court in hopes of forcing it to set more ambitious climate change targets.


How to Watch the Eclipse? Airline Flight Will Chase Solar Phenomenon as It's Happening
Mon, 26 Jun 2017 14:42:39 -0400
The last total solar eclipse that was visible in the United States happened in 1918. Airplane technology has advanced quite a bit in the last 100 years, and Alaska Airlines is going to provide the best view possible to one of the rarest astronomical phenomena. The flight is invitation-only, but beginning July 21 the airline will hold a contest across Alaska's social channels to win a seat on the flight.


App allows tech workers to anonymously speak out
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 21:57:41 -0400
Employees share their experiences of workplace bullying and victimization


Blue Origin will build its rocket engine in Alabama because the space industry is ruled by politics
Mon, 26 Jun 2017 16:08:15 -0400
Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine. Today, private spaceflight venture Blue Origin announced its plans to manufacture the company’s new rocket engine, the BE-4, at a state-of-the-art facility in Huntsville, Alabama. On the surface, it’s a seemingly innocuous decision meant to capitalize on Huntsville’s decades-long history of rocket development.


China's verdant 'forest city' will fight pollution with a million plants
Tue, 27 Jun 2017 16:17:26 -0400
If tree-covered skyscrapers act like enormous air filters, this cluster of buildings will be a clean air oasis. China has broken ground on a "forest city" in the southern city of Liuzhou. The development, which will span two-thirds of a mile along the Liujiang River, involves blanketing offices, apartments, hotels, and schools with more than a million plants and about 40,000 trees. SEE ALSO: How drones are helping to plant trees The verdant towers will help soak up urban air pollution, produce clean oxygen, and boost local biodiversity. The greenery also provides shade on sunny days and acts as an insulating blanket during winter, allowing tenants to use less heating and electricity. Liuzhou Forest City will span 175 hectares, or 0.67 miles, along the Liujiang River.Image: stefano boeri architettiIf the concept sounds familiar, that's because these buildings are the work of Stefano Boeri Architetti, the same architecture firm behind the two "vertical forest" buildings planned for Nanjing in eastern China.  Liuzhou city officials commissioned the Italian company to build the development, which will host about 30,000 people and be connected to the main Liuzhou city — population 3.8 million — via a fast-rail line used by electric cars. The forest city, now under construction, is expected to be completed by 2020, the Milan-based architects confirmed by email. 'Vertical forest' buildings in the Liuzhou development.Image: stefano boeri architettiThe development is a flashy but tiny effort to combat the dangerous smog and toxic air pollution that's choking China's industrialized cities. It comes as China is building more wind and solar power than any country in the world to slash emissions from coal plants, factories, and vehicles, and to combat climate change. Stefano Boeri's firm, which recently completed two verdant towers in Milan, is planning to expand into other smoggy cities, including China's Shijiazhuang, Guizhou, Shanghai, and Chongqing. In the Liuzhou Forest City, buildings, parks, and gardens will absorb almost 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide and 57 tons of fine dust pollutants per year, while producing about 900 tons of oxygen, the architects said in a press release.  By comparison, the two green towers in Nanjing will absorb 25 tons of carbon dioxide and produce 0.06 tons of oxygen.  An electric railway will link the 'forest city' to the main Liuzhou city.Image: stefano boeri architettiBeyond sucking up toxic air, the urban greenery is also expected to stifle noise pollution and support biodiversity by providing a habitat for the local birds, insects, and small animals that inhabit Liuzhou. The project will include residential areas, commercial and recreational spaces, plus two schools and a hospital. Along with plants, the buildings will also feature rooftop solar panels to produce clean electricity and use geothermal energy systems for interior air-conditioning. Stefano Boeri Architetti said the Liuzhou Forest City represents its broader effort to design a "new generation" of architecture and urban environments to address climate change. WATCH: China's big, beautiful, green 'vertical forests' will suck up toxic smog


Hong Kong shark art protests at fin trade
Tue, 27 Jun 2017 04:47:46 -0400
A towering shark fin sculpture is the latest addition to Hong Kong's harbourfront as part of an artistic push against the infamous trade. Hong Kong is one of the world's biggest markets for shark fin, which is viewed by many Asians as a delicacy and is often served as a soup at expensive Chinese banquets. Hosted at the Maritime Museum in central Hong Kong, it is a stone's throw from the neighbourhood of Sheung Wan, where dried seafood stores sell the fins.


World Food Prize goes to African Development Bank president
Mon, 26 Jun 2017 16:35:01 -0400
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The son of a Nigerian farm laborer who rose out of poverty to earn graduate degrees in agricultural economics and spent his career improving the availability of seed, fertilizer and financing for African farmers is the winner of this year's World Food Prize announced Monday.


World mayors urge G20 leaders to 'save the planet'
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 22:22:47 -0400
Dozens of city mayors from around the world -- including Washington, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo and Sydney -- on Monday called on G20 leaders to stick to their commitments on tackling climate change. In light of US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate change pact "the resolve of the other 19 leaders at the upcoming G20 Summit to safeguard the future of our planet is more important than ever," the statement added.


Google Earth Heads to the Classroom With National Geographic and PBS
Mon, 26 Jun 2017 14:05:01 -0400
Google Earth Heads to the Classroom With National Geographic and PBS




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