Little Green Men? Pulsars Presented a Mystery 50 Years Ago
By Calla Cofield, Space.com Senior Writer |
Fifty years ago this month, a small group of astronomers made a revolutionary cosmic discovery — explaining a phenomenon that they initially thought might come from an intelligent alien civilization.
In November 1967, Jocelyn Bell (now Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell), a graduate student at Cambridge University in England, made what turned out to be the first detection of a pulsar — an incredibly dense ball of material formed when a massive star runs out of fuel and collapses in on itself. In the time since the discovery of pulsars, the objects have provided insight about the life cycle of stars and extreme states of matter, and provided evidence that supports Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity. There are currently efforts underway to use pulsars to detect gravitational waves, or ripples in the fabric of the universe, and another to use pulsars as part of a space-based navigation system.
Pulsars spin rapidly, while simultaneously radiating opposing beams of radio waves out into space. The setup is similar to a lighthouse that spins around one up-and-down axis and radiates two beams of light from a second axis. To ships on the water, the steady beams looks like a light pulsing on and off. The same is true for pulsars; if one of the beams happens to sweep across the Earth, it appears to astronomers as though the object is blinking or pulsing. [What Are Pulsars?]
Bell Burnell was studying objects using a radio telescope she helped build at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, outside Cambridge, under the supervision of her adviser, Antony Hewish, who designed the instrument. The telescope was intended to help study the radio cosmos using a technique called interplanetary scintillation. Hewish intended to use this method on objects called quasars, or incredibly bright centers of massive galaxies, illuminated by material swirling around monster black holes. Quasars vary in brightness, and Hewish thought the interplanetary scintillation technique was appropriate for identifying those changes.
“We were looking far beyond [what could be seen with] optical telescopes,” Hewish told the BBC of the radio astronomy he and his colleagues were doing then. “You felt very privileged actually. It was like opening a new window onto the universe, and you were the first people to have a look out through and see what was there.”
Bell Burnell was in charge of operating the telescope and analyzing the data, according to an article she wrote for Cosmic Search Magazine in the 1970s. Using this technique, Bell Burnell spotted an object that appeared to be flickering every 1.3 seconds; this pattern repeated for days on end. The object didn’t match the profile of a quasar. The signal conflicted with the generally chaotic nature of most cosmic phenomenon, the researchers would later explain. In addition, the light was of a very specific radio frequency, whereas most natural sources typically radiate across a wider range.
For those reasons, Bell Burnell, Hewish and some other members of the astronomy department had to acknowledge that they might have found an artificially created signal — something emitted by an intelligence species. Burnell even labeled the first pulsar LGM1, which stood for “little green men 1.”
A second discovery
Bell Burnell would later report that Hewitt called a meeting without her, in which he discussed with other members of the department how they should handle presenting their results to the world. While their fellow scientists might practice restraint and skepticism, it was likely that the possible detection of an intelligent alien civilization could create chaos among the public, the scientists said. The press would very likely blow the story out of proportion and descend on the Cambridge researchers. According to Hewitt, one person even suggested (perhaps only partly joking) that they burn their data and forget the whole thing.
Years later, Burnell wrote that she was rather annoyed at the appearance of the strange signal for another reason. As a graduate student, she was trying to get her thesis work done before her funding ran out, but work on the pulsar was taking away from her primary pursuit.
“Here I trying to get a Ph.D. out of a new technique, and some silly lot of little green men had to choose my aerial and my frequency to communicate with us,” she wrote in the article for Cosmic Search Magazine.
But then, Bell Burnell resolved the problem. She went back through some of the data from the radio array and found what looked like a similar, regularly repeating signal, this one coming from an entirely different part of the galaxy. That second signal indicated that this was a family of objects, rather than a single civilization trying to make contact.
“It finally scotched the little green men hypothesis,” Bell Burnell said in the a BBC documentary filmed in 2010. “Because it’s highly unlikely there’s two lots of little green men, on opposite sides of the universe, both deciding to signal to a rather inconspicuous planet, Earth, at the same time, using a daft technique and a rather commonplace frequency.”
“It had to be some new kind of star, not seen before,” she said. “And that then cleared the way for us publishing, going public.”
In 1974, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Hewish, along with radio astronomer Martin Ryle, “for their pioneering research in radio astrophysics: Ryle for his observations and inventions, in particular of the aperture-synthesis technique, and Hewish for his decisive role in the discovery of pulsars.” The omission of Bell Burnell’s name as a contributor to the pulsar discovery has stirred controversy among scientists and members of the public, though Bell Burnell has not publicly contested the Nobel committee’s decision.
Calla Cofield joined the crew of Space.com in October, 2014. She enjoys writing about black holes, exploding stars, ripples in space-time, science in comic books, and all the mysteries of the cosmos. She has been underground at three of the largest particle accelerators in the world. She’d really like to know what the heck dark matter is. Prior to joining Space.com Calla worked as a freelance science writer. Her work has appeared in APS News, Symmetry magazine, Scientific American, Nature News, Physics World, and others. From 2010 to 2014 she was a producer for The Physics Central Podcast. Previously, Calla worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (hands down the best office building ever) and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. Calla studied physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is originally from Sandy, Utah. Contact Calla via: E-Mail – Twitter
Calla Cofield, Space.com Senior Writer on
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In the history of complex life on earth — more than half a billion years — there have been five mass extinctions. Each of them is clearly evident in the fossil record, and leaves dramatic chemical markers in the soil and rock layers below. All of them also represent significant jolts to the fundamental mechanisms that keep life on this plant going.
Plants, for example, are constantly hard at work cranking out the oxygen that the rest of us need to breathe. If something happens to that supply — like most plants on earth suddenly dying off — then we’d be screwed.
Up to now, there’s been strong evidence that, because of human activity, we are sprinting towards the sixth great mass extinction. New data suggest that we’re closer to the brink than we might think, and humanity is dangerously close to crossing critical thresholds.
Mass Extinctions, be they caused by a meteor, or an ancient supervolcano, or anything else, are invariably preceded by massive jolts to the carbon cycle — a network of natural systems that moves carbon molecules around the planet. In a new paper in Science Advances, professor of geophysics at MIT, Daniel Rothman, asserts that there are two types of carbon disruptions that cause mass die-offs.
The first says that if the carbon cycle changes over long periods — thousands or millions of years– extinctions occur when ecosystems cannot adapt. For faster shifts, the magnitude, not the rate of change, determines how likely an extinction event will be.
Using models, Rothman asserts that humans will have crossed that marker by 2100. Carbon, he says, will build up in the ocean. After we dump about 310 gigatons of extra carbon into the seas, we will have hit a point that would not only be disastrous climatologically, but systemically. Over the next few thousand years, we could expect the vast majority of species on earth to die off. While life would surely adapt, such an event would amount to permanent, irreparable damage to Earth’s biodiversity. And, it means that human industry would be about as destructive as the largest of space rocks.
“This is not saying that disaster occurs the next day,” Rothman told Phys.org. “It’s saying that, if left unchecked, the carbon cycle would move into a realm which would be no longer stable, and would behave in a way that would be difficult to predict. In the geologic past, this type of behavior is associated with mass extinction.”
We could be facing trouble much earlier, though, and Rothman worries that the world may already be in dire straits by 2100.
Rothman’s paper focused exclusively on the carbon cycle. It’s a system that balances the chemical output of photosynthesis — plants’ primary means of making energy — and respiration — the mechanism that animals and other complex life uses. Over time, carbon falls to the bottom of the ocean — either due to currents or the steady sifting of dead material and detritus from the waters above. That locks it away for millions of years, and works a planet-wide storage system.
Over the past few hundred years, humans have been dredging up a lot of that excess carbon in the form of fossil fuels, and pumping it back out into the atmosphere. That’s more than overwhelmed Earth’s ability to sequester the element.
Rothman used data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that predicted how much carbon will hit the oceans in the coming decades. The IPCC looked at four possible outcomes for human carbon emissions, estimating the impact of each. The worst case scenario would dump over 500 gigatons of carbon into the oceans by 2100 — well over the critical threshold. The best case scenario wasn’t that much better though, adding a whopping 300 gigatons. If these data prove accurate, we’re in big trouble. Not that we already weren’t, but… yeah.
Everyone from David Bowie to astrobiologists to tinfoil hat believers has pondered the question: is there life on Mars? While we’ve found direct evidence of liquid water on the Red Planet, we have yet to find any microbes there. But not all hope is lost—new discoveries from NASA’s Curiosity rover have brought forth more compelling evidence of habitability on Mars. I mean, in theory, all that life has been dead for billions of years, but still.
Researchers studying Curiosity’s data say the rover has detected boron in the 3.8 billion year-old Gale crater. Boron is an element that can catalyze the formation of RNA—or ribonucleic acid, the single-stranded carbon copy of DNA found in all living cells—when dissolved in water. The boron was discovered in calcium sulfate mineral veins suggestive of ancient groundwater, so the team believes this could mean at least some of the water once present in Gale Crater had conditions favorable to the emergence of life. The findings have been published in the Geophysical Research Letters.
“Because borates may play an important role in making RNA—one of the building blocks of life—finding boron on Mars further opens the possibility that life could have once arisen on the planet,” the study’s lead author, Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, said in a statement. “Borates are one possible bridge from simple organic molecules to RNA. Without RNA, you have no life. The presence of boron tells us that, if organics were present on Mars, these chemical reactions could have occurred.”
Hopefully, NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover will be able to answer the many lingering questions we have about ancient Martian life. According to Los Alamos National Laboratory, this rover will be specially equipped with a “SuperCam” that can “search for signs of past life” on Mars. (More about that instrument’s capabilities here.) Fingers crossed we find something—humanity really needs a win right now.
Stephen Hawking’s Breakthrough Listen project has detected mysterious signals that could be coming from intelligent alien life.Astronomers working to identify alien civilizations picked up 15 repeated fast radio bursts (FRBs) from a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light years away from Earth.
It’s unclear if the signals, observed over a 30-minute period, emanate from black holes, rotating neutron stars, or if they represent signs of alien life.
Hawking founded the Breakthrough Listen project to investigate — and identify — signs of intelligent life in the universe. Russian internet billionaire Yuri Milner is also behind the initiative.
The 15 signals came from FRB 121102. Astronomers had previously detected radio pulses coming from the same source.
But the recent signals were observed at a higher frequency than previous signals.
Breakthrough Listen postdoctoral researcher Vishal Gajjar discovered the activity, which was reported by the Astronomer’s Telegram.
“These are the highest frequency and widest bandwith detections of bursts from FRB 121102 obtained to-date,” the report said. “These observations may indicate FRB 121102 is currently in a heightened activity state, and follow-on observations are encouraged, particularly at higher radio frequencies.”
What the Rise of Sentient Robots Will Mean for Human Beings
Science fiction may have us worried about sentient robots, but it’s the mindless ones we need to be cautious of. Conscious machines may actually be our allies.
Jun.19.2017 / 12:45 PM ET
The series T-800 Robot in the “Terminator” movie franchise is an agent of Skynet, an artificial intelligence system that becomes self-aware. | Paramount/Courtesy Of Everett CollectionZombies and aliens may not be a realistic threat to our species. But there’s one stock movie villain we can’t be so sanguine about: sentient robots. If anything, their arrival is probably just a matter of time. But what will a world of conscious machines be like? Will there be a place in it for us?
Artificial intelligence research has been going through a recent revolution. AI systems can now outperform humans at playing chess and Go, recognizing faces, and driving safely. Even so, most researchers say truly conscious machines — ones that don’t just follow programs but have feelings and are self-aware — are decades away. First, the reasoning goes, researchers have to build a generalized intelligence, a single machine with the above talents and the capacity to learn more. Only then will AI reach the level of sophistication needed for consciousness.
But some think it won’t take nearly that long.
“People expect that self-awareness is going to be this end game of artificial intelligence when really there are no scientific pursuits where you start at the end,” says Justin Hart, a computer scientist at the University of Texas. He and other researchers are already building machines with rudimentary minds. One robot wriggles like a newborn baby to understand its body. Another robot babbles about what it sees and cries when you hit it. Another sets off to explore its world on its own.
No one claims that robots have a rich inner experience — that they have pride in floors they’ve vacuumed or delight in the taste of 120-volt current. But robots can now exhibit some similar qualities to the human mind, including empathy, adaptability, and gumption.
Beyond it just being cool to create robots, researchers design these cybernetic creatures because they’re trying to fix flaws in machine-learning systems. Though these systems may be powerful, they are simple. They work by relating input to output, like a test where you match items in column ‘A’ with items in column ‘B’. The AI systems basically memorize these associations. There’s no deeper logic behind the answers they give. And that’s a problem.
Humans can also be hard to read. We spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing ourselves and others, and arguably, that’s the main role of our conscious minds. If machines had minds, they might not be so inscrutable. We could simply ask them why they did what they did.
“If we could capture some of the structure of consciousness, it’s a good bet that we’d be producing some interesting capacity,” says Selmer Bringsjord, an AI researcher at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. Although science fiction may have us worried about sentient robots, it’s really the mindless robots we need to be cautious of. Conscious machines may actually be our allies.
ROBOT, KNOW THYSELF
Self-driving cars have some of the most advanced AI systems today. They decide where to steer and when to brake by taking constant radar and laser readings and feeding them into algorithms. But much of driving is anticipating other drivers’ maneuvers and responding defensively — functions that are associated with consciousness.
“Self-driving cars will have to read the minds of what other self-driving cars want to do,” says Paul Verschure, a neuroscientist at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.
As a demonstration of how that might look, Hod Lipson, an engineering professor at Columbia University and co-author of a recent book on self-driving cars, and Kyung-Joong Kim at Sejong University in Seoul, South Korea built the robotic equivalent of a crazy driver. The small round robot (about the size of a hockey puck) moves on a loopy path according to its own logic. Then a second robot is set with the goal of intercepting the first robot no matter where the first one started, so it couldn’t record a fixed route; it had to divine the moving robot’s logic.
People expect that self-awareness is going to be this end game of AI when really there are no scientific pursuits where you start at the end.
Using a procedure that mimicked Darwinian evolution, Lipson and Kim crafted an interception strategy. “It had basically developed a duplicate of the brain of the actor — not perfect, but good enough that it could anticipate what it’s going to do,” Lipson says.
Lipson’s team also built a robot that can develop an understanding of its body. The four-legged spidery machine is about the size of a large tarantula. When switched on, its internal computer has no prior information about itself. “It doesn’t know how its motors are arranged, what its body plan is,” Lipson says
But it has the capacity to learn. It makes all the actions it is capable of to see what happens: how, for example, turning on a motor bends a leg joint. “Very much like a baby, it babbles,” Lipson says. “It moves its motors in a random way.”
After four days of flailing, it realizes it has four legs and figures out how to coordinate and move them so it can slither across the floor. When Lipson unplugs one of the motors, the robot realizes it now has only three legs and that its actions no longer produce the intended effects.
“I would argue this robot is self-aware in a very primitive way,” Lipson says.
Could Robots Create a ‘Jobless Future’ for Humans?
Another humanlike capability that researchers would like to build into AI is initiative. Machines excel at playing the game Go because humans directed the machines to solve it. They can’t define problems on their own, and defining problems is usually the hard part.
In a forthcoming paper for the journal “Trends in Cognitive Science,” Ryota Kanai, a neuroscientist and founder of a Tokyo-based startup Araya discusses how to give machines intrinsic motivation. In a demonstration, he and his colleagues simulated agents driving a car in a virtual landscape that includes a hill too steep for the car to climb unless it gets a running start. If told to climb the hill, the agents figure out how to do so. Until they receive this command, the car sits idle.
Then Kanai’s team endowed these virtual agents with curiosity. They surveyed the landscape, identified the hill as a problem, and figured out how to climb it even without instruction.
“We did not give a goal to the agent,” Kanai says. “The agent just explores the environment to learn what kind of situation it is in by making predictions about the consequence of its own action.”
The trick is to give robots enough intrinsic motivation to make them better problem solvers, and not so much that they quit and walk out of the lab. Machines can prove as stubborn as humans. Joscha Bach, an AI researcher at Harvard, put virtual robots into a “Minecraft”-like world filled with tasty but poisonous mushrooms. He expected them to learn to avoid them. Instead, they stuffed their mouths.
“They discounted future experiences in the same way as people did, so they didn’t care,” Bach says. “These mushrooms were so nice to eat.” He had to instill an innate aversion into the bots. In a sense, they had to be taught values, not just goals.
In addition to self-awareness and self-motivation, a key function of consciousness is the capacity to focus your attention. Selective attention has been an important area in AI research lately, not least by Google DeepMind, which developed the Go-playing computer.
“Consciousness is an attention filter,” says Stanley Franklin, a computer science professor at the University of Memphis. In a paper published last year in the journal “Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures,” Franklin and his colleagues reviewed their progress in building an AI system called LIDA that decides what to concentrate on through a competitive process, as suggested by neuroscientist Bernard Baars in the 1980s. The processes watch for interesting stimuli — loud, bright, exotic — and then vie for dominance. The one that prevails determines where the mental spotlight falls and informs a wide range of brain function, including deliberation and movement. The cycle of perception, attention, and action repeats five to 10 times a second.
The first version of LIDA was a job-matching server for the U.S. Navy. It read emails and focused on pertinent information while juggling each job hunter’s interests, the availability of jobs, and the requirements of government bureaucracy.
Since then, Franklin’s team has used the system to model animals’ minds, especially behavioral quirks that result from focusing on one thing at a time. For example, LIDA is just as prone as humans are to a curious psychological phenomenon known as “attentional blink.” When something catches your attention, you become oblivious to anything else for about half a second. This cognitive blind spot depends on many factors and LIDA shows humanlike responses to these same factors.
Pentti Haikonen, a Finnish AI researcher, has built a robot named XCR-1 on similar principles. Whereas other researchers make modest claims — create some quality of consciousness — Haikonen argues that his creation is capable of genuine subjective experience and basic emotions.
The system learns to make associations much like the neurons in our brains do. If Haikonen shows the robot a green ball and speaks the word “green,” the vision and auditory modules respond and become linked. If Haikonen says “green” again, the auditory module will respond and, through the link, so will the vision module. The robot will proceed as if it heard the word and saw the color, even if it’s staring into an empty void. Conversely, if the robot sees green, the auditory module will respond, even if the word wasn’t uttered. In short, the robot develops a kind of synesthesia.
Conversely, if the robot sees green, the auditory module will respond, even if the word wasn’t uttered. In short, the robot develops a kind of synesthesia.
“If we see a ball, we may say so to ourselves, and at that moment our perception is rather similar to the case when we actually hear that word,” Haikonen says. “The situation in the XCR-1 is the same.”
Things get interesting when the modules clash — if, for example, the vision module sees green while the auditory module hears “blue.” If the auditory module prevails, the system as a whole turns its attention to the word it hears while ignoring the color it sees. The robot has a simple stream of consciousness consisting of the perceptions that dominate it moment by moment: “green,” “ball,” “blue,” and so on. When Haikonen wires the auditory module to a speech engine, the robot will keep a running monolog about everything it sees and feels.
Haikonen also gives vibration a special significance as “pain,” which preempts other sensory inputs and consumes the robot’s attention. In one demonstration, Haikonen taps the robot and it blurts, “Me hurt.”
“Some people get emotionally disturbed by this, for some reason,” Haikonen says. (He and others are unsentimental about the creations. “I’m never like, ‘Poor robot,’” Verschure says.)
A NEW SPECIES
Building on these early efforts, researchers will develop more lifelike machines. We could see a continuum of conscious systems, just as there is in nature, from amoebas to dogs to chimps to humans and beyond. The gradual progress of this technology is good because it gives us time adjust to the idea that, one day, we won’t be the only advanced beings on the planet.
For a long while, our artificial companions will be vulnerable — more pet than threat. How we treat them will hinge on whether we recognize them as conscious and as capable of suffering.
“The reason that we value non-human animals, to the extent that people do, is that we see, based on our own consciousness, the light of consciousness within them as well,” says Susan Schneider, a philosopher at the University of Connecticut who studies the implications of AI. In fact, she thinks we will deliberately hold back from building conscious machines to avoid the moral dilemmas it poses.
“If you’re building conscious systems and having them work for us, that would be akin to slavery,” Schneider says. By the same token, if we don’t give advanced robots the gift of sentience, it worsens the threat they may eventually pose to humanity because they will see no particular reason to identify with us and value us.
Judging by what we’ve seen so far, conscious machines will inherit our human vulnerabilities. If robots have to anticipate what other robots do, they will treat one another as creatures with agency. Like us, they may start attributing agency to inanimate objects: stuffed animals, carved statues, the wind.
Last year, social psychologists Kurt Gray of the University of North Carolina and the late Daniel Wegner suggested in their book “The Mind Club” that this instinct was the origin of religion. “I would like to see a movie where the robots develop a religion because we have engineered them to have an intentionality prior so that they can be social,” Verschure says. ”But their intentionality prior runs away.”
These machines will vastly exceed our problem-solving ability, but not everything is a solvable problem. The only response they could have to conscious experience is to revel in it, and with their expanded ranges of sensory perception, they will see things people wouldn’t believe.
“I don’t think a future robotic species is going to be heartless and cold, as we sometimes imagine robots to be,” Lipson says. “They’ll probably have music and poetry that we’ll never understand.”
A mysterious pit recently observed on Martian surface in its Southern Hemisphere. (Source: NASA JPL/Cal Tech/U. of Arizona)
Before boring deeper into this question (and yes I was trying to be cute….”boring into the pit”….get it? Ok, I digress), I want to explore some of the other features in the image. The image is provided by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). According to NASA’s website, MRO was launched in 2005 to
search for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars for a long period of time. While other Mars missions have shown that water flowed across the surface in Mars’ history, it remains a mystery whether water was ever around long enough to provide a habitat for life.
Carbon dioxide is an atmospheric gas made of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. In its frozen, solid state, carbon dioxide is known as dry ice. Rather than melting into liquid carbon dioxide, like water ice melts into liquid water, dry ice sublimates directly into carbon dioxide gas when the temperature reaches about -79 degrees C (-110 degrees F).
There is no conclusive answer at this point on what it may be according to Lisa May, formerly Lead Program Executive for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters. May is the founder and CEO of Murphian Consulting LLC. She provides planning, execution, and systems engineering services to clients ranging from tech startups to the UAE Space Agency. She messaged me the context of these fascinating missions
Right now, there are six operating spacecraft in orbit around Mars—two from Europe, one from India, and three NASA ones. NASA’s most recent orbiter, MAVEN, was launched in 2013 to learn how Mars lost its atmosphere, and the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter is currently aerobraking into its final orbit where it will study Mars’ atmospheric composition.
May also added the MRO has been sending stunning high-resolution images of Mars for over a decade, but she is quick to point out another part of its mission
Besides supporting Mars science, the images are used to select landing sites for rovers and landers.
Dr. Marshall Shepherd, Dir., Atmospheric Sciences Program/GA Athletic Assoc. Distinguished Professor (Univ of Georgia), Host, Weather Channel’s Sunday Talk Show, Weather (Wx) Geeks, 2013 AMS President
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The Trump administration is seeking to slash the budget of one of the government’s premier climate science agencies by 17 percent, delivering steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs, according to a four-page budget memo obtained by The Washington Post.
The proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would also eliminate funding for a variety of smaller programs, including external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and “coastal resilience,” which seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas.
NOAA is part of the Commerce Department, which would be hit by an overall 18 percent budget reduction from its current funding level.
The Office of Management and Budget also asked the Commerce Department to provide information about how much it would cost to lay off employees, while saying those employees who do remain with the department should get a 1.9 percent pay increase in January 2018. It requested estimates for terminating leases and government “property disposal.”
The OMB outline for the Commerce Department for fiscal 2018 proposed sharp reductions in specific areas within NOAA such as spending on education, grants and research. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent, of the funds it has under the current budget. Its satellite data division would lose $513 million, or 22 percent, of its current funding under the proposal.
The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service would be fortunate by comparison, facing only 5 percent cuts.
The figures are part of the OMB’s “passback” document, a key part of the annual budget process in which the White House instructs agencies to draw up detailed budgets for submission to Congress. The numbers often change during the course of negotiations between the agency and the White House and between lawmakers and the administration later on. The 2018 fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
A spokesperson for the Commerce Department declined to comment. A White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the process was “evolving” and cautioned against specific numbers. The official would not respond to questions about the four-page passback document.
The biggest single cut proposed by the passback document comes from NOAA’s satellite division, known as the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, which includes a key repository of climate and environmental information, the National Centers for Environmental Information. Researchers there were behind a study suggesting that there has been no recent slowdown in the rate of climate change — research that drew the ire of Republicans in Congress.
Another proposed cut would eliminate a $73 million program called Sea Grant, which supports coastal research conducted through 33 university programs across the country. That includes institutions in many swing states that went for President Trump, such as the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, the University of Florida and North Carolina State University.
The OMB passback said that the administration wanted to “prioritize rebuilding the military” and would seek “savings and efficiencies to keep the Nation on a responsible fiscal path.” It said that its proposed funding cut for the Commerce Department “highlights the tradeoffs and choices inherent in pursuing these goals.”
The OMB also said that the White House would come up with ideas to modernize “outdated infrastructure,” but it said that agencies should not expect increases in their fiscal 2018 discretionary-spending “toplines” as a result.
On Wednesday, after his confirmation, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that drawing up a budget would be a top priority. “One of the first steps,” he said, “will be securing adequate appropriations from the Congress. In a period of budgetary constraint, that will be a major challenge.”
The OMB passback document said that the Commerce Department, like other agencies, should “buy and manage like a business.” It urged the department to explore greater use of privately owned commercial satellites and commercial cloud services while submitting to the OMB a plan to retire or replace “at least one high priority legacy IT system” beginning in 2018.
Many scientists warned that the deep cuts at NOAA could hurt safety as well as academic programs.
Conrad Lautenbacher, a retired vice admiral who was the NOAA administrator under President George W. Bush, said, “I think the cuts are ill timed given the needs of society, economy and the military.” He added, “It will be very hard for NOAA to manage and maintain the kind of services the country requires” with the proposed cuts.
Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator under President Barack Obama, said that 90 percent of the information for weather forecasts comes from satellites. “Cutting NOAA’s satellite budget will compromise NOAA’s mission of keeping Americans safe from extreme weather and providing forecasts that allow businesses and citizens to make smart plans,” she said.
Rick Spinrad, a former chief scientist for NOAA, said: “NOAA’s research and operations, including satellite data management, support critical safety needs. A reduced investment now would virtually guarantee jeopardizing the safety of the American public.”
NOAA released a time lapse of satellite imagery from Sept. 27 to Sept. 30 that shows Tropical Storm Matthew moving into the Caribbean Sea, where it became a hurricane. (NOAA)
He said that weather warnings for tornadoes and hurricanes could be compromised and that navigational capacity used to help guide commercial ships and other mariners would suffer, leaving them without the “improved forecasts they need to safely maneuver coastal waters.” It could become harder to warn of tsunamis and forecast weather that will cause power outages.
David Titley, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University who served as NOAA’s chief operating officer in the Obama administration, said that “oddly” the White House budget office, despite the president’s commitment to building infrastructure, would cut NOAA’s budget for ships and satellites. “These cuts will impact good private-sector jobs in the U.S.,” Titley said. “The loss of capability will make America weaker both in space and on the sea — a strange place to be for an administration that campaigned to ‘make America great again.’ ”
Chris Mooney and Abby Phillip contributed to this report.
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(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)
Research collaboration a key to global partnership between China and UK
By Jo Johnson | September 21, 2016, Wednesday | ONLINE EDITION
Jo Johnson, UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation
RACING against time to find a new antibiotic that will prevent 10 million people every year dying from common infections. Creating new strains of rice that can feed more people while cutting down on polluting fertilizers. Finding commercial, scale-able applications for a new material a single atom in thickness. Pinning down exactly how and how badly air pollution harms human health so we can take the best measures to protect ourselves. Crunching huge amounts of data to predict in much more detail what climate change will mean for specific communities and how they can best adapt.
What do all these have in common? They are just a few of the many areas where UK and Chinese scientists, innovators and businesses are working together. It is why research collaboration is one of the most important parts of the global partnership with the UK that President Xi Jinping announced during his state visit last year.
The global challenges we face are huge. And there is an obvious and natural reason why the UK and China are such strategic scientific partners.
The UK has four of the top 25 research universities in the world – the rest of the world outside the US contributes just two. In the past 15 years, we’ve won 14 Nobel prizes for science, again more than any other country than the US. Although we only make up less than one percent of the world’s population, we contribute one in every seven of the most highly cited scientific papers. From television to the internet, from DNA fingerprinting to Maglev trains, UK innovation has shaped the modern world.
This won’t change. Earlier this month the first scientists moved into the biggest biomedical research institute in Europe – the Francis Crick Institute in London. The UK government has also confirmed that we will guarantee funding for collaborative research with other EU countries as part of Horizon 2020, if it is successfully applied for before we leave the EU. So the hugely valuable work we are doing under Horizon 2020 will continue. Internationally, the UK will be the global headquarters for the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array, and we’ve just signed up as full members of the major new particle accelerator – European Spallation Source – which will be bigger than CERN.
And the story in China is equally impressive. In the past 20 years, China’s R&D budgets have grown by a massive 40 times, making it today the second biggest scientific funder in the world. And Innovation runs through the core of the 13th Five Year Plan, with ambitious targets in 13 major areas.
It is no wonder then that the UK has overtaken Japan to become China’s second largest scientific collaboration partner as measured by joint papers. Nor is it a surprise that such collaboration is bearing fruit. Independent citation data shows that when UK and Chinese scientists work together their results are more widely read and have more impact than when either works alone.
The Pujiang Innovation Forum later this week – where the UK is country of honor – is an opportunity both to celebrate that success and to plan for the future. We are bringing out 150 top scientists – including the Nobel Prize winner Kostya Novoselov who invented that one atom thick material, grapheme – led by me and by our government Chief Scientific Adviser, Mark Walport. We’ll be making some exciting announcements including the opening up in Shanghai of a new joint UK-China center for plant and microbial science.
In my job as Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation I get to see many examples of British scientific excellence and collaboration around the world. But none is more exciting and more significant than the work that the UK and China are doing, together, to push forward human understanding and through scientific endeavor build a better world.
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I am a devout life long Christian yet I have for most of my adult life debated how Christians (for the most part) are so oblivious to reality and to the Truths that are shown us in the Bible. So many people who believe in the Bible as the Holy Spirit Inspired Word Of God (as I also do) tend to read the Bible with ‘Church Doctrine’ blinders on. Back in the time of the Apostles and the time that Jesus walked the Earth when they taught in the Synagogues the people studied the Scriptures to see if what they were being taught was the truth or not. Just because your Preacher or a Church Elder, Bishop, or if you are Catholic, even the Pope, tells you something it is your Christian obligation to search out the Scriptures to see if what you are being told is Biblical.
Reality is that the ignorance of Christians/Churches have convinced millions if not billions of people throughout history to turn their backs on the Jewish and the Christian faith. Right from the very first book of the Bible (Genesis) Christians and Jews do not understand what we are so plainly being told. Yes the world and all in it were created in six days, but those six days are not, were not, human days, they were God’s days. I nor any other human knows what one of God’s days represent compared to a human day but Scripture tells us over and over again that God’s days are not our days yet humans keep trying to make that be so anyway. Even in our own solar system every single planet that circles the sun has a different amount of our hours in one of their days. Some will, through their ego’s say, well why didn’t Moses just lay it all our for us so we could know exactly everything? Folks, almost all of the humans that were alive about 3,600-3,700 human years ago calculated time through their own ancestors which normally only traversed back 3, 4, or 5 generations at best. Do you honestly think if Moses had started teaching them of thinks that happened 3 or 4 billion years ago that these people would have listened to him? What if Moses had started laying out the lineage of Dinosaurs, what do you think they would have done? My guess is that the people have shunned him for being a crazy man.
Most all of us know some about the story of Adam and Eve from the first two chapters of Genesis but my question to everyone is, just how well have you read it? Have you just taken the word of the Church you attend as to what the Scripture actually is telling us all? Please reread the first two chapters. If you will notice in the first chapter Adam was created but before His creation God created ‘men and women, and, God created He them’. After God had created multiple ‘men and women’ God created Adam. Now in the first chapter, after God did all of His creating of those ‘Six Days’, God rested from His work on the 7th day. Then after all His work was done and He had created the first group of people (the Gentiles) and Adam, then in chapter #2 God then created Eve to be a help mate for Adam. Folks, the ‘promised one, the Messiah, Jesus The Christ’ lineage is traced back through the ‘Royal Blood Line’ to Adam. There were two human creations, the gentiles, and the Royal Blood Line of Adam. Adam and Eve were about 5,500 human years ago yet humans were on this planet many thousands of years before this time. Jesus Himself referred to us Gentiles as “people before this time whom were not a people”. Jesus was pointing out that before His time here on Earth, before His Resurrection that salvation was only to the Jews and to no one else. So, people who were not a people, Gentiles! These are simple truths laid out in writing for us all to see yet we choose to remain blind. Think about a few things we are told here in the beginning of Genesis. After Cain had murdered his brother Able God banished Cain to the East of Eden in the land of Nod. God put a mark on the forehead of Cain so that “all who find him would not kill him”, folks, all of who? There were only 3 people left on the planet right, just Cain, his Mom Eve and his Dad Adam, so all of whom? Then after Cain had been banished he took a wife, wait a minute, where did she come from? Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible/Torah through the guidance of God’s Spirit, whom we tend to call the Holy Spirit from the New Testament. The Truth of the Scriptures are right before our eyes, but we have been trained not to see the real Truth. We have been taught Church doctrines instead which has run many millions away from God’s teachings.
If Moses had told the people of his time that the world was abbot 4-5 billion years old and that the planet we call Earth had started with a big interstellar bang what do you think the people would have done to him? At the very least they would have thought him to be crazy and no one would have paid him any mind. To my Christian and Jewish brothers, yes there were such thing as dinosaurs and there has been life on this planet for several hundred millions of human years. I did not say that there has been human life here on Earth for hundreds of millions of our years, just life itself. God does not want us to be ignorant for ignorance begets death, physical and spiritual. Science has pretty much discovered/proven that human life has been on this planet for about 100,000 years, not just the 5,000-5,500 years since Adam and Eve. I am not an archaeologist even though I am a huge fan of history. I know that science has been looking for the so-called ‘missing link’ between Primates and Humans for longer than I have been alive. This is like trying to find that pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, it doesn’t exist folks.
Evolution, is there such a thing? Of course there is folks. As an example I would like to use the people science calls Neanderthals. For most of my life time scientist have wondered what happened to them, why did they go extinct? Just like the people before them who bred with them the same thing happened to them, they were bred out of existence. You can breed cattle with buffalo and you get what is called beefalo. You can take oranges and breed them with tangerines and you get a product called tangelos. In Scripture the ‘House of Israel’ was forbidden to mix blood with any of the Gentiles, if they did then they were counted as not being pure. Humans did not crawl up out of the oceans and even though we have many of the same molecules of other creatures we did not derive from them and they did not derive from us. Today science can create a form of a human being through cloning and some would call this evolution, that we have evolved into a more pure condition but they are ignorant of reality. Science can play God, but they are not God. Just as if I could make an android and give it a human name like George, George is still not a human. The difference in these two creations of science and a real human being is that science can not create ‘a Soul’. It is the Soul that makes the conscientiousness that makes one human and only God can create the Soul. Is there such a thing as evolution, of course there is, just not to the extent that some scientist believe and or are trying to find or create.
Science has some things wrong, yet they do have many things correct. Churches have many things correct, yet they have many things wrong. It is the job of the Churches to teach the whole Truth but first the Churches must open their eyes to what the Scriptures actually say and to forget about ‘Church doctrines’. The Earth is a special place for it is designated to be “God’s Footstool”. Earth is where Jesus will reign from once the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven to replace the current city of Jerusalem once it has been totally destroyed after the Second Advent. Now, Christians, wake up to reality about other planets. Do you honestly think that if God is the Creator of all things in the Heavens and on the Earth that He created billions of planets for no purpose or reason at all? To the best of my knowledge I have never seen an alien yet I totally believe that they exist, it would be difficult to honestly believe other wise. Then again there is the issue of, what does an alien actually look like? Personally I have no idea, but I do doubt that they look like humans. Personally I believe in the existence of Angels, I also believe that I have seen and spoken with at least two in my lifetime. I also believe in the existence of Satan and of His Angels, to me, to not believe in both is Biblical ignorance. I personally do not know if I have ever spoken directly with any Demons but I think that there is a very good chance that I have several times. I know that I have experienced being in places and in the presence of a few people where the feeling of pure evil was like a stench in the air, you could feel it, you could almost taste it. Remember, if you spend your life trying to be good and trying your best to be the best follower of Christ that you know how to be, you make yourself a target for the hate of evil ones.
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(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News Paper)
China funds 18 bln yuan on science projects
Source: Xinhua | August 24, 2016, Wednesday | ONLINE EDITION
THE National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) has approved funding for 38,160 projects this year, with a total investment of more than 18 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion).
With a budget of 24.8 billion yuan for 2016, the NSFC received 177,551 applications as of August 16, it announced on Tuesday.
For programs exploring scientific frontiers, each has received an average 600,000 yuan investment. Those designated priority areas, such as quantum information technology, cosmic ray detection, and global environmental change, were each financed with 2.8 million yuan on average.
China has used its science fund to further develop basic science research and elevate the reputation of its academic papers, cutting-edge programs and research achievements.
During 2011 to 2015, the science fund financed nearly 200,000 programs, with around 88.8 billion yuan from state revenue and more than 1.7 billion yuan from other sources, according to NSFC figures.
To prevent misuse of funds, the foundation has issued regulations to ensure all the money is used appropriately.