Deep cuts to US science budget


FYI, from The American Institute of Physics, reports today that the Trump administration has targeted federal science programs for significant reductions, which, FYI notes, “will not be evenly apportioned.” They go on to say,

The National Institutes of Health, for instance, is slated for a reduction of nearly $6 billion, or about 20 percent of its current budget. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science is on the hook for a $900 million, or 17 percent, reduction. Funding for the near-$300 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would be zeroed out. NASA science programs, meanwhile, are targeted for only minor cutbacks, and at least one program, Planetary Science, would even see a funding boost….

Some agencies, notably the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, are not directly mentioned in the blueprint. The administration’s intentions for NSF and NIST, as well as for many programs within agencies that the blueprint does mention, may not be known until the release of the president’s full budget request, which is anticipated in May.

Energy and health evidently will take the biggest hits. The money that is saved will presumably be put toward a $50 billion increase in the Defense budget. To paraphrase something I think I heard on the radio today, they will not fight Zika until the disease crosses our borders and enters the country – by which time it will be far too late. They will also find, in case it is not obvious, that it is easier to close an agency than to start it up again from scratch.

Nye-Ham debate tonight


Bill Nye will debate Ken Ham tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Apparently Mr. Nye accompanied Mr. Ham on a guided tour of the “Ark”, and their interaction is billed as a “second debate.” Their debate will be live-streamed tonight. I have a conflict and will not be able to watch it; I assume it will be pulled and offered on DVD in return for money. If anyone wants to watch it and comment here, I will not try to stop them.

A Global Warming Primer: book review


I have just sent a copy of this splendid book, A Global Warming Primer: Answering Your Questions about the Science, the Consequences, and the Solutions, to Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, in honor of his claim, reported under the headline E.P.A. Chief Doubts Consensus View of Climate Change, that

I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so, no, I would not agree that it’s [carbon dioxide] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.

and further

We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.

The last comment reminded me not only of Big Tobacco but also of a remark that I think is attributable to Jared Diamond, approximately, “The person who cut down the last palm tree on Easter Island was probably calling for another study.”

If Mr. Pruitt has any doubt about the reality of global warming and our contribution to it, Jeffrey Bennett’s short book should quickly dispel that doubt. The book is written at perhaps a ninth-grade level, but a nonexpert like me can also learn a lot by reading it. Mr. Bennett uses a clear question-and-answer format and says that global warming is as simple as 1-2-3:

Trithemis aurora


Photograph by Diogenes. Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Trithemis aurora – male crimson marsh glider dragonfly. Photograph taken at the quaint village of Likeng, Jiangxi Province, China, which is bisected by canals used by the villagers for transportation on rafts.