Archive | musings RSS for this section

Science Outlook – If Newt won the White House

What would science look like if Republicans won the White House in 2012? (Part 1 of 2)After hearing Former Speaker Gingrich’s promise that there will be colonies on the moon by 2020, and then the subsequent parodies by various comedians and Romney, I want to ask: what did you find yourself thinking?

Although I don’t believe that we should go back to the moon to settle colonies, Former Speaker Gingrich’s pandering to the space coast got me thinking about the foundation I had for the stress that with a republican in the White House we would lose all of the momentum in R&D we worked so hard to gain these last 3-4 years.  Where did I get this feeling? Because public debates rarely go into how candidates think about science and research and development.

Now a disclaimer: this post is all speculation based on limited research. I have merely looked into the past decisions, votes, and bills introduced by Gringrich (during the 104th Congress) and cherry picked the legislation that might hint at a passion and interest in science. This post is in no way guaranteeing that this will be the agenda that he will take.  I am only looking for patterns to help guide thinking about the candidates that are bombarding the news cycles.

And of course, the candidate will not be the only one who makes decisions on science, as if he does win the White House, it will also depend on who he will appoint to his cabinet positions and other key science positions. But again, this is just a small list to begin to think about the candidates from the viewpoint of what they can do for science, because R&D is not often talked about in national debates.

Gingrich perhaps was not just pandering to the space coast, but has always found an interest in space policy, since growing up during the space race. In an interview with The Space Review in 2006, he sees a lot of potential in large monetary prizes and tax incentives to encourage businesses and the private sector to be involved. Although many of these partnerships with the private sector are already happening and have been the efforts of the current (Obama) administration.

Energy and the Environment:
This is a bit difficult to tease out as there are instances where Newt has been a proponent of climate change going as far as doing a commercial with Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi in support of Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection and even authoring A Contract with the Earth, a book on green conservatism. However in recent months in during his campaign for the presidency he is on the same side of nearly every other republican candidate, expressing that the commercial was the “dumbest single thing I’ve done in the last few years”.

In addition, his quote about changing the EPA to the Environmental Solutions Agency (ESA) is a bit convoluted as he expresses the need for this agency to work with industry to build incentives rather than punishments. One specific example to keep an eye on is his proposal to incentivize “flex-fuel” vehicles.  However, these types of vehicles would need to broaden beyond just ethanol to not be seen as choosing ethanol as the “winner”.

Former Speaker Gingrich has a very strong commitment to education. He knows that prosperity and national security are tied into education. Although he does rely heavily on the charter school system, but as does Secretary Duncan (interview with Meet the Press).

As an additional disclaimer, this post in no way endorses Newt Gingrich. I just wanted to have a discussion about the speculations on the consequence of science if republicans were to win the White House. Did you catch any other articles I should take a look at? Tomorrow: Mitt Romney, what is the outlook for science if he wins the White House?

Another Idea for Empowering Women

Ok, I know, I know I was going to take a hiatus, but I couldn’t resist. I decided to use my Friday evening to do a bit of catching up on Twitter/Blogs. And the uproar about Womanspace caught my attention. As I do have the desire to encourage more women into STEM fields, it might be good to join the conversation and to means in which we think about empowering women. I perhaps have another vantage point than the blogsphere, but I want to propose another way of considering the feature.

Personally, I thought the story was somewhat of clever yet approachable way of complementing women. The men were portrayed as lazy and not capable of completing anything. (guys? are you offended?) “…these otherwise unemployed elderly men…not having to listen to us blather on about just where to pitch the book, and what to put in it.”  These men were not the ones bringing home the bacon! There is no indication that the wife wasn’t a scientist! The exact opposite: “which smacked of desperate snatching at straws to excuse incompetence, to the astrophysics-qualified wife.”

Basically, I thought it was a cute tongue-and-cheek way of including us women into the sci-fi sphere where we are most often left out. And as a sci-fi nerd, I was happy to be included and thought of highly as to be given the ability to travel through parallel universes as our male counterparts had absolutely no ability to. not even to get a pair of knickers.

But what I wanted to address in the blog post more specifically is whether it is helpful to point out that this essay/futures is something to be angry about or to complain about. Yes, I agree, it does have some domestic stereotyping, but I see this “stereotyping” as a means of bringing an obscure concept of “crossing parallel universes” into the realm of “believable”. or as a means of a story arc, setting up that our female powers of crossing parallel universes and being qualified astrophysicists are the norm.  Why not bring out the strength of the wife being the lead. She tells and instructs the men with a task. and not hone in on the fact that she’s doing something “domestic”.

I am not sure how or at what point the lack of females around me strengthened me, but whenever I realize that I am the only woman in the room, that is exactly what encourages me to find a way to be better than all those men. Not cower away. Yes, I do believe the data on inferiority stereotyping but why not find a way to counter inferiority stereotyping? Find a way to tell girls “hey, so you are one of the few girls in this room, go you!” how did it get into their heads in the first place that this is a problem? A part of me just thinks that attacking a story as being too “stereotyping in that it has a woman in a domesticated role” when it includes women as the dominating role in a sphere normally not open to women (scifi) is not a way to counter the problem of lack of women in government, business and science.

Perhaps broadly this is the stance of “why tell me that I am hitting a glass celling?”. “I would rather not know where the glass celling currently stands.”

I personally don’t want to go against NPG for this reason. Futures is the one feature I actually look forward to reading every month.

PS: this summer I saw an EXCELLENT image that would go great with this post. It was a cartoon vintage poster? that was of a little girl in a bubble helmet climbing into a spaceship and a little boy following her lead. The blogger had mentioned that this type of poster was rare for the time period because 1.) there was even a girl in the picture 2.) she was the lead. If a reader has seen this, please please bring this to my attention! I cannot for the life of me find this image. In which this dilemma actually makes me sad that in real life I do not have parallel universe jumping capabilities to be able to find the image I am searching for.