Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • What You Missed in We the Geeks: “Weather is Your Mood and Climate is Your Personality”

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    Summing up the distinction between short-term changes in the weather and long term climate trends in today’s "We the Geeks" Hangout, Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, President of the American Meteorological Society, used nine simple words: "weather is your mood and climate is your personality." He later highlighted a need among scientists to correct the misperception that cold snaps disprove climate change, comparing it to the rationale: “because its night time, the sun went away.”

    Those insights and more were shared at today’s "We the Geeks" Google+ Hangout on the "Polar Vortex" and Extreme Weather.

    The live discussion kicked off with an explanation of the mechanics of the polar vortex phenomenon by leading National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Arctic Researcher Jim Overland, who said the shape of the circulating vortex of cold air—when it’s stable—is actually "just like the vortex going out of your bathtub." (You can watch a two-minute explainer video of the Polar Vortex by President Obama’s Science Advisor John P. Holdren, here).

  • Strengthening the Intersection of Science and Justice

    Today the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) named the inaugural members of their jointly created National Commission on Forensic Science—an expert advisory committee that will provide independent advice to the Justice Department in the important domain of forensic science.

    Contrary to the widespread public impression generated by “CSI” and other popular crime programs, many forensic science disciplines are still maturing and all are subject to degrees of uncertainty and misinterpretation. The reliability of forensic techniques and practices—some of which are more than a century old and others of which are still in early stages of development in research labs—varies widely. And as a seminal report by the National Research Council of the National Academies concluded in 2009, there is considerable variation in the standards for forensic disciplines, and the skill levels of professionals working in the field.

  • New Steps to Strengthen the Nation’s Energy Infrastructure

    This article is cross-posted from WH.gov

    Today, President Obama signed a memorandum establishing the federal government’s first Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) process, fulfilling an important commitment from his Climate Action Plan and ensuring that federal energy policies continue to meet the nation’s economic, environmental, and security goals. Over the next four years, the QER will provide a comprehensive review of these policies in the context of a changing energy landscape.

    The ways that this country produces and uses energy are changing in ways that few people could have predicted a decade ago. As an Administration we've pursued an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and, as a result, we are now more energy secure than at any time in recent history, and we have cut our carbon pollution in the process. We have more than doubled our production of electricity from wind and solar since the President took office, and we have set a goal to double it again by 2020. 

    We are also producing more of our own conventional fuels. The United States is now the number one natural gas producer in the world, and, for the first time in decades, the United States is now producing more oil at home than it imports from abroad. These are important steps to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and responsibly leverage our nation’s home-grown energy resources.

  • Obama Administration Extends International Space Station until at Least 2024

    As more than 30 heads of space agencies from around the world prepare to gather in Washington January 9-10 for an unprecedented summit on the future of space exploration, we are pleased to announce that the Obama Administration has approved an extension of the International Space Station (ISS) until at least 2024.  We are hopeful and optimistic that our ISS partners will join this extension effort and thus enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory for at least another decade.  

    The extension of ISS operation will allow NASA and the international space community to accomplish a number of important goals. 

    First, it will allow NASA to complete necessary research activities aboard the ISS in support of planned long-duration human missions beyond low-Earth orbit—including our planned human mission to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s.  NASA has determined that research on ISS is necessary to mitigate fully 21 of the 32 human-health risks anticipated on long-duration missions.  A related critical function of ISS is testing the technologies and spacecraft systems necessary for humans to safely and productively operate in deep space.  Extending ISS until 2024 will give us the necessary time to bring these systems to maturity.

    Second, ISS extension will extend the broader flow of societal benefits from research on the Station.  Research conducted on the ISS has already resulted in a number of discoveries with significant medical and industrial implications.  Medical examples include potential vaccines for Salmonella and antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, and a microencapsulation technique for delivering cancer treatment drugs to tumors without affecting healthy cells. Additionally, technologies advanced by the ISS have led to robotic surgical techniques that are opening the door to successful removal of tumors that were previously considered inoperable.

  • We the Geeks: “Polar Vortex” and Extreme Weather

    Watch today's "We the Geeks" at 2:00 p.m. ET right here, or on the White House Google+ page.


    Here at the White House, while we’re beginning to thaw from this week’s bone-chilling deep freeze, our discussions about the science of weather extremes are heating up. 

    We know that no single weather episode proves or disproves climate change. Climate refers to the patterns observed in the weather over time and space – in terms of averages, variations, and probabilities. But we also know that this week’s cold spell is of a type there’s reason to believe may become more frequent in a world that’s getting warmer, on average, because of greenhouse-gas pollution.

    Join us this Friday, January 10th at 2:00 p.m. ET for We the Geeks: "Polar Vortex" and Extreme Weather, for a conversation with leading meteorologists, climate scientists, and weather experts about why temperatures dipped to such frigid lows this week, how weather experts turn raw data into useful forecasts, and what we know about extreme weather events in the context of a changing climate. 

  • We the Geeks Takes a Look at the Future of Computing

    Note: This live event has concluded. Watch the full video below, or on YouTube.

    From early personal computers to the World Wide Web to the tablets and smartphones many Americans hold so closely today, we’ve come a long way in the development of technology for computing devices and it’s safe to say it won’t stop here. This week, all eyes in the tech industry will focus on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show 2014, or CES, where we can peek into the future as new computing breakthroughs will be unveiled and showcased.

    In concert with CES, and building on the moment from December’s Computer Science Education Week, join us on January 8th at 2pm ET for We the Geeks: Future of Computing, as we explore what possibilities the future of computing may bring – from wearables to Holodecks – and what’s needed to get there! 

    Tom Kalil and Cristin Dorgelo from the White House Office of Science and Technology will join Mark Papermaster, Chief Technology Officer at Advanced Micro Devices, Alex Kipman of Microsoft Kinect, Alicia Gibb of the Open Source Hardware Association, and Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus Rift to discuss:

    • What new computing advancements might we see in the next few years? What about 10-15 years from now?
    • What are the technological breakthroughs that need to happen to get there?
    • And finally, what might be the impact of the ever growing intelligent connection of people, processes, data and things?