Daily TIPs: Spin Detector, Science Advice, Designer Pigs, & More

9/18/08

National Academy Advises Candidates on Science

The National Academy of Sciences has issued a report advising the presidential candidates on how to deal with science-related issues. According to Ars Technica, the NAS says that most major issues for government, including climate, healthcare, and intelligence gathering, have some science and technology components. The group is calling for the next president to appoint a personal science advisor in his early days in office.

Obama Reveals Science Advisors

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is right on top of the science advisor issue. The campaign told Wired that the candidate is getting science advice from five noted scientists, including Nobel laureates Harold Varmus and Peter Agre. The magazine says Republican nominee John McCain has ignored repeated requests to identify his science advisors.

Software Teases Out Campaign Spin

Obama is a master of political spin, while McCain gave it to them straight during his convention speech, according to a computer scientist who claims his software can detect spin in political speeches. New Scientist reports that David Skillicorn of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, has developed an algorithm to analyze word usage in a speech. Among his assumptions: “I” is more honest than “we” and action verbs tend to indicate greater levels of spin.

FDA Issues Rules on Genetically Altered Animals

The Food and Drug Administration is issuing regulatory guidelines on the genetic engineering of animals, which experts say should help spur development in a potentially huge field. The Washington Post says the rules will let biotech companies know what the FDA expects to know about the development of bioengineered animals, from which snippets of DNA are being inserted into their genome to what is done with their bodies when they die. Biotechnologists hope to improve animals for food, as well as use them to produce medically useful substances.

Rural America Lagging in Broadband Access

Individuals and businesses in rural parts of the country are stuck with slow dial-up connections to the Internet because access providers don’t find it economically feasible to provide broadband access in sparsely populated areas, BusinessWeek reports. Only 38 percent of households in rural America have high-speed Internet connections, compared to 57 percent in cities and 60 percent in suburbs. Now a group called Connected Nation is trying to boost broadband availability, following the model of old rural electrification programs.

U.S. Exports Harmful E-Waste, Report Finds

Your old computer monitor may be contributing to pollution in Asia, according to a report from the federal Government Accountability Office. The GAO report found that many U.S. electronics recyclers are shipping cathode ray tubes overseas in violation of Environmental Protection Agency rules, and that other potentially toxic electronic waste is not even regulated, PC World reports.

Chemists Promise Photosynthesis in Lab as Fuel Source

Chemists are working on an artificial version of photosynthesis that could be used to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, which could then be used to power fuel cells. Nature says they’re optimistic—one MIT professor guarantees he’ll have a device for cheaply producing hydrogen in less than five years. A cheap source of hydrogen could revolutionize energy supply the professor, Dan Nocera, claims.

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