Monday, December 20, 2010

Patt Morrison for Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

1-3 p.m.





1:06 – 1:39




1:41 – 1:58:30

Separating the politics from the science, Obama administration releases new guidelines

The Bush administration was blasted for tainting science with politics, perhaps most notably in 2006, when scientist James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute, accused White House officials of preventing him from talking about findings that linked carbon emissions to global warming. Now after a long delay, the Obama administration is releasing its guidelines to wall off science from politics. The four-page document prohibits agencies from editing or suppressing reports and says scientists are generally free to speak to journalists and the public about their work. It also instructs agencies to describe both optimistic and pessimistic projections, one guideline experts feel might have helped the administration avoid overly optimistic estimates during this year’s BP oil spill.  But not everyone thinks the wall is high enough—some scientists say the guidelines are too general, give too much discretion to the government agencies and leave open the possibility of another Hansen episode. Reading between the lines, what do the guidelines say and are they strict enough to keep science objective?




Al Teich (TIKE, like Bike), Director of Science & Policy Programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science



  • Thinks they’re a much-needed step in the right direction



Roger Pielke Jr. (PELL-key), professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado



  • Believes the guidelines are pretty thin, they leave almost complete discretion to the agencies so their significance depends on how the agencies follow through. 
  • It also isn’t clear how they’ll relate to departments in the White House like OMB and CEQ, where there have been a number of issues raised about science and politics.




2:06 – 2:30

FCC to approve net neutrality, touching off a new battle over the future of the internet

The Federal Communications Commission, like the rest of Washington D.C. these days, is a divided and partisan commission—so it’s not surprising that on something as controversial as new internet guidelines, shaped by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and widely referred to as “net neutrality” for its open access mandate, ideological outlooks guided the commissioners decisions.  It’s also not surprising that nobody is particularly happy with the outcome.  The net neutrality rules are designed to keep open and fair access to broadband, specifically by preventing the nation’s biggest telecommunication companies from walling off their corners of the internet.  The FCC’s three Democrats are voting in favor of net neutrality with hesitation, criticizing the plan’s allowance of tiered access to specific internet services.  The two Republican commissioners are voting against it, saying that net neutrality is government interference in the free market of the internet.  How will the little guys in all of this, the end internet users, feel about net neutrality?




Michael Copps, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission



Art Brodsky, communications director, Public Knowledge



  • Public Knowledge is a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group working to defend citizens' rights in the emerging digital culture.
  • Public Knowledge along with numerous other consumer groups wrote a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski urging him to keep the internet open. 


Scott Cleland, Chairman of, a pro-competition forum supported by broadband interests and President of Precursor LLC and industry consulting firm



  • Precursor is an industry research and consulting firm, specializing in the coverage of the techcom sector. Their mission is to help techcom companies anticipate change for competitive advantage. 




2:30 – 2:39

Imagine being able to read every book ever published….it could happen soon

If you were able to read every book published over the last 200 years you’d probably have a pretty good idea of the political, social, scientific, religious, cultural and ethnic trends in society—an individual book tells one story, but put together millions of books can tell the story of the human race.  Technology is making it possible to capture and analyze the billions of words used to write the millions of books published in recent history, which is showing us how we’ve grown and changed as a society.  Researchers at Google and Harvard’s engineering school are hard at work scanning as many books as possible into a 500-billion-word database that grows by the day.  In a paper published in the journal Science they tracked the frequency with which words were used (references to God have been dropping off since 1830), how generations have looked at the history of their predecessors (references to past years have been dropping off more quickly as cultures shift their focus to the present) and how we’ve historically viewed celebrities (modern fame both accrues and fades faster now than a century ago).  Patt takes you into the fascinating, and growing, world of cultural anthropology.



Jean-Baptiste Michel, postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University




2:45 – 2:58:30

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…….no, it’s a flying car!

It’s almost 2011 and yet the world of the Jetsons still seems far off.  People have been dreaming of flying cars for decades, while the drivers of Los Angeles dream about flying cars every day as they sit in traffic commuting to and from work.  The prototypes still need a lot of work and there is nothing close to any kind of workable regulatory structure in place to deal with millions of flying cars buzzing around our skies, but the reality of a flying machine that you can park in your garage every night is getting closer.  Entrepreneurs, NASA and the Pentagon are all working individually, and in some cases collaboratively, to construct a flying car that is commercially and aerodynamically viable.  This year a dune buggy type vehicle that uses a parachute and prop engine was approved for flight by the FAA and for use on the road by the state of Florida.  Could a robot maid be far behind?



Sharon Weinberger, national security & technology reporter for Popular Mechanics; author of the article in the January issue, “Driving on Air”






Jonathan Serviss

Producer, Patt Morrison Program

Southern California Public Radio

NPR Affiliate for Los Angeles

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