Mapping a better world

July 11, 2009

Mapping a better world

Jun 4th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Software: Interest groups around the world are using mapping tools and internet-based information sources to campaign for change
CONVINCING people about the evils of housing segregation can be tough, says Barbara Samuels, a campaigner for fair housing at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland. “People say, ‘What’s so bad about living in an all-black neighbourhood?’ ” she explains. But using a map that displays all the vacant houses in a segregated neighbourhood, how few jobs exist there and how little public transport is available, “you can show graphically how people are segregated from opportunity,” she says. “Maps help you take complex information and portray it in a clear, intuitive manner. You can show segregation in a way that talking about it doesn’t do.”

And compiling such maps is much easier than it used to be, thanks to new mapping tools and sources of information on the internet. Ms Samuels remembers, for example, the tedium of trying to draw basic data on maps by hand in the 1990s. But in 2005 she was able to use maps that displayed 14 indicators of opportunity—created for her by a mapping-technology specialist—to help win a housing-desegregation court case.

For most people it is merely a handy tool to find a nearby pizzeria or get directions to a meeting. But mapping technology has matured into a tool for social justice. Whether it is to promote health, safety, fair politics or a cleaner environment, foundations, non-profit groups and individuals around the world are finding that maps can help them make their case far more intuitively and effectively than speeches, policy papers or press releases.

“Today you are allowed to visualise data in ways you couldn’t even understand just a few years ago,” says Jeff Vining of Gartner, a consulting firm. Along with web-based resources, coalescence around more advanced tools has also helped, such as the emergence of ESRI, based in Redlands, California, as the market leader in mapping software. And the rise of open-source projects such as MapServer, PostGIS and GRASS GIS have made sophisticated mapping available to non-profit groups with limited resources.

Areas with fewer parks vs. obesityparks (lighter rather than darker green) have higher rates of childhood obesity (larger red circles)

All this has made it much easier to create maps that explain—at a glance—something that might otherwise require pages of tables or verbiage. “A percentage or a table is still abstract for people,” says Dan Newman of, a group based in Berkeley, California that charts the links between politicians and money. “With maps, you can show people how an abstract concept connects to where they live.” Wendy Brawer, founding director of, a mapping site based in New York used by people in 54 countries, says maps can make a point even if they are in a foreign language. “Maps are really helpful for that ‘Aha!’ moment,” she says.

For example, “The Grim Reaper’s Road Map: An Atlas of Mortality in Britain”, published in 2008, reveals that the places with the highest numbers of smokers also have the highest rates of death from lung cancer. No surprise there. But the collection of maps from a British publisher of public-policy books also shows that cervical cancer is more likely to strike those in the north of England, and brain cancer is more prevalent in the south of Scotland. Such revelations can lead to investigations and eventual health improvements.

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in Columbus, Ohio, which created the maps used in Ms Samuel’s ACLU court case, has made “opportunity” maps of several American cities. The aim is to help people find neighbourhoods where jobs, health care, safety and public transport are in better supply—or to spur the creation of more such neighbourhoods. Rob Breymaier of, a non-profit group that encourages people to “move to opportunity”, recalls using Kirwan’s maps in Chicago in 2006 to help a family of eight. “They ended up finding a place in the north-west suburbs, which is a huge change from Chicago’s south side,” he says. The children ended up in better schools and stayed out of trouble, he says.

Others have used maps to expose violence. was launched by four technologists to map citizen reports of post-election violence in Kenya last year using Google Maps. “We’re building a platform that makes it easier to gather information around a crisis so that governments, or whoever is trying to hide the crisis, can’t do it anymore,” says Erik Hersman, Ushahidi’s operations director.

Sequences of maps can also be used to debunk misconceptions. Many in Los Angeles were pleased, for example, to learn that gun violence had decreased since the mid-1990s. But by developing a series of maps showing where shootings continued to happen, a local non-profit group called Healthy City was able to show that for some Los Angelenos, gun violence was as bad as ever.

MAPlight used a similar time-lapse approach to show the influence of money on congressional votes. Starting in January 2007, it tracked which states (those growing sugar-beets and sugar-cane, it turned out) were making the most generous political donations in the run-up to a vote in July 2007 on subsidies for the sugar industry. But once the vote was tallied and the subsidy granted, states that had appeared bright red with political contributions suddenly revert to tan, indicating an instant drop in donations. “We make visible and real something that is usually invisible and abstract,” says Mr Newman.

Changing the way American politics is funded is a tall order. But some map-based campaigns have already produced clear results. For example, the Food Trust, a campaign group based in Philadelphia, used maps as part of its fight to reduce diet-related disease and malnutrition in urban parts of America. “I remember the first supermarket-commission meeting,” says Jennifer Kozlowski, special assistant for the environment to David Paterson, the governor of New York. “Some of the maps in the report mapped obesity-related deaths and access to produce markets. It was as clear as day that something needed to be done.” In January Mr Paterson announced the Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative, including $10m in grants and loans for supermarket projects in under-served communities.

Such examples underscore why campaigners are rushing to make the most of map technology. “We don’t just want to be about mapping,” says John Kim of Healthy City. “Maps don’t change the world—but people who use maps do.”

From: Victoria Hayden []
Sent: Thursday, June 11, 2009 2:58 PM

Support Habitat for Humanity Foreclosure Acquisiting Program Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version Tuesday, June 09 2009 @ 03:21 PM Habitat for Humanity Introduces Foreclosure Acquisition Program; Partners with the City of Menlo Park to Revitalize Neighborhoods Offers beacon of hope in the foreclosure crisis with combined initial investment of $1.0 million with the city for the first five homes

REDWOOD CITY, CALIF., May 27, 2009 — Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco today announced it has begun acquiring bank-owned homes as part of its new Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) — the first of its kind in the San Francisco Bay Area. Habitat has committed $500,000 to launch the program, which will enable new affordable homeownership opportunities for local working families following rehabilitation of the homes by Habitat.

Habitat Greater San Francisco has also entered into a groundbreaking new partnership with the city of Menlo Park, which is investing an additional $500,000 in the program. With this combined initial invest- ment of $1.0 million, Habitat plans to acquire and rehabilitate five vacant bank-owned properties in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park, with a possible program expansion following the initial pilot phase. Habitat made the announcement at the site of the first home under the program in Menlo Park. Habitat hopes to expand the program to other areas hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis.

“I have seen first-hand the impact of foreclosures on Menlo Park and know that we must take immediate action to address the problem” said Heyward Robinson, Mayor of Menlo Park. “I’m grateful that we have a community that is willing to step up and address this challenge when the federal and state governments couldn’t. I am very hopeful that the combined efforts of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco and the City of Menlo Park will prove successful and become a blueprint for other communities attempting to cope with the foreclosure crisis.” Read the rest of this entry »

From: Victoria Hayden []
Sent: Thursday, June 11, 2009 2:58 PM

Support Habitat for Humanity Foreclosure Acquisiting Program Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version Tuesday, June 09 2009 @ 03:21 PM Habitat for Humanity Introduces Foreclosure Acquisition Program; Partners with the City of Menlo Park to Revitalize Neighborhoods Offers beacon of hope in the foreclosure crisis with combined initial investment of $1.0 million with the city for the first five homes

REDWOOD CITY, CALIF., May 27, 2009 — Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco today announced it has begun acquiring bank-owned homes as part of its new Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) — the first of its kind in the San Francisco Bay Area. Habitat has committed $500,000 to launch the program, which will enable new affordable homeownership opportunities for local working families following rehabilitation of the homes by Habitat.

Habitat Greater San Francisco has also entered into a groundbreaking new partnership with the city of Menlo Park, which is investing an additional $500,000 in the program. With this combined initial invest- ment of $1.0 million, Habitat plans to acquire and rehabilitate five vacant bank-owned properties in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park, with a possible program expansion following the initial pilot phase. Habitat made the announcement at the site of the first home under the program in Menlo Park. Habitat hopes to expand the program to other areas hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis.

“I have seen first-hand the impact of foreclosures on Menlo Park and know that we must take immediate action to address the problem” said Heyward Robinson, Mayor of Menlo Park. “I’m grateful that we have a community that is willing to step up and address this challenge when the federal and state governments couldn’t. I am very hopeful that the combined efforts of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco and the City of Menlo Park will prove successful and become a blueprint for other communities attempting to cope with the foreclosure crisis.” Read the rest of this entry »


Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us
and What We Can Do About It
By Joshua Cooper Ramo
280 pages. Little, Brown & Company. $25.99.

The philosopher Isaiah Berlin famously divided thinkers into two categories:
hedgehogs (like Plato, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen and
Proust), who know one big thing and tend to view the world through the lens
of a single organizing principle, and foxes (like Herodotus, Shakespeare,
Montaigne, Goethe, Balzac and Joyce), who know many things and who pursue
various unrelated, even contradictory ends.

According to Joshua Cooper Ramo’s provocative new book, “The Age of the
Unthinkable,” one study — in which hundreds of experts in subjects like
economics, foreign policy and politics were asked to make predictions about
the short-term future and whose predictions were evaluated five years later
— showed that foxes, with their wide-ranging curiosity and willingness to
embrace change, tended to be far more accurate in their forecasts than
hedgehogs, eager for closure and keen on applying a few big ideas to an
array of situations.

It’s a finding enthusiastically embraced by Mr. Ramo, who argues in these
pages that today’s complex, interconnected, globalized world requires policy
makers willing to toss out old assumptions (about cause and effect,
deterrence and defense, nation states and balances of power) and embrace
creative new approaches. Today’s world, he suggests, requires resilient
pragmatists who, like the most talented Silicon Valley venture capitalists
on the one hand or the survival-minded leadership of Hezbollah on the other,
possess both an intuitive ability to see problems in a larger context and a
willingness to rejigger their organizations continually to grapple with
ever-shifting challenges and circumstances.

With this volume, Mr. Ramo, managing director at the geostrategic advisory
firm Kissinger Associates and a former editor at Time magazine, seems to
have set out to write a Malcolm Gladwellesque book: a book that popularizes
complicated scientific theories while illustrating its arguments with
colorful case studies and friendly how-to exhortations.

In drawing upon chaos science (explored in detail in James Gleick’s 1987
book, “Chaos”), complexity theory and the theory of disruptive innovation
(pioneered by the Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen),
Mr. Ramo does a nimble job of showing how such theories shed light on the
current political and economic climate while avoiding the worst pitfalls
(like an overreliance on suggestion and innuendo and the use of
unrepresentative examples) of Mr. Gladwell’s clumsy last book, “Outliers.”

But if Mr. Ramo is adept at assessing the precarious state of today’s
post-cold-war world — in which nation states face asymmetric threats from
the likes of terrorists, drug cartels and computer hackers — he proves much
less convincing in articulating practical means of grappling with such
daunting problems.

The central image that Mr. Ramo uses to evoke what he calls this “age of
surprise” is Per Bak’s sand pile — that is, a sand pile described some two
decades ago by the Danish-American physicist Per Bak, who argued that if
grains of sand were dropped on a pile one at a time, the pile, at some
point, would enter a critical state in which another grain of sand could
cause a large avalanche — or nothing at all. It’s a hypothesis that shows
that a small event can have momentous consequences and that seemingly stable
systems can behave in highly unpredictable ways.

It’s also a hypothesis that Mr. Ramo employs in this book as a metaphor for
a complex world in which changes — in politics, ecosystems or financial
markets — take place not in smooth, linear progressions but as sequences of
fast, sometimes catastrophic events.

Real-life sand-pile avalanches, like the collapse of the Soviet Union or the
1929 crash of the stock market, Mr. Ramo declares, demand “a complete
remapping of the world”: policymakers must junk a lot of their old thinking
to cope with this unpredictable new order.

For instance, many of the assumptions of the realist school of
foreign-policy making — which focused on nation states, “assumed countries
were rational, and made the bet that pure power was the solution to any
problem” — have been undercut by the irrationalities and contingencies that
have recently multiplied on the world stage.

As Mr. Ramo observes, “Theories that involve only armies and diplomats don’t
have much use” when “confronted with the peculiar nature of a financially
interconnected world, where danger, risk and profit are linked in ways that
can be impossible to spot and manage.”

To make matters even more complicated, Mr. Ramo continues, complex systems
“tend to become more complex as time goes on”:

“The systems never get simpler. There was no moment at which they would
evaporate or condense into a single, easy-to-spot target such as the
U.S.S.R. The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, for example, was a single very
knotty event that, in turn, gave birth to hundreds of jihadist groups, each
of which developed different methods of terror, particular techniques of
attack and destruction, which themselves were always changing and evolving.”

In this sand-pile world, a small group of terrorists armed with box cutters
can inflict a terrible blow on a superpower — as Al Qaeda did on 9/11, just
as bands of insurgents in Iraq managed to keep the mighty United States
military at bay for three long years.

Iraq, Mr. Ramo astutely notes, is a war that showcased all of America’s most
“maladaptive” tendencies. It was inaugurated on the premise of flawed idées
fixes: that it would have “a clean, fast end” and would lead to a democratic
regime that would transform the Middle East in a positive fashion. And the
certainty of Bush administration officials not only led to incorrect
assumptions (like the bet that “the ‘ecosystem’ of Iraq would settle into
something stable that could be left to run itself”) but also resulted in an
ill-planned and rigid occupation that was “incapable of the speedy
refiguring that life in a war zone” inevitably requires.

So how should leaders cope with the sand-pile world? How can they learn to
“ride the earthquake” and protect their countries from the worst fallout of
such tremors? Mr. Ramo suggests that they must learn to build resilient
societies with strong immune systems: instead of undertaking the impossible
task of trying to prepare for every possible contingency, they ought to
focus on things like “national health care, construction of a better
transport infrastructure and investment in education.”

He suggests that leaders should develop ways of looking at problems that
focus more on context than on reductive answers. And he talks about people
learning to become gardeners instead of architects, of embracing Eastern
ideas of indirection instead of Western patterns of confrontation, of seeing
“threats as systems, not objects.”

Though Mr. Ramo sounds annoyingly fuzzy and vaguely New Agey when he tries
to outline tactics for dealing with “the age of the unthinkable,” he’s at
least managed, in this stimulating volume, to make the reader seriously
contemplate the alarming nature of a rapidly changing world — a world in
which uncertainty and indeterminacy are givens, and avalanches, negative
cascades and tectonic shifts are ever-present dangers.

April 28, 2009
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

As Information Week said…
President Obama pledged to commit 3% of the U.S. gross domestic product to scientific research, development, and education, an amount that exceeds scientific funding during the height of the space race with the former Soviet Union in 1964.


It is my privilege to address the distinguished members of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as the leaders of the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine who have gathered here this morning.

I’d like to begin today with a story of a previous visitor who also addressed this august body.

In April of 1921, Albert Einstein visited the United States for the first time. His international celebrity was growing as scientists around the world began to understand and accept the vast implications of his theories of special and general relativity. He attended this annual meeting, and after sitting through a series of long speeches by others, he reportedly said, “I have just got a new theory of eternity.” I’ll do my best to heed this cautionary tale.

The very founding of this institution stands as a testament to the restless curiosity and boundless hope so essential not just to the scientific enterprise, but to this experiment we call America.

A few months after a devastating defeat at Fredericksburg, before Gettysburg would be won and Richmond would fall, before the fate of the Union would be at all certain, President Lincoln signed into law an act creating the National Academy of Sciences.

Lincoln refused to accept that our nation’s sole purpose was merely to survive. He created this academy, founded the land grant colleges, and began the work of the transcontinental railroad, believing that we must add “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery… of new and useful things.”

This is America’s story. Even in the hardest times, and against the toughest odds, we have never given in to pessimism; we have never surrendered our fates to chance; we have endured; we have worked hard; we have sought out new frontiers.

Today, of course, we face more complex set of challenges than we ever have before: a medical system that holds the promise of unlocking new cures and treatments – attached to a health care system that holds the potential to bankrupt families and businesses.  A system of energy that powers our economy – but also endangers our planet.  Threats to our security that seek to exploit the very interconnectedness and openness so essential to our prosperity. And challenges in a global marketplace which links the derivative trader on Wall Street to the homeowner on Main Street, the office worker in America to the factory worker in China – a marketplace in which we all share in opportunity, but also in crisis.

At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science. That support for research is somehow a luxury at a moment defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree. Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been.  And if there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it’s today.  

We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States.  This is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert.  But it is not a cause for alarm.  The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a Public Health Emergency as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively.  I’m getting regular updates on the situation from the responsible agencies, and the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control will be offering regular updates to the American people so that they know what steps are being taken and what steps they may need to take.  But one thing is clear – our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community.  And this is one more example of why we cannot allow our nation to fall behind.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened.

Federal funding in the physical sciences as a portion of our gross domestic product has fallen by nearly half over the past quarter century. Time and again we’ve allowed the research and experimentation tax credit, which helps businesses grow and innovate, to lapse.

Our schools continue to trail. Our students are outperformed in math and science by their peers in Singapore, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Korea, among others. Another assessment shows American fifteen year olds ranked 25th in math and 21st in science when compared to nations around the world.

And we have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas.

We know that our country is better than this.

A half century ago, this nation made a commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation; to invest in education, in research, in engineering; to set a goal of reaching space and engaging every citizen in that historic mission. That was the high water mark of America’s investment in research and development. Since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income – our GDP. As a result, other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation’s great discoveries.   

I believe it is not in our American character to follow – but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than three percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the Space Race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science. This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.

Just think what this will allow us to accomplish: solar cells as cheap as paint, and green buildings that produce all of the energy they consume; learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again; an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us. We can do this.

The pursuit of discovery half a century ago fueled our prosperity and our success as a nation in the half century that followed. The commitment I am making today will fuel our success for another fifty years. That is how we will ensure that our children and their children will look back on this generation’s work as that which defined the progress and delivered the prosperity of the 21st century.

This work begins with an historic commitment to basic science and applied research, from the labs of renowned universities to the proving grounds of innovative companies.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and with the support of Congress, my administration is already providing the largest single boost to investment in basic research in American history.

This is important right now, as public and private colleges and universities across the country reckon with shrinking endowments and tightening budgets. But this is also incredibly important for our future. As Vannevar Bush, who served as scientific advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt, famously said: “Basic scientific research is scientific capital.”  

The fact is, an investigation into a particular physical, chemical, or biological process might not pay off for a year, or a decade, or at all. And when it does, the rewards are often broadly shared, enjoyed by those who bore its costs but also by those who did not.

That’s why the private sector under-invests in basic science – and why the public sector must invest in this kind of research. Because while the risks may be large, so are the rewards for our economy and our society.

No one can predict what new applications will be born of basic research: new treatments in our hospitals; new sources of efficient energy; new building materials; new kinds of crops more resistant to heat and drought.

It was basic research in the photoelectric effect that would one day lead to solar panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce the CAT scan. The calculations of today’s GPS satellites are based on the equations that Einstein put to paper more than a century ago.

In addition to the investments in the Recovery Act, the budget I’ve proposed – and versions have now passed both the House and Senate – builds on the historic investments in research contained in the recovery plan.

We double the budget of key agencies, including the National Science Foundation, a primary source of funding for academic research, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which supports a wide range of pursuits – from improving health information technology to measuring carbon pollution, from testing “smart grid” designs to developing advanced manufacturing processes. And my budget doubles funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science which builds and operates accelerators, colliders, supercomputers, high-energy light sources, and facilities for making nano-materials. Because we know that a nation’s potential for scientific discovery is defined by the tools it makes available to its researchers.

But the renewed commitment of our nation will not be driven by government investment alone. It is a commitment that extends from the laboratory to the marketplace.

That is why my budget makes the research and experimentation tax credit permanent. This is a tax credit that returns two dollars to the economy for every dollar we spend, by helping companies afford the often high costs of developing new ideas, new technologies, and new products. Yet at times we’ve allowed it to lapse or only renewed it year to year. I’ve heard this time and again from entrepreneurs across this country: by making this credit permanent, we make it possible for businesses to plan the kinds of projects that create jobs and economic growth.

Second, in no area will innovation be more important than in the development of new technologies to produce, use, and save energy – which is why my administration has made an unprecedented commitment to developing a 21st century clean energy economy.

Our future on this planet depends upon our willingness to address the challenge posed by carbon pollution. And our future as a nation depends upon our willingness to embrace this challenge as an opportunity to lead the world in pursuit of new discovery.

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik a little more than a half century ago, Americans were stunned: the Russians had beaten us to space. We had a choice to make: we could accept defeat – or we could accept the challenge. And as always, we chose to accept the challenge.

President Eisenhower signed legislation to create NASA and to invest in science and math education, from grade school to graduate school. And just a few years later, a month after his address to the 1961 Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, President Kennedy boldly declared before a joint session of Congress that the United States would send a man to the moon and return him safely to the earth.

The scientific community rallied behind this goal and set about achieving it. And it would lead not just to those first steps on the moon, but also to giant leaps in our understanding here at home. The Apollo program itself produced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors to test for hazardous gasses; energy-saving building materials; and fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers. And, more broadly, the enormous investment of that era – in science and technology, in education and research funding – produced a great outpouring of curiosity and creativity, the benefits of which have been incalculable.  

The fact is, there will be no single Sputnik moment for this generation’s challenge to break our dependence on fossil fuels. In many ways, this makes the challenge even tougher to solve – and makes it all the more important to keep our eyes fixed on the work ahead.

That is why I have set as a goal for our nation that we will reduce our carbon pollution by more than 80 percent by 2050. And that is why I am pursuing, in concert with Congress, the policies that will help us meet this goal.

My recovery plan provides the incentives to double our nation’s capacity to generate renewable energy over the next few years – extending the production tax credit, providing loan guarantees, and offering grants to spur investment. For example, federally funded research and development has dropped the cost of solar panels by ten-fold over the last three decades.  Our renewed efforts will ensure that solar and other clean energy technologies will be competitive.

My budget includes $150 billion over ten years to invest in sources of renewable energy as well as energy efficiency; it supports efforts at NASA, recommended as a priority by the National Research Council, to develop new space-based capabilities to help us better understand our changing climate.

And today, I am also announcing that for the first time, we are funding an initiative – recommended by this organization – called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E.

This is based on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, which was created during the Eisenhower administration in response to Sputnik. It has been charged throughout its history with conducting high-risk, high-reward research. The precursor to the internet, known as ARPANET, stealth technology, and the Global Positioning System all owe a debt to the work of DARPA.

ARPA-E seeks to do this same kind of high-risk, high-reward research. My administration will also pursue comprehensive legislation to place a market-based cap on carbon emissions. We will make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America. And I am confident that we will find a wellspring of creativity just waiting to be tapped by researchers in this room and entrepreneurs across our country.

The nation that leads the world in 21st century clean energy will be the nation that leads in the 21st century global economy. America can and must be that nation.

Third, in order to lead in the global economy – and ensure that our businesses can grow and innovate, and our families can thrive – we must address the shortcomings of our health care system.

The Recovery Act will support the long overdue step of computerizing America’s medical records, to reduce the duplication, waste, and errors that cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

But it’s important to note: these records also hold the potential of offering patients the chance to be more active participants in prevention and treatment. We must maintain patient control over these records and respect their privacy. At the same time, however, we have the opportunity to offer billions and billions of anonymous data points to medical researchers who may find in this information evidence that can help us better understand disease.

History also teaches us the greatest advances in medicine have come from scientific breakthroughs: the discovery of antibiotics; improved public health practices; vaccines for smallpox, polio, and many other infectious diseases; anti-retroviral drugs that can return AIDS patients to productive lives; pills that can control certain types of blood cancers; and so many others.  

And because of recent progress – not just in biology, genetics and medicine, but also in physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering – we have the potential to make enormous progress against diseases in the coming decades.  That is why my Administration is committed to increasing funding for the National Institutes of Health, including $6 billion to support cancer research, part of a sustained, multi-year plan to double cancer research in our country.

Fourth, we are restoring science to its rightful place.

On March 9th, I signed an executive memorandum with a clear message: Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over.  Our progress as a nation – and our values as a nation – are rooted in free and open inquiry. To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy.

That is why I have charged the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with leading a new effort to ensure that federal policies are based on the best and most unbiased scientific information.  I want to be sure that facts are driving scientific decisions – and not the other way around.

As part of this effort, we’ve already launched a website that allows individuals to not only make recommendations to achieve this goal, but to collaborate on those recommendations; it is a small step, but one that is creating a more transparent, participatory and democratic government.

We also need to engage the scientific community directly in the work of public policy.  That is why, today, I am announcing the appointment of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, known as PCAST, with which I plan to work closely.

This council represents leaders from many scientific disciplines who will bring a diversity of experiences and views. I will charge PCAST with advising me about national strategies to nurture and sustain a culture of scientific innovation.  It will be co-chaired by John Holdren, my top science advisor; Eric Lander, one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project; and Harold Varmus, former head of the National Institutes of Health and a Nobel laureate.  

In biomedicine, for example, this will include harnessing the historic convergence between life sciences and physical sciences that is underway today; undertaking public projects – in the spirit of the Human Genome Project – to create data and capabilities that fuel discoveries in tens of thousands of laboratories; and identifying and overcoming scientific and bureaucratic barriers to rapidly translating scientific breakthroughs into diagnostics and therapeutics that serve patients.

In environmental science, it will require strengthening our weather forecasting, our earth observation from space, the management of our nation’s land, water and forests, and the stewardship of our coastal zones and ocean fisheries.

We also need to work with our friends around the world. Science, technology, and innovation proceed more rapidly and more cost-effectively when insights, costs, and risks are shared; and so many of the challenges that science and technology will help us meet are global in character. This is true of our dependence on oil, the consequences of climate change, the threat of epidemic disease, and the spread of nuclear weapons, among other examples.

That is why my administration is ramping up participation in – and our commitment to – international science and technology cooperation across the many areas where it is clearly in our interest to do so. In fact, this week, my administration is gathering the leaders of the world’s major economies to begin the work of addressing our common energy challenges together.

Fifth, since we know that the progress and prosperity of future generations will depend on what we do now to educate the next generation, today I am announcing a renewed commitment to education in mathematics and science.  

Through this commitment, American students will move from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math over the next decade. For we know that the nation that out-educates us today – will out-compete us tomorrow.

We cannot start soon enough. We know that the quality of math and science teachers is the most influential single factor in determining whether or a student will succeed or fail in these subjects. Yet, in high school, more than twenty percent of students in math and more than sixty percent of students in chemistry and physics are taught by teachers without expertise in these fields. And this problem is only going to get worse; there is a projected shortfall of more than 280,000 math and science teachers across the country by 2015.

That is why I am announcing today that states making strong commitments and progress in math and science education will be eligible to compete later this fall for additional funds under the Secretary of Education’s $5 billion Race to the Top program.

I am challenging states to dramatically improve achievement in math and science by raising standards, modernizing science labs, upgrading curriculum, and forging partnerships to improve the use of science and technology in our classrooms.  And I am challenging states to enhance teacher preparation and training, and to attract new and qualified math and science teachers to better engage students and reinvigorate these subjects in our schools.

In this endeavor, and others, we will work to support inventive approaches. Let’s create systems that retain and reward effective teachers, and let’s create new pathways for experienced professionals to enter the classroom.  There are, right now, chemists who could teach chemistry; physicists who could teach physics; statisticians who could teach mathematics.  But we need to create a way to bring the expertise and the enthusiasm of these folks – folks like you – into the classroom.

There are states, for example, doing innovative work. I am pleased to announce that Governor Ed Rendell will lead an effort with the National Governors Association to increase the number of states that are making science, technology, engineering and mathematics education a top priority.  Six states are currently participating in the initiative, including Pennsylvania, which has launched an effective program to ensure that his state has the skilled workforce in place to draw the jobs of the 21st century. I’d want every state participate.

But our work does not end with a high school diploma.  For decades, we led the world in educational attainment, and as a consequence we led the world in economic growth. The G.I. Bill, for example, helped send a generation to college. But in this new economy, we’ve come to trail other nations in graduation rates, in educational achievement, and in the production of scientists and engineers.

That’s why my administration has set a goal that will greatly enhance our ability to compete for the high-wage, high-tech jobs of the 21st century – and to foster the next generation of scientists and engineers. In the next decade – by 2020 – America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. And we’ve provided tax credits and grants to make a college education more affordable.

My budget also triples the number of National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships. This program was created as part of the Space Race five decades ago. In the decades since, it’s remained largely the same size – even as the numbers of students who seek these fellowships has skyrocketed. We ought to be supporting these young people who are pursuing scientific careers, not putting obstacles in their path.

This is how we will lead the world in new discoveries in this new century. But it will take far more than the work of government. It will take all of us. It will take all of you.

And so today I want to challenge you to use your love and knowledge of science to spark the same sense of wonder and excitement in a new generation.  

America’s young people will rise to the challenge if given the opportunity – if called upon to join a cause larger than themselves. And we’ve got evidence. The average age in NASA’s mission control during the Apollo 17 mission was just 26. I know that young people today are ready to tackle the grand challenges of this century

So I want to persuade you to spend time in the classroom, talking – and showing –young people what it is that your work can mean, and what it means to you. Encourage your university to participate in programs to allow students to get a degree in scientific fields and a teaching certificate at the same time. Think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, like science festivals, robotics competitions, and fairs that encourage young people to create, build, and invent – to be makers of things.

And I want you to know that I’m going to be working along side you. I’m going to participate in a public awareness and outreach campaign to encourage students to consider careers in science, mathematics, and engineering – because our future depends on it.

And the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation will be launching a joint initiative to inspire tens of thousands of American students to pursue careers in science, engineering and entrepreneurship related to clean energy.  

It will support an educational campaign to capture the imagination of young people who can help us meet the energy challenge. It will create research opportunities for undergraduates and educational opportunities for women and minorities who too often have been underrepresented in scientific and technological fields – but are no less capable of inventing the solutions that will help us grow our economy and save our planet. And it will support fellowships, interdisciplinary graduate programs, and partnerships between academic institutions and innovative companies to prepare a generation of Americans to meet this generational challenge.

For we must always remember that somewhere in America there’s an entrepreneur seeking a loan to start a business that could transform an industry – but she hasn’t secured it yet. There’s a researcher with an idea for an experiment that might offer a new cancer treatment – but he hasn’t found the funding yet. There is a child with an inquisitive mind staring up at the night sky. Maybe she has the potential to change our world – but she just doesn’t know it yet.

As you know, scientific discovery takes far more than the occasional flash of brilliance – as important as that can be. Usually, it takes time, hard work, patience; it takes training; often, it requires the support of a nation.  

But it holds a promise like no other area of human endeavor.

In 1968, a year defined by loss and conflict, Apollo 8 carried into space the first human beings ever to slip beyond the earth’s gravity. The ship would circle the moon ten times before returning home. But on its fourth orbit, the capsule rotated and for the first time earth became visible through the windows.  

Bill Anders, one of the astronauts aboard Apollo 8, could not believe what he saw. He scrambled for a camera. He took a photo that showed the earth coming up over the moon’s horizon. It was the first ever taken from so distant a vantage point, soon to become known as “Earthrise.”

Anders would say that the moment forever changed him, to see our world – this pale blue sphere – without borders, without divisions, at once so tranquil and beautiful and alone.

“We came all this way to explore the moon,” he said, “and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”

Yes, scientific innovation offers us the chance to achieve prosperity. It has offered us benefits that have improved our health and our lives – often improvements we take too easily for granted. But it also gives us something more.

At root, science forces us to reckon with the truth as best as we can ascertain it. Some truths fill us with awe. Others force us to question long held views. Science cannot answer every question; indeed, it seems at times the more we plumb the mysteries of the physical world, the more humble we must be. Science cannot supplant our ethics, our values, our principles, or our faith, but science can inform those things, and help put these values, these moral sentiments, that faith, to work – to feed a child, to heal the sick, to be good stewards of this earth.

We are reminded that with each new discovery and the new power it brings, comes new responsibility; that the fragility and the sheer specialness of life requires us to move past our differences, to address our common problems, to endure and continue humanity’s strivings for a better world.

As President Kennedy said when he addressed the National Academy of Sciences more than 45 years ago: “The challenge, in short, may be our salvation.”

Thank you all for your past, present, and future discoveries. God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.

#As President Kennedy said when he addressed the National Academy of Sciences more than 45 years ago: “The challenge, in short, may be our salvation.”

Thank you all for your past, present, and future discoveries. God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.

—— End of Forwarded Message

Energy seminar

February 24, 2009

these are good. Go to five and you will be on the leading edge of energy thinking. Next

Stanford Energy Community,


Please join your colleagues for a special visitor to the Energy Seminar:


Energy Seminar

February 25, 4:15-5:15, Building 420, Room 40

Jacques Bouchard, Special Advisor to the Chairman of the French Atomic Energy Commission

Can Nuclear Energy be a Sustainable Contribution to Address the Climate Change Concerns: The French Experience


Jacques Bouchard is Special Adviser to the Chairman of the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). In 2006, he was appointed Chairman of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) for 3 years. Born in 1939, Jacques Bouchard holds an engineering degree from the “Ecole Centrale de Paris”, and specialized in reactor physics. Mr. Bouchard joined the CEA in 1964 and became Head of the Experimental Physics unit in 1973, then head of the Nuclear Engineering Department in 1975. In that capacity, the work he conducted was mainly in support of pressurized water reactor technology, and he also led studies in physics for fuel cycle applications. In 1982, he became head of the Fast Neutron Reactor Department in Cadarache. In 1990, he was appointed head of the CEA’s Nuclear Reactor Division, then, from 1994 to 2000, he became the Director of CEA’s military application division. From 2000 to 2004, he was in charge of the entire nuclear energy sector in CEA. Since 2005, he is Special Adviser to the Chairman of the CEA.  Jacques Bouchard was also the President of the French Nuclear Energy Society from 2001 to 2003 and professor at the reknown “Ecole des Mines de Paris”. He has serve on the board of directors of several companies working in the nuclear field, and he is member of many advisory committees to national and international nuclear organizations.

Silicon valley stats

February 23, 2009


2009 Index of Silicon ValleyNEW RELEASE: The 2009 Silicon Valley Index.

February 17, 2009—Every year Joint Venture and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation team up to publish the Silicon Valley Index, a document that has been telling the Silicon Valley story since 1995. The indicators track the health and vitality of our economy and community, providing a solid analytical foundation for leadership and decision-making.

This year’s Index shows Silicon Valley being battered by national trends, but turning in strong performances in key sectors like clean technology. You can read the press release here; our introduction to the report is available here; and you can download the entire document here.

The 2009 Index also provides a separate analysis on our region’s workforce challenges, which is available here.

The Index will be the point of departure for our discussion at the State of the Valley conferencethis Friday, February 20th, and you can register for one of the few remaining seats here.