Congress Tries to Cut Amtrak Budget Day After Train Crash

Congress debated cutting $260 million from Amtrak's budget as emergency crews searched through the rubble of a train accident that killed six passengers the night before.

In an embarrassing and tragic coincidence, Congress debated cutting $260 million from Amtrak's budget as emergency crews searched through the rubble of a train accident that killed six passengers the night before.


Investigators say the Amtrak train that crashed was traveling at 100 MPH, twice the speed limit for that train on that particular route. Sadly, rather than increase funding to implement safety measures on public transportation, Congress has acted to push back deadlines that could have prevented the Amtrak crash.

"[L]awmakers from both parties have offered bills to add years to a congressionally imposed Dec. 31 deadline for railroads to install a collision-prevention technology known as Positive Train Control, which both the railroads and DOT say the industry cannot meet."

Positive Train Control can actively enforce line speed and implement temporary speed restrictions. Indeed, the public dispute over funding infrastructure and transportation could not have occurred at a more unfortunate or appropriate time. America's bridges, highways, and public transportation have suffered from insufficient funding for decades, and the results of the neglect have recently turned ugly.

"'America is in a crisis when it comes to infrastructure,' said former Obama Administration Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who is also a former Republican congressman from Illinois."

What alternatives might exist? Especially for a country such as ours that loves public-private partnerships. In England, for example, Richard Branson's Virgin operates train lines throughout the country. And while safety concerns have been raised over private business' attention to the bottom line, it seems a rather weak argument in the wake of this Amtrak crash.

Read more at The New York Times and Politico.

Plants have awareness and intelligence, argue scientists

Research in plant neurobiology shows that plants have senses, intelligence and emotions.

Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • The field of plant neurobiology studies the complex behavior of plants.
  • Plants were found to have 15-20 senses, including many like humans.
  • Some argue that plants may have awareness and intelligence, while detractors persist.
Keep reading Show less

Human extinction! Don't panic; think about it like a philosopher.

Most people think human extinction would be bad. These people aren't philosophers.

Shutterstock
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new opinion piece in The New York Times argues that humanity is so horrible to other forms of life that our extinction wouldn't be all that bad, morally speaking.
  • The author, Dr. Todd May, is a philosopher who is known for advising the writers of The Good Place.
  • The idea of human extinction is a big one, with lots of disagreement on its moral value.
Keep reading Show less

Space is dead: A challenge to the standard model of quantum mechanics

Since the idea of locality is dead, space itself may not be an aloof vacuum: Something welds things together, even at great distances.

Videos
  • Realists believe that there is an exactly understandable way the world is — one that describes processes independent of our intervention. Anti-realists, however, believe realism is too ambitious — too hard. They believe we pragmatically describe our interactions with nature — not truths that are independent of us.
  • In nature, properties of Particle B may depend on what we choose to measure or manipulate with Particle A, even at great distances.
  • In quantum mechanics, there is no explanation for this. "It just comes out that way," says Smolin. Realists struggle with this because it would imply certain things can travel faster than light, which still seems improbable.
Keep reading Show less