Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Scientific Issues
ScienceDebate.org sent 20 fine-tuned questions to the presidential candidates. 3 out of 4 of them responded. Here's where they stand on key science issues.
ScienceDebate.org, a nonprofit that promotes science and technology discourse in the public sphere, came up with 20 questions to ask the leading candidates for U.S. Presidency. The questions were crowdsourced and refined by dozens of scientific organizations. Despite the unpredictable nature of the current elections, aside from the Libertarian Gary Johnson, the candidates actually answered.
Here is the rundown of where they stand on some of the major science and tech issues:
Hillary Clinton (D) sees "education, research, and commercialization" as core components of American success and plans to focus on all three as president. She supports universal preschool, debt-free college, training programs, STEM programming in every school. As president, she would work to make sure that research gets appropriate government funding, allowing for "multi-year planning" and "exploration of emerging research areas". She sees the U.S. currently “underinvesting in research”.
To support commercialization, she would open access to government-funded research, develop "collaborative consortia" to help create new industries, and invest in "Make it in America" partnerships to keep manufacturing in the country.
Throughout her life, Clinton has been inspired by the space program and would look to continue American leadership in this field as president, supporting NASA and advancements towards putting humans on Mars.
Supporters of Republican President candidate Donald Trump cheer during his address at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver, Colorado on July 29, 2016. (Photo by JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (R) is less detailed on this subject (as he is on other subjects) but sees innovation as "one of the great by-products of free market systems". He would reduce impediments for products to enter the market, creating a fair trade environment. He thinks that there is a need to get a grip on spending, but does see the federal government playing a role in encouraging space exploration and investing into research and development across academia.
When asked about long-term research funding in particular, he again pointed to the space program as well as “institutional research,” saying it's something we must have. He reiterated his support for space exploration when asked about it directly, recognizing many positive effects of a “vibrant space program”. He sees “exploring beyond our own space neighborhood” as a priority.
US Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein (L) delivers remarks after announcing Cheri Honkala (R) as her US Green Party vice-presidential choice during a press conference July 11, 2012, in Washington, DC. (Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GettyImages)
Green Party's Jill Stein regards her party's platform as very focused on innovation, with proposals on climate change, free public education from pre-school to university, cancellation of student debt and Medicare for All. She would reduce Pentagon spending and invest freed resources into public R&D.
She sees "a just economy" as the cornerstone of innovation. The greatest challenge facing us, according to Stein, is climate change, and she would look to science and technology to contain greenhouse gases and create “a resilient society” that could adapt to the inevitable climate changes.
She would also take a look at how well some government-funded institutions like the National Science Foundation are functioning, preferring to make science policy more in line with what average people would need and want.
Her views on the space program focus on re-orienting it from military and corporate interests towards helping solving Earth-bound problems like climate change.
2. CLIMATE CHANGE
Hillary Clinton very much believes in climate change and sees it as “an urgent threat” that needs to be addressed. She would look to continue Obama’s policies that cut down on pollution by greenhouse gases.
She gets more specific in offering 3 goals that we should achieve within 10 years to make America “the clean energy superpower”. The goals feature generating half of the country’s electricity from clean sources and installing half a billion solar panels in her first term. She’d also cut energy waste and reduce oil consumption by making vehicles more efficient and the fuels cleaner.
She would also launch a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to spread the clean energy practices throughout the country.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, believes that we don’t know everything about “climate change” (an expression he puts in quotation marks, hinting that he doesn’t necessarily trust it’s real). Instead, he would focus on more concrete problems like clean water, diseases like malaria, and increasing food production to keep up with the world’s growing population.
He does mention that we should focus on developing energy sources that would make us less dependent on fossil fuels. In his response about energy policy, he expands that it should be the country’s goal to achieve “energy independence”. That would include trying solar energy, nuclear power and bio-fuels, with the winner decided by market forces.
Expectedly, Green Party’s Jill Stein makes climate change a central issue, calling it in no uncertain terms “the greatest existential threat that humanity has ever faced”. She proposes a number of measures to combat it, including a so-called Green New Deal that would not only curb climate change but revive the economy and make oil-related wars unnecessary. She would transition the country to 100% clean renewable energy by 2020, creating 20 million jobs. One way to do that would be to build a smart electricity grid that would pool and store energy from various renewable sources.
Stein is the only candidate to explicitly come out against fracking, offshore drilling, natural gas pipelines and uranium mines. She would halt investment into “fossil fuel infrastructure” and phase out fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, which she considers unsafe and “dirty”.
3. THE INTERNET
Hillary Clinton would make sure the internet remains a place where people could equally and freely exchange knowledge and ideas. She would also invest in cybersecurity, building on President Obama’s policies. If cyber-attacked, she promises the U.S. would be “ready with serious political, economic and military responses”.
Donald Trump also talks tough about a potential cyber-attack, saying such a “provocative act” would be met with a proportional response that would ultimately eliminate the threat.
Jill Stein would protect freedom on the internet by opposing the Online Piracy Act, defending net neutrality, and supporting public broadband. As far as cyber-security, she would ban cyberwarfare via an international treaty and look to the U.N to create a new agency for identifying cyber attacks.
4. MENTAL HEALTH
Hilary Clinton sees this as a very serious issue that affects millions of Americans. She points to her recently released mental health plan, which focuses on measures like early diagnosis and a national initiative for suicide prevention. Among other proposals is prioritizing treatment over jail for non-violent offenders and investing into brain and behavioral research.
Donald Trump also considers the issue vital, calling it “one of the great unfolding tragedies in America today.” He would address it via reforms, investment, and allowing family members more involvement in the care of the mentally ill.
Jill Stein regards mental health care as a fully-funded part of the single-payer Medicare for All universal health care system that she advocates. She also points out the government’s responsibility in addressing PTSD and other conditions suffered by veterans as well as mentally ill prisoners.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Hillary Clinton recognizes that the country is in the midst of a “quiet epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction,” focusing particular attention on 52 million Americans who have misused prescription drugs. She proposes a $10 billion initiative to fight substance abuse.
Donald Trump views the “inflow of opioids” into America as the issue to tackle. He sees investment into stopping this problem as a way to increase American productivity.
Jill Stein would end “the war on drugs” and use the available funds for research, education and treatment.
Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling has an important favor to ask of the American people.
- Michael Dowling is president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest health care system in New York state. In this PSA, speaking as someone whose company has seen more COVID-19 patients than any other in the country, Dowling implores Americans to wear masks—not only for their own health, but for the health of those around them.
- The CDC reports that there have been close to 7.9 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States since January. Around 216,000 people have died from the virus so far with hundreds more added to the tally every day. Several labs around the world are working on solutions, but there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
- The most basic thing that everyone can do to help slow the spread is to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and to wear a mask. The CDC recommends that everyone ages two and up wear a mask that is two or more layers of material and that covers the nose, mouth, and chin. Gaiters and face shields have been shown to be less effective at blocking droplets. Homemade face coverings are acceptable, but wearers should make sure they are constructed out of the proper materials and that they are washed between uses. Wearing a mask is the most important thing you can do to save lives in your community.
Two massive clouds of dust in orbit around the Earth have been discussed for years and finally proven to exist.
- Hungarian astronomers have proven the existence of two "pseudo-satellites" in orbit around the earth.
- These dust clouds were first discovered in the sixties, but are so difficult to spot that scientists have debated their existence since then.
- The findings may be used to decide where to put satellites in the future and will have to be considered when interplanetary space missions are undertaken.
What are they?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDA0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTM1ODc0Mn0.NH33LuauIo__sUBi4tvhwxDcsvhflDFD-Nhx9FjlSNk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=148%2C0%2C149%2C0&height=700" id="cec96" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="acb78abe2ab46a17e419ad30906751d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Artist's impression of the Kordylewski cloud in the night sky (with its brightness greatly enhanced) at the time of the observations.
G. Horváth<p>The<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kordylewski_cloud" target="_blank"> Kordylewski clouds</a> are two dust clouds first observed by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski in 1961. They are situated at two of the <a href="https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html" target="_blank">Lagrange points</a> in Earth's orbit. These points are locations where the gravity of two objects, such as the Earth and the Moon or a planet and the Sun, equals the centripetal required to orbit the objects while staying in the same relative position. There are five of these spots between the Earth and Moon. The clouds rest at what are called points four and five, forming a triangle with the clouds and the Earth at the three corners.</p><p>The clouds are enormous, taking up the same space in the night sky as twenty lunar discs; covering an area of 45,000 miles. They are roughly 250,000 miles away, about the same distance from us as the Moon. They are entirely comprised of specks of dust which reflect the light of the sun so faintly most astronomers that looked for them were unable to see them at all. </p><p>The clouds themselves are probably ancient, but the model that the scientists created to learn about them suggests that the individual dust particles that comprise them can be blown away by solar wind and replaced by the dust from other cosmic sources like comet tails. This means that the clouds hardly move but are <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/11/news-earth-moon-dust-clouds-satellites-planets-space/" target="_blank">eternally changing</a>. </p>
How did they discover this?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Nzc4MjQ4MX0.7uU9OqmQcWw5Ll1UXAav0PCu4nTg-GdJdAWADHanC7c/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C180%2C0%2C181&height=700" id="952fb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a778280a20f1c54cd2c14c8313224be2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"In this picture the central region of the Kordylewski dust cloud is visible (bright red pixels). The straight tilted lines are traces of satellites."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>In their study published in the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/mnras" target="_blank">Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society</a>, Hungarian astronomers Judit Slíz-Balogh, András Barta, and Gábor Horváth described how they were able to find the dust clouds using polarized lenses.</p><p>Since the clouds were expected to polarize the light that bounces off of them, by configuring the telescopes to look for this kind of light the clouds were much easier to spot. What the scientists observed, polarized light in patterns that extended outside the view of the telescope lens, was in line with the predictions of their mathematical model and ruled out other possible sources. </p>
Why are we just learning this now?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjUyNDMyMH0.Zl8GmQ_rJHiL4b7hN0r_YBmgb6_ZqIRvqOVuko2ubpw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C141%2C0%2C185&height=700" id="87afe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd4c0b5088e601d7279cc5eb226f8b7b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"Mosaic pattern of the angle of polarization around the L5 point (white dot) of the Earth-Moon system. The five rectangular windows correspond to the imaging telescope with which the patterns of the Kordylewski cloud were measured."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>The objects, being dust clouds, are very faint and hard to see. While Kordylewski observed them in 1961, other astronomers have looked there and given mixed reports over the following decades. This discouraged many astronomers from joining the search, as study co-author Judit Slíz-Balogh <a href="https://ras.ac.uk/news-and-press/research-highlights/earths-dust-cloud-satellites-confirmed" target="_blank">explained</a>, <em>"The Kordylewski clouds are two of the toughest objects to find, and though they are as close to Earth as the Moon are largely overlooked by researchers in astronomy. It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbor."</em></p>
Will this have any impact on space travel?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3d797fff5430c64afcb5a49bddc3616"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ou8N3v9SFPE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Lagrange points have been put forward as excellent locations for a space station or satellites like the <a href="https://jwst.nasa.gov/about.html" target="_blank">James Webb Telescope</a> to be put into orbit, as they would require little fuel to stay in place. Knowing about a massive dust cloud that could damage sensitive equipment already being there could save money and lives in the future. While we only know about the clouds at Lagrange points four and five right now, the study's authors suggest there could be more at the other points.</p><p>While the discovery of a couple of dust clouds might not seem all that impressive, it is the result of a half-century of astronomical and mathematical work and reminds us that wonders are still hidden in our cosmic backyard. While you might never need to worry about these clouds again, there is nothing wrong with looking at the sky with wonder at the strange and fantastic things we can discover. </p>
Instead of looking forward, we should be consulting the past.
When will the pandemic end? All these months in, with over 37 million COVID-19 cases and more than 1 million deaths globally, you may be wondering, with increasing exasperation, how long this will continue.
New cancer-scanning technology reveals a previously unknown detail of human anatomy.
- Scientists using new scanning technology and hunting for prostate tumors get a surprise.
- Behind the nasopharynx is a set of salivary glands that no one knew about.
- Finding the glands may allow for more complication-free radiation therapies.
PSMA PET/CT technology<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="676e611b970c9b516cace0870447b325"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RHAyoQF09X4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>PSMA PET/CT is a new combination of <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/about/pac-20385078" target="_blank">PET scans</a> and <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ct-scan/about/pac-20393675" target="_blank">CT scans</a> that is believed to offer a more reliable means of locating prostate cancer metastasis. A <a href="https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/prostate-cancer-psma-pet-ct-metastasis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> published last spring suggests it may be the most accurate way to diagnose prostate cancer metastasis than any method previously available.</p><p>Prior to PSMA PET/CT, the primary way to look for metastatic prostate cancer was to image the body using x-ray-based CT scans and to perform bone scans, since bone is where prostate cancer often spreads. CT scans, however, often miss small tumors, and bone scans can generate false positives as a result of other damage or abnormalities that have nothing to do with prostate cancer.</p><p>PSMA PET/CT scans track the travels of an intravenously administered radioactive glucose tracer throughout the body. For hunting down prostate cancer, this tracer contains a molecule that binds to the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1472940/" target="_blank">PSMA</a> protein that's present in large amounts in prostate tumors. The molecule is linked to a radioisotope, <a href="https://netrf.org/2018/11/13/gallium-68-scan-for-neuroendocrine-tumors/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gallium-68</a> (Ga-68).</p><p>In last spring's research, PSAM PET/CT was shown to be 27 percent more accurate than previous methods at finding metastases (92 percent accuracy as opposed to 65 percent). In addition, it was found to be much less likely to produce false positives, and it was particularly good at detecting tumors far removed from the prostate.</p>
A good kind of avoidance behavior<p>"Radiation therapy can damage the salivary glands," says Vogel, "which may lead to complications. Patients may have trouble eating, swallowing, or speaking, which can be a real burden."</p><p>The researchers looked back through the cases of 723 patients who had undergone radiation treatment, interested in seeing if inadvertent radiation of the tubarial glands was associated with the complications experienced by the patients. It turned out that this <em>was</em> the case: In cases where more radiation had been delivered to this area, patients did indeed report more in the way of complications of the type one would expect when salivary glands are radiated.</p><p>Now that we know the tubarial salivary glands exist, therapists can stay out of their way. Vogel says, "For most patients, it should technically be possible to avoid delivering radiation to this newly discovered location of the salivary gland system in the same way we try to spare known glands."</p><p>He's hopeful that that things may be about to get at least a bit better for cancer patients: "Our next step is to find out how we can best spare these new glands and in which patients. If we can do this, patients may experience less side effects which will benefit their overall quality of life after treatment."</p>
A new survey found that 27 percent of millennials are saving more money due to the pandemic, but most can't stay within their budgets.