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The Planetary Society Has a Few Tips for the President
Bill Nye, CEO of The Planetary Society, offers an important 5-point plan for President Trump on space exploration and NASA's budget.
As the CEO of The Planetary Society, Bill Nye has written an open letter to President Trump, highlighting the need for prioritizing space research, and for supporting NASA's space exploration efforts in particular. Bill Nye offers the president a comprehensive five-point plan for steering NASA's objectives and orientation during his tenure:
1. Keep Mars as the Goal
Mars became the central objective of NASA's efforts during the previous administration, and Bill Nye urges a continued focus on the same path. It is also important to insist on Mars because there are voices in the Trump administration that want to divert resources away from the Red Planet and focus on exploration of the moon. A vocal example of this is Newt Gingrich who has advocated "a permanent moon base". For Bill Nye and The Planetary Society, a diversion of efforts to the moon would mean that a manned mission to Mars might be delayed by a generation.
2. Orbit Mars First
This point has emerged from earlier work at The Planetary Society, such as workshops on solving problems of inhabiting Mars, which have found that orbital engagement should precede a full landing on the Red Planet. This was the original strategy for the moon landing, where Apollo VIII orbited the moon and Apollo XI landed on it. The Planetary Society has suggested that in an orbital-first strategy, humans can be stationed in Mars' orbit by 2033, and thereafter landed on the Mars surface by 2039.
3. Expand NASA's Scientific Programs
Bill Nye draws attention to the 'jobs' element of NASA's contribution, pointing out that there are tens of thousands of high-skilled jobs in engineering, manufacturing, and the pure sciences, that exist specifically thanks to NASA's scientific programs. The report recommends that "at least 30 percent of NASA’s total budget be committed to its Science Mission Directorate," and that we don't forget two things: our curiosity and safety. A budget commitment to the science mission "will help humanity better understand its origins, protect us from solar storms, search for life beyond Earth, as well as understand our changing climate," says the report. NASA's acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, has already stated that because of Trump's proposed budget, the agency “will not pursue the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM).” Here's why that matters. Trump signed the 'NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017' on March 21, which seems to favor stability over progress, leaving one person pretty unhappy: Elon Musk.
4. Embrace the Commercial Space Industry
The private sector's role in space exploration has grown enormously over the past decade, Bill Nye notes, and fostering continued entrepreneurial energy and private initiative is a sign of a healthy space industry. Thus Nye advocates continued cooperation between the government and the private sector in the name of science, and again the report strikes on Trump's passion area: American jobs. "NASA already supports some 17,000 civil servants and tens of thousands of private-sector contractors throughout the country. An agency focused on exploring Mars in partnership with a vibrant commercial sector has the potential to engage many more of our citizens in a 21st-century workforce."
5. Modestly Increase the Budget, Five-Over-Five
Bill Nye lays emphasis on the fact that NASA does not require a significant amount of money to make the tremendous strides that it does. Nye suggests a fiscal outlay of "five-over-five", meaning a +5% annual increase in the budget for each of the next five fiscal years. He suggests that such an investment would go a long way in helping NASA to continue its momentum in space exploration.
In his video, Bill Nye urges the president to pay careful attention to these recommendations, noting that the president has the "opportunity to provide clear direction to our nation's space program," and that "advances made on [Trump's] watch could be historic."
The video component should be seen in the context of a 16-page report produced by The Planetary Society titled "Opportunities for NASA and the New Administration" which was submitted to the NASA transition team before Trump took office. This report elaborates on many of the points articulated in Bill Nye's video, and highlighted many of the same concerns.
The Planetary Society has been keeping a close eye on the Trump administration's budget implications for NASA. According to summary analysis posted on their website, the Planetary Society notes that many important changes are already being stipulated or mulled, and further fiscal discussions over the year will have significant consequences for NASA.
As Nye verbalizes, the Trump administration "has the opportunity to lead, by taking this critical first step," and, in a meeting we'd love to see happen, Nye offers to discuss these points with the president in person.
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A recent study on monkeys found that stimulating a certain part of the forebrain wakes monkeys from anesthesia.
- Scientists electrically stimulated the brains of macaque monkeys in an effort to determine which areas are responsible for driving consciousness.
- The monkeys were anesthetized, and the goal was to see whether activating certain parts of the brain would wake up the animals.
- The forebrain's central lateral thalamus seems to be one of the "minimum mechanisms" necessary for consciousness.
Pixabay<p>When the team electrically stimulated a part of the brain called the central lateral thalamus, located in the forebrain, the monkeys woke up: they opened their eyes, blinked, reached out, made facial expressions and showed altered vital signs. </p><p>"We found that when we stimulated this tiny little brain area, we could wake the animals up and reinstate all the neural activity that you'd normally see in the cortex during wakefulness," Saalmann told Cell Press. "They acted just as they would if they were awake. When we switched off the stimulation, the animals went straight back to being unconscious."</p><p>This area of the brain may function as an "engine for consciousness," Redinbaugh told Inverse. Although past studies have shown that electrical stimulation can arouse the brains of humans and animals, the new findings are unique because they reveal which specific neural interactions appear to be minimally necessary for consciousness.</p><p>"Science doesn't often leave opportunity for exhilaration, but that's what that moment was like for those of us who were in the room," Redinbaugh told <a href="https://www.inverse.com/science/first-squid-mri-study-brain-complexity-similar-dogs" target="_blank"><em>Inverse</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Future applications<p>The team said the findings could have many applications down the road, but more research is needed.</p><p>"The overriding motivation of this research is to help people with disorders of consciousness to live better lives," Redinbaugh told Cell Press. "We have to start by understanding the minimum mechanism that is necessary or sufficient for consciousness, so that the correct part of the brain can be targeted clinically."</p><p>"It's possible we may be able to use these kinds of deep-brain stimulating electrodes to bring people out of comas. Our findings may also be useful for developing new ways to monitor patients under clinical anesthesia, to make sure they are safely unconscious."</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
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