Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Cool science

In the cool equation, can science equal sports in school?

President Barack Obama today tried to promote math and science as exciting pursuits for America’s youth.

OBAMA/At the Intel Corporation in Oregon, Obama showcased the possibilities by describing his encounters during the visit.

“It gave them a chance to talk about things like quantum ternary algorithms, and it gave me a chance to nod my head and pretend that I understood what they were talking about,” he said.

Then there was the group of seventh-grade girls working on a science project using Legos. “I used to build some pretty mean Lego towers when I was a kid,” Obama said. “I thought I could participate — only these students used their Legos … to build robots that were programmable to model brains that could repair broken bones.”

Maybe the time for scientist star power has come. After all, “The Big Bang Theory” television show about the antics of super smart, geeky, young physicists is wildly popular.

Washington Extra – Busting those Obama myths (or not)

Our top story today (at least according to readers of Reuters.com):  President Barack Obama is to appear on “Mythbusters”, a television series that uses science to separate fact from fiction. It is part of a White House effort to highlight the importance of science, math and engineering, as experts warn that low interest in these subjects could damage America’s global competitiveness.

Among the myths the program has tackled before:

What’s worse, having an empty beer bottle smashed over your head or a full one?

Can a sniffer dog be thrown off the scent using household items?

USA/A myth Obama will help debunk:

The 2,000-year-old story that Greek mathematician and engineer Archimedes set fire to an invading Roman fleet using a system of mirrors to focus the sun’s rays.

Boycott Copenhagen, Palin urges Obama


 If Sarah Palin had her way, President Barack Obama would be staying away from this month’s global climate change talks in Copenhagen and “sending a message that the United States will not be a party to fraudulent scientific practices.”

The summit will hear from scientists like those from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, where recently revealed e-mails showed information that raised questions about climate change was suppressed, writes Palin.

“Without trustworthy science and with so much at stake, Americans should be wary about what comes out of this politicized conference. The president should boycott Copenhagen,” she wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post.

from Maggie Fox:

Stimulus package does provide some jobs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 25 years into the AIDS pandemic, scientists finally have a vaccine that protects some people -- but instead of celebrating, they are going back to the drawing board.

The vaccine, a combination of two older vaccines, only lowered the infection rate by about a third after three years among 16,000 ordinary Thai volunteers. Vaccines need to be at least 50 percent effective, and usually 70 to 80 percent effective, to be useful.

Worse, no one knows why it worked.

"Additional studies are clearly needed to understand how this vaccine regimen reduced the risk of HIV infection," Dr. Eric Schoomaker, surgeon general of the U.S. Army, which helped pay for the study, told reporters.

Astronomy Night at the White House


A cloudless sky made a perfect backdrop for a stargazing
party at the White House on Wednesday night. But instead of parading on a red carpet, VIP guests made their way around the South Lawn where earlier in the day astronomers set up telescopes in preparation for the party.

President Barack Obama hosted 150 local middle school students, teachers and astronomers to scan the sky. But first, Obama said there were a “few other stars out tonight,” introducing former astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Sally Ride, and Mae Jemison.

For the president, the event might have been a break from the pressing issues of the day, but he was still working on his political agenda. OBAMA/Obama introduced two students — one who discovered a supernova and another who found a pulsar — and he made a pitch for his education plan.

First draft: From singing to stem cells

OBAMA/After making a surprise appearance on stage to lead a star-studded cast and audience in the Kennedy Center in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Senator Edward Kennedy on Sunday night, President Barack Obama returns to his day job on Monday.

The main item of the day — stem cells.

Obama will fulfill a campaign vow and reverse another Bush decision at 1145 a.m. (1545 GMT) when he lifts a restriction on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. He will also give the National Institutes of Health four months to come up with new rules. The NIH will decide when it is ethical and legal to pay for stem cell research.

He will also be stressing the need to put science above ideology. Former President George W. Bush was accused by scientists and politicians of injecting politics and sometimes religion into scientific decisions.