The Democratic party will assume majority control of the House of Representatives next January. As a result, the management of all committees in the House will belong to Democrats, who can pursue issues and topics of their choosing. Republicans, consigned to the minority for the first time in 8 years, will have little influence over committee leadership.
Ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) issued a statement after the election results Tuesday night stating that, if elected chairwoman, she wants to restore the credibility of the science committee “as a place where science is respected and recognized as a crucial input to good policymaking.” Johnson said that includes acknowledging that climate change is real, “seeking to understand what climate science is telling us, and working to understand the ways we can mitigate it.”
Tuesday’s elections resulted in a Democratic majority in the House, but the changes for the next Congress go far beyond this outcome. Flipping party control means new chairs for every committee in the House; many Senate Republicans in leadership positions are reaching their party’s term limits, yielding new committee seniority; and, retirements and incumbent losses yield further changes.
The faces of Capitol Hill are changing. When the 116th Congress heads to Washington in January, there will be a record number of women in the ranks -- at least 123, according to the news website Axios, including the first Muslim women, the first Somali-American, and the first Native American women. There will be more scientists too.
Puny particles have given scientists a glimpse inside the Earth. For the first time, physicists have measured the planet’s mass using neutrinos, minuscule subatomic particles that can pass straight through the entire planet. Researchers also used the particles to probe the Earth’s innards, studying how the planet’s density varies from crust to core.
While the International Space Station (ISS) is a technological marvel, it has not traditionally had a lot of onboard processing capacity. That changed last year when NASA delivered a supercomputer to the station. It was only there for a test run, but now the agency plans to use it for processing data and running experiments. Eventually, NASA and manufacturer HP hope to understand why some parts of the computer work well in orbit and others don’t.
David Strauss, an analyst and oddsmaker at MyBookie, says NASA is the underdog and Musk is the favorite. “Bezos may have the discipline, but Musk has the infrastructure and just the right amount of craziness to make a successful mission happen,” he said today in a news release. “The days of government organizations staging trips to another planet are behind us. I would be surprised if NASA truly makes it back to the moon.”
Hubble went into safe mode when one of its three working gyroscopes failed, leaving mission managers with a weighty challenge: They could try getting a glitchy gyro working again, bringing the telescope’s pointing system back to its normal three-gyro mode. Otherwise, they would have to go to a one-gyro procedure for pointing at observational targets, and keep the second gyro in reserve.
How thick is Earth’s atmosphere? Sorry, that’s a bit of a trick question: Our planet’s air simply gets thinner with altitude, fading away to nothingness somewhere far above the height at which the lowest satellites orbit.
As algorithms and artificial intelligence infiltrate science, don’t expect bots to replace researchers -- but AI may guide scientists and funding agents toward the most promising unexplored territory. There’s a lot of room for improvement in the way humans are choosing scientific questions, said sociology professor James Evans, who suggested the use of algorithms for guidance in a special section of Science Magazine called “Toward a More Scientific Science.”