Trump’s Science Budget, Moar JPEG, and Boaty McBoatface | Vol. 4 / No. 21

Photo: Takver, CC BY 2.0

Trump’s Budget

Trump released his budget proposal this week, and it wasn’t exactly kind to science. With headlines like “Trump’s budget calls for seismic disruption in medical and science research” and “scientists brace for a lost generation in American research” you can pretty much guess how it went over in the scientific community. The Department of Energy—the one that runs the national laboratories like Los Alamos—gets a 17.9% budget cut, with ARPA-E, which invests in high-risk, high-reward energy projects (like the development of new batteries) on the chopping block. It proposes slashing $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health budget, which is something like one fifth of its funding. And of course the administration’s favourite whipping boy the EPA is given a 31.5% budget cut, $2.6 billion. The NOAA loses a $250 million research grant program for coastal and marine research, too. Meanwhile NASA makes out better than the rest (but still not great) with its Earth science programs seeing a $102 million dollar cut, and (as expected) the Asteroid Redirect Mission being axed. It’s still just a proposal, and there are a lot of people in Congress (even Republicans) who don’t want to see all of these cuts made, but if even a fraction of the proposed cuts go through, it’s going to be a terrible blow to scientific research in America. You can read about the cuts over at The Atlantic and The Washington Post, with more in-depth information on NASA at Popular Science, Scientific American, and (of course) at The Planetary Society.



Google unveiled its latest piece of research this week, an improvement to the algorithm that compresses jpeg images by about 35%. Called Guetzli (Swiss German for “cookie” apparently—it was their Zurich team that came up with it), it appears to have been at least in part designed by Google’s DeepMind AI. The image comparisons (which you can see over at Ars Technica) show the same or better-looking results but with a pretty high reduction in file size when compared with libjpeg. The team has released a preprint of a paper to, and you can even download and run it for yourself if you want to (it’s on their github).


Boaty McBoatface

Hey remember a year ago when the internet once again proved that you can’t just ask it for suggestions on how to name things? Well, if you remember, the National Environment Research Council didn’t like the name Boaty McBoatface much and instead decided to name the research ship after Sir David Attenborough. But, because there’s still a little justice in this world, they did use the name for an autonomous underwater robot that will eventually travel aboard the Attenborough when that ship is completed in 2019. In the meantime, Boaty McBoatface has just this week set off on its maiden voyage aboard the British Antarctic Survey research ship, the James Clark Ross. In 2019, it’ll be used in the North Sea to look for methane emissions from the seabed. You can read more about McBoatface at the Guardian.



In case you missed it, here’s what we got up to this week!

If you didn’t read any of those, now’s your chance!


Best of the Rest

And because there’s never enough time to get to everything, here it is, your weekly linkspam.

That’s all for today; have a great week.


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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.