The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘investment’

Science Debate 2012 Questions for the Presidential Candidates

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 26, 2012

Last March I passed on the news that Science Debate 2012 was looking for questions to ask the U.S. presidential candidates, and now the questions are here!  In case you don’t know, the whole purpose of Science Debate is to put questions of scientific, engineering, and technological importance into the political debate; considering as how important these issues are and will be in the 21st-century, I think it is more than appropriate to hold our political candidates accountable on such matters.  Take a look at the Science Debate press release and questions:

Science Debate 2012 Press Release

The Top American Science Questions in 2012

“Whenever the people are well-informed,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “they can be trusted with their own government.”

Science now affects every aspect of life and is an increasingly important topic in national policymaking.

ScienceDebate.org invited thousands of scientists, engineers and concerned citizens to submit what they felt were the the most important science questions facing the nation that the candidates for president should be debating on the campaign trail.

ScienceDebate then worked with the leading US science and engineering organizations listed at left to refine the questions and arrive at a universal consensus on what the most important science policy questions facing the United States are in 2012.

Innovation | Climate Change | Research and the Future | Pandemics and Biosecurity
Education | Energy | Food | Fresh Water | The Internet | Ocean Health
Science in Public Policy | Space | Critical Natural Resources | Vaccination and Public Health

Posted in politics, science funding, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Even Most Religious Voters Want Candidates to Debate Science

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 18, 2012

From the fine folks about at ScienceDebate.org come some important results from recent survey.  Long story short: even the vast majority of religious voters want the 2012 presidential candidates to talk less about religion and much more about science and technology issues!  I couldn’t agree more; read on for the details…

New Poll: Even religious voters overwhelmingly want candidates to debate science

Consensus among Protestants, Catholics for science debates, science-based policies; Twice as many think the US not spending enough on alternative energy as do defense

Click for larger image

WASHINGTON (April 3, 2012) — In a surprising rebuff of recent political wisdom that Republicans and religiously affiliated voters are becoming “anti-science,” eighty-two percent of Catholics and eighty-three percent of Protestants say it is more important that the candidates for president debate the major science challenges facing the United States than it is they debate faith and values, according to a new national public opinion poll (PDF) of attitudes about science, faith and public policy commissioned by ScienceDebate.org. …

Click here to read the entire press release

Posted in politics, religion, scientific method | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Science Debate 2012: Submit Questions for the Candidates

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 3, 2012

I am happy to announce that Science Debate 2012 is now accepting your submissions for questions to ask the candidates in the 2012 U.S. presidential elections.  Recall the list of questions from Science Debate in the 2008 election cycle, and you’ll get a pretty good idea of how this entire thing works.  Basically, it is to put questions of scientific, engineering, and technological importance into the political debate; considering as how important these issues are and will be in the 21st-century, I think it is more than appropriate to hold our political candidates accountable on such matters.  I also like how Shawn Otto and the Science Debate team put it:

Why is this important?

In 2008, the ScienceDebate initiative successfully elevated science and engineering topics in the public dialogue that simply would not have been priorities without our efforts.

To give you an example, when we started, of the 2,975 questions asked the then-candidates for president, just six mentioned “climate change” or “global warming” which, no matter your opinion, is among the top science policy debates.  None of the candidates wanted to talk about science at all.  The topic wasn’t even on Barack Obama’s radar.

By the time we were done, the candidates for president had answered the top 14 science questions facing America.  Those answers made more than 850 million media impressions, reframing science as a national priority.  President Obama’s answers formed the early basis of his science policy.  For the first time, a president went into office with a science policy and a clear idea of how science fit into a larger strategic agenda.  He drew his top science appointments from among our most visible early supporters – including John Holdren, Jane Lubchenco, Steven Chu, Harold Varmus, and Marcia McNutt – and mentioned our mission statement – restoring science to its rightful place – in his inaugural address.

In many ways, the ScienceDebate effort helped bring focus and voice to the value of science in America, and made it a more common topic in the general public’s dialogue.  With this step-by-step, incremental advance, the ScienceDebate initiative had large influence and produced benefits for all Americans.

Today, anti-science forces are more vocal than ever, and ScienceDebate is even more important than it was in 2008.  Our efforts present critical science policy questions in the way American adults are used to taking in complex information: the context of the national policy dialogue.  With so many national issues revolving around science and engineering, your support of ScienceDebate is more important than ever.

If you value public policy based on knowledge instead of ideology, we need your financial support.  Please give now, and join our conversation.

Best,

-Shawn Otto and the team at ScienceDebate.Org

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Support Science Debate 2012!

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 30, 2011

You may recall a new effort in 2008 by the scientific community and backers of science to become more active in the United States’ political process, and I am happy to (re)announce that Science Debate is back for the 2012 election cycle!

Is America ceding its capacity to lead?

Science Debate 2012 is a grassroots initiative spearheaded by a growing number of scientists and other concerned citizens. The signatories to our “Call for Presidential and Congressional Debates on Science & Technology” include the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Council on Competitiveness, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, over 150 leading universities and associations, Nobel laureates and other leading scientists, major business leaders, presidents of universities and major associations, congresspersons of both major political parties, religious leaders, former presidential science advisors, the editors of America’s major science journals, writers, and many others.

We have noticed that science and technology lie at the center of a very large number of the policy issues facing our nation and the world – issues that profoundly affect our national and economic security as science and technology continue to transform our lives. No matter one’s political stripe, these issues pose important pragmatic policy challenges – challenges that are too important and too impactful on people’s lives to be left unaddressed.

We believe these scientific and technological policy challenges can bring out the best in the entrepreneurial American spirit. America can be a leader in finding cures for our worst diseases, inventing the best alternative energy sources, enjoying the most pristine and biologically wealthy environment, and graduating the most scientifically literate children in the world – or we can cede these economic and humanitarian benefits to other countries.

Leadership is about articulating a vision for the future and making it happen.  Will America lead, or will it step aside and be swept along as others take the reins?

We believe a debate on these issues would be the ideal opportunity for America and the candidates to explore our national priorities, and it is hard to imagine any candidate not wishing to be involved in such an occasion.

Please join us and work to make Science Debate 2012 a reality nationally, and in your congressional district.

Sign the Science Debate Petition!

Support Science Debate 2012!

And, last but not least, if you harbor any doubts that now, more than ever, is the time for a serious national political discussion of science, science education, and its implications, then just take a few minutes to watch this video clip from the Daily Show…

Posted in politics, science funding, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Science Debate 2.0 – The 2012 Version!

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 29, 2011

You may recall that back in 2008 during the U.S. presidential season there was an effort by scientists and lay-supporters of science – called Science Debate – to get the presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, to seriously address various science related issues.  In general, the effort was pretty successful, with both candidates addressing their stances on a number of science-oriented issues, from evolution in the schools to climate science and more.

Now the Science Debate folks are ramping up for the 2012 election season.  If you think science is something important (and who wouldn’t in this day and age?) in terms of being an informed voter, then take some time to head over to Science Debate 2012 and see how the candidates stack up…

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How to Always Pick a Winning Stock

Posted by mattusmaximus on December 21, 2010

This time of year, money is on a lot of people’s minds.  And especially with the crummy economy, it is REALLY on people’s minds.  Unfortunately, this is an environment which is ripe for various kinds of money-related scams.  In that spirit, I wanted to share with you all an excellent blog post by my skeptical colleague Phil Ferguson over at the Skeptic Money blog. It’s all about those schemes to “pick winning stocks” and whatnot; I can’t do it justice, so I’ll just pass along Phil’s post…

How To Pick Winning Stock Every Time – The Skeptics’ Way

Today I will show you how great stock pickers are able to find the winners – every time.  Now when you get a tip via a call or an e-mail from a broker you will know how they do it.  Now you can do it too.  If you use this same method you can guarantee a correct prediction on a stock.  With this system you can win every time.

I found this video from Darren Brown.  He calls it the system and I will stick with that name.  He uses it on horses but, I will tell you how to do it with stocks.  It is even better with stock because they can only go up or down.  It is so easy – it will blow your mind.  The same secrets apply to stocks as it does for horses.  Watch this video to see how it works.  Don’t skip ahead… YOU NEED to see how well this works. …

And yes, there IS an angle to this whole thing, but to see the angle read all the way through to the end of Phil’s post plus watch the accompanying videos.  However, for those of you who are a bit ADD, I’ll skip to the end:

… Someone had to win with each bet.  A stock picker can do the same thing.  They will call dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people.  They will tell half of the people that a given stock will go up and the other half will be told that the same stock will go down.  Those that lose never get called again.  The winners are called again and get a new stock tip.  So with just 16 people to start with a stock picker can get 4 in a row for one lucky person.  Now that person will do just about anything.  Even borrow money from friends.  They may or may not make money.  It does not matter to the broker.  Each time you buy or sell a stock, you make will make the broker money.

Now, when someone calls you with a hot stock tip, you will know what to do – RUN!

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Skeptic Money: Guaranteed Mutual Funds?

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 12, 2010

This past weekend at Skepchicamp 2010, one of the most interesting presentations was given by Phil Ferguson, the author of the must-see Skeptic Money website. Phil specializes in applying skepticism & critical thinking to an area where I am admittedly very weak: money, finances, and investing.  During his presentation, Phil was gracious enough to give some very useful skeptical advice on “Guaranteed Mutual Funds”, and I’m reposting his blog entry on the topic below…

That’s Phil on the left, along with The Friendly Atheist 🙂

NOTE:  This post is part of an ongoing education series.  This information is for educational purposes only.  This information does not constitute investment advice.  No rational person would make investment decisions based on a blog post.  Please consult with your financial advisor before taking any action.  If you think it is OK to make investment decisions based on a blog post, then for the love of the FSM – Stop reading my blog.

Below is a description of an investment product.  This is based on real and available products but does not represent any specific product.  Numbers below are estimates and are only intended to show how this product works.

The Pitch.

There is a new product it is a combination of the best of bonds and the stock market.  It is a guaranteed mutual fund.  Part of the money is invested in an index fund and some is invested in Zero-coupon bonds issued by the US Government – AAA Grade.  You get the benefit of the stocks and bonds.  The best part of all is that in the next 10 years, you are guaranteed a 40% return.  That’s like getting 4% each and every year.  That’s right you will make at least 40% return on your investment and you have the unlimited potential to make more if the stock market goes up.  Just sign here and give me $100!

The Reality.

Now for all of the details that the sales person did not tell you about.  The odd thing is that they did not need to tell you verbally because all of the details are in the prospectus – 72 pages of 6 point font written in the best legalese.  You signed a form that said you read it.  Now they can do almost anything to you.  You thought if you invested $100 you would have $140 in 10 years.  Now we will get the details.

10 years – You will want to keep this investment for 10 years because if you sell it early you have to pay a 10% penalty.  Whoops… did we forget to tell you that.

4% per year – Actually it is closer to 3.3% per year compounded but hey it’s only money.

The Load – oh…  did we forget to tell you there is an 8% load.  A load is a sales fee that is collected from you and paid to the sales person.  8% is on the high side for mutual funds but, this is a really good investment so it is a small fee to pay.  The $140 after 10 years was based on an investment of $100 you only invested $92 ($8 covers the load).  You do not make $40 but $37 (remember you only invested $92).  So when it’s all done you have $129 – still really good.

Annual expense ratio – We told you the 40% return is guaranteed – and it is.  So is the annual expense ratio.  This is to cover the cost to the company that manages you money – and they deserve it for getting you such a great product.  The fee is just 1.8% per year.  Just above the industry average but your worth it.  Total cost is just $18 over ten years.  Your total return is still $111 that’s great.

Insurance – Your money is guaranteed, it’s a kind of insurance.  You pay for auto and home insurance – of course you have to pay a little something for this insurance.  The cost is just 1.5% per year.  Total over 10 years is about $15.  Your total return is $96 – isn’t this, a wonderful investment.

Taxes – The IRS does not want to wait and tax you on all the money you are going to make with the Zero Coupon Bonds.   So they created a thing called imputed interest. They collect tax on the money you are going to get.  Don’t think that you lost money.  You did not!  You made money but agreed to a lot of high expenses.  That’s your problem not the IRS’s.  So…. ya gotta pay the tax.  I will call it $6.  So now your awesome investment of $100 after ten years is now worth around $90.

Who wants to buy now?

Umm… not me, Phil.  Thanks for the tip.

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Final Word on Science Funding in the Stimulus

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 16, 2009

It’s been a good week. It seems that all the rabble rousing done over the last couple of weeks concerning science funding in the economic stimulus package has paid off. Our friends over at Science Debate sent me this email…

Thanks to your efforts and those of other individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. science community, science did not lose out in the final negotiations of the stimulus bill, which passed last night and is expected to be signed by President Obama on Monday.

When it became clear last Friday morning that the Senate was intent on cutting science, and planned to zero out new NSF funding entirely, you spoke up loudly, and by the end of the day many of the proposed cuts had been restored. When it seemed likely that science would get the short end in conference negotiations between the very powerful Senate version of the bill and the more desirable science targets in the House version, you spoke up again, and to some observers’ great surprise, the House version of the science targets won out almost completely, and science got an increase even as many other programs were cut.

While the principles of the stimulus package may be argued, it is clear that U.S. science has taken a small but important step toward being restored to its rightful place in the priorities of America. Thank you for your participation and support in that process.

You can view an analysis of the House, amended Senate, and Final versions of science spending in the bill here.

Thank you! As we said when we began this effort, we do not view Science Debate as a legislative advocacy organization, but that this was an exceptional circumstance where a broad grassroots effort could leverage a positive result.

Looking forward, while we will most certainly take exceptional actions like this in the future, we will be adopting your suggestions and concentrating the majority of our focus on the broad goal of continuing to “restore science to its rightful place” in three ways: championing science debates among policymakers and those running for office; combating the erosion of science and science policy in the media; and new efforts to involve young people in science policy discussions. More later.

I count this as a big win for science in the U.S. But as the Science Debate folks said, it was only possible due to the combined efforts of all of us, not just scientists themselves. Please consider getting more involved with the folks over at Science Debate as they continue to hold our policy makers accountable on issues of scientific importance. As you’ve seen, we can make a difference!

Posted in science funding | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Good News on U.S. Science Funding

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 7, 2009

Win!!! 😀 Just a quick follow up on my earlier post – Time to Invest in Science. It seems that the campaign launched by our friends at Science Debate may have had some positive effect. I received the following notification from them today in an email…

Well it’s been a long, long day with thousands of , but we are happy to report that your efforts, and those of the rest of the U.S. science and technology community, have paid off in a big way – for the time being.

Senators Nelson, Collins, Lieberman and Specter held a press conference earlier this evening, also crediting Senator Snowe, and followed up by Senate Majority Leader Reid, declaring a compromise bill has been reached on the stimulus package. You can read the exact line items of the bill here in an xls document… This is a terrific $3 billion victory for U.S. Science – thank you!

This bill will be voted on by the full Senate on Monday. It could still fail then. But it reportedly has the strong support of President Obama, and if it passes it will form the (likely strongly prejudiced) basis for conference committee negotiations.

As for justifying why having such science funding increases in the stimulus package is important, the email goes on to say…

we believe scientific research is one of the best investments in stimulating economic growth in both the short and long term that this country can possibly make in a science-dominated global economy. Here are some ways these contemplated amounts are stimulative:

1. Literally ‘shovel ready’: the American Physical Society identified billions in ‘shovel ready’ science programs that include immediate construction items associated with science. So, much of what is being targeted as ‘research’ and therefore not stimulative, is in fact direct stimulus for construction and expenditures.

2. Stimulus money for federal science funding agencies will translate into support for thousands of graduate students and postdocs this year and next year, as faculty who get funded hire them. This is a good way to create high quality jobs right away and to invest in the future at the same time. NSF supports over 2,000 institutions and reaches nearly 200,000 researchers, postdoctoral fellows, trainees, teachers, and students every year.

3. Current economic conditions have hit the states particularly hard. Many are experiencing severe budget constraints and growing job losses. In many regions, universities and colleges are the main employer, and the source of economic growth in local and regional economies. Any additional funding targeted to NSF has an immediate and direct effect on high-quality jobs and economic growth across America.

4. A report, for example, from the Council for Chemical Research concludes that a federal investment of $1 billion in R&D funding in the chemical sciences can be leveraged into $40 billion in GNP and 600,000 jobs. NSF is the principal agency that supports research across all disciplines of science and engineering, including the chemical sciences.

Today I’m breathing a sigh of relief. It looks as if this is a victory for science in the United States – it’s about time we had one like this. Btw, just to let you know, the folks over at Science Debate have been critical to getting the word out to the public about these funding issues. If you aren’t already on their email list or a supporter, I strongly encourage you to get involved. As you can see, it can make a difference.

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Time to Invest in Science

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 6, 2009

There were two recent pieces of news that caught my attention regarding basic scientific research & science education in the United States. Unfortunately, neither of them are good – I’ll deal with them one at a time in their own blog entries.

i want you for science

The first is an email I received about the current wrangling in the U.S. Congress over President Obama’s proposed economic stimulus package. It seems that some Senators are proposing to cut a large portion of the proposed increase in science funding in the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. You can read the details at this Talking Points Memo link, but here is a brief summary…

NASA exploration $750,000,000 = 50%
NSF $1,402,000,000 = 100%
NOAA $427,000,000 = 34.94%
NIST $218,000,000 = 37.91%
DOE energy efficiency & renewable energy $1,000,000,000 = 38%
DOE office of science $100,000,000 = 100%

Fortunately, the folks over at Science Debate 2008 are making a big stink out of this situation. I think their own words in the email I received say it best

… science and technology are responsible for half of the economic development of the United States since WWII and yet, if current trends hold, some, such as the Business Roundtable, have predicted that 90% of all scientists and engineers will live in Asia within 5 years.

The United States simply MUST renew our investment in the single greatest economic engine this country has ever known. Small federal investments in scientific research have helped produce things like the internet and the transistor that have consistently delivered multi-trillion dollar economies.

So, if you’re as upset as I am about this situation (and you’re a United States citizen), take a moment to contact your Senators and let them know how you feel. Here are some tips, from the Science Debate 2008 folks, about what to say

1. WHAT TO DO: call and email your two U.S. senators. Contact from a constituent on a wonky issue like this will have enormous influence. Calling is better than email, but do both if you can.

Go here to find your Senator, and select your state in the drop down box in the upper right hand corner:
http://www.senate.gov/

Tell them in your own words to reject the reduction
effort in the stimulus bill led by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) when it comes to science.

Note that most Senator’s web pages contain a form (e.g. – CONTACT ME) that you can fill out to contact the Senator. Also, use your own words since identical
messages get rejected by the Senators’ staff. You can adapt language from my previous email or from below, but be sure to personalize it.

2. TALKING POINTS:

A) Science & technology have produced half of the economic growth of the United States since WWII.

B) Spending on basic research is the single greatest economic engine this country has ever known.

C) Funding to federal granting agencies is about as “shovel-ready” a stimulus as you can get. If the granting agencies lower their score thresholds for awards across the board the money will be flowing within months, leading to rapid hiring and increased purchasing from technical service and supply companies that are largely American, and creating thousands of the kinds of high-quality jobs the country needs.

Sending your Senator a quick email may not seem like much, but if enough of us do it, then we can have a huge impact. Remember, if we don’t stand up for U.S. science, who will?

Posted in science funding | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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