The Sequester, NASA, and BRAIN


Sequestration is having a horrific effect on Americans from one coast to another (except, of course, for those that enacted it) and it’s only going to get worse as time goes by. We’re watching it unfold before our eyes – cuts in funding for schools, airport towers shutting down, federal employees and contractors being furloughed, and some rather horrible cuts to NASA.

But the news is decidedly mixed.

The Bad News is that NASA has had to suspend its Education and Public Outreach funding, which is funding that the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop depended on for some time, followed by National Science Foundation funding, which also has been sequestered. There is much I could write about this, but the folks over at Sci Show have done a great job summing it up for me very nicely:

Ironically, there is some good news here. Despite the cutbacks to its EPO programs, NASA’s budget actually got an increase of $200 million to develop planetary exploration – including a possible mission to Europa!

Not mentioned in the video is an exciting new BRAIN Initiative announced by the White House today. This could bear some very beneficial fruit in understanding just how we’re wried and how we can treat traumatic brain injuries and possibly psychological disorders.

Such as who the hell thought sequestration was a good idea?


Lest I get too snarky, I have to say that the BRAIN program is exactly what government should be doing to promote science. If it can benefit all of us and/or no private enterprise can justify investing in it, government funding should get it started. Just ask any company that uses technology pioneered by NASA, for example.

I should also point out that my Launch Pad partner Mike Brotherton offers his take on the sequester as well.

Saving Maryland’s Night Sky (video)

Baltimore skyline

Here’s some hopeful news! There is a bill before Maryland’s House of Delegates to require energy-efficient lighting, and done so in such a way as to reduce light pollution – that is, street light spilling into the night sky where it does nobody any good whatsoever. Here’s the synopsis:

Expanding the prohibition on the use of State funds to install or replace specified luminaires by including funds to operate specified luminaires in the prohibition and applying the prohibition to all permanent outdoor luminaires unless the luminaires meet specified requirements; establishing specified requirements for luminaires intended for specified lighting purposes; etc.

As legislation goes, this a no-brainer:  the State of Maryland would only purchase energy-efficient outdoor lighting that is designed to light the subjects in question (the streets, the buildings, the flags) and not the stuff we want to keep dark, such as the night sky. The result is money saved, carbon emissions reduced, public safety preserved, and a darker sky that we can all look up and enjoy.

Thats why there is a petition on asking for public support for HB1295. Please sign and tell your friends!

Thanks to my friend Mark Kochte, we have an idea of what such skies could look like, without having to drive for 2 1/2 hours from the nearest city to appreciate it. Enjoy this video, and support HB1295!

Maryland Nights II from Mark ‘Indy’ Kochte on Vimeo.