Along with running the free world, President Barack Obama has spent the past seven years guiding U.S. science and technology policy. The initiatives and goals he puts in place—in clean energy, space, medicine, education, nanotechnology, and more—help direct research, which in turn directs the future. With one year left in the Oval Office, the president talks about what he’s achieved, what’s left to do (a lot), and why being a nerd is one of the best ways to serve your country.By Cliff Ransom Photography by F. Scott Schafer
Popular Science: You have been a very pro-science president. Why do you see science and technology as being so important?
Caterpillar CAT Leather Sandals in Brown size 7WOMENS SHOES LADIES SANDALS ESPADRILLES PLATFORMS DIAMANTE DRESSY SUMMER SIZE,Man/Woman Ladies Spot On Sandals Style - F10171 New product Brand buy online HA1254,NUEVO de mujer Roxy Britany azul turquesa Chanclas chica SANDALIAS PLAYERAS,Nero 35 EU Reef Stargazer 2, Infradito da Donna, (Black/Black), Scarpe (ord)Chanclas Dedo Silver Arosa - Chanclas hombre,Women's PELLE MODA Brown W/Turquoise Stone Slide Sandals SZ 7,New - Khombu Men's Travis Active Water River Sandals lake Black - 8,Steve Madden Womens Getdown Black Flat Sandals Shoes 6 Medium (B,M) BHFO 5588,Womens Rusty Flippin Thong Black/Gold Sandals,AQUARAPID CIABATTA GABO - C BLK - 46 (8004298408649),Italian Shoe Makers Womens Sandals Wood Wedge Heel Tortoise Shell Contessa 9 S25,Women's Revel Charley Sandals - Black - Size 7 1/2,Gentleman/Lady AIR WALK FLIP FLOP CORAL FLATS Complete specification range real Cost-effective,Albaricoque Azul Blanco Jalea De Damas Sandálias para Ropa Casual Ropa de baño,Anne Klein- Black & Leopard Print Slip On Sport Sandals- Size 7,Merrell Women's Kai Air Sandals 9 Blue Turquoise Flip Flops Thong Starfish,White Mountain Narcissa Dark Brown Leather Slip On Shoe Women's Size 7.5 M NIB,Gentlemen/Ladies Ladies Spot On Gladiator Sandals Style - F0226 - D excellent quality Beautiful appearance Seasonal hot sale WG1256Gentleman/Lady new ladies waterproof shower/beach sandals Easy to use discount price Speed refund,Man's/Woman's NIB Summer Floral Wedge Sandals fashion Modern and stylish fashion List of explosions,Okabashi Thong Sandal Size M Pink Flip Flop WomensJessica Simpson Caralie Women's Silver Thong Strappy Ankle Strap US Size 9 B,INTER infradito da bambino blu varie taglie prodotto ufficiale idea regalo,WOOLRICH Womens Sandals Shoes Brown Slingback Cross Strap Made in Italy Size 10M,Earth Spirit Gelron 2000 Brown Leather Slip On Women's Sandals Size 7,Ladies Sandals Mules Dunlop Memory Foam Slingback Metallic Faux Leather,Sole-flex Wedge Sandal in tan real Leather,CLARKS 'Miami Beach' Leather Strappy Sandals Cork Wedge T-Strap Women's Sz 8MBORN CLOSED TOE FISHERMAN'S SANDAL, 7/38, BLACK LEATHER
PS: Among your White House initiatives, you’ve focused heavily on improving STEM education in America. What’s your proudest achievement on that front?
BO: There’s a lot to be proud of. We now graduate 25,000 more engineers per year from our colleges and universities than we did when I took office. We’re more than halfway toward our goal of preparing 100,000 new math and science teachers by 2021. We’ve secured more than $1 billion of private investment for improving STEM education, and commitments from college and university leadership to help underrepresented students earn STEM degrees. There’s also something that’s harder to measure, but every bit as important: all the young people, including minorities and young women, who are more excited than ever about pursuing their passions for STEM.
One of the new traditions I’ve started as president is the White House Science Fair. We ought to celebrate science fair winners at least as much as Super Bowl winners. And when young people are excited about science, technology, engineering, and math, that’s not just good for them. That’s good for America. We want the next game-changing industry or life-saving breakthrough to happen right here in the United States.
PS: Do you consider yourself a nerd and, if so, what’s your nerdiest pastime?
New with box: A brand-new, unused, and unworn item (including handmade items) in the original packaging (such as ... Read moreabout the condition
PS: You also put heavy emphasis on developing innovation and entrepreneurship. How do you make Silicon Valley happen all over the country?
New! Men's Outland S6036MBR Tracker II Sport Sandals Black/Red B42,adidas Adilette CF Ultra Supercloud Plus Slides Blue White Mens Sandal AQ4936,New Charles David Womens Pink Ankle Strap Sandals Size 8.5,Dune Women Ladies High Wedge Heel Ankle Strap Summer Party Sandal Size / EU,Italian Shoe Makers Women's Brown Elegant Slip On Sandals Size 9,PRIVO BY CLARKS BLUE SPORT FISHERMAN WOMENS SANDALS SIZE 10 EUC B25,Bnwt O'Neill Womens Fw Print Flip Flops Black (Black Allover Print ) 6 UK,Gentlemen/Ladies Ladies Down To Earth Sandals Style - F0745 use discount price Very good color BA1904,Tar Heels Mens Slip On Flip Flops Black with Blue Carolina Tarheels XL (U019),Vince Camuto Womens Illana Black Wedge Sandals Shoes 5.5 Medium (B,M) BHFO 1957,New Michael Antonio Womens Rimio-Met Gold Ankle Strap Sandals Size 10,WEDGE FLIP FLOPS Women Size 9 10 Brown W Green Jewels Casual Church Avon NEW,Lands End Flip Flops Ladies Shoes Size 5 B Tan Brown Sandals 84979 Comfy Unisex,New without Box Woman's Steve Madden Wedge Sandal Size 8,Circus by Sam Edelman Flynn Slide Sandals 374, Rose All Day, 8 US / 38 EU,Gentlemen/Ladies Report Womens Greggers Open Toe Casual Slide Sandals Outstanding features Wholesale trade leading the fashion HH2900,Man/Woman croc shoes junior 3 Year-end special promotions Pleasant appearance Vintage tide shoes,Women's Jelly Summer Beach Slip On Pointed toe Bowknot Flats Loafers Slippers,Princefly 2018 Bohemia Beach Sandal - Green/ White Flower - Size:7.5(38) ~ New ~,Sam Edelman 8 100% Leather Python Print Sandals,NICOLE NICO BLACK SANDALS SHOES 6 WEDGE SLIP ON STRETCH OPEN TOES & BACK MULES,Clarks women's size 5 M flats sandals comfort shoes blue flip flops tasselsMen/Women summer sandals size 5 used Year-end special promotions New style retail price,Hombre ZUECOS Sandalia Jardín Hospital lactancia Plástico Deporte Casual,Men's/Women's Adidas Adissage Sandal,Black/White/Gray Size 10 Elegant shape New style British temperament,Cliffs White Mountain Sandals Wedge Flip Flop Charter Womens Sz 6.5 Pink Salmon,Clarks ~ Strappy Black & Gold Gladiators Ankle Strap Cushioned Sandals ~ Size 5,Callisto New Melz Gray Womens Shoes Size 10 M Sandals MSRP $100Dansko Sandals Size 41 10.5-11 Beige Gold Sparkly,New Dolce Vita Sandals Size 9M Red Excellent Condition,
BO: When it comes to precision medicine, advances in technology, data science, and clinical research are already curing diseases that were once thought to be incurable. It’s entirely possible that a decade or two from now, treatments would be tailored not just to the disease, but also to the individual patient. We’re being careful to protect patient data and to make participants partners in this work. Because if we embrace precision medicine in the right way, the possibilities for better treatments are practically endless.
The BRAIN Initiative is another project whose time has come. Right now, we can identify galaxies billions of light-years away. We can study particles smaller than an atom. But we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the 3 pounds of matter that sits between our ears. I believe that with America leading the way, we can change that. Hundreds of scientists and dozens of universities, companies, foundations, and other organizations have stepped up to help us tackle this challenge.
PS: You’ve also advocated the development of a private space industry to work alongside and complement government efforts. What is your vision for space exploration and commercialization? Who does what?
BO: I’ve laid out a vision for space exploration where our astronauts travel out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay. To build a sustainable human presence in space, we’ll need a thriving private-sector space economy. I see the expanding space industry as an addition to, not a replacement for, the extraordinary work of NASA. With industry taking over tasks like ferrying cargo and crew to the International Space Station, NASA can focus even more intensely on the most challenging exploration missions, like landing astronauts on Mars or learning more about Earth and the rest of our solar system.
As we set our sights toward other planets, we can also create good jobs here on this one. American companies have begun to reclaim the lucrative market for launching commercial satellites. That’s just one example of the way that a growing space economy can help American workers succeed.
PS: If you were to end up on Mars, who would you want as your companion: Mark Watney from The Martian, or Ellen Ripley from Alien?
BO: As long as it’s a hypothetical question, can’t I pick both? If I’ve got Matt Damon growing potatoes and Sigourney Weaver taking care of any unwelcome intruders, I like my chances.
PS: It’s been barely two months since a climate agreement was struck in Paris. How do you think the agreement will be remembered 20 years from now?
BO: I believe the Paris agreement can be a turning point for our planet. It’s the biggest single step the world has ever taken toward combating global climate change. When I traveled to Paris at the beginning of the climate conference, I said we needed an enduring agreement that reduces global carbon emissions and commits the world to a low-carbon future. That’s exactly what we achieved.
The American people should be proud because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership. The skeptics said that taking action to transition to a clean-energy economy would kill jobs. Instead, we’ve seen the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. We’ve driven our economic output to all-time highs, while driving our carbon pollution to its lowest level in nearly two decades.
These kinds of concrete steps helped bring more countries to the table. With our historic joint announcement with China last year, we showed it was possible to bridge the old divides between developed and developing nations that had stymied global progress for too long. And that accomplishment inspired dozens and dozens of other nations to follow our lead and set ambitious climate targets of their own.
BO: Before you can solve a problem, you have to understand it. That’s why we’ve fought hard to protect the funding for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a government-wide effort to help us see what’s happening in the present so we can better predict the future. Thanks to their efforts, our satellites, aircraft, ships, buoys, and terrestrial-monitoring systems are providing indispensable insights and strengthening the models that tell us what to expect going forward.
My administration hasn’t just helped to advance climate science—we’ve also made good use of the results. We used the most up-to-date insights from climate science as the basis of our national Climate Action Plan. And we’ve begun to develop accessible climate databases and tools that help governments, businesses, and citizens protect themselves from the effects of climate change that we can’t avoid.
President Obama, photographed on January 4 at the White House
BO: Fifteen of the planet’s 16 warmest years have come in the first 16 years of the 21st century. The warmest year yet was 2015. The Pentagon is warning us that climate change will threaten our national security by fostering instability overseas. Here at home, we’re seeing longer and more dangerous wildfire seasons, coupled with devastating droughts. Last year I visited Alaska, where towns are literally being swallowed up by rising sea levels. Miami now routinely floods at high tide. So this debate is over. The question now is what we do about climate change because there is such a thing as being too late. And I think that regardless of their party, if candidates for elected office want to resign your children and grandchildren to a world that’s broken beyond repair, then there’s simply no way they deserve your vote.
BO: Well, here’s what we’ve done. Over the past seven years, we have transformed America into the global leader in fighting climate change. We’ve set new fuel standards for cars and trucks, invested more than any administration in history in growing industries like wind and solar, taken unprecedented steps to protect our natural resources, and set limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can dump into the air. Most important, we’ve proved that we don’t have to choose between a growing economy and a safer planet for future generations. We can have both.
But in the end, when I think about our efforts to combat climate change, I don’t just think about CO2 emissions levels or degrees of global temperature rise. I think about my two girls, and the grandchildren I’d hope to have one day. I imagine myself pushing a little boy or girl on a swing set, out in the open air, looking up at the sun. In that moment, I want to know that the planet’s going to be in pretty good shape. And I want to have contributed to that.
Because that’s our goal: to leave behind a better, safer, more prosperous world for our kids and grandkids. That’s our most important mission in the time we have on Earth. And after seven years as president, I’ve never been more confident that together, we’ll succeed.