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?
Man/Woman Ipanema Kids Classic Brazil Plastic Flip Flop Green / Black sell In short supply Authentic guarantee VW702KOPPEN KPN BRISEN Womens 7.5 Black 400G Primaloft Waterproof Boots Faux Fur b1cAnimal Jekyl Ripple Mens Beach Holiday Slip On Sandals Flip Flops,Men/Women Scarpa Supra Skytop Argento Cloud Complete specification Used in durability Amoy,Steve Madden Tblanket Brown Suede Moccasins - 7.5,Rider Cape XI AD Tongues Flip Flops BRIDE interorteils Tongs noir 82215-8635HERREN QUALITÄT SLIPPER HAUSSCHUHE ERHÄLTLICH IN SCHWARZ UND BRAUN STYLE M.S.50JOE'S SAKI suede harness studded strap pull on ankle rocker boots 7 M,New Under Armour Men's Atlantic Dune Sandals - Size 9 - Moss Green / Tin,MINNETONKA WOMENS THUNDERBIRD II KILTY SUEDE MOCCASIN - HARDSOLE 602 BROWN,Womens Ladies Mule Slippers / Warm Lined Blue Knitted Slip On Zedzzz 4 to 8,Gentleman/Lady Frauen Hausschuhe feature real Lightweight shoes,Frye Demi Zip Bootie - Women's size 7.5 B - Black,Man/Woman Men's Clarks Toe Post Summer Casual Sandals Style - Bosun Coast Durable service a good reputation in the world buy online GH856,Women's FRYE 14L Marbled Brown Leather Pull On Campus Moto Boots Sz 7 M 77050Acorn Spa Slide Slippers Shoes - Women's,Ladies Brand New White Fluffy Soft SlippersMens Outdoor Touch Fastener Slipper Padded Fleece Lined High Top Shoes,MENS GENUINE SHEEPSKIN slippers Mule Boots LEATHER Wool hard sole size 8 9 10 11,WOMENS SEQUIN FLIP FLOPS SLIP ON SLIDES SLIDERS SLIPPER MULE BEACH SANDALS,Womens Ladies Strappy Platform Sandals Chunky High Heel Summer Shoes Size 4 - 8,Sandalias chanclas cholas sandals Reef switchfoot navyHAUSSCHUHE DAMEN WINTER RASSELSCHUHE HEIß UND WEICH MILCH UND HONIG SH0132,Men's/Women's Unisex Ladies & Mens Slip On Synthetic Crocs Summer Sandals Beach Attractive and durable Fast delivery At an affordable price BN7,Ariat Fatbaby Leather BOOTS Women's Cowgirl Western Size 6 B,hommes Balmoral décontracté chaussons bottine vb-m101a Le Style~ KMen/Women femmes PADDERS Chaussons Duo economic Selected materials Current shape,Mens Coronation st Black or Navy textile slip on slippersHombre Sin Estructura de Clarks Cuero Sandalias Tira en Tobillo Label - TrekClarks Eskimo Kiki Tan Suede Ladies warmed slippers sizes 3/35.5 - 8/42 D,
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
Does not apply
PS: You also put heavy emphasis on developing innovation and entrepreneurship. How do you make Silicon Valley happen all over the country?
Slippers International Mens Opera Leather Closed Toe Slip Burgundy Size 11.5 2,Rafters Men's 'Stillwater' Black Sport Sandals Men Size 10 M New w tags!,TOD'S Dark Brown Riding Leather Boots 38Dolce Vita Black Leather Over The Knee Fashion Boots Womens Size 7,MOBILITY SPORT Womens Mid Calf Boots Brown Leather Size 7.5 M,Ladies Jyoti Faux Fur Mule Slippers Label Wendy,SANDPIPER LADIES HOOK AND LOOP FASTENING HOUSE SLIPPER 'IOLA',CIABATTE BIRKENSTOCK MADRID ORIGINALI TUTTI I COLORI 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43,Uomo Qualità Pantofole Blu Navy/Nero, Slip-On Taglie UK Pantofole 6-11 MS22Bioworld Men's Red Harry Potter Gryffindor Scuff Slippers L / XL (10/13) NEWMARKET 22 Palmer black rounch Mid-calf boots shoes 37.5/ 7,Jeffrey Campbell Size 7 Multi Strap Buckle Witch BootWomens Sheepskin Full Slippers Hand Made Hard Sole Wool Moccasins 3 4 5 6 7 8,NEW WOMENS BLACK FLATS SLIPPERS One Size Rolled Up Just Fab,Ladies Four Seasons Slippers Style - F700,Reef Fanning Low Mens Footwear Sandals - Black All Sizes,hommes Mocassin DOUBLURE POLAIRE Pantoufles Le Style~ K,Men's/Women's Kinder Badeschuhe Badelatschen Flip Flops Schlappen FLIPI Spokey Customer first International choice Rich on-time delivery WA361,Napoleoni Women`s Gray Leather Suede Knee High boots Size US 7 MM 245Miz Mooz Cozumel Gray Distressed Cowboy Boots/Booties Size 7, Stylish!,Licence Officielle Shaun The Sheep Peluche Feuillet sur les Chaussons MuleNew Original Muk Luks Slippers - Grey/White - Size M,Haflinger Women's Blossom Flower Poppy Slipper, Euro 36, Gray Red House Shoe,MENS DUNLOP BURGUNDY/NAVY BLUE ORTHOPAEDIC WARM LINED BOOT SLIPPERS SIZE 6 - 12,Rockport Darwyn One Band Slide Leather Mens Sandals Mens Low Heel,Gentlemen/Ladies Uomo Clarks Doppio Rinforzo Pantofole Re Doppia Diverse new design Modern design Different goods RH1467$180 size 7.5 INC Fedee Brown Leather Knee High Riding Womens Boots shoeStunning Nine West Ladies Black Size 7.5 Swede High Heel Boots,Ladylove 'Bridget' para Dama Borgoña sin Cordones Forro Cálido Pantuflas Bota,Slippers boot boot streaked stuffed man femme du 36 au 45 DJ95
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.