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NSF Stat of the Week!

Over the next decade, the number of computing jobs in the U.S. is projected to grow by nearly 1.4 million. Yet the number of computing students is only projected to reach 400,000.

That leaves a jobs gap of close to 1 million, according to code.org, a computer science education non-profit. With the average computing salary at $80,000, it is also a gap of close to $450 billion. Why are there more jobs than students? Most K-12 schools don’t offer computer programing classes. In 72 percent of U.S. states, computer science classes do not count towards high school graduation requirements. Without early engagement in computing, students — especially minorities and women — often transition into college thinking that computer science belongs to the realm of geeky, awkward guys, hunched over computers in a dim basement office.

Talk to real computer scientists, however, and you’ll realize that’s far from the truth.

"I get to do and learn things freely," says Rosalind Picard of the MIT Media Lab. “It’s this enormous freedom to just explore and go where your mind wants to go.”

This week, scientists, teachers and advocates across the country are celebrating Computer Science Education Week, which highlights the importance of computer science in America’s education system. The National Science Foundation has long been a supporter of computer science education, through programs like the CS-10K Project, which aims to install high school computing curriculum in 10,000 schools, and The Games Network, which allows students to create their own educational computer games.

Learn more about NSF’s computing efforts through the Computer Information Science and Engineering Directorate, or check out this video featuring some of America’s top computer scientists discussing their field. And:

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NSF is highlighting statistics from NSF-funded research in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Statistics. Look for them weekly on Tumblr.

Photo credit: Georgia Computes!, Georgia Tech; Two girls at a 2011 summer camp for rising 4th-6th graders use a LEGO kit to make a top spinner.

A TEXT POST

NSF Stat of the Week!

In 2007, 60 additive manufacturing machines — which make 3-D objects guided by a digital design — were sold to consumers. In 2011, that number skyrocketed to 23,000; more than a 38,000-percent increase. That year was the first consumer 3-D printers outsold professional machines, and the industry has only continued to boom since then. By 2017, the sale of 3-D printing goods and services could be around $6 billion, according to a recent industry report from Wohlers Associates.

The National Science Foundation has distributed more than $200 million in grants on additive manufacturing research and related activities – everything from liquid metal sculptures to school curriculum. The technology is quickly evolving. Recent research created a way to reduce 3-D print time from hours to minutes for multiple-material objects. Says one NSF leader: “We are only beginning to see what is now possible because of additive manufacturing.” Read the full story.

We are highlighting statistics from NSF-funded research in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Statistics. Look for them weekly on Tumblr.

Photo credit: National Science Foundation. The blocks in the image are cubelets: magnetic, electronic building blocks. Each has a small computer inside that can be connected in a variety of ways to do a variety of tasks — follow a hand signal, turn on a light, move around a table, play sounds and more. The cubelets were developed by Eric Schweikardt and his team at Modular Robotics, with support from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research program. Learn more here.

A TEXT POST

NSF Stat of the Week

This is a big week for cranberries. Nearly 20 percent of America’s annual cranberry consumption happens Thanksgiving week. About 80 million pounds of cranberries are consumed Thanksgiving day.

Yet this staple holiday crop is under threat, from a fungal pathogen in the genus Colletotrichum, which can rot wild and cultivated cranberries in North America. In New Jersey and Massachusetts — two of the top three states for U.S. cranberry production — field rot can destroy 50 to 100 percent of a crop. Even protecting cranberries with fungicide is not foolproof: rot still affected up to 15 percent of fungicide-treated crops in the Bay and Garden States.

NSF-funded research out of the New York Botantical Garden is working to determine Colletotrichum’s genetic structure, and uncover how the pathogen is dispersed. This knowledge could help cranberry growers better protect their crops (and ensure cranberries remain on the Thanksgiving table). Learn more here.

NSF is highlighting statistics from NSF-funded research in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Statistics. Look for them weekly on Tumblr.

Photo credit: Randi Gryting, National Science Foundation.

In this 2005 photo, volunteers prepare pies for Thanksgiving dinner at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, one of three U.S. research stations in Antarctica. All are operated by the National Science Foundation. Volunteers from all positions at the station spend Thanksgiving fixing the meal. There’s certainly a lot to fix. Thanksgiving at the South Pole includes 700 pounds of whole turkey, 35 gallons of gravy, 240 pounds of cranberry sauce and 520 pounds of mashed potatoes. See more images from life at the station here.     

A TEXT POST

NSF stat of the week!

Today, in celebration of National Entrepreneurs’ Day, here are a few success stats: There are 23 small business in the United States, accounting for more than half of all U.S. sales and — since the 1970s — 55 percent of all U.S. jobs.

The road to success, however, has never been easy. And the recent economic recession has only made it worse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, new business births have plummeted to levels unseen since the agency started collecting such data more than a decade ago. Business deaths, meanwhile, have increased — affecting around 225,000 businesses in 2010.

Enter NSF’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. They provide funding for high-risk, high-reward startups and small businesses: 632 were funded in Fiscal Year 2012 alone. Forty percent of companies with grants generate revenue thanks to a SBIR grant. Within eight years, some of those companies have profits more than $1 million. 

Learn more about recent innovations, such as revolutionary ear buds from Asius Technologies and biological engineering from Cambrian Innovation, on NSF.gov.

NSF is highlighting statistics from NSF-funded research in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Statistics. Look for them weekly on Tumblr.

Photo credit: Integrated Photonics Inc. Magnetic domains shown in a bismuth rare-earth iron garnet thick film. Created by Integrated Photonics, a SBIR awardee, the film could help improve magnetic and electromagnetic sensors and photonic devices.

A TEXT POST

NSF Stat of the Week!

In 2010, 28 percent of all science and engineering workers were women; a 7 percent increase from 1993. The strongest gains came in jobs in biology and its related sciences, according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. The number of women employed in this field more than doubled between 1993 and 2010.

Despite these gains, women remain chronically underrepresented in nearly all science and engineering occupations. This is especially true in mathematics, engineering and computer science. How to close this gap — and subsequently boost diversity in all realms of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — was the topic of this week’s Gender Summit 3 - North America. The meeting, supported by NSF, is a chance to highlight how diversity and gender can fuel research and innovation. Read the full story.

We’re highlighting statistics from NSF-funded research in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Statistics. Look for them weekly on Tumblr.

Photo credit: University System of Georgia

A TEXT POST

NSF Stat of the Week!

The human brain holds nearly 100 billion neurons. Each one, connected to thousands of other neurons. Yet the watts of energy that power brains — our own personal supercomputers — are five times less than the watts powering an average household light bulb.

This means our brains are super energy-efficient, running on relatively low power while processing a vast amount of information and constantly adapting to stimuli. Human-built supercomputers pale in comparison.

With a new breakthrough from Harvard materials scientists, however, they may start catching up. The NSF-funded researchers built a new type of transistor that mimics a synapse — connective structures in our brain that allow chemical and electrical signals to flow from one neuron to another.

The transistor can — simultaneously — alter the flow of information in a circut and adapt to changing signals. A system with millions of these tiny transistors could, one day, lead to a new breed of high-energy, high-efficiency computer. Read the full story.

NSF is highlighting statistics from NSF-funded research in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Statistics. This week we also celebrate NSF’s role in the BRAIN Initiative. Look for brain-related facts in the coming days across NSF’s social media channels.

Photo credit: Eliza Grinnell, SEAS Communications. This silicon chip holds several prototypes of the synaptic transistor.

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Research points to disease exchange between wild cats, house cats

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A domestic cat photographed with a motion-activated camera on the Colorado Front Range. Credit: Jesse Lewis, Colorado State University

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A mountain lion at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.
Credit: USFWS

Diseases that cross between animals and humans pose an increasing threat to the global community. As cities expand, humans and their pets have more frequent encounters with wild animals, leading to more opportunities for diseases to cross species. Because wild and domestic cat species exchange diseases, their interactions could have an impact on both species conservation and human health. In a globalized world, a new disease emerging from one animal may spread around the world in a matter of days or weeks. To examine this problem, Colorado State University researchers focused on two wild species with historic ranges across the entire U.S., the bobcat and puma, and house cats. They discovered evidence of disease transmission between domestic cats and their wild relatives. In one transmission scenario, house cats may contract diseases from bobcats and pumas and bring them to cities and homes, exposing at-risk humans. In another scenario … 

A TEXT POST

NSF (Spooky) Stat of the Week!

The utter darkness of a no-stars night. A far spider, waiting in her web. Crooked gravestones, constricted spaces, a perilous cliff, far above the ground. For millions of Americans, these aren’t just Halloween specials. They are specific phobias: intense, irrational fears. About 19.2 million Americans have a specific phobia, and they are twice as common in women, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.

In the body, fear boils down to chemistry. Two hormones — adrenaline and cortisol — spark a host of biological reactions, preparing our response to the fear. Be it by fight, or flight. Read the full story.

NSF is highlighting statistics from NSF-funded research in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Statistics. Look for them weekly on Tumblr.

Photo credit: NSF and NBC Learn

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It’s back: NSF stat of the week!

Pharmaceutical manufacturing plants generate 25 to 100 times kilograms of waste per kilogram of product. Much of this waste comes from solvents, liquids added to help dissolve solutions during manufactuing. Solvents can make up more than half of the materials used in the manufacture of bulk pharmaceutical ingredients.

Figuring out ways to reduce this waste is one of the goals of the green chemistry movement, which aims to discover safe, clean and economic alternatives to traditional chemistry products and practices. That is also the spirit of this year’s National Chemistry Week, with the theme “Energy: Now and Forever! Exploring chemistry and energy with a focus on sustainable resources.” NSF is committed to sustainable science every week, and today announced $49 million in funding to more than 101 researchers for green chemistry projects, through the Sustainable Chemistry, Engineering and Materials Initiative. Read the full story.

NSF is highlighting statistics from NSF-funded research in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Statistics. Look for them weekly on Tumblr.

Photo credit: ATE Centers Impact 2011

A TEXT POST

NSF Stat of the Week!

The recent classification of more than 300,000 galaxies in our universe would have taken a single, full-time scientist more than three decades to complete. Instead, more than 83,000 citizen scientists volunteered their time over 14 months, classifying each of those galaxies an average of 40-45 times: more than 16 million classifications in all. The massive effort, Galaxy Zoo 2, is the second phase of a plan to catagorize galaxies in our universe through crowdsourcing. While computers can quickly measure some properties of galaxies, others — such as shape and structure — require the human eye. The catalog gives researchers data on the different types of galaxies, as they are today. In the next Galaxy Zoo iteration, volunteers will help collect data on galaxies in the distant past. Read the full story.

NSF is highlighting statistics from NSF-funded research in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Statistics. Look for them weekly on Tumblr.

Photo credit: Galaxy Zoo

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NSF Stat of the Week!

There are 2.4 million U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One-third report symptoms of mental illness upon return from combat, according to the Pentagon, yet 77 percent never get the treatment they need. This lack of care adds up, mentally and financially: two-year costs of untreated mental illness run between $6,000 and $28,000 per veteran. VetsPrevail, a new online screening and counseling program, aims to reduce barriers to treatment. Built by two veterans at Prevail Health Solutions, with support from NSF, the online program screens vets for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, encouraging healing through online lessons, peer support and diagnostic self-assessments. The ultimate goal is to help returning service members successfully transition to post-military life. Read the full story.

NSF is highlighting statistics from NSF-funded research in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Statistics. Look for them weekly on Tumblr.

Photo credit: Science Nation

A TEXT POST

NSF Stat of the Week!

Of the nearly 7,000 languages in our world today, about 3,000 — 43 percent — are endangered. This means that with each generation, fewer people are speaking the language, be it Akuntsu of Brazil, Bom of Sierra Leone or the Algonquian language Penobscot. The Catalogue of Endangered Languages, a project of the University of Hawai’i Manoa and Eastern Michigan University, is working to combat this trend. An evolving document, it records how endangered each language is and to what extent the language has been documented. The project benefits from an ongoing collaboration between NSF and the National Endowment for the Humanities called the Documenting Endangered Languages program. Read the full story.

NSF is highlighting statistics from NSF-funded research in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Statistics. Look for them weekly on Tumblr.

Photo: A native speaker of Catalan converses with people in Mani, a language from southern Guinea spoken by fewer than 200 people.

Credit: George Tucker Childs, Portland State University