Most scientists don't take political positions. They make observations, and when a consensus is reached, they sometimes take actions. For instance, when it became pretty clear that lead was dangerous, there was a movement to remove it from gasoline. This became political because some interests were only interested in quarterly profits, not long term costs to taxpayers. Fortunately the taxpayers won. For instance, there is really good science linking the buildup in the environment of lead to the increase in crime, and the decrease in crime of the past decade or so to the decrease in lead. It is not just correlation, cut actual causation.
Now, as far as NPR is concerned, compared to Fox News of course it looks biased. NPR is not going to invite John McCain on the air to talk about when he was a kid you could kill black people, and know he has to deal with a black man, as he has been saying this past week. But the thing about NPR is it probably does a better job of using the public air waves than other.
Here is the rub. Fox News can say and do whatever it wants because it does not use free public resources. This is the key. Free public resources, not funding by the government. The government funds lots of things, and that does not necessarily absolutely limit speech. For instance, many churches take money for schools, which frees up money that they then use to do stuff like encourage people to attack people going about their day to day business. For instance, one church in my area bought cameras so they could photograph people going into a gay club. But radio stations were given public bandwidth and were supposed to use it responsible ways. I think NPR is responsible and balanced compared to some of what I hear on the AM stations. AM stations are using free resources. We could take it back and make a great deal of money leasing it to other agents. We don't. They agree to use it, and should be more responsible.
All these computer classes are great for the natural learner, the 20% or so of students who have that ability. But these are the same students who have been graduating high school for year, who can go to the public library and learn everything that they would if they got an MBA(one of good friends did this), who, like reported in the NYT today, did not complete school but invented Scotch Tape.
While we need to make sure not to apply negative pressure to these kids, which means to let them take the online courses, give them independent study, allow to explore, we also cannot use this an excuse to stop the more expensive education of the kids who really need to be taught. The correlation between online courses and independent skills(Or as it says, habits of the mind) in no way indicates that online courses teach independent skills. Sure, you could put a kid a computer and give him an F if she does not complete statistics, but is that teaching? Some would say yes. I would say we are accepting that most of kids will be semi-skilled laborers without the jobs to insure a high rate of employment, which means more welfare checks.
I learned to use a computer in middle school based on a teletype. My first real job was using MS Excel on a Mac. If I had been taught how to use a program, I would have been screwed. But I was taught a how to think how computers work, the skill of programming and use a computer, not just an application. I had to transfer my skills of using a t-square and triangle to using a 2d based schematic program to a 3D based rendering program. I can thank my teachers in high school for focusing on best practices instead of rote mechanics.
I firmly believe that if a kid goes to college, they should go to college for something they love. If they learn how to think and how problem solve, they be more likely to complete a degree with something they love, and if they are smart enough to work as they move through college, they will gain skills that will get them employment. If they go don't go to college, then get work that will teach you something. The entry level job should not only be about pay, it should be about learning.
There is no way to know what the world is going to look like in 30 years when today's teens are stuggling to complete that last 15 years of work before retirement, when all the kids who are born in 10 years are going to sniping at her back to take her job away because they are more up to date. Look how few parents were buying their kids computer in 1984. I wonder how many wish they had.
In any case there are probably more significant way that a person contributes to the carbon problem. Cars are a good example. Petrol is mostly carbon, and no matter how clean we make the exaust, and it is clean, there is still carbon that has to be expelled as CO and CO2. Asking someone how much petrol they consume a year is therefore a much better indicator, although in the UK the car ownership and use is probably not as great as in the US.
Then there is food. A kilowatt hour of electricity is like a kg of CO2, burning a gallon of gas is like 8kg, and eating a pound of beef is like 50 kg. Eating chicken, according to the OECD, cuts that in a quarter. So someone who uses too much electricity but each chicken instead of beef, or even tofu with cuts in a quarter again, is probably doing more good that some who has beef every day but is very frugal on the electricity.
I think that 3D printers have a market and will get to the point where they will be Sold in Stores My concern with Home Depot is their ability to market them positively. Sure, $4K is low enough that many people will but it and take it home and try to use it. But if Home Depot is trying to push 3D printers to just anyone, many of them are going to get returned because they can't print washers. And the reviews are going to be bad, and 3D printing technology is going to be pushed back 5 years.
On a related note, broadcaster have been increasingly ignoring the public service mandate, and our government has been complicit in this. Aero is just another example of the giveaway of public resources to the privileged few.