Wednesday, July 15, 2015By:
I had heard mixed things about spending the 4th of July in DC, mainly that most DC residents get out of the area as quickly as possible before a stampede of tourists run wild through the city. Some had said that a 4th in DC was similar to New Year’s Eve in New York City, in that it sounds like a good idea on paper, but is realistically kind of miserable. I had found out the previous week that I would be playing host to a large number of friends throughout the Northeast, all of whom expected the most patriotic weekend ever. Though I was initially anxious about entertaining 10+ guests, we had a great weekend filled with monuments, brunches, and other Independence Day activities. It was especially cool to see the monuments in the context of the weekend. One highlight, admittedly the most un-American moment of the weekend, was watching Chile and Argentina play in the Copa America (the South American soccer Championship) final. One of my friends had spent the last 4 months studying abroad in Valparaiso, and had become a diehard Chile fan. On Sunday, the U.S. Women’s National team put an exclamation mark on the weekend with a World Cup victory over Japan!
The week got off to a slow start as I continued to work away at my report on cybersecurity oversight, my magnum opus for the summer. However, Tuesday provided a change in pace as the other SPS interns and I went over to NASA to see where Max and Rachel work, as well as the large scale processes going on throughout the NASA campus. I was immediately struck by NASA’s sprawl; I hadn’t realized how much it spread out and how individual different buildings really were. As Dr. Mather pointed out, Max’s office has a lot of cool toys and his supervisor was all too happy to detail them for us. The expo that went to in the middle of the day had some really cool presentations, but two stuck out to me the most. The first was a tour of the supercomputer that NASA uses to predict and visualize weather models. The system filled the entire room and let off a tremendous amount of heat that was counteracted by a relatively advanced cooling system. Drew and I also tried out a simulation NASA had programmed and displayed on a new Oculus Rift Device. I had never used the VR technology before, and it was a little disorienting! The afternoon was spent touring the James Web telescope site and the Hubble Control Center. James Webb reminded me a lot of the telescope lab I had seen while at the University of Arizona for the Optical Society of America conference.
For the rest of the week, most of time was spent working on my project and assisting the staff with whatever they needed. In the middle of the week, I went to a hearing about the recent transition in internet governance. The discussion focused on the plan going forward in terms of maintaining fair governance in the midst of the net neutrality era. That same day, I went to a briefing on autonomous vehicle technology where an Israeli Tech Startup, Mobileye, gave a presentation on its most recent developments. That was shortly followed by a demonstration of rudimentary mobileye technology aboard a large commuter bus.
The end of the week was punctuated by one of the most significant legislative achievements of 2015, the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill to provide the NIH with funding to research rare diseases. It had been a bipartisan effort by leading members of our committee, and we were all very happy to see it go through!