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US Revamps NIST's Standard-Setting Efforts

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the tab-a-just-wider-than-slot-b dept.

Government 64

coondoggie writes "The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been given new marching orders: expand work with the private sector to develop standards for a range of key technologies such as cloud computing, emergency communications and tracking, green manufacturing and high performance green building construction. NIST could see its core science and technology budget double by 2017. NIST has also cut the number of labs it runs to 6 from 10. NIST labs now include engineering, physical measurement, information technology, material measurement, the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the NIST Center for Neutron Research."

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Missed the best part... (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801344)

For example, the White House's National Science and Technology Council recently issued a notice in the Federal Register looking for public input on development and implementation of future standards. "The subcommittee is seeking answers to such questions as: How is the Federal government doing with respect to standards activities? What works well? What can be improved? The challenges of the 21st century, including the need to build a clean energy economy, reduce the high cost of health care, and secure our information technology systems, require that we actively consider ways to enhance the efficiency and responsiveness of the standards development process. Send responses to SOS_RFI@nist.gov," according to the to the government's Office of Science and Technology Policy blog.

Seems like this is the part that would draw more readers on this site.

Re:Missed the best part... (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801516)

It also is working out the standard to use for creationism, because it's a fact, and not just a theory like evolution.

Re:Missed the best part... (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801556)

Does that have something to do with the story or are you making fun of the origin of my nick - which has to do w/the apocalypse, not creation. I'll woosh myself just in case... *woosh*

Re:Missed the best part... (1)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802054)

The beginning of what you quote should have been there before, in federal boilerplate. Building a "clean energy economy"? Good luck if you are going to exclude the already captured, already cheap hydrocarbon sources.

Re:Missed the best part... (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 3 years ago | (#34804808)

Good luck if you are going to exclude the already captured, already cheap hydrocarbon sources.

We agree, I think. Harvesting energy is like the traditional domestication of horses. You do not raise a lithe Dandy to run itself to death except in the case of final defense. You do not raise a Dray to outpace a Dandy, nor to eat through your pantry.

Fast energy supplies should be kept fresh and available in reserve. Slow energy should be expected to pay incremental dividends each day in a methodical manner.

Now that's my type of cutting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34801404)

NIST has also cut the number of labs it runs to 6 from 10. If only my company had cuts like that.

Re:Now that's my type of cutting! (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801704)

to 6 from 10

I do not think it means what you think it means...

Re:Now that's my type of cutting! (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801820)

to 6 from 10

I do not think it means what you think it means...

Well, it's not really his fault. Nobody writes "to 6 from 10"; a normal person would write "from 10 to 6"

Re:Now that's my type of cutting! (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802518)

Um, what? It's perfectly standard English to write it either way.

Re:Now that's my type of cutting! (1)

jappleng (1805148) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802670)

The sad part is that you're correct on that =/ Anyway, I can't decide whether or not it's a good thing or not that they are placing more budget towards technological improvements and grants lately but I'll assume that government intervention in the public sector is bad til proven otherwise ;)

Shhhh.... (0)

hoytak (1148181) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801448)

NIST has also cut the number of labs it runs to 6 from 10...

Shhhhh... don't let congress get wind of what "cut" means ...

Re:Shhhh.... (1)

hoytak (1148181) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801490)

Or the fact that my tired eyes swapped "to" and "from".

Sigh... Back to working under my government grant...

Re:Shhhh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34801560)

You got my hopes up.

Re:Shhhh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34802038)

don't let congress get wind of what "cut" means ...

They certainly don't know now.. They want to reduce the deficit by $700 billion in tax cuts. They want to follow that with a repeal of the health care bill, which CBO estimates will cost $230 billion.

Not to mention they complain that you've "cut" the military budget when you increase it by a smaller size than last year's increase.

There should be no doubt by now. Congress has no idea what words like "cut" or "reduce" means.

Start with wireless! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34801548)

They can start with a standard for 4G cellular Internet, and heavily fine any company that tries to pawn off 3G service as 4G...

NIST is all over the Smart Grid effort too (4, Interesting)

Doofus (43075) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801614)

Summary left out a number of Smart-Grid related efforts NIST is heading up, all of which involve large numbers of private sector corporations and engineers.

See the following:

NIST Smart Grid overview [nist.gov]

as well as this page [nist.gov]

Who is involved?

Because the Smart Grid will touch so many aspects of life in the 21st century, the development of standards involves a wide range of stakeholders—national and international, private and public, large and small. This simplified illustration (see below) shows the many complex relationships and interactions that will take place within the Smart Grid, as electricity and/or information flows back and forth.

As part of the overall Smart Grid coordination effort, NIST is also pushing security issues [nist.gov] for the Smart Grid, which is somewhat reassuring.

Re:NIST is all over the Smart Grid effort too (0)

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Re:NIST is all over the Smart Grid effort too (1)

idlehanz (1262698) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814116)

I suspect the reason smart grid related activities wasn't included is because NIST's smart grid expansion was last years news. This release reflected new marching orders for the coming year.

Can they switch us over to metric, please? (4, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801668)

American user here, requesting the NIST start migrating America to pure metric. I've done about all I can to prepare myself for metric - I can't do any more unless more people start switching as well, and the only way to really do that seems to be government mandate.

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (0)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801724)

Yes, that's what we need, more government mandates shoving unpopular and unnecessary new things down everyone's throat.

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34801840)

What a moron you are.

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (5, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34801900)

Heck yeah. If this metric thing is so popular or necessary, why hasn't the rest of the world adopted it?

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (4, Insightful)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802138)

It gets inconvenient having both. Mechanics have to use x mm or y/z'th inch wrenches; nurses convert from F to C, pounds to kg's, and feet/inches to meters all the time; NASA lost a mars orbiter a few years back because of a conversion mistake. English units are inconvenient and error prone in other ways, besides the fact that the rest of the world doesn't use them. Try calculating your BMI by hand--you'll need to convert feet+inches to inches, that to meters, and pounds to kg's. The extra feet+inches conversion requires multiplication by 12 instead of a decimal shift and needs to be done even if you use a formula combining the other two conversions into multiplication by a constant. Converting between pounds and tons, gallons and pints, and feet and miles have similar issues--it's just stupid to add random constant multiplications when decimal shifts could do the same job.

If the weather was reported in C and kph, speed limit signs used both mph and kph, and common body temperatures were taught in both C and F, we'd be well on our way to conversion. Even a slow conversion is fine with me--letting the older generations die out as newer ones use metric more and more will eventually cause a switch.

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 3 years ago | (#34816078)

No no no, the absolutely best metric conversion story is the Gimli Glider.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34816538)

the cockpit warning system sounded again, this time with a long "bong" that no one present could recall having heard before. This was the "all engines out" sound, an event that had never been simulated during training.

They immediately searched their emergency checklist for the section on flying the aircraft with both engines out, only to find that no such section existed.

Wow. Interesting read.

Two issues, common hardware and real estate titles (1)

calidoscope (312571) | more than 3 years ago | (#34817596)

A lot of the common hardware (as in stuff bought from hardware stores) has been standardized in the US in inch/foot dimensions for decades, switching those to metric units would likely take several decades. Real estate (land) titles are almost always in traditional units and changing those would be incredibly expensive.

Note that the US residential standards for electricity are 117V/60Hz, compared to the European standard off 220V/50Hz - don't see either side changing anytime soon.

Finally, it would be nice to have a "true metric" system for temperature, i.e. one where the "degrees" would allow for simplified thermodynamic calculations. If I want to calculate how many joules or watt-hours to heat up a quantity of water, I have to look up the the appropriate conversion factors no matter whether the quantity is expressed in pounds or kg and temperature difference expressed in F or C.

Re:Two issues, common hardware and real estate tit (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34818690)

Real estate (land) titles are almost always in traditional units and changing those would be incredibly expensive.

Making new titles use both units doesn't seem like much of a burden, though I'm not very familiar with them.

Finally, it would be nice to have a "true metric" system for temperature, i.e. one where the "degrees" would allow for simplified thermodynamic calculations.

Kelvin and Celcius are at least just translated versions of each other. When temperature differences are needed, Celcius and Kelvin are equivalent. Also, I don't feel *too* guilty making science types convert their units. It's my nurse converting that dosage from English to metric that I'd like to prevent more.

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34805340)

Yes, that's what we need, more government mandates shoving unpopular and unnecessary new things down everyone's throat.

Exactly, I'll give you a prize/sammich if you create an idea that will net me millions of dollars of profit from you.
NIST will become another bought dog of big business.

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34801828)

This almost happened. A transition law [wikipedia.org] was passed in 1975. Reagan blocked [wikipedia.org] it in the 80s.

Then when the GOP got power of congress in the 90s, they banned federal funds [wikipedia.org] from being used to repaint or purchase signs with metric units.

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34803166)

NIST does all their work and all their publishing in SI units, which includes the metric system of measures. They don't have the authority to switch us over. Jimmy Carter tried that back in the '70's and all he got for it was more grief. The auto companies lobbied against it because of the cost of retooling, which they ended up having to do anyway as the industry globalized. Things would be much better now had that effort succeeded then.

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34803330)

I would love to see the US convert completely to metric. And that includes metric time [zapatopi.net] .

But until the rest of the world is willing to convert to metric time (which they have shown no inclination to do), one can argue that it makes little sense for the US to do a half-conversion to metric, converting distance only. Why should the US set itself up to have to go through two conversion processes?

So the question is, rest of the world, why won't you convert to metric time?

Imagine if we converted all our Speed Limit 30 mph signs to 45 kph, in an effort to "go metric".
First of all, 45 kph (in the half-ass Euro-metric "metric distance, traditional time" ) system is 27+ mph, so we instantly reduced our speed limits by more than 2%.

Second, if 45 kph is interpreted strictly in the metric system (metric distance, metric time), it equates to 11+ mph. So now we have reduced our speed limits by more than 60%.

We have to convert our street signs once (from 30 mph to 45 kph), and then a second time (to 115 kph) for FULL metric conversion. Insanity.

(Yes, this post is somewhat in jest, but highlights a real issue, that the US bashers never consider.)

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#34811048)

The essential problem with time is that it is tied to natural phenomenon, and so, no matter how you pick your units, there will be a non-factor-of-ten conversion somewhere - most noticeably, there are always so many days in a year.

Splitting the day itself is quite possible, the only issue is with granularity. 1/10 is too big to be convenient, and 1/100 is too small. Again the basic problem there is that the fundamental unit is predefined, in a manner that is not exactly convenient (at least for base-10 arithmetic).

That said, I would definitely prefer something with 100 seconds / minute and 100 minutes / hour, and then size the hours such that the number of them in a day is, at least, divisible by 10 - 20 sounds like a good number, actually, which lends itself nicely into an AM/PM split.

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34820168)

The article I referenced recommended that the day be split in 10 units (metric hours or some other name), and each of those 2.4 hour units be split in 100 units (metric minute or some other name), which would be about 1.44 minutes long), and each of those units could be split into 100 units.

The new metric second would be about 86.4% of a current second.

So instead of counting seconds like "1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi, 3-Mississippi", it'd be more like "1-Arkansas, 2-Arkansas, 3-Arkansas".

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 3 years ago | (#34816146)

> half-conversion to metric

Ummm... time is in metric, the second, its just not base 10. Most metric units are base 10, not all, many of the derived scientific units, like atomic quantity, are based on natural considerations. Your argument is specious.

So we have length, mass, energy, and force, along with the hundreds of associated units, all in base 10. We have a single measure, time, which is _typically_ not base 10 (it is in science). How is that "half", troll?

Re:Can they switch us over to metric, please? (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34820184)

So we have length, mass, energy, and force, along with the hundreds of associated units, all in base 10. We have a single measure, time, which is _typically_ not base 10 (it is in science). How is that "half", troll?

Let's see, my argument is to people who say the US should convert to metric is that we are already half on the metric system, and you call me a troll, because the US is MORE THAN half metric? Good logic, troll.

that's progress... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34801774)

maybe in 20 years they'll realize that jet fuel can't burn hot enough to melt the steel support structures in the WTC buildings and expain the thermal nanite found smoldering on the melted supports. NIST - what a joke.

Re:that's progress... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34801956)

Is a thermal nanite a very hot, or very cold nanite?

Re:that's progress... (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802604)

...jet fuel can't burn hot enough to melt the steel support structures...

It can if you mix it with oxygen...

Re:that's progress... (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34805368)

...jet fuel can't burn hot enough to melt the steel support structures...

It can if you mix it with oxygen...

or thermite, but that would be conspiratorial.

Re:that's progress... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34819988)

Maybe in 20 years the conspiracy theorists will realize that you don't have to melt metal to weaken it. The thermite or maybe you meant nano-thermite theory (somewhat telling that he can't even remember the name of his conspiracy theory) has been so thoroughly debunked that I am surprised it's been brought up. No, wait, I'm not surprised, he was probably hoping we're as gullible and ignorant as him. Seriously, not one of these theories has held up to even casual scientific review, and it's well past the point where you are insulting our intelligence by continuing to flog this issue. Get a new hobby, start a new conspiracy, or start up an old fun one again. I'll help- Look, Elvis is over there! No that way! Now go run along...

More standards?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34801846)

Does business need more government controlled standards. Yes the folks at NIST do a fine job on what is a meter, a second, etc. But do they really need to be involved with standards in cloud computing. Most fields have standards bodies that develop these sort of things, IEEE for example. I don't want my cloud computer defined by the same people who gave us the US postal system.

Re:More standards?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34802032)

Does business need more government controlled standards.

Just look at the summary. The main point is that the government is working with the private sector to develop the standards, so they aren't just imposing their will on business.

Anyway, standards help the world run smoothly. How many standards did you use to post your message? Even if you ignore the Internet itself, power and telecommunications are highly regulated industries. Your equipment meets minimum standards to ensure that you don't get electricuted or irradiated from the monitor. And all the companies involved must have rules to ensure that they play well with each other.

Just because it is possible for the government to do bad things doesn't mean that everything they do is bad. Besides, running a postal system has nothing to do with being able to develop standards. Do you think that IEEE would be qualified to deliver a letter?

Key role in standardisation? (2, Insightful)

Gavin Rogers (301715) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802018)

From TFA, "Since World War II, the United States has played a key role in international standardization"

Umm. Played a key role in international standardisation? This is a country - the only major industrialised nation in the entire world - that so far refuses to embrace the metric system. Key role, indeed.

Re:Key role in standardisation? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802404)

Umm. Played a key role in international standardisation? This is a country - the only major industrialised nation in the entire world - that so far refuses to embrace the metric system. Key role, indeed.

And what does that have to do with the NIST's activities? Getting the US public to adopt the metric system is just as much the responsibility of every corresponding foreign organization as it is of the NIST. Thus, I could use the same logic to claim that nobody else has played a key role in international standardization either, because the US didn't adopt the metric system.

In other words, it's not the NIST's responsibility nor does that fact change the NIST role in developing international standards, including the metric system (which the US does use BTW).

Re:Key role in standardisation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34802538)

Getting the US public to adopt the metric system is just as much the responsibility of every corresponding foreign organization as it is of the NIST

Trolling again, khallow?

Re:Key role in standardisation? (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802702)

Trolling again, khallow?

It's the Slashdot version of the Socratic method. Sure, I am trolling in a sense, but that's to get the poster to question their beliefs. Sure I could have ignored the post or I could have just said that it isn't the NIST's job. But I saw that the real problem was the assumption that a standards organization inherently is somehow responsible for the failure of a country to fully adopt a popular global standard. By pointing out the absurdity of that assumption, I help the original poster think about their assumptions.

Re:Key role in standardisation? (2)

Sir Holo (531007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802616)

You forget that the US's lack of standardization in length measurement has led to major equipment failures, such as the lost Mars probe? Making US industry use standards is NIST's primary job. Go read their congressional mission statement in the main lobby.

NOTE: I'm responding for the record, not to feed a troll.

Re:Key role in standardisation? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802712)

You forget that the US's lack of standardization in length measurement has led to major equipment failures, such as the lost Mars probe? Making US industry use standards is NIST's primary job. Go read their congressional mission statement in the main lobby.

And yet despite this alleged "forgetfulness", it doesn't change the truth of my statement. NIST isn't authorized or funded to make the US fully adopt metric nor is any other standards body (well, maybe there's some NGO somewhere which tries to get the US to adopt metric).

Re:Key role in standardisation? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802454)

From TFA, "Since World War II, the United States has played a key role in international standardization"

Umm. Played a key role in international standardisation? This is a country - the only major industrialised nation in the entire world - that so far refuses to embrace the metric system. Key role, indeed.

Not everything's lost - only 4 labs! Given that NIST has still a lab for neutrons research, who knows what measurements system will be they able to derive?

Re:Key role in standardisation? (2)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 3 years ago | (#34804554)

Not everything's lost - only 4 labs!

The "NIST has also cut the number of labs it runs to 6 from 10" from the summary is very misleading. NIST just underwent a major re-organization, and reduced the number of administrative "labs" from 6 to 10. But none of the divisions within NIST were cut: various labs were just merged and divisions moved around to better reflect the modern research mission. No science programs were eliminated and no one was fired.

(I used to work at NIST.)

Re:Key role in standardisation? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802554)

No, the metric system is in use in the United States. Just not for everything. It's the same way in the U.K, BTW--don't Brits go off to the pub for a couple of pints? It's not called a couple half-liters now is it?

Work with private industry (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34802626)

All government documents will now be saved in the "docx" format... on "the cloud"...

Haven't we already seen what happens [microsoft.com] when we let "private industry" meddle in technical standards?

Having worked with NIST for years... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34804252)

...in my various roles in companies, I worked with NIST for ~ 6 years. I found them overblown, arrogant, devoid of purpose and endowed with way, way more money than they could possibly piss away. Industry works with NIST only to be able to say that they "collaborate" with NIST as part of building credibility. They are known in the industry as moving with glacial speed and despite hiring excellent scientists is a graveyard of academic careers. No amount of re-organization can fix that place, I advocate to outsource all of it to e.g. China

Re:Having worked with NIST for years... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34804950)

Hey, I wonder why you don't work with them anymore? I would bet it was more their decision than yours.

Reorg, not cuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34810250)

The labs didn't get cut. It was a simple reorganization. If anything there are more scientists working there than ever before.

NIST fail in WTC case (1)

luk3Z (1009143) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813206)

NIST fail in WTC case. Need proof? Watch" Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup".

Re:NIST fail in WTC case (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34820048)

I could watch it, and still not have any proof. And which version should we watch? If they continue to remove the debunked claims with each re-release, soon there will be no film left!

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