Monday January 20, 2020
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U.S. President Donald Trump To Shut Down A Service That’s Been Present Since WWII

Among other proposed cuts for NIST are its environmental measurement projects measuring the impact of aerosols on pollution and climate change and gas reference materials used by industry.

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The entrance of NIST radio station WWVH in Hawaii. WWVH on the island of Kauai in the mid-Pacific state of Hawaii and WWV and WWVB in the state of Colorado send out signals that allow millions of clocks and watches to be set either manually or automatically.VOA

President Donald Trump’s administration wants to shut down U.S. government radio stations that announce official time, a service in operation since World War II.

WWV and WWVB in the state of Colorado and WWVH on the island of Kauai in the mid-Pacific state of Hawaii, send out signals that allow millions of clocks and watches to be set either manually or automatically.

WWVB continuously broadcasts digital time codes, using very long electromagnetic waves at a frequency of 60 kilohertz, which are automatically received by timekeeping devices in North America, keeping them accurate to a fraction of a second.

“If you shut down these stations, you turn off all those clocks,” said Don Sullivan, who managed the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) stations between 1994 and 2005.

USA Radio
The long-wave antenna for WWVB, which transmits a 60 kilohertz signal allowing clocks and watches to be automatically set to the correct time within a few hundredths of a second. VOA

GPS not good enough

Some argue the terrestrial time signal have been rendered obsolete by the government’s Global Positioning System, whose satellites also transmit time signals, but users disagree, noting GPS devices must have an unobstructed view of a number of satellites in space to properly function.

“Sixty kilohertz permeates in a way GPS can’t,” Sullivan told VOA, explaining that WWVB’s very low frequency signal can be received inside buildings and it is an important backup to GPS in case adversaries attempt to interfere with the satellite radio-navigation system.

WWV and WWVH broadcast on a number of shortwave frequencies, meaning their signals can be received globally.

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Donald Trump, Wikimedia Commons

The Trump administration proposes, in its Fiscal 2019 budget to Congress, cutting $26.6 million and 136 jobs from NIST’s fundamental measurements, quantum science and measurement dissemination activities.

The budget document acknowledges that in addition to synchronizing clocks and watches, the time signals are also used in appliances, cameras and irrigation controllers.

“It’s crazy,” Sullivan said of the proposed cut. “It’s absolutely insane.”

NIST officials say they cannot comment on budget matters. The White House referred questions about NIST’s funding to the Office of Management and Budget, which has not responded to an inquiry from VOA.

Oldest continuously operating radio station

WWV, the oldest continuously operating radio station in the United States, first went on the air from Washington in 1919, conducting propagation experiments and playing music. In the early years, it also transmitted — via Morse code — news reports prepared by the Agriculture Department.

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A cesium “atomic clock” at WWV in Colorado. One second is defined as the period of the transition between two energy levels of the ground state of the Cesium-133 atom, making cesium oscillators the primary standard for time and frequency measurements. VOA

The station subsequently was moved to Maryland and then to Colorado in 1966. WWV has been a frequency standard since 1922 and has disseminated official U.S. time since 1944.

All of the NIST stations rely on extremely precise atomic clocks for the accuracy of their time signals.

WWV, at two minutes past every hour, also transmits a 440 hertz note (A above middle C), something it has done since 1936, allowing musicians to tune their pianos and other instruments.

All three stations retain a huge following worldwide, according to Sullivan.

WWV and WWVH broadcasts can also be heard by telephone and about 2,000 calls are received daily, according to NIST. (To listen to the broadcasts by phone, dial +1-303-499-7111 for WWV and +1-808-335-4363 for WWVH.)

The telephone time-of-day service also is used to synchronize clocks and watches, and for the calibration of stopwatches and timers (although slightly less accurate than radio reception).

Tom Kelly, an amateur radio operator in the state of Oregon, has launched a petition to try to save the stations. His goal is to collect 100,000 online signatures from U.S. residents by September 15 that would compel a response from the White House.

Kelly’s petition calls the stations “an instrumental part in the telecommunications field, ranging from broadcasting to scientific research and education,” noting their transmissions of marine storm warnings, GPS satellite health reports and specific information about solar activity and radio propagation conditions.

Also Read: USA Sees a Significant Rise in STD Cases

Britain, China, Germany, Japan and Russia also have very low frequency time transmissions, but their stations are too distant to automatically set clocks in the United States.

Among other proposed cuts for NIST are its environmental measurement projects measuring the impact of aerosols on pollution and climate change and gas reference materials used by industry to reduce costs of complying with regulations and the Urban Dome research grants for determining how to measure greenhouse gas emissions for cities and across regions. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s why Americans Prefer Single-Family Homes

Are Americans Ready to Let Go of Single-Family Homes?

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Homes
This is a great way for (homeowners) to rent out their basement, or rent out half their homes. VOA

By Dora Mekouar

For decades, many Americans have viewed owning their own home as a tangible symbol of the American Dream. But the question of whether that dream includes dividing one single-family home into two — along with other higher housing density options — is about to be tested in a handful of states nationwide.

Virginia is one of the latest states to tackle the affordable housing crisis by considering zoning rules to allow denser — and, potentially, more affordable — housing, in any area now zoned for single-family homes.

“If a property owner feels it fits their need to upgrade to a duplex from a single family’s owned property, then they will go about it through a local approval process,” says Virginia House Delegate Ibraheem Samirah, who represents a district in suburban Washington, D.C. “After the local approval process is completed, then they can create their two families’ owned property as they see fit.”

Homes
Virginia lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow an accessory dwelling, for example, a separate structure, basement apartment or garage apartment, on lots zoned for single homes. VOA

Samirah introduced a bill to allow duplex homes, like townhouses and cottages, in any place that’s currently zoned for single-family homes. The specifics of what those multi-family properties would look like will be left to local governments. The bill does not ban single-family homes.

It’s the kind of move toward creating more affordable housing that’s already been introduced on the West Coast of the United States. Oregon was the first state in the country to ban restrictive single-family zoning in July 2019.

Planning experts and local officials say suburban sprawl has negative impacts on the environment, puts a heavier burden on local services, isolates people, and excludes lower income households and households with people of color from certain communities through economic means.

Homes
In Virginia, builder Carrington Homes offers an accessory dwelling unit, a second living unit (left), as an option for their new homes. VOA

A 2019 Harvard housing report found a “relative lack of smaller, more affordable new homes.” The same report finds that about half of all renter households nationwide spend almost one-third of their income on housing.

But the move away from single-family zoning won’t be an easy one.

“At some level, that development pattern is really uniquely American,” says Robert Parker, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research and Engagement at the University of Oregon.

“People who have lived, and grew up, in low-density suburban developments have a strong preference for that. They can’t really envision a future that’s substantially different than that.”

The size of the average house has more than doubled since the 1950s. In 2019, the average size of a new single-family home was 240 square meters (2,584 square feet), according to the National Association of Homebuilders.

Americans clearly like their space. But millennials — people in their mid-20s to late 30s who make up the nation’s largest living generation — have their own ideas about what the ideal home looks like, according to a Portland, Oregon-area survey cited by Parker.

Homes
Christine Minnehan sweeps up in front of her “granny flat” located in the backyard of her Sacramento, Calif home . VOA

“Eighty percent of them would prefer to live in a detached, single-family residence, and so it really begins to become a matter of scale and amenity,” Parker says. “A lot of those those younger households are really looking for smaller units in walkable neighborhoods and, increasingly, the development community is beginning to recognize that and thinking about ways that they can build those environments.”

Samirah, the Virginia delegate, expects some pushback from people who are worried their neighborhoods could become less desirable, but he says correctly organizing density can benefit property owners, including those who are struggling financially.

“People think it’s going to be a major shift in the landscape of suburbia. I think that’s a false narrative,” Samirah says. “This is a great way for (homeowners) to rent out their basement, or rent out half their house, or whatever it may be…If you’re thinking of retiring, instead of selling your house and moving out to another area, it also helps them keep their families in place.”

“You can have a mixture of densities that’s not detrimental to a set of lifestyles that people hold very dear, that will allow housing choice for households that are struggling to find housing that’s affordable to them in environments that are conducive to the lifestyles that they would like to lead,” Parker says.

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He adds that the suburban way of life isn’t going anywhere in the near future.

“There’s little that we can do to retrofit suburbia moving forward so that land use pattern is pretty well ingrained and it’s going to be there for generations.” (VOA)