Ask a Scientist

Our monthly ‘Ask a Scientist’ column answers questions that come from UCS members and supporters.


An illustration of DARPA’s Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle Department of Defense

Ask a Scientist: Calling Out the Hype Over Hypersonic Weapons

, senior writer

Dr. Cameron Tracy originally planned to analyze the extent to which hypersonic missiles could undermine international security, assuming at the time that these weapons were indeed uniquely fast and evasive. But as the team at UCS started running calculations, they quickly found that the claims were not supported by the science. Read more >

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Ask a Scientist: Electric Vehicles are the Cleanest Option Today

, senior writer

“There is certainly a lot of hype about electric vehicles,” UCS supporter Terry S. wrote. “If electricity production were 100 percent renewable, then electric vehicles would be a big step in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But transitioning to electric vehicles is likely to take decades. I applaud UCS for working to accelerate that transition. However, it seems a larger emphasis should be on pushing the adoption of hybrids, such as the Prius, and higher mileage standards over the next decade.” I turned to David Reichmuth, a senior engineer in the UCS Clean Transportation Program to respond. Reichmuth, who holds a PhD in chemical engineering, is an expert on California’s Zero Emission Vehicles regulation and has authored several reports on the benefits of EVs Read more >

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Ask a Scientist: What Should the Biden Administration and Congress Do to Address the Climate Crisis?

, senior writer

For all the promises on climate action that President-elect Biden has made, some nagging questions remain: Given the constraints of a closely divided Congress, how much will the Biden administration truly be able to accomplish? And even with the United States rejoining the Paris accord, will countries live up to its promise to keep the Earth’s temperature in check? For some answers, I turned to Climate and Energy Program Policy Director Rachel Cleetus Read more >

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Iran's Fordo underground uranium enrichment facility, located north of the city of Qom. Google Earth

Ask a Scientist: Iran and the Bomb: Some Factors to Consider

, senior writer

The Iranian government just announced that it has resumed enriching uranium up to 20 percent at its Fordo nuclear facility, potentially moving the country closer to being able to build a nuclear bomb. Read more >

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Ask a Scientist: What Must the Biden Administration Do to Protect Federal Science?

, senior writer

To get an idea of what the Biden administration could do to strengthen scientific integrity policies and stop political appointees from running roughshod over career federal scientists in future administrations, I turned to the lead author of our “Roadmap for Science in Decisionmaking,” Jacob Carter, a research scientist who worked at the EPA before joining UCS in 2017. Read more >

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