Friday, 14 January 2000
1. CLIMATE WARS: IN CASE YOU HADN'T NOTICED, IT'S GETTING WARMER.
A report released yesterday by the National Research Council
concludes that a global surface warming trend is "undoubtedly
real," and it's accelerating. The panel was specifically charged
with reconciling trends of surface temperatures with those in the
lower to mid-troposphere. Global warming skeptics used to crow
over results from satellite and balloon observations showing a
slight cooling of the upper atmosphere
(WN 1 May 98),
corrections have turned that into a slight warming. Although the
troposphere has warmed less, the panel bluntly states that: "The
disparity in no way invalidates the conclusion that the surface
temperature has been rising." The report does not attempt to
explain the reasons for the warming. CBS broke an embargo on the
release of the report, which had the effect of muting coverage.
2. NIF REVIEW: "NO ONE GETS A PASSING GRADE ON MANAGEMENT."
The National Ignition Facility is now projected to overrun its $1.2B
budget by $400M, and to miss its scheduled 2003 completion date
by two years. A DOE Task Force, headed by John McTague, former
Ford VP and White House science advisor, issued an interim report
this week slamming the DOE Office of Defense Programs, Lawrence
Livermore labs, and the University of California. No one knew
who was responsible for what. But the panel cautions against too
much monkeying around with the lab culture
(WN 23 Dec 99):
a real danger that in addressing this issue, duplicative and
paralyzing oversight mechanisms may be introduced."
3. STAR WARS: PENTAGON PLAYS DOWN "SUCCESSFUL" TEST.
Even as the
Pentagon prepares for a critical test of its ballistic missile
defense next week, it is backing away from the claims made for an
earlier test, according to a story in today's New York Times. The
hit-to-kill vehicle had the wrong star map and was wandering lost
when its IR sensors picked up a bright object. It turned out not
to be the warhead, but a decoy in the vicinity of the fainter
warhead. Without the decoy serving as a beacon, critics argue,
the kill vehicle would never have found the warhead. Next week's
test may be critical to President Clinton's decision on
deployment, which was promised for this summer
(WN 24 Nov 99).
4. MIR: YET ANOTHER BAILOUT PLAN FOR THE DIEHARD SPACECRAFT?
Who would invest in a wobbly space station that leaks?, WN asked last
(WN 4 Jun 99).
A "British billionaire" had convinced the
Russians that he could round up investors willing to put up $100M
each to get a piece of the action. It was a scam. Then it was a
group of US entrepreneurs proposing to use a 7-kilometer tether
to boost Mir
(WN 22 Oct 99).
That died too. This week, a press
report said "Golden Apple" was ready to put up $20M to rescue the
abandoned craft. It turned out to be an offshore investment firm
named Gold & Apel. I'm trying to reach them about this bridge.