Friday, 7 July 2000
1. NMD I: PENTAGON LOWERS THE BAR FOR TONIGHT'S TEST.
has been trumpeted as make-or-break for President Clinton's NMD
(WN 23 Jun 00).
At a press conference
yesterday, however, the American Physical Society joined the
Federation of American Scientists and the Union of Concerned
Scientists in urging the President not to deploy a missile
defense system, regardless of the outcome of this latest test.
The APS spokesperson explained: "There's not enough evidence to
show the system will work, and Friday's test won't change that."
The countermeasure, or more accurately the beacon, will consist
of a single large Mylar balloon decoy designed to appear 10 times
brighter than the mock warhead. The kill vehicle will be
programmed to home on the dimmer of the two targets.
2. NMD II: CRITICS CALL FOR AN INDEPENDENT SCIENTIFIC COMMISSION.
In an op-ed in the New York Times this morning, Ted Postol and
George Lewis of MIT call for a commission of scientists who have
no links to the Pentagon to look into the claims the Pentagon is
making for the missile defense system. Postol has charged the
Pentagon with rigged tests and covered-up failures
(WN 9 Jun 00).
3. SCIENCE INDICATORS: JOURNALISTS SAY, "IF IT BLEEDS IT LEADS."
We are always seeking ways to interest the public in science.
The solution may be to have more disasters. Indeed, the most
closely followed science-related news stories of the past 15
years are all disasters. According to "Science and Engineering
Indicators 2000," recently released by NSF, the top story was the
Challenger explosion, followed by earthquakes, floods, blizzards,
droughts, heat waves, epidemics and Chernobyl. No wonder "The
Perfect Storm" is number one at the box office and on the best
seller lists. After disasters came space exploration, led by the
Hubble Space Telescope (tied with breast implants) and the
Pathfinder mission to Mars. Interest in space exploration is
consistent with the finding (also in "Indicators") that 70% of
Americans now know the Earth goes around the Sun.
4. MORE BUDGET BLUES: WILL NASA AND NSF REALLY GET SLASHED?
House appropriators, operating under the constraints of this
year's Congressional Budget Resolution, cut the proposed NSF and
NASA budgets for 2001 by $508M and $322M respectively. Math and
science education programs at NSF are threatened, along with the
second terascale computer facility and NASA's space launch
initiative. HUD was also cut, and a Clinton veto is a virtual
certainty if the Senate fails to restore the HUD funds. But the
Senate too is bound by the budget resolution. Concerned by the
severe cuts in R&D, some Republican lawmakers are privately
urging the scientific community to call for a Presidential veto.
(Maria Cranor contributed to this week's WN.)