Friday, 8 December 2000
1. COLD FUSION: THE "PALLADIUM BOMB" AND OTHER FANTASIES.
are highly-classified intelligence warnings circulating among
federal agencies that certain rogue nations are planning to use
"cold fusion" to make a terrorist bomb. This comes from an old
speculation by Martin Fleischmann, based on what he thought was
going on in Pons' lab. But why now, years later? The answer lies
in the intense PR campaign waged by believers to convey the
impression that cold fusion has become respectable. Even "Science
and Government Report," a Washington newsletter, writes: "Cold
fusion may be wearing down opponents in the science mainstream."
Well, not exactly. The newsletter cites the fact that the APS
allows CF sessions at its meetings, but the APS has always
accepted all contributed papers. This leads to some nutty
sessions, but it's preferable to censorship.
2. RUSH: NO MORE DELAY; DELAY: NO MORE RUSH.
One month after the
election it's official. Physicist Rush Holt has been designated
the winner in central New Jersey's 12th Congressional District
and will return to his seat in the House. That trims the GOP
majority to nine, making bipartisanship virtually the only escape
from gridlock. That hasn't stopped Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX)
from threatening a conservative onslaught next year, much to the
dismay of Republican moderates. Expecting a more friendly Bush
White House, DeLay also promises to block any attempt to rush
through the remaining four appropriations bills, if it means
striking deals with the present lame duck occupant. His plan:
freezing spending on those accounts, with a year-long continuing
resolution. And what if President Clinton refuses to sign? "If he
wants to shut down the government, that's his problem, not ours,"
DeLay said. No sharp student of history, he. The big loser would
be NIH, which would forfeit its 15 percent increase.
3. FUN AND GAMES IN EARTH ORBIT.
Claiming that reentry of failed
Iridium communications satellites "might cause widespread
anxiety," the Pentagon has stepped in to keep the system aloft.
Conveniently enough, this also eases the burden on their own
overloaded network. The Pentagon's negotiated calling plan
includes unlimited airtime for $3 million a month. (But do they
get voicemail with that?) And more dubious reasoning was apparent
this week at a forum addressing the International Space Station's
mission. NASA's Dan Goldin emphasized that the primary purpose is
to figure out how people can live and work safely in space,
saying "You could never justify the space station by what it
brings back to earth." But Science Committee Chair Sensenbrenner
(R-WI) said he uses exactly these tech-transfer spin-offs to sell
the program to suspicious constituents. Huh?
(Christina Hood contributed to this week's WN.)