Friday, 15 December 2000
1. A LITTLE LATE: SECRETS, LIES AND THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS.
Now that Congress has directed that an additional 5,000 DOE Lab
employees submit to regular polygraph exams, Sen. Jeff Bingaman
(D-NM) has asked the National Academy of Sciences to undertake an
18 month study of whether the polygraph has any validity. Most
NAS panels just review existing research reports, but a more
efficient procedure in this case might be to convene the panel at
Allenwood Federal Penitentiary and ask CIA spy Aldrich Ames,
whose own polygraph tests gave no hint of his massive espionage.
In a recent letter, Ames labeled the polygraph "pseudoscience."
2. ALTERNATIVE PHYSICS: HAS AAAS GONE NEW-AGE ON US?
AAAS hosted a seminar by "Friends of Health," a fringe group put
together by Rustum Roy of Penn State, whom you may remember for
his virulently anti-establishment views. Roy insisted that
Qigong, (Chinese psychic-energy medicine) can increase the pH of
water and shift its Raman spectrum. It can also switch the plane
of polarization of lithium niobate. The next morning, things got
worse; some of the Friends of Health, boasting that they were all
physicists, held a press conference at which Hans-Peter Duerr of
the Max Planck Institute said Qigong must be explained by quantum
mechanics. Joie Jones of UC Irvine, William Tiller of Stanford
and George Sudarshan of UT Austin chimed in, claiming that all
biology and medicine should be based on non-deterministic quantum
interconnectedness. Can it get worse than that? Yes. Gary
Swarz, U. Of Arizona, went on ABC Good Morning America with a PhD
physicist-science correspondent to talk about detecting Qi, the
body's energy field or aura. More about ABC and the strange
history of Kirlian photography of human auras next week.
3. SURVIVOR: WITH MIR'S DEMISE, WILL ISS INHERIT THE TOURISTS?
MirCorp, a private company that was willing to invest in Mir just
to offer a tourist destination for deep-pocket bungee jumpers,
must now find another space location
(WN 22 Nov 00).
Choices are limited to somewhere on the ISS. Maybe they can cut a deal with
Spacehab, another private space company, which, together with RKK
Energia, the Russian space company, is supposed to be building
Enterprise, the first commercial ISS module. It will attach to
the Russian side of the ISS in 2003. Meanwhile, Discovery
Channel was shamelessly flacking the ISS on "Inside the Space
Station." Viewers learned important stuff, like it will be the
third brightest object in the night sky: ISS will weigh 7 times
as much as a Brachiosaurus. However, Brachiosaurus was smarter.
4. RESEARCH OPPORTUNITY: MIT AND CALTECH SEEK CHADLESS VOTING.
The two schools will join to develop an easy-to-use fool-proof
voting system by 2004. It's a little too late for Mr. Gore.
(Christina Hood contributed to this week's WN.)