20 April 2001
1. MININUKES: NEW LOW-YIELD NUCLEAR WEAPONS ARE SOUGHT.
members of the Bush Administration are pushing for development of
small nuclear weapons to be used with earth-penetrating nose
cones to attack deeply-buried targets. The bonus for advocates
might be that mininukes will also blow up whatever remains of
that most hated target, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Congress forbade development of such weapon in 1995, on the
grounds that it would blur the distinction between nuclear and
conventional weapons. But last year, Congress also called on the
Pentagon to examine ways to attack buried targets. That report
is due in July, but a study by a Princeton physicist, just
released, finds that such weapons would have lethal side effects.
Penetration of 650 feet at the Nevada test site, well beyond
current technology, would be needed to fully contain a 5 kiloton
explosion, and these weapons would be extremely dirty.
2. DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: BOTH STUDIES SOUND RIGHT TO ME.
Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act exempted "natural"
supplements from testing for safety, purity, or effectiveness.
The FDA can get into the act only when the bodies start piling
up. Is testing needed? The Inspector General's office at the
Department of Health thinks so, according to a draft study.
There were two reports on natural substances this week: St.
John's wort, a popular herb taken for clinical depression, was
found to be completely worthless in a rigorous study published in
the Journal of the American Medical Association. Also in JAMA,
however, two reports found that moderate consumption of another
natural supplement, alcohol, is good for your heart. Right on!
3. COLD FUSION: MAYBE ONE MORE STUDY WILL CLEAR THINGS UP.
maybe not. We hear often these days from cold fusion believers
about the great progress that has been made in cold fusion. We
will hear it again on April 30, at the APS meeting. This week,
WN received a long report from the Naval Research Laboratory. It
was dated March 26, 2001, just three days after the anniversary
of the 1989 cold fusion press conference in Salt Lake City. The
report was about a Pons and Fleischmann kind of experiment: an
"open" electrolysis study of excess heat in the electrolysis of
heavy water, using a Pd-B alloy cathode. One of the authors is
none other than Martin Fleischmann. How appropriate. Twelve
years ago at this time, the news was about the unreliability of
closed calorimetry experiments. Twelve years later, cold fusion
research is still struggling with the same point. Progress?
4. ENVIRONMENT: PICKING UP THE PIECES AFTER THE WARMING DEBACLE.
Bush White House is taking a softer line on environmental issues.
The US will sign the Stockholm Convention, aimed at reducing
chemical pollutants, and is reportedly looking for a way to get
back into global warming issues.