13 July 2001
1. "FREE" SPEECH: NO-FEE ACCESS TO PHYSICS DATABASES THREATENED.
A House Subcommittee recommended a massive cut in DOE's line-item
budget for PubScience, a comprehensive on-line repository of
abstracts and citations in physics. Is PubScience just another
government boondoggle? Hardly: It's searched more than a million
times annually and it's cheap. But the Software and Information
Industry Association sees unfair competition, and targeted
PubScience in an intense lobbying campaign. Let's see if I've
got this right: government programs that work are "privatized,"
and those that don't live on. The American Library Association
alone is lobbying hard for no-fee access to DOE's PubScience.
Elsewhere, Paul Ginsparg, the genius of fast, no-fee scientific
publishing, is leaving Los Alamos and taking his science pre-
print server to Cornell, where he received his physics PhD.
2. NMD: IS THE SYSTEM A SUCCESS? DEFINE SUCCESS.
Interceptors failed to hit the target in the last two tests
(WN 14 Jul 00),
but the administration insists the tests were successful, and
they claim the upcoming test on Saturday will be as well. Why?
Because all the kinks have been smoothed out? Nah, they are just
changing the definition of success. In a press conference
Wednesday, an NMD scientific spokesman explained that "every test
is a success." This insight was echoed by supporters of NMD on
Capitol Hill who described these tests as "incomplete successes."
Despite these successes, when pressed, the panel admitted that
the system wouldn't be ready for deployment for at least 5-6
years. This contrasts with the president's dream of 2004.
3. POWER-LINE HAZARD: ITALIAN SCIENTISTS TELL IT LIKE IT IS.
In Italy, fear mongers got the public worked up about the supposed
cancer threat from 50-Hz magnetic fields. A proposed law calling
for limiting magnetic fields to 0.5 microtesla, was stopped only
after 200 distinguished scientists sent a letter to Italian
president Ciampi. It quoted the APS statement, "Power Line Fields
and Public Health,"
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, meanwhile, ranked
EMF as a category 3 threat. That's the same as ordinary tea, and
even lower than coffee, which is 2B or "possibly carcinogenic."
4. RADAR HAZARD: HAS PAUL BRODEUR SWITCHED TO WRITING FICTION?
You remember Brodeur. He's the guy who got the public all worked
up over power lines and cancer with a series of scare stories in The New Yorker
(WN 25 Aug 89).
Last week, in a letter to the
Boston Globe, Brodeur warned that early-warning radar on Cape Cod
is a serious cancer threat. Fired by The New Yorker in 1992,
Brodeur told Forbes magazine just last year that he's turned to
writing fiction. Nonsense! He's always written fiction.
(Stephanie Young contributed to this week's What's New.)