3 August 2001
1. ENVIRONMENT I: LAWS OF PHYSICS LOSE IN FUEL EFFICIENCY VOTE.
The House crushed an amendment to increase the CAFE standard for cars and SUVs
(WN 27 Jul 01).
The auto industry and the unions
joined the opposing forces, arguing that if the auto industry
builds lighter vehicles to meet the standard, it will lead to
increased fatalities. Even a majority of the National Academy
panel that recommended a higher CAFE standard fell for this
nonsense. The fact is that since all the vehicles on the road
travel at about the same speed, the total energy dissipated in a
head-on collision diminishes as the sum of the masses decreases.
Moreover, most of the damage to humans results from the rate of
change of momentum. In a collision between a car and a cement
truck, the guys in the car lose. But would we be safer if
everyone drove a cement truck?
2. ENVIRONMENT II: MAYBE THE SENATE CAN STILL SAVE US.
However silly the claim, the House strategy of linking fuel efficiency to
fatalities was hugely effective. The scientific community has an
obligation to challenge the big-is-safe misinformation when the
Senate takes up its version of the energy bill. Senator John
Kerry (D-MA) is leading the fight to increase the CAFE standards.
3. POLYGRAPH: SENATORS DOUBT THE MYTH OF THE LIE DETECTOR.
A bill introduced in the Senate this week by Jeff Bingaman (D-NM),
and Pete Domenici (R-NM), would sharply reduce the number of DOE
employees forced to undergo polygraph tests, reversing last
year's action. According to the two senators, polygraph tests
are not viewed as credible by DOE scientists. Meanwhile, the -
new director of the FBI was promising to beef up polygraph
testing of FBI personnel to respond to the Robert Hansen spy case
(WN 30 Mar 01);
that was also the response of the CIA to the Aldrich Ames spy case
(WN 7 Nov 97),
and it was the DOE response to the Wen Ho Lee debacle. So far, not one spy has ever been
exposed by a polygraph test.
4. ISS: RUNNING OFF THOSE EXTRA CALORIES.
The belt tightens again on the ISS budget in the face of a $4.8 billion cost
overrun, and as WN predicted
(WN 27 Mar 98),
NASA is shedding the
extra pounds of its most expensive science project ever by
cutting the fat out of its diet: the science. With nowhere else
to cut, NASA is again making up for its over-spending by slashing
by $1 billion the science on board. While Senator Bill Nelson
(D-FL) noted that many members of Congress want to see "an
aggressive program of research" on the station, "without the
science, there's not much to do in the way of research." This
concern is echoed by Rep. Tim Roemer (D-IN), who commented that
despite the sky high cost, "the science is dwindling."
Fortunately, the calories ISS science would have contributed to
the overall science community were scarce to begin with.