30 November 2001
1. MISSILE DEFENSE: HOW DO YOU DEFINE "SUCCESSFUL"?
Tomorrow, an attempt will be made to intercept a target missile launched
from California with a ground-based interceptor from Kwajalein
Atoll in the Pacific. Will the test be successful? Let me
put it this way: if the test is successful, Boeing gets a
$500M bonus. There are a lot of ways to insure success. In
the July test, which was scored a success, the defense knew
when it was being launched, where it was launched from, and
the flight-path it would take. And just in case that didn't do
it, a homing beacon was installed on the target
(WN 13 Jul 01).
In any case, this test will not destroy the 1974 ABM
treaty; despite the chest beating prior to the Crawford
summit, tomorrow's test will conform to the treaty.
2. SUPREME COURT: IS THE RIGHT TO CONCEAL STUPIDITY PROTECTED?
As we near the end of the fall semester, some teachers may
decide to rethink their practice of posting final exam scores
on their office door. This week, the highest court in the
land heard arguments in a case involving the right of a
student to keep his test scores private, under the 1974 Family
Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Perhaps the American
public should launch a class- action suit to suppress the
results of a national survey of scientific knowledge developed
by the California Academy of Sciences. It revealed, for
example, that more than half of all American adults do not
know that the Earth goes around the Sun once a year. Our
collective self-esteem must surely be damaged.
3. YUCCA MOUNTAIN: DEBATE MAY EXCEED THE HALF-LIFE OF THE WASTE.
Twenty years ago, creation of a nuclear waste
repository was said to be urgent. The only candidate was, and
still is, a desolate bump in the Nevada desert. Opponents
raised every conceivable objection and several that weren't,
including tortured arguments that leakage could result in a
chain reaction. Nevertheless, everyone expected Secretary of
Energy Abraham to recommend that the President designate Yucca
Mountain as the site for waste storage as part of a renewal of
the nuclear power industry. However, the General Accounting
Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has now urged the
Administration to postpone a decision indefinitely while still
more objections are resolved.
4. BOOKS: EDWARD TELLER PUBLISHES HIS MEMOIRS.
In December of 1994 the conservative Heritage Foundation held an orientation
for newly elected members of Congress. The first speaker was
Edward Teller. He told the mostly worshipful audience that
Congress had "no greater purpose than to defend the lives of
Americans." When asked about his exaggerated claims for Star
Wars, he scoffed, "I am guilty of the great crime of optimism."
That technological optimism comes through clearly in his
"Memoirs: a twentieth-century journey in science and politics,"