Friday, February 1, 2002
1. SUMMER INTERN: THE APS WASHINGTON
OFFICE HAS AN OPENING.
We need a physics major with great writing skills and a genius IQ
to spend eight to ten weeks in Washington battling the forces of ignorance.
The starting date is negotiable, but we're inflexible on the genius
thing. Write firstname.lastname@example.org
for details. We'll need a resume, writing sample and two references
by March 29.
2. MISSILE-DEFENSE: SHIP-LAUNCHED
INTERCEPTOR HITS DUMMY TARGET.
Or was that, "dumb interceptor hits dumber target"? Missile defense
proponents crowed that we now have all the components of a national
missile shield. But an official quoted by AP said the test "wasn't
meant to determine if a ship-based interceptor could intercept an
enemy missile under realistic conditions." The target, after all,
had a homing beacon. To be part of a layered national defense, WN
was told, an interceptor would have to be at least twice as fast.
As one defense expert explained, "we're now closer to a missile-defense
shield to the extent that we're closer to the moon when we stand on
a step ladder."
3. ITER: A SECOND LOOK AT THE TURBULENT
John Marburger, President Bush's science advisor, thinks U.S. participation
in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor should be
reconsidered. Congress directed DOE to pull out of the project three
years ago in the midst of disagreements over the site, escalating
costs, and scientific concerns that plasma turbulence would make ignition
impossible. However, the partners have since redesigned the device
to meet scientific objections, while scaling the cost down from $10B
to $4.2B. It still remains to be seen if agreement can be reached
on a site.
4. TERRORISM: COULD NUCLEAR POWER
PLANTS WITHSTAND 9-11 ATTACKS?
Maybe you saw it on 60-Minutes or the evening news: a film of a plane
crashing into a massive concrete wall. It disintegrates in a fireball,
but the wall is barely scratched. Hill staffers were shown the film
at an ASME briefing by R.E. Nickell, "an expert on nuclear power."
"Nuclear power structures," Nickell puffed, "are very rugged and robust."
The implications were obvious, and most American's breathed a little
easier. But it wasn't the wall of a containment dome. Paul Leventhal,
the President of the Nuclear Control Institute, points out that the
test, conducted by Sandia Labs in 1988, used a wall 12 feet thick
compared with 3.5 foot thick containment domes. The purpose of the
test was not to test the strength of the wall, but to measure the
impact forces. The wall, therefore, was designed to move, and was
displaced 6 feet by the impact. Wait, there's more, the plane was
a Phantom jet fighter weighing about 5% as much as a jumbo jet airliner.
Its fuel tanks were filled with water to measure "fuel" dispersion.
Sandia made no attempt to clear up the misleading reports.