Friday, April 26, 2002
1. TOURIST CLASS: ANOTHER GUEST CHECKS IN AT THE ISS SPACE SPA.
South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth paid the Russians
$20M up front for a week at the resort. Dennis Tito, who became
the first space tourist a year ago, was snubbed by NASA. He was
not allowed to train at the Johnson Space Center, or permitted to
enter U.S. modules on the station unless accompanied by an adult.
To make his vacation truly lousy he had a sick stomach the whole
time. Shuttleworth, however, could train at Johnson and will even
be allowed to play with the computers. You might think tourism
would be a great way to pay off the cost overrun on the station -
- just another 200 guests would do it. Alas, the transportation
is not free. The budget for the shuttle is $4B. For that, NASA
manages to launch a shuttle about four times a year. That comes
to about $1B per launch or 50 times the going rate for a week at
the ISS. Using the space station as a fantasy adventure for the
too rich is not what taxpayers thought they were buying, but
there's really not much else you can do with a space station.
2. THE UNIVERSE: AGE DISCREPANCY RESOLVED, NEUTRINOS FOUND.
A few years ago, the media delighted in reporting that stars had
been found that were much older than the universe. Reporters
would call and ask, "how can you explain that?" The answer was
simple, "somebody is wrong." Now, the Hubble Space Telescope has
been used to make an age measurement based on the cooling of a
white dwarf. It puts the age at about 13 billion years, which is
consistent with most estimates. Some still think it might be
even older, but at least the contradiction is gone. Meanwhile,
at the Sudbury Observatory, deep inside the Creighton Nickel Mine
in Canada, scientists from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. have for
the first time measured the total solar neutrino flux. Result?
Neutrino oscillation is real; neutrinos really do have mass.
3. NO BIG BANG? AN OSCILLATING UNIVERSE IS PROPOSED.
creationists have always said there was no big bang. Now we're
hearing it from couple of serious physicists, but creationists
will like this theory even less. In a paper that will appear in
Science magazine, Neil Turok of Cambridge, and Paul Steinhardt of
Princeton, have proposed an oscillating universe that expands and
contracts in an eternal cycle. In one form or another, this idea
has been around for a long time. But according to today's Wall
Street Journal, the authors show that in their model things like
inflation, dark energy and cosmic inflation emerge naturally, and
the theory does not have to explain the beginning of time. I do
not know if Science embargoed the Steinhardt and Turok paper.
Victor Weisskopf, a great and beloved physicist died
Monday at 93. He worked on the Manhattan Project and then warned
the world of the consequences of using nuclear weapons.