Friday, August 9, 2002
1. PEER REVIEW: IS NSF STARTING TO RESEMBLE
A PORK BARREL?
Up until now, the NSF has largely avoided the congressional earmarks that
burden the budgets of other agencies. Even though Congress relishes pork,
the NSF tradition of awarding funds strictly on the basis of peer review
has generally been honored. However, the National Science Board has approved
more major research projects than the NSF budget can accommodate. Nothing
wrong with that, there are a lot of good ideas out there. So by what peer
review process does the NSF then decide which projects to include in its
budget request? According to NSF's budget request for FY 03, "The Director
selects from the group of NSB-approved projects." That's it? The Director
selects? NSF Director Rita Colwell thinks this is a fine selection process,
but according to this week's Nature, others see it as a threat to NSF
integrity. Former APS President Jerome Friedman testified in May that
NSF should submit a full list of approved projects in prioritized order,
along with an explanation of the criteria. Otherwise it's an invitation
to groups on the list to seek congressional help.
2. THE LAWS OF PHYSICS: IS LIGHT REALLY
The media loves this kind of story. An Australian group led by Paul Davies
says the speed of light has been slowing down. Hey, I mean what isn't?
Actually, what they claim in this week's Nature is that there is cosmological
evidence that the fine structure constant is slowly increasing. Since
the effect on the laws of physics of increasing the electronic charge
are too awful to contemplate, they figure light is going slower. That
kills relativity, but my mail indicates nobody but physicists believe
that stuff anyway.
3. ANTI-GRAVITY: WAS THIS THE LIGHTWEIGHT
STORY OF THE YEAR?
The Eastside Journal in Bellevue, WA, quotes a Boeing spokesman as saying
the company is not funding any anti-gravity research (WN
2 Aug 02), nor is it attempting to duplicate Podkletnov's results.
HA! Nick Cook warned us they would say that. He would say it's just disinformation,
part of the massive government cover-up.
4. POLYGRAPH: THE CONVERSION OF SENATOR SHELBY.
Outraged by lax security in the Wen Ho Lee case (WN
12 Mar 99), Shelby (R-AL) demanded polygraph testing of all weapons
scientists, about 15,000. This time, Congress leaked a sensitive NSA phone
intercept. Charged with finding the miscreant, the FBI wants a few key
members of Congress to take a polygraph exam. Shelby is outraged again.
"I don't know who among us would take a lie-detector test," Shelby roared.
"First of all, they're not even admissible in court."
5. INTEGRITY IN SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH: ACADEMY REPORT SAYS ZZZZZZZ.
Creating an environment that promotes responsizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.