Friday, August 30, 2002
1. LANCE BASS: "GONE-GONE CLUBBIN',
I'LL BE BACK LATE."
At the Johnson Space Center in Houston yesterday, singer/astronaut Lance
Bass mugged for the cameras and responded to questions from an audience
of 9 to 12-year olds. Bass's $20M fare on the Russian Soyuz vacation-special
will be picked up by commercial sponsors lined up by Destiny Productions,
a Hollywood entertainment company. His trip will "inspire the next generation
of space explorers," NASA explained, but the real message was "skip the
hard stuff like math and science; be a pop singer and you can do anything
you want." It all seemed so "right" for a space station that had no serious
purpose in the first place.
2. THE PEACE BUSINESS: EARN MONEY WHILE CREATING WORLD PEACE.
Have I got a deal for you! The stock market tanked, interest rates bottomed,
municipal bonds were gobbled up, but how about "peace bonds"? Two weeks
after 9/11, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ran a full-page ad in major papers
across the nation appealing for donations of $1 billion to fund an elite
corps of 40,000 trained Yogic Fliers to "generate a powerful, scientifically-
proven unified consciousness field," that would create permanent world
peace (WN 28 Sep 01). To say he
was disappointed by the response would seriously understate his reaction,
but he has forgiven us. He now plans to fund the project with bonds issued
by the Global Country of World Peace, a virtual nation he founded last
year. It's a powerful concept. Imagine 40,000 Yogic Fliers in the lotus
position, launching themselves a few inches off the floor by constricting
their sphincter muscles in unison.
3. R&D: PANEL URGES "RE-BALANCING"
OF LIFE AND PHYSICAL SCIENCES.
It is a measure of the graying of Congress that funding for those programs
directly related to extending life rose dramatically in recent years relative
to funding for programs in the physical sciences. The number of engineering,
physical and environmental science degrees has been falling since the
early 1990s. Harold Varmus, former director of NIH, observed that "scientists
can wage an effective war on disease only if we harness the energies of
many disciplines, not just biology and medicine." A panel of the President's
Council of Advisors on Science and Technology seems finally to have taken
notice of what Varmus was saying. In a draft report now undergoing final
revision, the panel concludes that: "Given the decreases in the physical
sciences over the past decade, the focus must be to achieve a re-balance
by increasing these disciplines and not by decreasing the life sciences."
The report calls for bringing the physical sciences into "parity" with
the life science over the next 5 budget cycles. It also calls on the Office
of Science and Technology Policy to monitor basic and applied research
levels, ensuring that they don't slip from their present level as a percent
of total U.S. R&D.