Friday, November 15, 2002
1. BOGDANOV BROTHERS: IT'S NOT A "SOKAL HOAX," BUT IT SHOULD BE.
If you are older than six, you must remember the Sokal hoax (WN
24 May 96). NYU physicist Alan Sokal had published an article in Social
Text, a prestigious postmodern journal. "Transgressing the Boundaries:
Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" was pure spoof,
but the editors couldn't tell it from the usual pompous nonsense they
publish. While physicists had a good laugh, social scientists were presumably
plotting revenge. So when the rumor spread that the Bogdanov cosmology
theory is really an elaborate hoax, it seemed to explain everything. Their
theory, after all, looks at the universe before the big bang. As logical-positivist
physics, that is literally non sense, but as a Sokal-hoax-in-reverse commentary
on the excesses of theoretical physics completely divorced from experiment,
such as parallel universes, it would be truly brilliant. Sokal revealed
his prank immediately. Alas, the Bogdanovs, as Dennis Overbye described
them in last Saturday's NY Times, take themselves seriously.
2. NSF: THE DOUBLING BILL IS ON ITS WAY TO THE PRESIDENT.
night, both the House and the Senate passed a bill authorizing a
doubling of funding for the National Science Foundation over a
five year period. However, funding for the final two years was
made contingent on whether the Foundation has made progress
toward meeting certain management goals. These contingencies
were apparently added to satisfy the White House Office of
Management and Budget. It is now up to the President.
3. RADIATION-PROOF FABRIC: WILL IT PROTECT YOU FROM CELL-PHONES?
A company in Florida claims to have developed a new lightweight fabric
called Demron that will protect you from nuclear radiation as well as
a lead vest. The secret is said to be a polymer that mimics heavy metals.
We can hardly wait to see how that works. Originally developed to protect
medical staff from X rays, the company says Demron also blocks gamma rays
but didn't say if it will protect you from cell-phone radiation (WN
13 Sep 02). Maybe Demron will inspire a new line of designer clothing
by Christie Brinkley, who lives in the Hamptons and worries about radiation
from Brookhaven all the time (WN 19 Nov
4. GALILEO: AGING SPACECRAFT IS NOW IN ITS DEATH SPIRAL.
long since completed its primary mission, and then a second
mission of discovery to Europa, where it found a frozen ocean,
Galileo last week visited the small moon Amalthea. Now in its
35th and final orbit of Jupiter, suffering arthritis in its
movable arm, and failing senses from years of intense radiation,
Galileo is running low on propellant. While it can still be
controlled, it has been ordered to plunge into Jupiter next
September to be sure it doesn't contaminate Europa.