Friday, April 25, 2003
1. ELECTRONIC VOTING: YOU THOUGHT "HANGING CHADS" WERE A PROBLEM!
The Florida fiasco in the 2000 election sent officials across the country
scurrying to modernize voting in their jurisdictions. Touch-screen electronic
suddenly became a hot technology. They are fast and convenient, but are
they reliable, tamper-proof and free of programing errors? There is
absolutely no way of knowing! The
machine code is a proprietary secret of the company that supplies them.
This puts vote counting under the full control of a private company,
with no independent checks or audits.
Such machines are a serious threat to democracy, yet few people are even
aware that there is a controversy. Touch-screen machines that print
paper ballots would do, so long as the voter
can check the ballot, which would go in a secure box to be available for
manual counting. Opposition to paperless electronic voting machines
is being organized by David Dill, a
computer science prof at Stanford (http://verify.stanford.edu/evote.html).
He is seeking signatures of technologists, on a statement to warn the
public of this threat to the integrity
of the voting process.
2. FREE ELECTRICITY: THE PAIN IN MAINE IS PLAINLY ON THE WANE.
Notorious perpetual motion huckster Dennis Lee, barred
from doing business in the State of Washington last year (WN
4 Oct 02),
has now gotten similar treatment on the other side of the country. Armed
with a report from a physicist familiar with Lee's free energy scams,
the Maine Attorney General filed a Complaint in Superior Court citing
Maine's consumer protection laws. The Court enjoined Lee from doing
business in Maine and required him to conspicuously state on his website
that his products and services are not for sale in the State of Maine.
At its meeting on April 4, the APS Council adopted a Statement on
Perpetual Motion Machines, deploring "attempts to mislead and defraud the public
based on claims of perpetual motion machines or sources of unlimited
useful energy" (http://www.aps.org/statements/03_3.cfm)
3. HOMEOPATHY: JAMES RANDI FLAUNTS HIS PSYCHIC POWERS.
The BBC program Horizon did a thorough job of debunking
homeopathy last year, with legendary debunker James Randi devising a
simple test, which of course the homeopathists failed miserably. However,
an Australian psychic saw right through it. Randi, she explained, is
a secret psychic who used his awesome power to either alter the test
results or the perception of the results. "Damn!" Randi replied, "You got me, Marylou."
He warned her he would "make your hair fall out," and if she persisted, "give you a rash
all over your body." Whew! You don't
want to mess around with psychics. Meanwhile, according to the Daily
Mail, the UK is dumping more than a million pounds into research on alternative
medicine, including homeopathy, at the urging of Prince Charles.
4. ISS: O'KEEFE PLEDGES TO RESUME SHUTTLE FLIGHTS ASAP.
The NASA Administrator promised quick implementation of
the Columbia investigation board's recommendations, since
the shuttle is important to the ISS. He didn't
say why the ISS is important.