Friday, May 2, 2003
1. LOS ALAMOS: MANAGEMENT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS LAB OPEN FOR BIDS.
How did the laboratory remain stimulating and creative year after year when its location
was chosen for its isolation? It did what great universities do. It built a complete
community of scholars that can turn inward. In the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos was
created in the image of the University of California, and UC has managed the Lab ever
since. Wednesday, however, DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham said that when the current
contract runs out in '05 the Department will seek competing bids. Abraham based his
decision on a report by DOE Deputy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow and Linton Brooks, acting
head of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Their report suggests the Los
Alamos culture, which "exalted science and devalued business practice," must be changed.
Attracting top scientists with these priorities reversed could be difficult. UC President
Richard Atkinson indicated the university will "compete hard" for the contract.
2. COLUMBIA: C. ELEGANS SURVIVES BREAK-UP OF THE SHUTTLE.
It was reported yesterday that an experiment cannister from Columbia had been found
containing thousands of tiny nematode worms. Not only had they survived, they had
reproduced several generations. This was exciting news, of course, but our Press
Kit for STS-7 made no mention of worms. "Of course not," we were told many phone
calls later, "you were looking at the list of experiments issued at the time of the
flight, not the revised list." When was it revised? "April 17." That's six weeks
after the accident; about the time they found the container. Only 1 mm long full
grown, C. elegans is used in hundreds of biology experiments to study basic animal
biology. Usually it dines on bacteria and stuff; NASA, we were told, was testing a
new synthetic worm chow. We are still trying to find out why it had to be tested in
microgravity. In our research, we were awed to learn that most of C. elegans is taken
up by its reproductive system. Wow! No wonder NASA is reluctant to talk about it.
It must be that C. elegans is being fed the stuff offered in the spam that's on our
computers every morning, promising to enlarge our reproductive equipment.
3. PRIVACY: "TOTAL INFORMATION AWARENESS" ISN'T AN EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM.
It only goes the other way. The Bush administration yesterday sought to give
the CIA and the Pentagon far-reaching new powers to demand personal and financial
records of Americans
as part of an intelligence authorization bill. Like an earlier attempt at "Total
Awareness," it was beaten back (WN 24 Jan 03), but
they won't stop trying. Now let's see if
we've got this straight: while our leaders get to cover up everything (WN
4 Apr 03), the rest
of us are stripped naked (WN 11 Apr 03).
4. MARS ROVERS: ANTI-NUKES OBJECT TO PU-238 TOE WARMERS.
The nights get pretty cold on Mars (days too) and the twin rovers, due to be launched in June,
are equipped with radio-isotope warmers. Activists are concerned about an accident on launch,
and NASA's record of predicting catastrophes is not reassuring.