Friday, May 9, 2003
1. THINK SMALL: “GREY
GOO” OR NOT, NANOTECHNOLOGY IS HOT.
Research and Development Act, H.R. 766, authorizes a national nanotechnology
research and development program that involves NSF, DOE, DOC, NASA and EPA.
It is the Administration’s highest science and technology priority
in the FY’04 budget and passed the House this week with overwhelming
bipartisan support. It is intended to keep the US at the forefront of technology
based on manipulation of individual atoms. Meanwhile in the UK, Prince Charles
is doing his part to keep America number one. He has launched a crusade against
nano, much like his efforts to ban genetically modified foods. His concern
is that Earth will be turned into “grey goo” by self-replicating
nanorobots. This is the theme of Michael Crichton’s recent novel, “Prey,” which
was, in turn, inspired by K. Eric Drexler’s vision of self-replicating
nanorobot “assemblers” turning everything into more assemblers.
Could it really happen? It already has; we call them “bacteria.”
2. SARS: WALL
STREET JOURNAL HEADLINE DESERVES NO RESPECT.
the spread of the epidemic is much more serious in China than anywhere
else, the Marketplace section of yesterday’s WSJ carried the banner
headline, “SARS Brings New Respect to Chinese Herbal Medicine.” Nothing
in the article that followed, however, came close to justifying the headline.
The article merely points out that many traditional Chinese doctors combine
the use of Western drugs with things like cow-urine extract and melon
peels. It can come as no surprise that traditional doctors “report
some success treating patients with the combination.” Maybe. Could
it be the modern drugs? It sure as hell wasn’t the cow urine.
3. MATH: FORMER
EDUCATION SECRETARY IS MATHEMATICALLY CHALLENGED.
of Education under Ronald Reagan, William J. Bennett makes a lot of money
from speeches about family values and moral clarity, and from best-selling
books, with titles like “Childrens Book of Virtues.” He needs
a lot to cover gambling loses, which are put above $1M. It’s not
a moral issue, Bennett says. WN agrees; it’s about intelligence.
He favors high-stakes slots, where you’re guaranteed to lose if you
play long enough. Bennett played long enough. “There’s a term
in the trade for this kind of gambler,” a casino source said, “We
call them losers.”
4. HIRING: HOUSE
VOTES TO ALLOW RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION.
In a vote along party
lines, the House yesterday passed the Workforce Investment Act, H.R. 1261,
a $4B federally funded job training and literacy program that allows religious
charities receiving federal funding to hire and fire based on religious
belief. The bill is likely to run into trouble in the Senate, and it should.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), who led the fight against Bush’s initial faith-based
initiative, is determined to fight this one too. “Our position is
based upon a very simple premise: Individuals should not be discriminated
against on religious grounds in a program that receives federal funds,” Reed