Friday, May 16, 2003
1. BABY NUKES: DO WE REALLY NEED A NEW LOW-YIELD NUCLEAR WEAPON?
US policy has been to maintain existing weapons with the
Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship Program. But a year ago, The Nuclear
Posture Review, a classified Pentagon report, sprang a massive leak (WN
15 Mar 02). The report outlined a plan to use the war on terrorism to
justify development of a new class of small nuclear weapons. "Low-yield" weapons,
defined as less than 5 kilotons, would still be powerful enough to blow up the
Non-Proliferation Treaty. Super hawks have always longed for such weapons as a
way to make the use of nuclear weapons seem acceptable. But first, a decade-old
ban on R&D of low-yield nuclear weapons has to be lifted. Last Friday, the Senate
Armed Services Committee voted by a narrow margin to end the ban, but Democrats
vowed to take the fight to the Senate floor. By Tuesday night, a Dilbertesque
compromise in the House severed R&D:
research is allowed, while development is still banned. Both sides are
claiming victory. Democrats insist that a ban on development preserves
the test moratorium, while Republicans shrug that research can get started
now and the issue revisited when its time to test. From outside Congress,
it looks more like everybody lost.
2. TIAA-CREF: CAN ANTIGRAVITY KEEP YOUR RETIREMENT FROM FALLING?
A lot of us in this business are relying on TIAA-CREF to
sustain us in our declining years. They must be pretty savvy to manage
all that money, huh? In the May issue of Participant: Quarterly News
and Performance from TIAA-CREF,"a leading researcher in the cutting-edge field of
gravity control," Ning Li, is profiled. A Ph.D physicist, she did research for
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and now has her own company, AC Gravity.
The article, Will Antigravity Change the World?, begins: "Imagine a world in
which cars fly, oil is obsolete, and space travel is effortless as the flight of
birds." Yes, it's the famous Podkletnov gravity shield again (WN
2 Aug 02); you
can't keep a good man down. WN revised the beginning: "Imagine a world in which
the impossible claims of an obscure Russian physicist fail every test, the laws
of physics are obsolete, and bull shit flies effortlessly." So,
who wanted to retire anyhow?
3. COLUMBIA: INVESTIGATION BOARD FOCUSES ON ACCOUNTABILITY.
The much delayed Senate Commerce and Science Committee
hearing on The Space Shuttle Columbia Investigation and Future Space
Policy was held Wednesday, without testimony from the panel on space-based
research. The chief investigator, Adm. Harold Gehman Jr. testified that
the refusal to seek photographs of the damaged shuttle in orbit was a
grave error. He speculated that a rescue mission could have been launched.
NASA Administrator O'Keefe agreed, and said he was infuriated by the way it turned
out. The Committee Chair, John McCain said, "it's equally infuriating that no one
is responsible." O'Keefe vowed to determine who was at fault. But Congress seems
to have little interest in determining responsibility for the decision to send Columbia's
crew into space on a mission of questionable scientific importance.