Friday, August 8, 2003
1. POLITICAL SCIENCE: IS THE ADMINISTRATION DISTORTING SCIENCE?
The short answer is, "every administration does." But a report by the minority staff of the House
Government Reform Committee, released yesterday, says it's gotten worse. To the surprise of no one,
White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed the report as political, which of course it is.
However, the NY Times quotes McClellan in an incredibly revealing description of administration policy:
"The administration looks at the facts, and reviews the best available science based on what's right
for the American people." That final clause, "what's right for the American people," is chilling.
2. POLITICAL CLIMATE: WHAT'S RIGHT FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE?
One of the purported abuses cited in the minority staff report involved the
insertion into an EPA report of a reference to a paper by Soon and Baliunas
that denies globl warming (WN 1 Aug 03). To
appreciate its significance, we need to go back to March of 1998. We all
got a petition card in the mail urging the government to reject the Kyoto
accord (WN 13 Mar 98). The cover letter was signed by
"Frederick Seitz, Past President, National Academy of Sciences." Enclosed was
what seemed to be a reprint of a journal article, in the style and font of
Proceedings of the NAS. But it had not been
published in PNAS, or anywhere else. The reprint was a fake. Two of the four
authors of this non- article were Soon and Baliunas. The other authors, both
named Robinson, were from the tiny Oregon
Institute of Science and Medicine in Cave Junction, OR. The article claimed
that the environmental effects of increased CO2 are all beneficial. There was
also a copy of Wall Street Journal op-ed by the
Robinsons (father and son) that described increased levels of CO2 in the
atmosphere as "a wonderful and
unexpected gift of the industrial revolution." There was no indication of who
had paid for the mailing. It was a dark episode in the annals of scientific
3. BASEBALL: PHYSICS COMES TO THE AID OF THE NATIONAL PASTIME.
Well, sort of. Ivan Marusic's class in hydrodynamics at the University of Minnesota set out to investigate
whether the flight of a baseball in the Metrodome, which has an inflatable roof, can be influenced by
manipulating the vents. This is important: the stadium superintendent claims that when the Twins, who play
in the Metrodome, won the World Series in '87 and '91, he was manipulating the vents to give the Twins an
advantage. But according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which apparently inspired the project, the
experiment was inconclusive: on one day, it appeared that turning on the blowers behind home plate caused
fly balls, launched from a cannon, to travel an extra 3½ feet. But on another day it did squat. This
needs to be resolved, but there's no urgency. Today the Twins are a dismal 57-57. They're not gonna be in
the series this year.
(Andrew Essin contributed to this issue of What’s New.)