Friday, September 19, 2003
1. GALILEO: DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME.
One of mankind's greatest
voyages of exploration ends Sunday when the Jupiter probe, its
propellant almost exhausted, plunges into the Jovian atmosphere
(WN 15 Nov 02). Galileo will keep sending
data back to Earth in its final moments. It's the sort of thing you can do with
-- you don't have to bring them home. Galileo discovered liquid
water under the frozen oceans of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
Could this subsurface water, protected from radiation, harbor
alien life? The search for life to which we are not related is
the most exciting scientific quest of our time. To explore where
no human can ever set foot is our greatest adventure.
2. EVOLUTION: WEINBERG DEFENDS RIGHTS OF TEXAS SCHOOL CHILDREN.
Unreported by the media, scientists from the University of Texas
and other Texas institutions met with the Texas State Board of
Education on the evening of Sep 10 to support the teaching of
evolution (WN 29 Aug 03). Physics Nobelist Steven Weinberg was
reportedly at his charming best defending the right of Texas
school children to learn natural laws that govern our existence.
3. THE BLACKOUT: ARE THE TREES TRYING TO TELL US SOMETHING?
story in the Wall Street Journal suggested that during a period
of high electricity demand overheated power lines shorted out
when they sagged into trees, resulting in the great blackout of
2003 (WN 5 Sep 03). And many thousands of customers are without
electric power today as a result of trees that toppled onto power
lines during hurricane Isabel. Fed up with being turned into
fast-food wrappers and scattered along highways, trees may be
striking back, and the gravitational potential energy available
to a full-grown oak is not to be taken lightly. Viewed in this
way, the President's "Healthy Forest Initiative" (WN
22 Aug 03)
may be thought of as part of the War On Terrorism.
4. PATRIOT ACT: ASHCROFT DISMISSES LIBRARIANS AS "HYSTERICAL."
In a speech on Monday the Attorney General ridiculed the concerns
of librarians. "Do we at the Justice Department care what you
are reading? No!" he scoffed. "People are being led to believe
FBI agents dressed in trench coats are surrounding libraries."
Librarians get pretty testy when government officials make light
of free speech. So why did they put language in the Patriot Act
giving Federal authorities the right to access library records,
the librarians want to know? In Maryland, as in 38 other states,
library circulation records are treated as confidential, and
federal authorities must have a search warrant to get at records.
They'd better hurry, librarians around the country are shredding
circulation records. Seeking to calm the furor, the Department
of Justice released an accounting showing the library records
provision of the Patriot Act had not been used a single time.
Bad mistake. So why, the librarians demanded to know, does the
Justice Department need this authority if it's not going to use
it. Librarians are a lot tougher than they look.