Friday, October 24, 2003
1. MOTHER TERESA: A NOBEL'S NICE, BUT SHE'S GOTTA HAVE A MIRACLE.
This tiny woman had devoted her life to caring for "the poorest of the poor," built a charity network that spans 120 countries, and was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, but no miracle, no sainthood. It was easy in the middle ages; you could whip up a miracle or two before breakfast, but this is the age of science. So the Vatican sent a crack team of investigators to India, where a woman said a beam of light from a picture of Mother Teresa had cured her of cancer. The team pronounced it a genuine miracle. But her doctor says no one asked him. He insists it was a cyst, not cancer, and he cured it with medicine. Who's right? I asked an old classmate, Dom Credulo, who knows a lot about miracles. "Do you think this is a miracle?" I asked. "Of course it's a miracle," Dom snapped, "how many times have you seen a picture emit light and cure cancer?" He had me there.
2. ENERGY BILL: HAVE FAITH, FEW HAVE SEEN IT, BUT IT DOES EXIST.
A miracle it's not. But should your elected representatives vote for it? They probably haven't seen it either. We're told the bill will be revealed to the masses no sooner than 48 hours before it's voted on. Why all the secrecy? It will be too late to organize opposition to specific items. This turkey is widely believed to be stuffed with special-interest pork.
3. INTELLIGENT DESIGN: URGENT APPEAL TO TEXAS SCIENTISTS.
The Texas Board of Education has scheduled the science textbook vote for November 6. The books they approve will be used by Texas students for several years and will influence the choice in many other states. The Discovery Institute, based in Washington state, pushes I.D., and seeks to dilute arguments for evolution. C.A. Quarles, the Chair of the Texas Section of APS, is gathering signatures on a letter to the Texas Board of Education. For info Texas scientists and teachers should e-mail email@example.com .
4. HAFNIUM-178 BOMB: SOME BELIEVE IT, BUT FEW HAVE SEEN IT.
Some in the Pentagon apparently choose scientific beliefs the way they choose to be Methodists, or Democrats or Chicago Cubs fans. Claims that the Hf-178 isomer can be triggered to release its stored energy by irradiating it with X-rays found plenty of fans in the Pentagon. The energy would lie somewhere between chemical and nuclear. That is, it would if it was so. A group using the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne tried to repeat the isomer-triggering effect reported by Carl Collins and colleagues at U. of Texas at Dallas, using a borrowed dental X-ray machine.
Despite a far greater X-ray intensity, the APS group, led by John Schiffer and Don Gemmell found no effect (WN
15 Aug 03). Still, some at the Pentagon call for a costly program to make Hf-178.
5. WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY: A CHANCE TO BECOME A SCIENCE ADVOCATE.
An articulate and energetic physicist is needed in the Washington, DC Office of the American Physical Society. Contact the APS Washington Office: Opa@aps.org.