Friday, February 20, 2004
1. POLITICAL SCIENCE: SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY IN THE ADMINISTRATION.
A statement issued Wednesday by a group of prominent scientists charged the administration with manipulating the science advisory process to support its political objectives: advisory panels are stacked; those that can’t be stacked are disbanded; reports that don’t reach the right conclusion are suppressed; and questionable policies are shielded from scientific review. Specific examples are in a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, released at the same time, "Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration’s Misuse of Science." The statement was signed by more than 60 prominent scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates. The administration response was to trivialize the issue. "I think there are incidents where people have got their feathers ruffled," sniffed John Marburger, science advisor to the President, quoted by the New York Times.
2. RUFFLED FEATHERS: YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SCIENCE ADVISOR.
At least there is a director of OSTP. Could "ruffled feathers" be a coded message? I decided to ask my colleague Prof. Basilisk, the famous ornithologist. Anything involving birds or feathers Basilisk would know about. I found him feeding pigeons in the park. "If a bird’s feathers are ruffled, professor, what does it mean?" He thought for a moment: "It means the bird is sitting with its tail to the wind." That’s it! The wind is at our back.
3. FEAR FACTOR: DO ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES DAMAGE BRAIN-CELL DNA?
Well, they did back in 1989 when Paul Brodeur wrote his first New Yorker article claiming 60 Hertz magnetic fields induce cancer. They stopped doing it in 1997 when the National Cancer Institute released the results of a massive epidemiological study that found no hint of a link between EMF and childhood leukemia (WN 4 Jul 97). But if you wait long enough, all issues recycle. Now, researchers at the U. of Washington claim to have found breakage of DNA strands in the brains of rats exposed to 60-Hz magnetic fields like those produced by hair dryers and other appliances. It’s a wonder any of us have made it this far. But don’t toss out the toaster yet. These claims keep coming up, but rarely survive. Let’s at least wait until someone repeats the work.
4. SUMMER INTERN: THE APS WASHINGTON OFFICE HAS AN OPENING.
Physics graduate with great writing skills and a genius IQ to spend eight to ten weeks in Washington battling the forces of darkness. The starting date is negotiable, but we’re inflexible on the genius thing. Write email@example.com for details. We’ll need a resume, writing sample and references by March 31.