Friday, June 4, 2004
1. HAFNIUM: CONGRESS KILLS THE "ISOMER ENERGY RELEASE PROGRAM."
In spite of the Pentagon's fascination with imaginary weapons, the Senate Armed Services Committee listened to the scientists and recommended a $4 million reduction in the program. That puts it at zero. The House Armed Services Committee agreed: "The committee questions the utility of this research under any circumstances and is particularly skeptical of research into nuclear isomer production before triggering is shown to be possible." WN recommends they also cancel DARPA's subscription to Popular Mechanics (WN 16 Apr 04).
2. HUBBLE: NASA SOLICITS PROPOSALS FOR A ROBOTIC REPAIR MISSION.
The four Hubble repair missions have been frequently invoked as proof of the need for a human presence in space. But with the shuttle grounded, and a renewed emphasis on safety, Sean O'Keefe decided another mission to the popular telescope was too risky. So why not send a robot (WN 26 Mar 04)? O'Keefe said this week that, "Our confidence is growing that robots can do the job," but he added that the first priority is to plop Hubble safely in the ocean. A petition signed by 27 astronauts, sneered at the robot proposal. This has been going on for 200 years. They are the descendants of Ned Ludd.
3. INTERCESSORY PRAYER: MAYBE OUR PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED.
Three years ago, Columbia U. researchers reported in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine that in-vitro fertilization is twice as likely to result in pregnancy if the women are prayed for by a group of total strangers, even though the women are unaware of being prayed for. Recognizing that such a finding would threaten the very foundations of science, WN called on WN readers to "pray this study is wrong" (WN 05 Oct 01). This week we learned that our prayers seem to have been answered. No one, of course, ever replicated the study. But meanwhile, one of the coauthors has been exposed as a con-man. Daniel Wirth, J.D. (not MD), is known in alternative-medicine circles for his studies of Non-contact Therapeutic Touch on wound healing. Touch therapy, you may recall, was thoroughly debunked in a Journal of the American Medical Association paper by a 9-year old scientist, Emily Rosa (WN 03 Apr 98). On 18 May '04, Wirth reportedly pled guilty to fraud charges in Federal Court for his role in bilking troubled Adelphia Communications out of $2M. The senior author on the prayer paper, Rogerio Lobo, Chairman of the Columbia Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, now says he provided only "editorial asistance." Bruce Flamm, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics at UC Irvine, who relates this incredible tale of academic chicanery in Skeptik magazine, says the third author, Kwang Cha, has left Columbia and isn't talking.