Friday, October 15, 2004
1. EXOTIC WEAPONS: WHAT'S NEW ESTABLISHES THE "EXCALIBUR PRIZE."
The $10 million X-Prize for the first civilian sort-of space ship capable of offering affordable space sickness to the public got front-page coverage around the world. The WN editorial board was inspired to offer a prize of our own. We put our head together and came up with the Excalibur Prize for the weapon based on the most speculative physics. "Excalibur" was the code name of the fearsome X-ray laser that Edward Teller promised could wipe out the entire Soviet missile fleet simultaneously. They chose the name of another mythical weapon. Candidates abound, such as the hafnium bomb (WN 16 Apr 04), but lest you think the prize is wired for Carl Collins, there 's the awesome anti-matter bomb, which comes up so often it's now called the "doesn't-matter bomb." The Air Farce slapped a secrecy lid on the "positron bomb" after the San Francisco Chronicle carried a story on it. No word on how many positrons the Air Farce has. The Excalibur Prize consists of a free subscription to WN.
2. HOMEOPATHIC E-MAIL: LOOKS LIKE THE TEST WILL BE DELAYED AGAIN.
Jacques Benveniste, 69, died last week after a heart operation. The French biologist claimed in 1988 that biological effects of a dissolved substance persist, even after the dilution limit is exceeded. A decade later he discovered that infinitely dilute solutions emit an electronic signature that can be captured by a coil, digitized, and transmitted over the internet to transfer homeopathic properties to flasks of water anywhere in the world. I challenged him to a simple international double-blind test in which he would be asked to identify which of several flasks had been activated. The challenge was carried in a Time magazine article by Leon Jaroff (Time, 17 May '99). I met with Benveniste that June. A pleasant man, he agreed to everything, but said he needed time to get ready (WN 14 May 99). Weeks became months. Years passed, trees fell, but to the end Jacques Benveniste needed more time. We all do.
3. CREATIONISM: THE BULL ABOUT EARTH BEING YOUNG IS GETTING OLD..
You may recall that back in January, WN related that bookstores in Grand Canyon National Park carried "Grand Canyon: A Different View," a creationist account that contends the canyon can at most be a few thousand years old, since that's how old the Earth is. A federal review of whether the book should be sold in the Park has been delayed "over issues of church and state." What issues? Geology is a science. Meanwhile the book has been moved from Natural Science to Inspirational. That inspired me to complain. As Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education put it, "Nobody is saying this book should be burned, but it should not be sold at this bookstore."