Friday, November 26, 2004
1. EMPTY SPACE: IS MOON-MARS A JUST A TASTE OF WHAT WE'RE IN FOR?
To reach a deficit of $7.5 TRILLION in this session, Congress had to get down to business and make a lot of really bad spending decisions. Take Moon-Mars, for example. I like the moon; it was beautiful this morning as I drove to the office. Scientifically however, it has to be the least interesting destination in the heavens. As a launch platform to get to Mars it's just nuts. Mars is more interesting, but we have two robust geologists there already. If there's some reason to send frail humans, they sure haven't found it yet. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said the election was a clear mandate for the President's Moon-Mars thing, but WN could find no mention of it by Bush since January, and Congress has held virtually no hearings on it. The APS Panel on Public Affairs just issued a Discussion Paper on Moon-Mars. The URL would take up the entire page, so go to http://www.aps.org/ and click on Moon-Mars Program in the column on the left. It warns that Moon-Mars would far exceed budget projections and jeopardize real NASA science. The Discussion Paper also urges the government to pay attention to recommendations on priorities in space from the National Academy of Sciences. You wouldn't think you'd have to tell them that, but that's the way it is. (Download Report - pdf file )
2. BUNKER BUSTER BUSTED: OK, SO CONGRESS DID GET SOMETHING RIGHT.
$27.6M for the Robust Nuclear Penetrator was eliminated because the Pentagon had no idea where to use such a bomb. The plan had been huge obstacle to nuclear non-proliferation. The Modern Pit Facility, which was seen as part of the bunker buster program, was cut back to just planning. The Advanced Concepts Initiative was also eliminated. It was meant to offer meaningful employment to frustrated young scientists with dreams of inventing new weapons of mass destruction. But was more often used by the Pentagon to support ideas that violate the laws of thermodynamics (WN 15 Oct 04).
3. PROLIFERATION: IRAN REFUSES TO END NUCLEAR ENRICHMENT PROGRAM.
Three days ago it seemed that Iran had agreed to terminate plans to enrich uranium. Having mastered the art of making headlines every day, Iran now says it will still operate 20 centrifuges for research. This gave new ammunition to the Bush administration, which claims Iran is hiding their nuclear weapons program. Iran defends its right to produce peaceful nuclear energy.
4. COLD, COLD FUSION: AND THE FEDERAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ACT.
Sunday's Washington Post Magazine had an article about a secret review of cold fusion (WN 17 Sep 04). A panel of scientists selected by DOE allegedly met with a small group of cold-fusion believers. No announcement, no reporters, no names of attendees. Panel members were instructed to comment individually to circumvent the Advisory Committee Act. If it was actually of any importance it would be truly outrageous.