Friday, May 27, 2005
1. SPACE: VOYAGER 1 REACHES THE LIMIT OF BUSH’S ATTENTION SPAN.
It’s been traveling for 28 years and is now 8.7 billion miles from Earth. It just reported that it has entered the region of the heliosheath, where the solar wind begins to dissipate. It may be in this region another 10 years. Its Pt-238 radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) should keep operating until about 2020. When Voyager 1 crosses that final boundary, becoming the first human artifact to enter interstellar space, Earth won’t know. Communications with Voyager will be cut off to save $4.5M of NASA’s $16.5B budget (.025%), for Bush’s Moon/Mars "vision."
2. ETHANOL: RUM JOINS BOURBON AT THE ENERGY-INDEPENDENCE PARTY.
In the name of energy independence, the government has required that five billion gallons of ethanol be blended into gasoline each year. Every gallon gets a 51 cent subsidy. And yet, we still seem to need a lot of Arab oil. So the Senate adopted an amendment to the energy bill raising the mandate to eight billion gallons of ethanol. To get support for the amendment, they gave the sugar industry $8M for a pilot program in Hawaii to make ethanol from sugar cane. Will that reduce the need for Arab oil? No, but we won’t mind as much. Brazil, which has no oil, began using ethanol from sugar cane. Friends at the University of Campinas told me the energy balance is positive only if the cane is grown and harvested manually, condemning a portion of the population to serfdom. It also pollutes rivers with alkanes.
3. HYDROGEN: PRESIDENT BUSH PUMPS HYDROGEN AT FILLING STATION.
Speaking of energy balance, here’s one that is guaranteed by the Second Law of Thermodynamics to be negative. With a security cordon disrupting traffic for blocks around, the President held the nozzle at the sole hydrogen pump in Washington, DC at a Shell station (WN 12 Nov 04). It proves: you can make hydrogen, you can put it in cars, and you can drive the cars. Is it practical? No! Will it diminish oil dependence? No! Will it cut pollution? No! Will it happen? Not this way!
4. STEM CELLS BILL: PRESIDENT’S FIRST VETO WOULD BE A BAD ONE.
In spite of a threat to cast his first-ever veto, 50 Republicans broke ranks as the House voted 238 to 194 on Tuesday to repeal the President’s restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. As is now so often the case, debate was filled with biblical references. But Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) asked: "Who can say prolonging life is not pro-life?"
5. SEARCHING WHAT’S NEW: OUR NEW SEARCH ENGINE IS WORKING GREAT.
We apologize to those who tried to use the WN search engine in recent weeks, but now it’s working better than ever. Our tight format (500 words) limits the amount of background we can provide, but by using the search engine at www.bobpark.org you can now get more than two decades of background.