Friday, January 6, 2006
Triana was never able to overcome its roots. NASA has quietly
terminated what may have been its most important science mission.
Critics of programs to limit emissions argue that climate change
is caused by solar variation, not by atmospheric changes. There
is one unambiguous way to tell: locate an observatory at L-1, the
neutral-gravity point between Earth and Sun. It would have a
continuous view of the sunlit face of Earth in one direction, and
the Sun in the other, thus constantly monitoring Earth's albedo.
Al Gore initiated the observatory project in 1998 to inspire
school children with a continuous view of climate unfolding on
our fragile planet. It was even given a poetic name, Triana, the
sailor on the Santa Maria who was first to sight the New World
(WN 24 Jul 98) . But Triana's
importance to climate research, perhaps Earths biggest challenge,
was not recognized until later. With urging from the National
Academy, it was finished in 2001 and given a new name. It was
still waiting to be launched when Columbia crashed. By then we
had a new President and a new "vision." It was put on hold. The
official reason for killing it is "competing priorities." The
priority is to replace Gore's vision of the world with the Bush
vision of sending people back to the moon. We should all weep.
Television evangelist Pat Robertson had previously called for
hurricanes to be unleashed on sinful Florida, and told residents
of Dover, after they voted out the school board, not to bother
turning to God if disaster strikes, because "you just ejected him
from your city." Yesterday, Robertson suggested to his audience
that Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for "dividing
God's Land." Meanwhile, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
who had already declared that the holocaust never happened and
Israel should be wiped off the map, told a group of Muslim
clerics that he hopes Sharon perishes.
Last week's WN item on the new vaccine drew a lot of mail from
readers who found it hard to believe that there is opposition to
its use. After all, human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most
common sexually transmitted viral infection in the U.S., and the
cause of almost all cervical cancers. At least half of U.S.
adults have been infected, though not all with the deadliest
strains. It's even more serious in developing countries where
screening is not available. Nevertheless, New Scientist magazine
quotes Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading
Christian lobby group: "Giving the HPV vaccine to young women
could be potentially harmful because they may see it as a licence
to engage in premarital sex." While hailing the vaccine as a
great medical advance, the Family Research Council is concerned
that widespread inoculation would infringe on parental consent
or perhaps it would infringe on divine retribution.