Friday, September 29, 2006
The nation was distracted this week: the leaked Intelligence
Estimate on Iraq, a terrifying new report on global warming,
continued high gas prices, a White House lobbying scandal that
grew from "a few" contacts with Jack Abramoff to 485, not to
mention the news that two men have stepped forward claiming to be
the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby. That allowed the House
to quietly pass H.R. 2679, the "Public Expressions of Religion
Protection Act of 2006," with scarcely a mention in the media.
The bill would prevent plaintiffs from recovering legal costs in
any lawsuit based on the "establishment clause" of the First
Amendment, which of course only happens when the court finds
the plaintiff's Constitutional rights have been denied. The
Senate is expected to pass a companion bill, S. 3696. Congress
cannot simply abridge the Bill of Rights. Maybe they think the
Supreme Court is stacked. Or maybe it's the election.
Nothing irritates global warming deniers more than a new report
from James Hansen's group at NASA, but warming seems to be taking
place at the rate predicted 20 years ago. On Monday, Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences published a new report from
Hansen's group that says "the planet as a whole is approximately
as warm now as at the Holocene maximum and within 1-degree C of
the maximum temperature of the last million years."
Organizers describe Scientists and Engineers for America as
nonpartisan, but there is no denying that Bush Administration
policies on science-related issues have not been popular in the
science community. Two of the organizers, physicists Neal Lane
and Jack Gibbons, were science advisors under Clinton. Susan
Wood, who resigned from the FDA last year to protest inaction on
making Plan B available over-the-counter, is another organizer.
We have no word on whether Jack Marburger plans to join.
Students in my Freshman class keep asking about space elevators.
WN has never commented on the space elevator. It's not my field,
but since when does that stop me? I keep thinking back to the
tethered-satellite NASA spent years on. They deployed the 16km
tether 256m before it stuck. They lost a $440M Italian satellite
trailing a 12km tether. Now they want to tether a satellite from
Earth? (WN 1 Mar 96)
Anousheh Ansari is back from her $20M bungee jump, along with
snails, worms and barley grown on the ISS. We're not sure why.