Friday, October 6, 2006
"Are we so fortunate that we live at a time when we can develop
the theory of creation?" George Smoot mused in a 1992 press
conference (WN 24 Apr 92) .
It was at the April Meeting of the APS in Washington; Smoot had
announced results from the Cosmic Background Explorer mission
launched in 1989. The COBE findings appear to confirm the Big
Bang theory of the origin of the universe. Smoot, who is at the
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and John Mather of the NASA Goddard
Space Flight Center, share the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for
the COBE measurements. It was an exciting time. Sadly, however,
it couldn't happen now. NASA has chosen to set aside relatively
inexpensive science in favor of "Hollywood" sci fi spectaculars.
One small step in data enhancement. After 37 years, the missing
"a" turned up. An Australian computer programmer used high-tech
software to analyze Neil Armstrong's "One small step for man..."
quote. He claims Armstrong said "a man" just like he insisted.
I tried to lip-sync it while listening to the tape, but couldn't
squeeze the "a" in. I guess that's why I'm not an astronaut.
According to Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal, Detroit
is talking small cars again, following the near collapse of the
SUV market amid higher gas prices over the last two years. He
points out, however, that the popularity of SUVs and pickups was
linked to the obesity epidemic. People need taller cabs so they
can fit behind the steering wheel and still reach the pedals.
Meanwhile, gas prices have fallen 25% since the peak just two
months ago, but they may be at the bottom. Reports that OPEC is
preparing to cut production is already starting to raise oil
prices. There is a way out. If we keep converting crop land to
making ethanol, rising food prices will begin to reduce American
waistlines. We just have to stay the course.
Foreign Ministers are gathering in London for crisis talks on how
to deal with Iran's refusal to end its nuclear program, even as
North Korea's threatens to conduct a test of a nuclear weapon.
There are 320 nanomaterials products already on the market,
including cosmetics, dietary supplements, drugs and medical
devices, with 200 more in the pipeline. However, there is no
record of anybody being harmed, in spite of Prince Charles'
worries about the world being reduced to a mass of "grey goo" by
self-replicating nanodevices. We call such devices "bacteria,"
(WN 9 May 03) .