Friday, October 13, 2006
There was a seismic event near Kilju, North Korea. The signature
was characteristic of an explosion: a sharp leading edge, unlike
the release of elastic energy in a tectonic movement. But so far
there is no report of airborne radioactivity, which is the most
reliable evidence of a test and says the most about what sort of
nuclear device it was. North Korea says it was deep underground,
but there is typically some venting. If it was a nuclear bomb,
it was very small. Bomb freaks in the Pentagon hyperventilate at
the thought of a mini-nuke, but a fizzle would be more likely.
"Out of the Shadows: Contributions of Twentieth-Century Women to
Physics," edited by Nina Byers and Gary Williams, is an important
contribution to the history of science. It is forty stories of
women who made major contributions to twentieth century physics,
written by distinguished scientists who are themselves actively
engaged in the areas of physics about which they write. Cambridge
University Press, produced a beautiful 500-page volume, and the
Sloan Foundation provided a grant that reduced the list price to
$35. It cannot be read without a sense of regret at what the
world lost by not having greater involvement of women in science.
Even today, my freshman physics class averages only 10% women.
About five times a year somebody comes out with a new device to
make free energy. Most involve magnetic fields. See for example
(WN 25 Aug 06) . The oldest
perhaps was Perigrinus in 1269, who proposed a magnet to attract
iron teeth arranged around a wheel. Once you started it moving,
inertia was supposed to carry it beyond the difficult gap to the
next tooth. I tire of debunking these things, but this week a
reporter called about Magnetic Power, Inc. He said deep-pocket
investors, are putting money in it. They always do. MPI says
its "Quantum Dynamos" tap the "Virtual Photon Flux, a limitless
source of energy." Inventors used to call that "perpetual
motion," but the Patent office won't patent perpetual motion
machines. That was only a policy of the Patent office before
1985. It became case law after Joe Newman sued in federal court
to force the Patent Office to issue a patent for his "infinite
source of energy" (Quigg v. Newman) and lost.
Michigan had been targeted by the Discovery Institute in an
effort to include intelligent design along with evolution in
public school science curricula. However, following the Dover
decision in federal court (Kitzmiller), the intelligent design
move was reduced to trying to soften support for evolution.
Instead, the Michigan Board solidified its support for evolution.