Friday, October 20, 2006
The change in the international political climate over the past
decade is nowhere more evident than in a comparison of the new
National Space Policy with the 1996 policy it replaces. The old
policy committed the U.S. to "greater levels of partnership and
cooperation" with other nations to ensure the "continued use of
outer space for peaceful purposes." The new policy defines
"peaceful purposes" as whatever U.S. defense and intelligence-
related activities are deemed to be in the national interest.
"Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States
as air power and sea power." The first goal of the 1996 policy
was to:"Enhance knowledge of the Earth, the solar system and the
universe." Now the first goal is to: "further U.S. national
security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives."
According to Rick Weiss in the Washington Post, the Food an Drug
Administration is about to approve the sale of meat and milk from
cloned livestock. The FDA is responsible only for the question
of human safety. Too much animal fat in the diet is dangerous,
but no more so if it comes from clones. If there is no rational
downside to an innovation we can always count on religion to
discover supernatural objections. Some Jews, for example, worry
that the Talmudic injunction against crossbreeding might forbid
cloning, but a clone seems to go in the direction of species
purity rather than a chimera. Christians are more likely to see
the sin of pride in cloning. That is not unlike the Muslim
concern that it might infringe on Allah's prerogative as creator,
but maybe it's a gift from Allah instead. Buddhists seem to
think it's OK if the motive is to reduce suffering, but how do
the souls get shared? Hindus don't eat animals anyway.
Brian Greene, Columbia physicist and author of the wildly popular
Elegant Universe, (Norton, 1999), wrote a very long and somewhat
wistful op-ed in this morning's NY Times pleading for patience.
If it has not yet shown us the way to an experimental test of the
concept so also no mathematical contradiction has been found in
the mountain of calculations. Meanwhile physics departments
around the world have wagered scarce resources on a breakthrough.
Our stockpile of 6,000 nuclear weapons is growing old. Few who
developed the first A-bomb are still alive. A deranged dictator
on steroids is testing bombs of his own. The Bush plan? We
start all over: Build an entirely new nuclear weapons complex
making thousands of Reliable Replacement Warheads, warheads so
reliable they won't even need testing.