Friday, January 12, 2007
The first science legislation of the new Congress passed the
House easily and will pass the Senate overwhelmingly. However,
the House vote was 37 short of the margin needed to override a
veto. Last year Bush vetoed the bill and promises to do so
again. The bill lifts the President's ban on using leftover stem
cells from fertility clinics in research. The White House points
to a study at Wake Forest that found stem cells in the amniotic
fluid of pregnant women, but Anthony Atala, author of the study,
warned that amniotic stem cells are no substitute for embryonic
stem cells. A Presidential veto will spare leftover embryonic
stem cells from the indignity of saving human lives and allow
them to be thrown in the garbage with their dignity intact.
The "new strategy" for Iraq, which the President outlined on
Wednesday, is the oldest strategy ever devised: double your bet.
It doesn't always work. The problem, the President explained, is
sectarian violence. Why, you may be asking, can't Shiites and
Sunnis just get along? Briefly: the violence began in 656, 24
years after Muhammad died. Sunnis insist that the heirs of the
four caliphs that succeeded Mohammed are the legitimate leaders
of Muslims. Shiites are equally certain that only the heirs of
the fourth caliph are legitimate successors of Mohammed. And
then there's the business of the Madhi: Sunnis say he hasn't
shown up yet, Shiites say he's in hiding, but he's coming back.
Sound familiar? President Bush is absolutely right, there aren't
enough troops in Iraq to settle this dispute. And never will be.
Last week WN compared the Noah's-flood version of the age of the
Grand Canyon (6,000 years)to the "scientific" version (6,000,000
years). WN said you have to "add up the ages of the geologic
strata exposed on the walls." That was pretty dumb; it would
have given you about 2 billion years. What we should have said
was, "add up the time it took to erode through all the strata."
Cultures can be changed after all. I would not have believed it
possible that smoking would become an anachronism in my lifetime.
Justification for building a Supercollider was based on the hope
of finding the Higgs boson, if it exists. After the SSC died,
hope turned to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and just maybe
to the less powerful Tevatron at Fermilab. The LHC is expected
to start up by the end of 2007, but meanwhile a new estimate of
the Higgs mass comes out a little smaller, raising hope that the
Tevatron might yet find it.