Friday, April 6, 2007
Intoxicated by the enthusiasm of its builders, WN predicted last
week that protons would circulate in the Large Hadron Collider on
schedule. Alas, a Fermilab-built quadrupole magnet failed a high-
pressure test with a dramatic bang. That's what tests are for.
To the chagrin of Fermilab, it was a simple design flaw. The
magnet will have to be brought to the surface, but there is
optimism that the 23 other magnets like it can be retrofitted in
place. The LHC may be able to get back on schedule, but the
traditional 3-month winter shutdown may have to be sacrificed.
Still one vote short of a rubber stamp, the Supreme Court on
Monday rebuked the Bush Administration for refusing to regulate
greenhouse gases. It ruled 5-4 that the EPA must either begin
regulating CO2 as an atmospheric pollutant, or declare that CO2
does not threaten humans, which EPA's own scientists dispute.
The ruling effectively forces EPA to begin regulating tailpipe
emissions, whether it likes it or not. Over the years, federal
courts have sided with the consensus view of science on issues
ranging from perpetual motion to creationism and pseudoscience,
but any more appointments by Bush could change that.
Two months ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put
the odds that global warming is anthropogenic as "90% certain"
(WN 2 Feb 07) . The report
released today is titled Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.
Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN)says it provides us
with "even higher confidence" of warming. However, Ralph Hall
(R-TX), ranking Republican on the Committee, says the new report
"illustrates more uncertainty in the scientific community."
Hmmm. It was Ralph Hall, you may recall, who supported building
the Space Station because he thought it would "find a cure for
cancer" (WN 2 Feb 07) .
Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams plans to run the Boston
Marathon on board the ISS. She's been training on the treadmill
at least 4 times a week for months. Is that good? I don't know.
It's not as if she has anything better to do on the ISS.
We got some angry e-mail this week about the line "Better a God
particle than a God." A gratuitous slap in the face of people of
faith? Not meant to be, but all of science is built on territory
once occupied by gods. Is there some boundary at which science
is supposed to stop? Keep the letters coming. We read them all,
and answer as many as we can.