Friday, January 11, 2008
DOE will pull the plug on the PEP-II collider at SLAC on March 1, seven
months ahead of schedule, resulting in the layoff of 125 employees. To
keep the Tevatron at Fermilab going in the search for the Higgs, all
employees will take 2 or 3 days a month of unpaid leave. Work on the
International Linear Collider was terminated. The U.S. reneged on its
commitment to the international fusion energy program, ITER. Other DOE
programs were also cut along with NSF and NIST.
Why did the basic science budget, which was sailing smoothly six months
ago, hit an iceberg? And why was high-energy physics thrown overboard?
We can worry about laying blame later, but nothing is ever quite final in
Washington. Right now we have to start swimming. Yesterday, APS
President Arthur Bienenstock issued an urgent appeal to members to write
to their congressional delegation and to President Bush to urge emergency
supplemental appropriations. He included a sample letter making the
connection between basic research and economic growth - even as the
morning papers were using the word "recession." My advice is not to
agonize over language. Your letter is more likely to be counted than
read. Just make it clear what you want in the first sentence.
Forget Roe v. Wade; according to U.S. News, an initiative expected to be
on the 2008 ballot in Colorado would amend the state constitution to
declare a fertilized egg to be a person. This one-celled person would
then be granted a soul by heaven and citizenship by the state. Would the
sensuous twisting together of chromosome strands to form a zygote mark the
legal date of birth? And what of the 500,000 or so frozen embryos stored
in fertility clinics? Do they age in the frozen state?
It's not what I forget that bothers me - it's what I remember that never
happened. Last week, to protect whales, a federal judge imposed
restrictions on the Navy's use of active sonar in training exercises off
Southern California. Late getting WN out, I relied on memory, badly
garbling a story about sonar and whales. I misremembered an item I wrote
in WN 18 years ago about a proposed Heard Island Experiment to look for
evidence of ocean warming by monitoring the travel time of sonar signals
around the world. I even misspelled the name of the island
(WN 23 Nov 90) .
I have always admired the British for remaining aloof from the ISS. Now,
however, a group in the UK proposes a project to build and launch what
they think the ISS needs most: a spacious common room where they can all
sit around the table. I now add them to the list of countries we should
offer to give the ISS to. Perhaps we could pay them to take it.