Friday, January 25, 2008

1. STIMULUS: HOW COME NOBODY THOUGHT OF THIS BEFORE?

In case you didn't notice, your 401k is shrinking. Don't worry President Bush has a plan: send a check to every family in America. People are supposed to spend it on the shoddy merchandise they didn't buy at Christmas. Where is the money coming from? From taxes we paid to end Iraq's WMD program. It worked perfectly; there is not a WMD to be found in Iraq. No one could think of anything except war to spend the stimulus money on (like maybe health insurance for children, or fusion energy, or the International Linear Collider) so Congress agreed to the President's plan to write everyone a check. After decades of public-service announcements telling people to save, we can now expect to be told the opposite. So much for the laws of economics. The program would be more environmentally friendly if they cut out the middleman. Instead of every family, send checks to every business. Operating on a government subsidy would free business from the need to produce more useless crap to sell.

2. LA SAPIENZA: POPE CANCELS VISIT AS SCIENTISTS PROTEST. Benedict XVI had

been invited to lecture at Rome's most prestigious university to mark the start of the academic year. Sixty-seven professors protested, led by particle physicist Marcello Cini. In a 1990 visit to La Sapienza, the Pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger, supported the trial of Galileo by quoting oddball science philosopher Paul Feyerabend: "The trial against Galileo was reasonable and just." Using a quote to make his point is a standard ploy of the Pope to preserve deniability. "The pontiff didn't say it," the Vatican will explain, "he was quoting someone else." The protest led Prime Minister Romano Prodi, to pontificate, "No voice should be stifled in our country." He's right, and that includes the voices of protestors. Yesterday Prodi lost a vote of confidence in the Senate and must resign. In any case, the Italian Government denied any role in pressuring the Vatican to cancel the talk, as Benedict XVI implied.

3. SCIENCE ON THE ISS: A LOT OF PAPERWORK IS INVOLVED.

Expectations for the $100B International Space Station were high in 1998 when on-orbit assembly began, but recent collaborations put it in perspective. An Aeronautics professor at the University of Tokyo and the Japan Origami Airplane Association expect astronaut Koichi Wakata to launch a heat-resistant paper plane back to Earth from the ISS later this year. It's expected to survive reentry. Another Japanese astronaut is training with the world-champion boomerang thrower to find out on the ISS if a paper boomerang can circle in zero gravity. It can't.

4. MIRACLE STUDY: LEGAL NIGHTMARE GOES ON.

For seven years WN has reported on the infamous Columbia prayer study, (WN 5 Oct 07) , exposed as fraud by Bruce Flamm at UC Irvine. Flamm is now being sued for defamation by one of the authors. He doesn't deny the study was fraudulent, but claims Flamm defamed him by persisting. Initially dismissed by the court under an anti- SLAPP law, the suit against Flamm has been reinstated on appeal.

Bob Park can be reached via email at whatsnew@bobpark.org
THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the University, but they should be.