Friday, February 8, 2008
Fermilab furloughs should be so brief. The hundreds of expressions of
support from WN readers are deeply appreciated.
Don't make any plans to spend it. It's always possible that the 2009
appropriation will be based on the annual budget request the President
sent to Congress this week, but causality has not been established.
Already there's talk of a continuing resolution until after the fall
elections. For what it's worth, Bush's 2009 request would allow Fermilab
to resume work on the NOvA neutrino-research program and on the proposed
International Linear Collider. There is even something for whatever is
left of ITER, while NSF and NIST would get nice increases. NIH, by
contrast, is looking at flat funding in a period of fantastic
opportunities. Anyone who sees evidence of a plan in the funding of
science may be suffering from apophenia.
The $168 billion stimulus package, was approved by Congress yesterday,
exactly two weeks after the President told Congress he wanted it. A
better plan would be to send every physicist a check. If all 42,000
members of the APS received $1 million for research it would not only
directly stimulate the economy, it would provide incalculable future
stimulus, while saving $126 billion. Record speed was possible because no
thought was involved. By contrast, it took Congress all last year to
wreck physics (WN 28 Dec 07) .
Ethanol use has always increased in stressful times. Two reports in
today's Science find that ethanol contributes more to global warming than
conventional fossil fuels if the full emissions cost of production is
taken into account. The reports are certain to exacerbate the controversy
over government efforts to boost biofuel production as an alternative to
gasoline. The resulting stress may result in increased use of ethanol for
more traditional purposes.
The rickety shuttle Atlantis finally took off yesterday after two months
of delays, carrying the European science laboratory "Columbus" to the
ISS. It was supposed to be launched in 1992 to mark the 500th anniversary
of the discovery of the New World, but clocks slow down on the ISS, and
the Columbia shuttle disaster set it back even further. Press reports
described the equipment on Columbus, but I found no mention of the
experiments if any. It's a fine laboratory, lacking only a purpose.