Friday, September 26, 2008
As if by design, there had been an attempt to block the LHC turn-on by a
loony who warned it could create a black hole and destroy the world. It
was a public-relations gift: a huge audience of morbidly curious people
watched on European television to get their first look at a big physics
experiment. In the background, corks popped as physicists celebrated.
The next day, however, CERN said a minor problem with a cooling system
required a one day shut down. The shut down now extends months, into the
annual winter hiatus.
Established by Congress on July 29, 1958, NASA is finding its 50th year to
be a tough one. The rickety space shuttle fleet is due to be retired in
2010 for safety and cost reasons. For five years, that will leave no way
for the US to ferry astronauts to the ISS. No problem, shrugs the White
House Office of Management and Budget, just hire the Russians to do it for
us. Oops, differences with Russia over North Korea and Iran led to a
trade embargo with Russia. NASA got an exemption to the embargo allowing
it to buy Soyuz rides. Of course, that was before relations with Russia
turned sour over Georgia. So, to keep the ISS alive we should make nice
to Russia? Name one thing we've learned from the ISS?
In a perfect launch Thursday night, China sent three taikonauts on a
mission that will include China's first spacewalk. Their next goal is a
space station. As in Apollo, the primary objective is political; they aim
to reach the Moon before the US can return. But China also attaches great
importance to space exploration for military and commercial purposes.
While the benefits of a space program are undeniable, there is no evidence
that dragging Homo sapiens along has been anything but a burden to the
first two space-faring nations. I therefore propose once again that in
the interests of world peace we simply give the ISS to China. Let China
pay the space station bills. After all, every Yuan spent in space is a
Yuan not spent on earthly adventures.
Congress, which passed not a single FY 2009 appropriation bill, is now in
the process of passing a Continuing Resolution. What does it "continue"?
The disastrous FY 2008 funding, that what. Science was slashed to make
more money available for pork barrel projects. And once again the pork is
at a record $6.6B level. Lawmakers are using the financial crisis as an
excuse for giving "a few bucks" to "folks" before they shovel hundreds of
billions to "those rich guys in New York." Senator Ted Stevens (R) of
Alaska, who is on trial for taking illegal gifts, got the most, $238.5M.
Conservative Christian ministers are planning to take to their pulpits
Sunday and publicly endorse a candidate for President. They hope to
provoke a challenge to the law that bars those religious organizations
that accept tax-deductible contributions from involvement in political
campaigns. Who do they think they are, God?