Friday, October 24, 2008
Science magazine today has a brief assessment of where the candidates
stand on ten science policy issues ranging from national security to
space. Obviously staff written, it wasn't much help. We need to know to
whom the future President will turn for advice on science-related
matters. Presidents can call on anyone: FDR relied on Vannevar Bush,
Truman on Isadore Rabi, Eisenhower to Killian and Kistiakowski, and
Kennedy to Wiesner, none of whom are any longer available. Alas, the
stature of the science advisor diminished seriously under Nixon and
Reagan. It may have hit bottom in the 2003 state-of-the-union address
when Bush announced his hydrogen initiative; it was clear that he had not
bothered to check with his science advisor. The job is no longer seen as
the "nation's top scientist." Whatever influence the science community
has should be used to persuade the next President to select a wise science
advisor as quickly as possible and rely on the science advisor's counsel.
The Times, read daily by millions outside New York, today put its
influence behind Barack Obama. Describing John McCain as "mired in the
past," it was his choice of a running mate "so evidently unfit for the
office," that was the decisive act of bad judgment. For what it's worth,
What's New joins the New York Times in endorsing Obama, but you already
I was shocked to read this in the New York Times this morning; shocked!
Does this mean that all those antibiotic shots for colds, at 40 bucks a
pop, were just a trick? Yes, but what a wonderful trick; you probably
felt better before you left the doctor's office. And it's not just
antibiotics for virus infections; it's Echinacea, and acupuncture, and
homeopathy and herbal medicines, and spinal manipulation, and even a few
surgeries. Pain is a message that something's broken; the placebo is a
reply that it's being fixed. In Snake Oil Science, Barker Bausell
explains that the brain responds to the placebo by releasing endorphins,
endogenous opioids that block the pain receptors.
Officials at CERN say the Large Hadron Collider will be sidelined until
late May or early June 2009. The time is needed for overhaul of a sector
of the 27k machine to repair damage incurred on 19 Sept 08 when an
electrical failure caused 6 tons of liquid helium to be dumped into the
tunnel; 29 of the 10,000 magnets will need to be replaced.
The Washington Post today reported that the launch confirms India's place
as an emerging power in the new Asian space race. Astrologers among the
astronomers in the Indian Space Research Organization declared 22 Oct 08
to be an auspicious day for the launch - not unlike American astronauts
crossing themselves or saying a prayer before launch.