Friday, February 6, 2009

1. IRAN: SATELLITE DOESN'T HAVE THE IMPACT OF SPUTNIK.

Iran's launch of a satellite on Tuesday marked the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. While Western news reports have stressed that the satellite was very small, so of course was Sputnik. Intercontinental ballistic missiles were fielded by both the US and the USSR within two years after Sputnik. It is, however, easy to exaggerate the threat of an Iranian ICBM. It is the only weapon that carries a return address. To deploy such a weapon against a major nuclear power would be insane. Ahmadinejad in Iran and Kim Jong-il in North Korea are indeed both a little strange, but in an age of satellite communication we cannot treat every launch of a satellite as a belligerant act.

2. OPENNESS: OBAMA WILL NAME A CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER.

According to U.S. News, a memo from President Barrack Obama to the heads of executive-branch offices directs the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to coordinate the formation of an Open Government Directive. The only problem is that the President does not have a CTO. Maybe this means he's about to name one. In November he said the CTO would focus on security of our computer networks and transparency in government. Openness is responsible for the success and credibility of science, and it's about time it was tried in government.

3. WARPED SCIENCE: "FRONTIERS OF PROPULSION SCIENCE."

Haven't heard much about space from the Obama administration lately, but someone sent me a flyer for a new book from the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics. It told me more than I wanted to know about Frontiers of Propulsion Science by Marc Millis of the NASA Glenn Research Center and Eric Davis, CEO of Warp Drive Metrics. You might look them up in the WN archives, www.bobpark.org . Their book covers those tricky little problems you might have trouble with like Propulsion Without Rockets and Faster-than-Light Travel.

4. FISH STORY: JAPANSE TRAWLERS ENCOUNTER "PEAK FISH."

Fish are good for us, and sushi is great. Moreover, unlike oil, fish are a renewable resource -- but not renewable enough. Blue-fin tuna in particular are being eaten faster than they reproduce. The modern Japanese fishing fleet must scour the world's oceans in search of fish and it's not just tuna. Catches are declining everywhere.

5. ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: COVERED BY HEALTH CARE REFORM?

The development of universal health programs in the Obama administration is seen as an opportunity for alternatives to get a share of the action. You can expect to see a major push to include unscientific alternatives that often have large and outspoken followings.

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.