Friday, February 6, 2009
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.