Friday, May 1, 2009
A month before CBS aired the 60 Minutes program on cold fusion, I commented
in WN that "I think it's real science." I still do. That doesn't mean I
think it's good science. Science is conditional; everything is open to
further examination. Some scientists think the community was too hasty in
writing off the claims of cold fusion in 1989. They believe there may be
important truths yet to be revealed. They have searched for those truths
for 20 years and have every right to continue doing so. However, I think
the likelihood of success is extremely low and, if asked, I would recommend
against the use of public funds for that purpose. Their case is not helped
by embracing any scientific sounding nonsense that purports to show excess
energy -- which brings us to Irving Dardik.
Written as SuperWave it seems to be a registered trademark. What exactly
is it? Anything you want it to be. Irving Dardik was in sports medicine, a
specialty notoriously prone to alternative medicine. He treated sports
injuries with rhythmic exercise, and invented a catchy name, LifeWaves.
This led to an epiphany: you can explain everything by wave interference.
The French mathematician Fourier, figured that out in the 18th century, but
Dardik doesn't do math. Even solid matter is waves, he concluded, i.e.
SuperWaves. Is this big? Louis de Broglie won a Nobel Prize for that idea
in 1929, and Irving Schrodinger won the Nobel Prize in 1933 and transformed
the world by putting wave theory into an equation. But Dardik doesn't do
equations. Instead he hired a flack, Roger Lewin, to gush endlessly about
him in a 2005 book, Making Waves, with a Forward by, uh, Michael McKubre.
So the CBS “science buzz” consists of one chemist?
The discovery in 2003 by Tim White of UC Berkeley of a 160,000 year old
partial skeleton of Homo sapiens in Ethiopia was the strongest evidence yet
that we did indeed come out of Africa. A young molecular anthropologist at
the University of Maryland, Sarah Tishkoff, saw that the mapping of the
human genome provides a new tool for tracking the out-of-Africa migration
of Homo sapiens: footprints in the DNA of living humans. Now at the Univ.
of Pennsylvania, Tishkoff' s team, which included linguists as well as
geneticists, narrowed the origin of modern humans to the inhospitable
borderland between Angola and Namibia. Their study, published yesterday in
Science, took researchers into remote regions to sample the bloodline of
more than 100 distinct populations. The exit point was in Northeast Africa
at about the midpoint of the Red Sea.
The President and Congress have actually been collaborating on the federal
investment in science. President Obama talked of an increase of more than
3%, an almost mythic figure that has never been attained. Not
surprisingly, the biggest winner was energy, slated to receive an increase
of 21% over FY 2008, compared to the Bush figure of less than 1%. Even in
agriculture, where science had been expected to lose about 10%, it will
instead climb by more than 5%. But before you begin to hyperventilate,
bear in mind that this is only an asking budget, which seems to mean less
each year. With record deficits expected, these numbers are sure to drop
before the first dollar is appropriated in October.