Friday, 16 December 1988
"RUMOR FLIES" the poet Virgil wrote two millennia ago.
magazine this week gave new wings to a persistent rumor that the
President would soon announce the discovery of a room-temperature
superconductor. Various forms of the rumor have circulated for
several weeks, but few researchers have taken it seriously. One
version had the discovery being made in a government laboratory
with SDIO support, although even the White House Science Office
claimed to know nothing about it. But, even as the Science report
was in the mail, the super rumor seemed to achieve the status of
an Administration leak. Bruce Merrifield, Assistant Secretary of
Commerce for Productivity, Technology and Innovation, included
the story in a talk to a small group at a private club. Efforts
to trace the rumor led to Wright-Patterson Air Force lab, where
researchers thought they saw superconductivity in titanium
boride. It looked like pure gold to SDIO, which recently mounted
a media campaign to hype the spinoff value of SDI. There is a
note of irony here; the work was funded out of Innovative Science
and Technology, whose budget was cut 30% this year while all
other SDI programs were being increased. Alas, it now seems to
have been just another case of "phantom" superconductivity that
could not be reproduced--at least that's the rumor flying around.
. SAGDEEV CALLED ON THE U.S. TO MAKE A RECIPROCAL GESTURE.
In a recent speech in London, the irrepressible former head of the
Soviet Space Research Institute noted that the Soviet Government
has offered to convert its gigantic Krasnoyarsk radar in Siberia
into an international space research facility in response to US
complaints that the radar would violate the ABM treaty. Sagdeev
suggested that the US reciprocate by turning the unfinished US
embassy in Moscow into a nuclear crisis reduction center. The
communication system, he pointed out, is already in place.
3. ERNEST AMBLER WILL HEAD THE NEW "TECHNOLOGY ADMINISTRATION"
in the Department of Commerce, with the title of Under Secretary for
Technology. Ambler, who has served as Director of the National
Bureau of Standards since 1978, is an Oxford-trained physicist
and a Fellow of the APS. He played a leading role in the 1956
experiment at NBS that overturned parity. In announcing Ambler's
new post, Secretary of Commerce Verity declared the Technology
Administration will provide a focal point for those in academia,
business and government concerned with the creation, production
and marketing of new products. The Technology Administration was
created by the 1988 Omnibus Trade Act, which also transmogrified
NBS into the new National Institute of Standards and Technology,
to serve as handmaiden to American industry
(WN 19 Aug 88).
4. THE COMPACT IGNITION TOKAMAK HAS DIVIDED THE FUSION COMMUNITY.
Robert Hunter, Director of Energy Research, is said to believe
that better understanding of the empirical scaling laws comes
first, and he is busy reallocating funds from the current budget.