WHAT'S NEW, Friday, 26 May 1989 Washington,DC
A "CONSORTIUM FOR SUPERCONDUCTING ELECTRONICS"
leading research organizations in high-Tc superconductivity, IBM,
AT&T, MIT and Lincoln Labs, was announced this week. The basis
of the agreement is full sharing of information by the members,
who will relinquish control of the research to managers named by
the consortium. The creation of industry-university-government
consortia was called for in the report of the Advisory Group to
the President on Commercial Applications of Superconductivity,
the so-called "Committee of Wise Men," created by President
Reagan. The report languished for months on the science advisor's
desk before reaching Reagan in his final week in office. The Bush
Administration is expected to bless the idea with DARPA funds.
. A DELAY OF SEVERAL YEARS IN THE DEPLOYMENT OF SPACE WEAPONS
a result of cuts in the SDI budget was acknowledged this week by
Gen. George Monahan, the new director of the Strategic Defense
Initiative Organization. The FY 90 SDI budget request was cut to
$4.6B. Of course, it is only a cut from the $5.6B fantasy budget
submitted by Reagan as he left town. Congress is expected to cut
at least another $600M. The new schedule leaves the ground-based
portions of Phase I unchanged, but the space weapons portion is
being overhauled. The new emphasis is on "brilliant pebbles" (or
"golden boulders" as they are called by skeptics), but Monahan
admits that there are serious problems with the pebbles concept,
particularly in command and control. The pebbles (or boulders)
would also worsen the already serious problem of space junk.
3. DIRECTED ENERGY WEAPONS ARE TAKING THE BIGGEST CUT,
to a modest $830M. The x-ray laser, which got this whole thing
started, is rarely mentioned now. It is rumored that they never
got enough lasing to take a decent chest x-ray. In keeping with
the SDI policy of always touting the least developed technology,
they now emphasize the free electron laser. But the experimental
FEL planned for White Sands has been scaled back to reduce costs.
4. WHERE'S THE HELIUM? AT THE COLD FUSION WORKSHOP IN SANTA FE
this week no one offered any evidence to support the claim of
Pons and Fleischmann that the "excess energy" they measure is the
result of deuterium fusion. Even the Texas A&M group, which sees
"excess energy," drew a blank when they analyzed the palladium
cathodes for helium. However, the increasingly reclusive Pons
told the Associated Press that their work is "going fantastic."
The critics, he said, "are going to have to eat a lot of crow."
But crow was not on the menu in Santa Fe. Two Italian groups,
Los Alamos, and Texas A&M, all reported neutrons at the Jones
level. Even that was disputed by Moshe Gai of the Yale-Brookhaven
team, who challenged the statistical significance of the neutron
data, but agreed to make measurements on the Jones apparatus. In
comparing these results to the Utah claim, the media did not seem
to appreciate fully the significance of 13 orders of magnitude.