Friday, 19 October 1990 Washington, DC
1. FORM-FACTOR PHYSICISTS FINALLY PHONED BY NOBEL COMMITTEE.
prize went to Jerome Friedman, Henry Kendall and Richard Taylor
of the "SLAC-MIT" experiments, which freed quarks from infra-red
slavery. The award was foreshadowed by the American Physical
Society, which last year recognized their accomplishment with the
Panofsky Prize. Reached at an SSC conference, Friedman said, "We
may find with the SSC a level of structure within quarks."
2. HOUSE AND SENATE CONFEREES AGREE ON FY 91 APPROPRIATIONS.
details are not available, and some adjustments to conform to the
impending budget agreement are still possible. President Bush
may even veto the bills, but this is how it shapes up by agency:
o NASA received only about half of its requested increase, but
before you start taking up a collection, I should point out the
request was for 24%. NASA still got 13%, an increase equalled by
only one other agency. Space science fared relatively well. All
but $3M of the $50M the Senate cut from the CRAF/Cassini mission
(WN 21 Sep 90) was restored.
Moon/Mars was eliminated and the
aerospace plane was kept 20% below the requested amount. The most
significant action involved the space station: a 90-day spending
cap was imposed pending a "descoping" of the design. There is a
new willingness to consider putting Freedom out of its misery.
o NSF is the only other agency to go up by 13%, to $2.36B. For
education, clearly the favored activity these days, the increase
was a heady 46%. For research, the increase was a more modest
8.9%. But don't rush out to buy a new oscilloscope; according to
the latest cost-of-living projections, which assume no break in
the Mid-East crisis, the cost of living will rise by about 9.5%.
o DOE science did not do as well. The tentative budget agreement
forced the conferees to trim $750M from domestic programs. They
took $75M of that from the $318M both houses had approved for the
SSC, but softened it a little by allowing a $25M set-aside for
construction to be used for other purposes. Congress is forced
to appropriate in the dark since it still has not received the
official SSC cost estimate from DOE, originally due 17 Aug 90
(WN 28 Sep 90). Citing severe budget
constraints, the conferees also
reduced Magnetic Fusion and General Science by $50M each.
3. "STAR WARS" WAS OFFICIALLY LAID TO REST ON WEDNESDAY.
years after an APS panel concluded that directed energy weapons
were at least two orders of magnitude shy of offering any threat
to enemy missiles, a House-Senate Conference eliminated the DEW
budget account. Edward Teller, who sold Ronald Reagan on x-ray
lasers, was pushing Brilliant Pebbles at a White House dinner
last night. But the Conferees gave SDI only $2.9B, the lowest in
five years and far below the $4.6B requested. They also slowed
down Pebbles, putting emphasis on less mythical weapons instead.