Friday, 22 March 1991
Washington, D. C.
1. QUAYLE LINES UP SUPPORT IN CONGRESS FOR ORBITING PORK
No attempt is being made to refute the conclusion
of an NRC panel that NASA's scaled-down space station is unsuited
for scientific research (WN 15 Mar 91).
The National Space Council, headed by the Vice President,
approved Freedom Lite anyway (the low cal version will cost only
$30B). In a letter to NASA Administrator Richard Truly, Quayle
explained that "It is America's destiny." The argument of the
scientific community, that the scientific return will not justify
the investment, he said, "is not entirely appropriate." In an
apparent reference to concern over inadequate power for research,
the VP said, "It is not the power of the circuits that is
important, it is the size of the dream." When the Vice President
delivered this inanity to key congressional leaders at a
Wednesday lunch, there was hardly a dry eye in the room. Many
scientists can also be expected to react with tears.
2. ASTRONOMERS NEED "REPAIRS TO INFRASTRUCTURE--NOT NEW
The "Bahcall Report" on priorities for astronomy
in the coming decade was released this week. The willingness of
astronomers to face the painful task of priority setting has
given their decade reports considerable force. Acknowledging
that it might come as a shock to Congress and NASA, committee
chair John Bahcall said the highest priority for ground-based
research is to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure of astronomy.
The report did call for four major new telescope programs,
including the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, to complete
NASA's Great Observatory program. The "save the infrastructure
first" theme was echoed the next day in House authorization
hearings for DoE's Basic Energy Sciences.
3. MARKET FOR LOW MAGNETIC FIELD VIDEO DISPLAY TERMINALS
following a National Institute of Occupational Safety
and Health study of miscarriages among pregnant workers. The
study found no difference in miscarriage frequency between those
using VDTs and others engaged in similar work. Claims by fear-
mongers that the pulsed magnetic field from a CRT fly-back can
cause miscarriages had the effect of creating a brief market for
4. TOMORROW MARKS THE 2ND ANNIVERSARY OF THE COLD FUSION
by Pons and Fleischmann. It is also the eighth
anniversary of Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" speech. Coincidence,
you say, but perhaps not! Pons and Fleischmann may have
consulted Nancy Reagan's astrologer. A book on cold fusion by
physicist Frank Close, to be published in May, reviews the case
of the infamous gamma-ray spectrum that was altered to put the
peak at the right energy, leading to the conclusion that fraud
was committed in the days immediately following the announcement.
It was in any case committed by 7 June, which is the first
occasion on which Ponds and Fleischmann withheld results of a
helium assay. That story will have to be told in another book.
Nevertheless, cold fusion acolytes will celebrate the anniversary
at a meeting in Italy.