Friday, 26 April 1991 Washington, DC
1. 140 PHYSICISTS SWARM OVER CAPITOL HILL ON "CONGRESSIONAL
Yesterday, in teams of three or four, APS members
visited offices of 54 Senators and 117 Representatives to discuss
the importance of science to the Nation. Congressional Day,
which grew out of an initiative by the Division of Molecular and
Optical Physics, took advantage of the Spring Meeting of the APS
in Washington. Senator Gore, who addressed the volunteers on
Tuesday, had joined Rep. George Brown in a "Dear Colleague"
letter urging members of Congress to meet with the physicists.
Brown also hosted a Hill reception last night along with six
Nobel Laureate physicists. Plans are underway to repeat
Congressional Day again next year.
2. TINY HYDROGEN ATOMS INVOKED TO EXPLAIN "COLD FUSION"
From the beginning, physicists marvelled at the
robust health of Pons and Fleischmann. At the power levels they
claimed from cold fusion cells, even the cockroaches in their lab
should have been exterminated by radiation. The explanation, it
was revealed in a press conference yesterday in Lancaster, PA, is
that there wasn't much fusion going on to begin with. Big news,
you are probably saying! So where did the heat come from?
That's the surprising part; it comes from shrinking the hydrogen
atoms! This is done by getting the atoms into a state BELOW the
ground state. If the shrunken atoms are deuterons, of course,
they may fuse from time to time, which explains why cold fusion
results are erratic. This remarkable discovery was made by Randy
Mills, MD Harvard Medical School, '86 and will be published by
Fusion Technology in August.
3. INCREDIBLE COINCIDENCE: SIMULTANEOUS BOSTON PRESS
At the very instant that Mills was revealing
his startling new findings in Lancaster, two well-known
physicists, Fred Mayer and John Reitz, were in Boston announcing
their new cold fusion theory, with the help of the MIT press
office. Their paper, which will also be published by Fusion
Technology, invokes--are you ready?--tiny hydrogen atoms! Except
they call them "hydrons," and attribute them to "continuum bound
state resonances." Mayer expects prototype power generating
systems in about five years. Neither Mayer or Reitz are
associated in any way with MIT. How then did the MIT press
office get involved? Very good question.
4. ACADEMIC SCIENCE HURT BY THE STANFORD AND BALTIMORE
The indirect-cost disclosures at Stanford and evidence of fraud
in the David Baltimore case have contributed to a perception in
Washington that academic science is not being conducted in the
public interest. In a display of hubris, MIT even managed to
entangle the two issues by using overhead funds to pay lawyers in
the Baltimore case! This week, OMB announced new rules defining
allowable charges, and Congress is about to impose a 26% cap on
administrative costs of research. Meanwhile, MIT is voluntarily
paying back $731,000, and Stanford reluctantly agreed to a 55%
indirect cost rate for the current year, down from a high of 74%.