Friday, 11 Mar 94 Washington, DC
1. NASA BUDGET: A CHOICE BETWEEN SPACE SCIENCE AND SPACE STATION?
Invoking the metaphor of King Solomon's solution to a parenthood
dispute, George Brown repeated his threat to chop off the space
station to save space science
(WN 4 Mar 94). It depends on how
hard NASA gets hit in this year's budget and whether spending can
be stretched out. Brown's choice of parables was significant--
Solomon didn't mean it either. It's easy to oppose the station
in March. Consider this a wake-up call for aerospace lobbyists.
2. EXTRACT ENERGY FROM THE ZERO-POINT FLUCTUATIONS OF THE VACUUM?
Where do such uuhhh--unusual--ideas come from? Well, this is one
of the predictions from "The Road to 2012," the futuristic report
prepared for the U.S. Coast Guard
(WN 18 Feb 94). But the idea
probably did not come to the author in a dream. In fact "The New
Energy News," which comes out of (where else?) Salt Lake City,
credits the idea to physicist Harold E. Puthoff and proclaimed
him "The New Energy News Theorist of the Year." Puthoff was even
featured, along with two colleagues, in a two-page news story in
Science magazine (4 Feb 94); it concerned their paper "Inertia as
a zero-point-field Lorentz force," which appeared in the February
Physical Review A. Wow! PRA publishes some 1,300 papers a year,
but I don't remember Science ever commenting on one before. It's
fair to say that, outside Salt Lake City, Puthoff's ideas are
controversial; but he's accustomed to controversy. In 1972, at
the Stanford Research Institute, Puthoff and Russell Targ were
promoting psychic spoon-bender Uri Geller; five years later, they
published "Mind Reach," a book about remote-viewing that inspired
the CIA to invest in psychic espionage. Reportedly, Puthoff him-
self once sent his mind to explore the surface of planet Mercury.
3. WELL THEN, WHY NOT EXTRACT ENERGY FROM EARTH'S MAGNETIC FIELD?
NASA announced yesterday that it will try the tethered satellite
experiment again in 1996. In 1992 the shuttle Atlantis sought to
deploy a small satellite on a 13-mile long wire. NASA explained
at the time that as the wire cut through Earth's magnetic field
it would generate electrical power. "It's the nearest thing to a
free lunch we can find," the mission manager said. Well, maybe
not quite free; if any power is extracted, the reverse emf will
produce drag. To maintain its orbit, the spacecraft would have
to fire its thrusters. It's hard to imagine a less efficient way
to generate electricity. Alas, the reel jammed just 256 meters
out; it generated less than one watt. NASA's announcement of a
reflight in 1996 makes no mention of electrical power generation.
4. THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY LINKS TO THE "WORLD WIDE WEB,"
whatever that is. Use your favorite browser(?) to see our home
page; NCSA's Mosaic is recommended. Connect to ../.
If you have questions (who would have questions with anything
this clear) send e-mail to email@example.com, but DON'T ask me.