Friday, 8 Apr 94 Washington, DC
1. FLASH! SENATOR ROCKEFELLER REJECTS REORGANIZATION OF NSF.
In remarks prepared for a speech to the AAAS this afternoon, the
chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
questioned the value of reorganizing NSF around strategic areas
as Senator Mikulski has proposed
(WN 4 Feb 94). A "Clean Car
Division" maybe? Rockefeller pointed out that such an organization
would make it difficult to move into new areas of research.
2. NSF AUTHORIZATION BILL EMERGES FROM COMMITTEE WITH NO TEETH!
After threatening to cut universities off from NSF funding if
they accept academic pork
(WN 25 Feb 94), George Brown backed
down. The bill only cuts them off from NSF facilities grants.
That doesn't even gum the offenders; the total NSF facilities
request is only $55M. Some schools get that much in earmarks.
3. JOHN NUCKOLLS RESIGNS! LIVERMORE LAB DIRECTOR KNUCKLES UNDER.
In a March 30 letter, UC president Jack Peltason told Nuckolls he
would ask the regents to fire him for "significant deficiencies
in your management abilities." Edward Teller, now 86, lobbied the
regents to save his protege's job
(WN 25 Mar 94), but when it was
clear that Teller couldn't deliver the votes, Nuckolls resigned.
4. MEMBERS OF CONGRESS VACATING THEIR OFFICES AT THE 1992 RATE!
In the House, 43 members have announced they will not run for
re-election. That's just four less than on this date two years ago.
The big freshman class that resulted played a role in the death
of the SSC and a decline in academic pork. Jamie Whitten (D-MS),
who is 84, was among those announcing retirement this week. But
Jim Bacchus (D-FL), 44, also called it quits. Bacchus has been a
leading proponent of the space station on the SS&T Committee.
5. WHY SOME SCIENTIFIC QUESTIONS NEVER SEEM TO GET QUITE SETTLED.
In 1987, a committee of the National Research Council reported it
could find "no scientific justification from research conducted
over a period of 130 years for the existence of parapsychological
phenomena." In the next sentence, the panel called for continued
research (WN 4 Dec 87). I reflected on that non sequitur while
devoting two of days of my life at the annual meeting of the
National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, which
this year was devoted to health effects of EMF. It all began with
a 1979 study by Wertheimer and Leeper linking childhood leukemia
in Denver to the proximity of power lines. Wertheimer and Leeper
are the Pons and Fleishmann of EMF; their study is now seen as
hopelessly flawed--but it no longer matters. There is now an
entire industry surrounding this non-effect. To date, the bill
for "prudent avoidance" in the US is about $24B. Epidemiological
evidence grows ever fainter with improvements in methodology and
proposed interaction mechanisms more speculative, yet speaker
after speaker at the meeting ended by calling for more research.