Friday, 15 Apr 94 Washington, DC
1. THE "PAUSE": OVERHEAD GIMMICK STIRS UP RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES.
In an unusually blunt letter to Science Advisor Jack Gibbons, the
president of the Association of American Universities, Cornelius
Pings, took strong exception to an Administration proposal for a
"pause" in indirect cost reimbursement
(WN 4 Feb 94). "If you
really need $130M more, just take it," Pings growled, "... but do
not expect our placid acquiescence to contrived cost shifting."
Indirect costs are real; in the end, research will suffer. But
there is as little sympathy in Congress as in the White House.
And it was the ranking Republican on the House Science Committee,
Robert Walker (R-PA), who introduced an amendment in committee to
incorporate the "pause" in the NSF authorization bill (H.R.3254).
It passed easily. The bill could reach the House floor next week.
2. MAGNET LAB DISPUTE PROMPTED ACADEMY REVIEW OF NSF PROCEDURES.
The 1990 decision to award the $60M National High Magnetic Field
Laboratory to Florida State, even though two peer review panels
favored MIT (WN 17 Aug 90), led Congress to request a National
Academy of Sciences study of criteria used in major NSF awards.
There were also major faults in a 1986 decision to put an
earthquake research center in Buffalo (WN 3 Oct 86). LIGO made waves
two years ago when Congress refused to allow NSF to scale it back
(WN 18 Dec 92). The NAS report calls for a procedure that ranks
projects on technical merit before other factors are considered.
3. 5 YEARS BEHIND SCHEDULE, 4 TIMES OVER BUDGET, GOES-8 GOES UP!
Despite the successful launch of the first of a new generation of
weather satellites, NOAA officials remain worried. The troubled
satellite (WN 5 Jul 91) must still undergo a six-month shakedown
before it's ready. In the meantime, the sole remaining US weather
satellite, GOES-7, is two years beyond its design life and almost
out of propellant. The only fall-back is the Farmer's Almanac.
4. ALTERNATIVE WEAPONS: TOP-SECRET RESEARCH ON NONLETHAL DEFENSE!
Several readers have complained that WN has ignored the emerging
field of nonlethal weapons. News stories have featured such old
ideas as Sandia's sticky-foam guns--under the name "monkey shit,"
and with such embellishments as an itching powder additive--this
stuff has been in use for decades to deny unauthorized access to
nuclear weapons. But since even the budget of this black program
is secret, one can only speculate on what awesome new weapons are
under development behind the cloak of secrecy. After all, the
program manager at Los Alamos, Colonel John B. Alexander (ret.),
once advocated "psychotronic" weapons that would amplify mental
power electronically, creating a "psychic howitzer." He also
proposed using "telepathic hypnosis" to befuddle enemies, and was
associated with "the First Earth Battalion of warrior monks."
Perhaps this whole thing is just a fiendishly clever scheme to
disable opponents by inducing fits of uncontrollable laughter.