Friday, 15 Sep 95 Washington, DC
1. NIST: REVISED COMMERCE DISMANTLING ACT WOULD PRESERVE NIST!
Yesterday, in a rancorous marathon session, the House Science
Committee approved a substitute version of the Chrysler Commerce
Dismantling Act (WN 7 Jul 95). The Walker version would abolish
DOC, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology would be put in a new U.S. Science and Technology Administration, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the
National Technical Information Service. An unprecedented display of support for NIST by leaders of the scientific community (WN 8
Sep 95) clearly played a role. Efforts to preserve the Advanced
Technology Program failed. Various versions of the Chrysler bill emerging from four committees will be combined into one bill and included in the Omnibus Reconciliation package. But President
Clinton has vowed to veto any bill that would abolish Commerce.
2. OCTOBER TRAIN WRECK? SHUTDOWN OF GOVERNMENT MAY BE AVERTED.
President Clinton and congressional leaders agreed this week to negotiate a continuing resolution. It is now clear that work on the 13 spending bills will not be complete by October 1, and the
President has threatened to veto six of them anyway. A continuing resolution would allow the government to operate after 1 October at an agreed upon level for a fixed period. It would likely mean across-the-board cuts in the discretionary spending rate equal to the level of reductions in the Republican budget agreement.
3. "THE BOOK": DECENNIAL RANKINGS OF RESEARCH-DOCTORATE PROGRAMS.
The massive 740-page NRC report was released on Tuesday. If you don't have it, just check the last report -- most programs are rated just about where they were 10 years ago. It does now take longer to earn a doctorate, and the number of faculty in every field has increased -- even where the number of graduates has declined. For some programs the rankings can mean life or death.
When asked if there were an appeal mechanism, Brendan Maher, co- chair of the study panel, responded, "Only in the sense that a person without a parachute might appeal the law of gravity."
4. GOOFS! LUNAR NIGHTS, THE MISSING LEM, AND PARTY AFFILIATIONS.
The great thing about writing this column is that no mistake goes unscorned by our readers. A couple of weeks ago (WN 1 Sep 95), I gave the length of a lunar night as 28 days, which is, of course, the length of a lunar day. You will not be surprised to learn that only about half of that is night. In the very next item, I turned Republican Senator Connie Mack of Florida into a Democrat. Believe me, the switching is all going the other way. The next week (WN 8 Sep 95), I had the LEM being used as a heat shield for
Apollo-13's reentry--the LEM was in fact jettisoned. On the other hand, the LEM did burn up and the SNAP-27 survived reentry to end up in a deep Pacific trench. Sigh! It's not the things I forget that bother me, it's the things I remember that never happened.
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)