Friday, 24 Nov 95 Washington, DC
1. TRAIN WRECK III: WHERE DOES THE FY96 BUDGET FOR SCIENCE STAND?
After the longest shutdown in US history, the federal government is back on the tracks and getting up steam for another collision in mid-December. Of the six spending bills signed into law, the only one of major concern to physicists is Energy-Water. Defense is on the President's desk, while VA-HUD-IA, which includes both
NSF and NASA, is waiting for a final vote (WN 17 Nov 95), but
President Clinton is balking on both. He says the Defense bill spends $7B too much on weapons, while VA-HUD-IA spends too little on environment and housing. That should be ripe for compromise, but despite the flak they're taking from opinion polls, freshmen kamikazes are sealed in their cockpits. The other five spending bills are still hung up in Congress, including Commerce-State, which the President says he will veto if it dismantles Commerce. He also promises to veto Labor-HHS, which includes NIH, unless funds are restored to education, training and health programs.
2. THE GOOD NEWS: R&D AT DOE IS UP. THE BAD NEWS: IT'S MOSTLY D.
How was physics treated in the one spending bill thus far enacted that we might judge by? R&D is up by only 1.7%, and it would be down were it not for a 9.4% jump in nuclear weapons development. Basic Energy Sciences is up a fat 10%, while applied programs in solar (down 22%), nuclear (down 29%) and magnetic fusion energy
(down 32%) are hard hit. Nuclear Physics is down 8%, while High
Energy Physics rose 4%. Energy Conservation Research is down 12%. If there is one message, it is that FY 96 won't be a green year.
3. $5M SCIENCE EDUCATION INITIATIVE IS LAUNCHED BY APS AND AAPT.
The American Physical Society and the American Association for
Physics Teachers officially kicked off "The Campaign for Physics" last Saturday. William Hewlett of Hewlett-Packard is honorary chair of a powerhouse executive committee that includes Robert
Allen of AT&T, Norman Augustine of Lockheed-Martin, Robert Galvin of Motorola, Lewis Platt of Hewlett-Packard, Gordon Moore of
Intel and George Soros, philanthropist. The campaign also has the support of 39 Nobel laureates. With that impressive backing, the campaign has already raised $3.5M for programs to improve science education from kindergarten through graduate school.
4. COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY WILL TAKE OVER MANAGEMENT OF BIOSPHERE-2.
When eight "Biospherians," dressed in Star-Trek uniforms, marched into their 3-acre mini-world four years ago and closed the air lock, it marked the start of a curious New-Age adventure. Within weeks, the mini-ocean changed; it turned to, well, slime. Before long, the Biospherians were gasping for air and the crops failed. Anyone who talks about space colonies should have to live there. Vowing to turn the Biosphere into a legitimate science project,
Columbia has agreed to operate the giant terrarium for 5 years.
The bills will continue to be paid by Texas billionaire Ed Bass.
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)