Friday, 8 Dec 95 Washington, DC
1. APS CALLS FOR HELIUM CONSERVATION! HOT AIR IS NO SUBSTITUTE.
At its 19 Nov 1995 meeting, the elected Council of the
American Physical Society
adopted a strongly worded statement calling for measures to "conserve and
enhance the nation's helium reserves." The action was prompted by pending
legislation that would require the nation's helium reserves to be sold off
by 2015. In the rush to downsize government, the helium program has become
a metaphor for "boondoggle" among politicians who associate it with blimps
and party balloons. There is scant awareness of helium's growing cryogenic
uses -- or its rapid depletion. It's a constituent of natural gas from a
few "helium-rich" fields in the US. Less than half of the helium is needed
to meet current demand; the rest is wasted. These fields are expected to be
depleted in 20 years -- or about when the selloff of the federal reserve is
2. SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY ARE "HIGH-PRIORITY" IN THE CLINTON PLAN.
Details are sketchy, but the President's seven-year plan calls for more
investment in basic and applied research and technology development.
But "more" does not mean more than current budget figures, it means more than
the Republican plan, which would have cut S&T by a third. The plan specifically
adds funds (above the vetoed Republican plan) for biomedical and behavioral
research at NIH, for basic research and education at NSF, for basic research
at NASA (including Mission to Planet Earth), and for ATP and TRP.
3. HOUSE REPUBLICANS RESTORE DISCIPLINE, PASS VA/HUD/IA SPENDING.
You will recall that we were wringing our hands last week because the House
voted to send the VA/HUD/IA appropriations bill back to Conference with
instructions to add $213M to veterans' health
(WN 1 Dec 95). The concern
was that the money might come out of NSF or space science. Not to worry.
Embarrassed Republican leaders refused to change it; they sent the same bill
back to the House, and fourteen chastened Republicans switched their vote. But it's too early to relax. President Clinton promises to veto the bill, and
Mission to Planet Earth could be offered up in a compromise.
4. THE "EAGLE ALLIANCE" IS FORMED TO PROMOTE NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY.
The chances of selling it to the American public are something like the
odds that the Chicago Cubs will win a pennant, but an alliance led by the
American Medical Association and the American Nuclear Society
has been formed to revitalize nuclear science and technology. There hasn't been
an order for a nuclear power plant in 15 years, nuclear waste depositories are
political death, and even people who eat raw oysters wouldn't touch irradiated
foods. But out of public view, evidence mounts showing that low-level
ionizing radiation is not hazardous (WN
13 Dec 91;
13 Jan 95).
At the Alliance's first meeting this week, even the once-ridiculed term
"hormesis" could be heard; it refers to things that are good for you in small
doses, but toxic in large amounts. What isn't?
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY
(Note: Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the APS,
but they should be.)