Friday, 16 Feb 96 Washington, DC
1. NASA: GOLDIN DELIGHTS SCIENTISTS WITH SPEECH AT AAAS MEETING
Four years ago, on the 20th anniversary of Pioneer 10, a new NASA
Administrator, Dan Goldin, used the aging spacecraft as the inspiration for
a "new NASA--one that does things better, faster and cheaper." The graying
astronomers gathered at the Air and Space Museum broke into applause, but
few thought Goldin would survive to make the changes he called for. He was
cheered again last week at the AAAS meeting in Baltimore: "We had this
organic shuttle program--now I don't want to be demeaning to the people that
worked on the shuttle, but the shuttle has suppressed a lot of science we
could be doing....We haven't landed on a planet in 20 years, because we've
been so excited about the service support contract on the shuttle that we
haven't been doing science. We spent $10B on the space station and didn't
produce a piece of hardware, but boy did the contractors have fun. It's
shameful. It's stealing from the American public." It was almost his only
reference to the space station. He declared the primary goal of planetary
exploration to be the search for present or past life forms on other
planets, and the search will begin with robots.
2. NSF: FOUR WEEKS OF SHUTDOWN LEAVES HUGE BACKLOG OF PROPOSALS.
Nearly 3000 proposals were in the queue, according to Neal Lane, who also
spoke to the AAAS. "Many continuing grants ran out of funds, and there are
likely to be funding gaps for some renewals and substantial delays in
funding new awards. Some new programs will be delayed by six months to a
year or canceled," Lane said. He also acknowledged that "the avalanche of
communication to House and Senate members" from individual scientists
following his "stony silence" speech to the astronomers (
WN 19 Jan 96) was
"unquestionably effective." He went on to urge scientists to play a civic
role in bringing the message of science to our citizenry.
3. NSF DIVISION OF PHYSICS SETS TARGET DATES FOR FY 97 PROPOSALS.
To help clear away the backlog, the Physics Division will use target dates
for submission. Access http://www.nsf.gov/ for info.
4. OAM: THERE WERE SOME VERY STRANGE TALKS AT THE AAAS MEETING.
One of the strangest was by Wayne Jonas, director of the Office of
Alternative Medicine at NIH. Speaking in a session on Life Long Health:
Beyond the Medical Model, Jonas explained that OAM is examining therapies
that are not based on the Western model of medicine. In the hall
afterwards, he was asked if OAM had found ANY alternative techniques that
did NOT look promising. Jonas was unable to name even one. In a related
session, one speaker described experiments showing enhanced growth of plants
that are prayed for. I recall experiments 25-30 years ago in which growth
rate was used to rank the efficacy of different prayers. Alas, this
promising line of research fell out of favor after a group appealing to
satanic forces observed still faster growth.