Friday, 3 January 1997 Washington, DC
1. NEW YEAR BEGINS WITH A BANG--BOMB SQUAD EVACUATES OUR OFFICE.
Our first thought was that someone is overreacting to the last WHAT'S NEW, but the target was an Arabic-language newspaper in the office above us in the National Press Building. A total of four letter bombs were found yesterday and removed safely. Two more bombs were found in the Post Office awaiting delivery.
2. DOE LAUNCHES THE SCIENCE-BASED STOCKPILE STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM.
The world's fastest ultra-supercomputer was unveiled last week by DOE and Intel, and DOE gave final approval to proceed with the National Ignition Facility at Livermore. These are key elements of a program meant to allow the United States to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent without underground testing.
3. PREDICTIONS: WHAT'S NEW GOES ONE-ON-ONE WITH TABLOID PSYCHIC.
Jeane Dixon is determined to improve her numbers this year: She boldly predicts that the Pope, Boris Yeltsin and Frank Sinatra will have health problems. Yeah, sure, and there will be storms in the Middle West. None of that timid stuff for WHAT'S NEW:
- ROBERT WALKER, retired chair of the House Science Committee, will become the President of a major Washington lobbing firm.
- RUSSIA will renege on its commitment to the International Space Station. The U.S. will pretend it's international anyway.
- SCIENTISTS in record numbers will lobby Congress to maintain the nation's investment in basic research, with some success.
- THE LINE-ITEM VETO won't put an end to pork-barrel funding; if the President tries to use it, it will be challenged in court.
- EXPOSURE TO ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS will not cause cancer in people who are wearing rubber soled shoes.
- WHAT'S NEW will contimue to be error free and noncontroversial.
4. BOOK REVIEW: WN PICKS THE MOST OVERLOOKED BOOK OF 1996. "CONJURING SCIENCE:
Scientific Symbols and Cultural Meanings in American Life" by Christopher Toumey is not a science book, and Toumey, a cultural anthropologist, admits he knows little about science, but scientists should read his witty little volume. The good news is that the public has enormous respect for scientific authority. The bad news is that the public thinks anyone in a white smock is a scientist. So charlatans simply hijack the symbols of science. Because so few scientists bother to object, the public is left with the false impression that scientists are about equally divided on issues that may have no scientific support at all. Toumey calls this "the pseudosymmetry effect."