Friday, 7 February 1997 Washington, DC
1. CHEMICAL WEAPONS BAN: SCIENTISTS URGE IMMEDIATE
Led by the American Chemical Society, the scientific
community has come out strongly for the Chemical Weapons Convention.
In a letter to members of the Senate this week, APS President Allan
Bromley supported the ACS position, which was spelled out in a letter
from ACS President Ronald Breslow last August. The treaty was signed
by President George Bush in 1993 and seemed headed for ratification
until Bob Dole raised it as a campaign issue last fall. Jesse Helms
(R-NC), the Foreign Relations Committee chair, vows to block the CWC
until he gets his way on other legislation. Majority Leader Trent Lott
(R-MS) could decide to overrule Helms.
2. FY 98 BUDGET: PRESIDENT STUMBLES WHILE CROSSING THE
"To prepare America for the 21st century," President Clinton told
the nation on Tuesday, "we must harness the forces of science and
technology to benefit all Americans." Sound good? Yesterday, the FY
1998 budget request released by the White House declared investment in
science and technology to be "a cornerstone of the President's vision for
America." Golly! Ready for the bottom line? Basic research would get
an anemic 2.7% over FY 97, barely keeping pace with inflation, and
trailing the overall increase in federal spending -- no growth and no
correction for the 10% loss basic research suffered in Clinton's first term
(WN 17 Jan 97).
3. NUCLEAR PHYSICIST HENRY H. BARSCHALL DIED TUESDAY AT
During World War II, Barschall worked on the atomic bomb
project. Ironically, in 1970 during the Vietnam War, his laboratory at the
University of Wisconsin was destroyed by a terrorist bomb. He devoted
the remainder of his career to medical uses of neutrons. His last years
were spent defending himself against a law suit resulting from his study
of the disparity in cost effectiveness of physics journals. Barschall
characteristically refused to back down in what he saw as a simple
issue of free speech.
4. THE PODKLETNOV GRAVITY SHIELD: BUSINESS WEEK LEVITATES
It was the light-weight story of 1996: a rotating superconducting
disk that reduced the weight of an object placed above it
(WN 27 Sep 96).
Now Business Week is at it again in the February 17 issue.
According to the story, John Schnurer at Antioch College measured a
5% drop in weight with such a shield, and scientists at NASA are
eagerly trying to repeat the measurement. Ho Jung Paik, a leading gravity
experimentalist at Maryland, said he was aware of the earlier claim, but
dismissed it: "gravity is such a weak force that errors are difficult to
avoid." When told of the Business Week story, Arthur Komar, head of
Gravitational Physics at NSF, said, "I'm speechless." After he stopped
laughing, he added: "This is inappropriate for Business Week to report
on; Business Week has no standards or criteria by which to evaluate
scientific claims. It should be left to scientific journals."