Friday, 21 Feb 97 Washington, DC
1. FY 98 BUDGET: SCIENTISTS, ENGINEERS & MATHEMATICIANS UNITE.
Presidents of organizations representing more than one million
engineers, mathematicians and scientists are joining forces to
urge Congress and the President to renew America's historical
commitment to scientific research and education. Funding for
research has declined for four straight years, and President
Clinton's FY 98 request again falls behind inflation and behind
the overall increase in the budget (WN 7 Feb 97). A joint
statement, signed by the presidents of more than seventeen major
organizations, will be released at a press conference in
Washington on March 4. The statement is expected to call for an
increase in research at all federal agencies. The unprecedented
breadth of this funding appeal reflects a growing recognition of
the interdependence of the various technical disciplines. Other
organizations wishing to join in this effort can still sign on.
2. CHIEN-SHUNG WU, A GIANT OF PHYSICS, DIED ON SUNDAY AT 84.
She led the 1957 experiment that demolished what was thought to
be a fundamental law of physics, the conservation of parity. She
did not, however, share the Nobel prize, which was awarded to Lee
and Yang for predicting that parity would not be conserved in the
weak force. One of the leaders of physics who emerged from the
Manhattan Project, she rescued the first Pu production reactor,
at Hanford, which had shut down just hours after it was started.
She fingered Xe-137, a fission product and neutron absorber, as
the culprit. The rest of her career was spent at Columbia. In
1975, she became the first woman elected president of APS.
3. CREATIONISM: NEW MEXICO'S TEACHING STANDARDS ARE EVOLVING.
Seventy-one years after the Scopes trial, the New Mexico State
Board of Education decided last August to omit "evolution" from
the state's teaching standards. On Monday, the state Senate
voted 24-17 to put it back in, but not before a debate in which
one senator brought a stuffed ape to the floor and declared the
Earth to be only 10,000 years old. The bill must still pass the
House and be signed by Governor Gary Johnson, who refuses to
indicate where he stands (or swings) on the issue. The bill
would require the school board to adopt the National Academy of
Sciences standards, which specify the teaching of evolution. The
House is expected to take action on the bill sometime next week.
4. DEFENSE: STAR WARRIORS ON SKY PATROL.
Under secretary of
Defense for Technology Paul Kaminski has assembled a working
group to investigate the threat from asteroids and come up with
ways to deal with it. Maybe he saw the TV movie Asteroid on NBC.
Must be serious stuff -- Kaminski's office declined to reveal the
names of the group members. It is an appealing fantasy for idled
bomb builders -- those who defended the free world from the evil
empire, now called on to defend Earth itself against the cosmos.