Friday, April 25, 1997
1. NIF REVIEW: WHAT'S NEW COVERAGE WAS MISLEADING AND UNFAIR.
WN reported that a federal judge had issued an injunction on
March 3 prohibiting DOE from utilizing the report of the NRC
Committee for the Review of the Inertial Confinement Fusion
Program (WN 14 Mar 97).
Misinterpreting information from the
Natural Resources Defense Council, WN characterized the panel as
"packed" and reported that "12 of the 16 have financial ties to
Livermore." In fact, as stated in the preface to the Committee's
report, "All committee member are recognized as leaders in their
respective fields of expertise. Several have served on previous
committees that have examined ICF, and several [5 of the 16] have
consulted for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in various
areas. Slightly less than half the members have no prior exposure
to ICF and NIF." Nevertheless, the legal status of the report
remains murky. The key decision involved a complaint by an
animal-rights group about an entirely different NRC committee: a
three-judge panel ruled on January 10 that the Federal Advisory
Committee Act can apply to NRC panels, a decision the NRC has
appealed. The January decision was cited in the ICF case.
Although the ICF report is now published (it's available at
http://www.nas.edu/cpsma/icf.htm), DOE is still enjoined from
using it as justification for starting construction on NIF.
2. FY 98 BUDGET: BIPARTISAN SUPPORT FOR SCIENCE IN THE HOUSE.
Yesterday, authorization bills for NASA, NIST and NSF (WN 18 Apr
97) passed the full House by a wide margin. As a measure of the
mood of Congress, this was good news. However, it's not clear
where the bills are headed now. The Senate in recent years has
not bothered to pass authorization bills, thus giving enormous
power to the appropriations committees. In that case, the House
bills are reduced to the status of advice to the appropriators.
3. MIR: FINDING NEW WAYS TO MAKE LOW-EARTH ORBIT EXCITING.
week the crew is sniffing ethylene glycol. A couple of liters
has leaked from the cooling system of one of the modules. That
raised the temperature of the module to 86 F, which caused the
carbon dioxide scrubber to overheat. Then the primary oxygen
generator failed. The back-up oxygen system started a fire,
filling the station with thick smoke. When Atlantis travels to
Mir next month to rotate astronauts, it will deliver a spare
oxygen generator. NASA is thinking of adding a seat on Atlantis
in case replacement astronaut Michael Foale, who is supposed to
replace Jerry Linenger, decides he doesn't want to stay.
4. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: PENROSE OBJECTS TO BEING A ROLL MODEL.
In 1974, physicist Roger Penrose invented his arrowed rhombic
tiles that fill up space aperiodically. Now, according to The
Economist, Sir Roger is suing Kimberly Clark, maker of Kleenex
toilet paper, for embossing its rolls with Penrose tiles.