Friday, May 9, 1997
1. **COURT ORDERS ACADEMY TO OPEN STUDIES TO THE PUBLIC.**
On Tuesday, a federal appeals court refused to reconsider a ruling requiring studies conducted for the government by the National Research Council to abide by the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act. Bruce Alberts, the Academy's president, expressed deep disappointment at the decision and vowed to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. He contends that the loss of independence under FACA rules would compromise the credibility of Academy studies. Meetings would have to be announced in advance in the Federal Register and open to the public. More seriously, in Alberts' opinion, the government would control the agenda. Moreover, since each draft of a committee report would be public, every change could lead to a public controversy. The Academy is considering whether its studies could be carried out using a principal investigator, thus avoiding the need for a committee.
2. BUDGET: BROMLEY URGES APS MEMBERS TO BE HEARD.
In a letter to constituents of key members of Congress, the APS President notes that budget deliberations have reached a point where individual scientists need to contact congressional offices. Other societies involved in the Joint Statement on Scientific Research (WN 28 Feb 97) are expected to make similar appeals to their members.
3. HYDRINOS: HONEY, I SHRUNK THE HYDROGEN.
Well, he's back! Randy Mills, MD Harvard '86, burst upon the scientific world six years ago when he discovered a simple way to get hydrogen atoms into a state below the ground state. The result is teensy little hydrogen atoms he calls "hydrinos" and a big wad of energy. It was a crushing blow to physicists, who imagined they understood the hydrogen atom. Mills' company, HydroCatalysis Power, sold a couple of his devices (which look a lot like cold fusion cells) to NASA Lewis, where they vanished. HydroCatalysis has since reemerged as BlackLight Power, and sources tell WN that several utilities are ready to put money in it. Hmmm, it may be time to look back and see if we got the harmonic oscillator right.
4. SUMMER RERUNS: THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY ABOLISHMENT ACT.
"It's time to pull the plug," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey. It's not like it hasn't been tried. Besides, the new budget agreement preserves DOE. Nevertheless, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KN), who led the freshman attack two years ago, introduced a new Abolishment Act. He thinks the bill's prospects are good because it would save $20B; however, a move to abolish the Space Station, which would save $76B, recently lost three-to-one. The bill would move defense-related activities to DOD, terminate fossil energy and conservation R&D, cap Energy Supply R&D in FY 98 at 75% of the FY 97 rate and 50% thereafter. Most observers think passage is as likely as hydrogen atoms turning into hydrinos.