Friday, June 27, 1997
1. THE HUMAN BIOFIELD: $1,100,000 PRIZE IF YOU HAVE THE TOUCH.
Major hospitals throughout the US offer a procedure variously known as "biofield therapeutics" or "touch therapy." The James Randi Educational Foundation announced this week that its $1.1M prize would be awarded to the first "touch therapist" who can demonstrate under simple test conditions the ability to detect a human energy field. According to touch therapists, the energy field or "qi" sticks out some 20 cm and can be tactilely sensed -- at least by trained professionals, of which there are some 30,000 in the US alone. It might more properly be termed "no-touch therapy," since practitioners do not actually touch the patient; they use their hands to "balance" the patient's qi. Although it may not be dangerous to have your qi manipulated, it is of scientific interest to ask if a palpable biofield actually exists. In the six years since its creation, the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine has never thought to ask that question.
2. FY 98 BUDGET: NSF IS UP 6.6% IN HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE MARKUP.
In March, a coalition of scientific societies called for a 7% across-the-board increase for research (WN 7 Mar 97). In the case of NSF, the House VA, HUD, IA Appropriations Subcommittee came close this week. NASA did not fare as well; although the science budget is $48M above the request, most of it is in earmarks. The biggest increase ($100M) is for the space station. Things are expected to be dicier in the Senate, where VA, HUD, IA was allocated a billion dollars less than in the House. The Senate subcommittee won't mark up its bill for another two weeks.
3. SUPREME COURT: "FIRST LANDMARK DECISION OF THE 21 CENTURY."
The Electronic Privacy Information Center hailed the Internet free speech decision: "The Court has written on a clean slate and established the fundamental principles that will govern free speech issues for the electronic age." But the Court ducked the constitutional issue raised by the line-item veto (WN 11 Apr 97), ruling that the group challenging the law, led by Senator Byrd (D-WV), was not personally injured by the law. WN stands by its prediction that the President is unlikely to use the line-item veto, and if he does, it will be challenged (WN 3 Jan 97).
4. MIR: WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN 120 TONS OF SCRAP METAL RE-ENTERS?
Not having thought that one through, Russian space officials are loath to abandon the crippled Mir. With no crew, Mir will begin tumbling and lose orbit rather quickly. Science Committee chair James Sensenbrenner threatens a US pullout if safety is not assured before the scheduled September crew change. The puncture was in the "science" compartment, so nothing important was lost.
5. BROOKHAVEN: DAVID MONCTON DECLINES APPOINTMENT AS DIRECTOR.
AUI selected Moncton for the job two weeks ago (WN 13 Jun 97).