Friday, 24 October 97 Washington, DC
1. THE STAR WARS SEQUEL: ANOTHER TEST -- ANOTHER FAILURE.
Who could forget the dreaded Super Excalibur, the x-ray laser that could
shoot down the entire Soviet missile fleet? It couldn't check luggage at
the airport. Or the test of an interceptor missile in which the target
turned out to be a homing beacon? It still missed! Or brilliant pebbles,
alias "loose marbles"? It was quietly dropped after failing every test.
But the chemical-laser lobby never gave up
(WN 9 Dec 94). Maybe the infrared
monster was impractical for deployment in space, but how about frying a
satellite from the ground? Last week, they got their chance to test "Miracl"
on an aging satellite. A spokesman said the gigantic laser "illuminated"
the target. Could he have meant "eliminated," as in zapped or disintegrated?
Alas no, he meant illuminated, and only barely at that. No more tests
2. EARTHQUACKS: DID TEST BAN FOES SET OFF A FALSE TREMOR?
There are two
places where small-scale underground tests of warhead reliability, allowed
under the test accord, are conducted. They are both in regions of high
seismic activity: One on the Island of Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Ocean,
the other in Nevada. Every tremor in those regions is routinely checked to
see if it has the signature of an illegal nuclear test. Before an August 16
event could be checked, the CIA issued a high-level alert. Opponents of the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty seized on the incident as proof either that
the Russians were violating the accord or that it's not possible to
tell the difference. Seismologists all over the world, however, seem
to be in perfect agreement that the event was an earthquake --
in the ocean 80 miles from Novaya Zemlya! There are calls for an
investigation of the premature alert.
3. GRAMM-LIEBERMAN: SCIENCE BILL ENDORSED BY BUDGET CHAIRMAN!
Wednesday press conference, held in the Capitol by a coalition of 106
scientific, engineering and mathematical organizations to support the
bipartisan National Research Investment Act (S.1305), Pete Domenici
(R-NM), the powerful chair of the Budget Committee, threw his support behind
the bill; he was joined by Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Domenici vows to make
the bill, which calls for doubling science funding, a priority. Gramm
and Lieberman are confident they can round up the 51 co-sponsors needed
to ensure passage. Every member of the Senate should be urged to sign on
by their constituents. In the House, George Brown (D-CA) is offering
his "Investment Budget" that would increase R&D 5% a year, which is not
incompatible with doubling R in ten years
(WN 28 Mar 97).
4. MIR: RUSSIAN SPACE PSYCHOLOGIST SAYS IT'S A "SWEATSHOP."
AP story, Rostislav Bodgashevsky, who worked with cosmonauts for 35 years,
says they're "galley slaves, humans deprived of any rights." He blames
Mir's recent troubles on overwork of the crew. Meanwhile, a six-hour
space walk failed to restore full power.