Friday, 31 October 97 Washington, DC
1. COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY: SENATE HEARINGS GET UNDER WAY.
In signing the treaty more than a year ago, President
Clinton said he was "assured by the Secretary of Energy and the
Directors of our nuclear weapons labs that we can meet the
challenge of maintaining our nuclear deterrent through a
stockpile stewardship program without nuclear testing." This
week, Senate hearings on ratification finally got underway with
DOE and DOD officials, including, Federico Pena, the new Energy
Secretary, repeating those assurances. But former Energy
Secretary James Schlesinger, warned: "Over the decades, the
erosion of confidence inevitably will be substantial." The
issue, of course, is whether the treaty makes us more or less
secure. If a problem arises, the US can return to testing under
a "Supreme National Interest" clause, and Pena said he would not
hesitate to recommend to the President that we do so. At its
meeting in April, the APS Council endorsed the CTBT, "including
its extensive technical and procedural provisions to verify
compliance with treaty requirements."
2. MARS: PATHFINDER IS NOT ANSWERING THE PHONE.
Engineers at NASA
believe the lander has succumbed to the cold. Sojourner, the
rover, is presumably circling the dead mother ship, Bambi-like,
waiting for instructions. It had been hoped that the lander
could be switched entirely to solar power after its batteries
ran down, but nighttime temperatures of -58 F may have been too
much. It does warm up to -22 F in the afternoon. NASA is still
trying to make contact, but the "warm" Martian summer is coming
to an end.
3. SCARY: MICHAEL GUILLEN RETURNS WITH HALLOWEEN TIPS.
Guillen, a PhD physicist, is the science editor of ABC-TV's Good
Morning America show, who did the three-part series "Fringe or
Frontier? Science on the Edge" (WN 3 Oct 97),
precognition, astrology and psychokinesis are serious scientific
questions. In June, he showed us the Patterson cold-fusion cell
"neutralizing" radioactivity (WN 13 Jun 97).
This week, he
played Martha Stewart in a Dracula cape, giving us tips on how
to use "science" to make scary special effects. Host Charlie
Gibson explained that Guillen is "normally a Harvard Professor."
Now that would be scary.
4. THE GOLDEN SPINNING WHEEL AWARD: BEST SPIN CONTROL OF 1997.
The competition is fierce as we head down the stretch
(WN 25 Jul 97). Once again we're
indebted to The New Republic;
an article by Stephen Glass, "No Free Launch," points out that although NASA had braced for a massive turn out at the Cape to
protest the Cassini launch (WN 29 Aug 97),
few showed up. Was
the protest a bust? Not at all, anti-Cassini activist Ryan
Hogan explained, protesters stayed away to avoid being showered
with plutonium. "We showed them how dangerous it is. At times
the place was as empty as a graveyard. The experts say tens of
thousands protested -- I'd say closer to a hundred thousand