Friday, 27 February 98 Washington, DC
1. TEST BAN: FRANCE RATIFIES THE COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY.
Two years ago, the world heaped condemnation on France for a
series of nuclear tests at its Polynesian test site at a time
when other nuclear powers were abiding by a moratorium
(WN 11 Aug 95).
An international boycott of Beaujolais Nouveau, and even a
demonstration in Washington at which the fruity red wine was
dumped on sidewalks
(WN 17 Nov 95),
failed to deter President
Jacques Chirac. But he promised that when the tests were over
France would support a full ban. Tuesday, the National Assembly
made good on Chirac's promise, unanimously ratifying the CTBT.
2. MORE CTBT: CLINTON URGES HELMS TO RECONSIDER PRIORITIES.
As you may recall, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) informed the President
that the Foreign Relations Committee has too much on its plate to
bother with CTBT
(WN 30 Jan 98).
In his response, President
Clinton urges Helms to give CTBT high priority. The President
says the Joint Chiefs support CTBT, and he has been assured by
the directors of the nuclear weapons labs that the Stockpile
Stewardship program will suffice to maintain a nuclear deterrent.
Optimists see a possible deal in the letters: Helms would move
CTBT up on the agenda in exchange for White House agreement on
changes to the hated ABM treaty. Meanwhile, maybe proponents of
a Star Wars II missile defense system can figure out a way to
keep Ryder rental trucks from slipping through the net.
3. EDUCATION: TERRIBLE TEST SCORES ELICIT LITTLE RESPONSE.
The results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study
were released on Tuesday at a curiously subdued press conference.
Among 23 Western industrial nations, US high school seniors were
flat last in physics and not much better in math. Comparing this
finding with earlier results for grades 4 and 8, a trend emerges:
the longer students are exposed to our educational system, the
worse they do. NAS President Bruce Alberts, NSF Director Neal
Lane, and Education Secretary Richard Riley, expressed dismay.
Perhaps the reporters were in shock, but there were almost no
questions. So far, there is little reaction from Congress.
4. COSMOLOGY: IS THERE SOMETHING PUSHING THE UNIVERSE APART?
Exciting new evidence seems to say the expansion of the universe
is accelerating. Whoa! you say. We've just been through cosmic
snowballs, a twist in the universe, leptoquarks, galaxies older
than the universe -- well, you get the idea. So, is this any
different? Maybe. "For the particle physicist," says Jim Gates
at U.of Maryland, "and from the perspective of the electroweak
force with its attendant use of spontaneous symmetry breaking,
the appearance of a cosmological constant might not be an
altogether unwelcome development." Albert Einstein called it his
biggest mistake. Could it be that the only time Einstein was
wrong was when he said he was wrong when he was really right?