Friday, 27 March 98 Washington, DC
1. SPACE STATION: NEW REPORT ON COST AND DELAY STUNS SUPPORTERS.
Two weeks ago, Dan Goldin acknowledged publicly that the station
is $4B over budget and 3 years behind schedule. Today, a panel
of experts, convened at the request of congressional leaders,
reports that it's more like $6B over and 4 years behind. This has
triggered a frantic behind-the-scenes search for the right verb
to describe what happens next: They've already used downsize,
descope, restructure and even "rephase utilization"
(WN 20 Sep 96).
It's been cut back five times, but it's like cutting off a
salamander's tail--the cost just regenerates. Over its life, the
panel estimates, the station will cost $94B--a figure WN has used
for two years. Even station critics are surprised at the size of
the cost overrun (Boeing prefers the term "variance"). There will
be calls for dumping Russia, or for another re-design, but in the
end Congress will do what it's always done, tell NASA this is
absolutely the last time, and take the money out of science.
2. STAR WARS II: PANEL DESCRIBES PROGRAM AS "A RUSH TO FAILURE."
Sunday, March 23, was the anniversary of two remarkable events:
The 1989 announcement that Pons and Fleischmann had discovered
cold fusion, and Ronald Reagan's 1983 call for an impenetrable
shield against missile attacks. Progress in both areas has been
modest at best. Prompted by a string of flight test failures in
a drastically scaled-down missile defense effort, the Pentagon
appointed an independent panel to find out what's going on. The
panel concluded that political pressure to hasten deployment had
resulted in "risk taking." The response from proponents was that
the panel just didn't understand the urgency. Sen. Bob Smith
(R-NH) said the real problem is inadequate funding by the Clinton
administration. So far, Star Wars has eaten about $40B.
3. HUMAN ENERGY FIELD: "THERAPEUTIC TOUCH" FAILS SCIENTIFIC TEST.
TT is endorsed by major nursing organizations and is said to have
40,000 practitioners in North America who can palpably sense an
energy field that extends some 10 centimeters beyond the surface
of the skin. Treatment consists of manually smoothing the field.
For 20 years therapists have focused on which ailments can be
treated by TT, without first determining if anyone can really
detect such a field. The spring issue of Scientific Review of
Alternative Medicine reports a rare test of TT designed by James
Randi. The practitioner was unable to detect the presence or
absence of a human arm in a "sleeve." More research is needed.
4. SCIENTIFIC REVIEW OF ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: PHYSICS ISSUE.
A special issue is planned for the fall focusing on what physics
can say about therapies such as TT. Research articles, reviews
and critiques should be in a form understandable to physicians.
SRAM is a peer reviewed journal sponsored by the Council for
Scientific Medicine. Contact me for additional information.