Friday, 5 June 98 Washington, DC
1. ***MASSIVE DISCOVERY: NEUTRINO OSCILLATION IS CONFIRMED.***
The Super-Kamiokande collaboration yesterday reported convincing
evidence that the neutrino does have mass. The discovery may
explain why there is an apparent shortage of solar neutrinos and
account for some of the missing mass of the universe -- but it
cooks the Standard Model, which may stir up the somnolent field
of particle theory. Just how massive the neutrino is remains to
be determined, but it wouldn't take much to account for the
missing matter. The new heavy-water detector under construction
in Sudbury, Ontario should narrow the possibilities.
2. BUDGET: IN SPITE OF THE SURPLUS, SCIENCE FACES COMPETITION.
The 1997 balanced-budget agreement
(WN 11 Jul 97),
caps for Fiscal Year 1999 spending. Although a huge projected
surplus continues to grow each month, neither the Democrats nor
the Republicans want to be first into the water. Which leaves
the appropriators working within strict limits at a time when
everybody is demanding a big increase. Research budgets for NSF,
NASA and DOE face stiff competition from such competing programs
as veteran affairs, housing and water projects. Advocates of
these programs are forcefully making their case to members of the
Senate Appropriations Committee. It would be good if these
senators also heard from science constituents. As a fraction of
the Gross Domestic Product, federal investment in research now
stands at about half what it was 30 years ago, even as the great
industrial basic research labs have all but vanished.
3. POLITICS: PHYSICIST WINS HANDILY IN NEW JERSEY PRIMARY.
Holt, who spent nine years as assistant director of the Princeton
Plasma Physics Laboratory, defeated a much better funded opponent
in a contest for the Democratic nomination to oppose first-term
Representative Mike Pappas (R-NJ). Holt, son of a former West
Virginia Senator, was an APS Congressional Fellow in 1984; prior
to that he taught at Swarthmore. Holt lost to Pappas in the last
election, but argues that Pappas has alienated voters with his
positions opposing any gun controls and all abortions. The only
Ph.D. physicist now serving in Congress, Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI),
has been a powerful voice for science for four years.
4. CTBT: DIFFERENT LESSONS ARE DRAWN FROM SOUTH ASIA A-TESTS.
Pakistan "Leaps through the flames" again -- maybe
(WN 29 May 98).
The global seismic network, detected only a faint signal,
and put Saturday's pop at somewhere around 1 kiloton. That could
be a teeny bomb -- or another failure. Now Pakistan claims to be
ready to test a new missile, but there's skepticism about that as
well. President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright both made
statements declaring that the South Asia tests demonstrate the
need for the test ban treaty. On Capitol Hill, however, the CTBT
may not have flat-lined, but there's no detectable pulse.