Friday, 10 July 98 Washington, DC
1. ABM TREATY: LAWYERS DON'T SEEM TO KNOW IF WE HAVE ONE OR NOT.
The treaty limiting missile defenses, signed with the Soviet
Union in 1972, was arguably the most effective arms control
agreement ever signed. President Clinton has agreed to protocols
that would extend ABM to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakstan,
but hasn't sent the protocols to the Senate for ratification --
Senator Helms (R-NC) may have the votes to defeat them. Helms
wants to kill ABM and get on with deployment of a National
(WN 19 Jun 98)
. There are two tiny problems:
First, there is nothing to deploy. In fact, the army announced
yesterday that it's shopping for a new contractor for its THAAD
missile-defense program, which is 0 for 5 in tests
(WN 15 May 98)
. That could delay a "Star Wars II" anti-missile system for
years. Second, WN can't find anyone in Washington who knows what
happens to the ABM treaty if the protocols are voted down.
2. PRIORITY SETTING: DOES CONGRESS NEED A HEARING TEST?
George Brown (D-CA) is as good a friend as science has in Congress, but
in today's Chronicle of Higher Education, as he does each year,
Mr. Brown takes the scientific community to task for its failure
to provide Congress with priorities and for refusing to take
responsibility for the "social consequences" of their research.
With all due respect, Congress may not be listening. If Congress
heeded the research priorities of the scientific community, there
would be no space station and no Office of Alternative Medicine.
As to social responsibility, the Senate might heed the urging of
scientists to ratify CTBT. Scientists have been willing to dive
into societal issues from climate change to power lines, although
they do not always speak with a single voice.
3. ISS: MOVE TO TERMINATE FAILS 66-33 IN THE SENATE.
Senator Bumpers (D-AR)cited snowballing costs and lack of scientific
merit in introducing the amendment. "What do the Russians have
to show for Mir?" he asked. In his response, Sen. Glenn (D-OH)
said that ISS research held promise of cures for everything from
AIDS to insomnia (which, according to Glenn, especially afflicts
"those who work at night"). Similar claims were heard at a July
4 rally calling for legalization of marijuana. Congress has yet
to approve $100B for cannabis research, but perhaps its effects
in microgravity could be studied in a "joint" venture.
4. SUPER SUPER-CONDUCTIVITY: WHY STOP AT ZERO RESISTANCE?
The University of Buffalo announced yesterday that a team led by Dr.
Deborah Chung has discovered a carbon composite with "negative
resistance." At a meeting in Las Vegas, she explained that zero
resistance can be achieved at ordinary temperatures by putting
negative resistance in series with positive resistance. As near
as I can make out, this violates both the first and second law of
thermodynamics. On the other hand, she may have made a mistake.