Friday, 28 August 98 Washington, DC
1. SCIENCE EDUCATION: CALIFORNIA STANDARDS NEED MAJOR REVISION.
The American Physical Society, in concert with other scientific
societies, is proposing substantial changes to recently drafted
California Science Content Standards. The proposal calls for the
appointment of a "Scientists' Standards Panel" that would include
among others, Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy,
Donald Kennedy, former president of Stanford and APS president
Andrew Sessler to oversee the revision process. The draft, which
was intended to set high standards for the state and serve as a
model for the rest of the country, evolved instead into a list of
facts to be absorbed rather than concepts to be understood. A
compromise between the two points of view seemed to be in the
works, but the balance was tipped when venerable Nobel laureate
Glenn Seaborg was picked to chair the committee that set the
guidelines. The press played the issue as a no-brainer last
winter: California had fallen behind in science education, and a
group of Nobel scientists, including Seaborg, was offering to
create new science content standards -- for free. There were, in
fact, Nobel laureates on both sides of the issue.
2. OBITUARY: FREDERICK REINES, DISCOVERER OF THE NEUTRINO.
Reines, 80, died Wednesday after a long battle with Parkinson's
disease. He was already ill in 1995 when he shared the Nobel
Prize with Martin Perl, correcting a long oversight. Reines'
discovery of the neutrino with Clyde Cowan in 1956, at the
Savannah River facility, provided the direction for the standard
model. He described the search for the neutrino as "listening
for a gnat's whisper in a hurricane." "He heard," the Los
Angeles Times said today, "and altered the view of the universe."
3. WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION: U.S. ACCUSED OF CAVING IN.
Ritter, the longest serving American weapons inspector in Iraq,
resigned this week to protest the U.S. failure to press ahead
with inspections that were "on the doorstep" of uncovering Iraq's
secret weapons programs. The U.S. has pressured the inspection
team to refrain from surprise inspections. The charge comes at a
time when the ability of U.S. intelligence to identify threats is
being questioned. First it was the nuclear tests in India
(WN 15 May 98),
then the Rumsfeld report
(WN 17 Jul 98)
and now the
apparent retreat from the absolute CIA assurances that the plant
destroyed in Sudan was producing chemical warfare agents. The
CIA claims are reminiscent of the insistence that the Soviets
were using biological weapons in Southeast Asia. In spite of CIA
assurances, yellow rain was in fact bee feces
(WN 16 Feb 90).
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, meanwhile, rejected the conclusion of
the Rumsfeld report that rogue nations could develop ballistic
missile technologies undetected by American intelligence. They
noted that rogue nations already pose a threat of weapons of mass
destruction delivered by "terrorist-style delivery means."