Friday, 16 October 1998 Washington, DC
1. 1998 NOBEL PRIZES: QUANTUM MECHANICS SCORES A CLEAN SWEEP.
Horst Stormer, Columbia, and Dan Tsui, Princeton, discovered the
fractional quantum Hall effect at Bell Labs in 1982. They share
the Physics Prize with Robert Laughlin, Stanford, who explained
the puzzling phenomenon in terms of quasiparticles a year later.
Stormer and Tsui, both Fellows of the APS, shared the 1984 Oliver
Buckley Prize of the APS, and Laughlin won the Buckley Prize two
years later. Walter Kohn, UC Santa Barbara, shared the Chemistry
Prize with John Pople, Northwestern, for contributions to quantum
chemistry. Kohn developed the density-functional theory and
Pople developed computational methods. Kohn, who is a physicist,
and Pople, a mathematician, also are Fellows of the APS.
2. BUDGET: WHITE HOUSE CUTS A DEAL WITH REPUBLICAN LEADERS.
Well, it may not have worked the way the framers of the Constitution
imagined, but the nation seems to have been spared a government
shutdown by the closed-door deal. The omnibus spending bill
agreed to last night shoveled all the unfinished appropriations
into a single massive bill. For the handful allowed in the room,
this is the way to go. Chunks of reeking pork slated for their
districts, hidden by the size of the bill, will be showing up for
weeks. Fortunately, most of the science funding bills had been
settled. The one major exception was NIH, which got a heady $2B,
14% increase to $15B. The record was the 250% increase in the NIH
Office of Alternative Medicine to $50M
(WN 21 Nov 98).
by a $2M earmark inserted by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the 1992
NIH appropriation, OAM has yet to find, among the hundreds of
unlikely-seeming alternative therapies, even one that is not
effective. It must take a lot to find out if things like touch
therapy work -- either that, or the taxpayer is getting hosed.
3. NSF: CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REDUCES CORN-FED SENATE PORK.
VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill, which includes both NSF and NASA,
is one of the spending bills Congress finished and sent to the
President. As long as you don't compare it to NIH, NSF did great.
Research and Related Activities is up 8.8% to $2.77B. The request
was for 11.8%. There has been concern about Senate earmarks in
the NSF budget, including a directive to award various centers to
schools that are not in the top 100 in federal research support.
But the conference report only calls for NSF to review the need
for such funding. The Senate version also slated $40M for plant
genome research on "economically significant crops." The earmark
was inserted by Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), chair of the appropriations
subcommittee. The crop he had in mind was corn and he also had
in mind which institutions would get the money. The conferees
eliminated specific language and reduced the funds to $10M. "It's
at least in the right direction," one biologist told WN, "but it
belongs under USDA not NSF." Of course, USDA isn't in Bond's
orbit. So far, Congress has tried to keep pork out of NSF.