Friday, 11 December 1998 Washington, DC
1. HELIUM: DEPLETION IS INDEPENDENT OF CONSUMPTION.
The Helium Privatization Act of 1996 calls for the government to get out of
the helium business (good idea) and sell off the reserve (really bad idea).
However, an amendment added to the bill at the urging of the APS says the
National Academy of Sciences must first study what the consequences would be.
A panel headed by physicist John Reppy of Cornell is doing that right now.
This week, they heard from researchers and the message was clear: Don't even
think of selling the reserve -- enlarge it! Otherwise, helium depletion will
remain completely independent of whether it's carefully husbanded or
recklessly squandered -- it's extracted from natural gas, and the gas gets
burned whether the helium is extracted or not. One researcher described
helium as a "gift," without which modern science and technology would not have
been possible. Does this generation have a right to waste it?
2. GLOBAL WARMING: HOW DO WE MEASURE PUBLIC CONCERN?
A majority of the US public believes global warming is a real problem and
something should be done about it, according to a study by the Program on
International Policy Attitudes. How worried are they? It depends on how
much it costs to fix it. Support for the Kyoto Treaty decreased
exponentially as a function of monthly cost per household. The political
algebra consists of figuring out how much a majority would be willing to pay,
which turned out to be somewhere between $25 and $50 per month. A
statistician involved in the study said the most curious result was that
willingness to pay seemed to be independent of income. It would also help to
know if people were polled in the summer or the winter.
3. NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE: THREE PLUS THREE EQUALS SEVEN.
The Administration's "three plus three" strategy for NMD deployment was to
spend three years in development, plus another three to deploy if the decision
is that it's feasible. But according to Defense Daily, the revised three plus
three strategy is to postpone the decision to deploy by a year to 2001.
4. ALIEN AUTOPSY: FOX NETWORK MAKES A SHOCKING REVELATION.
Are you ready for this? It was a hoax! I can hear your gasp of disbelief.
First aired in 1995, it was shown over and over. Who would have ever guessed
that this fuzzy footage, shot from whatever angle would best obscure what was
going on, would turn out to be a fake? Is the network chagrined at having
been duped? Hardly. Fox now boasts of using high-tech "NASA-type video
enhancements" to expose "one of the biggest hoaxes of all time." Lest you
worry about loss of revenue from a program that scored high ratings every time
it was shown, Fox will air a December 28 special exposing not only the Alien
Autopsy film, but the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot as well. Is this a formula
for success? You make money off a hoax, and then from exposing your own hoax.