Friday, 18 December 1998 Washington, DC
1. NOTHING MUCH GOING ON THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS -- I WISH.
Last Friday, even as WN was going out, a bipartisan coalition of
24 senators sent a letter to President Clinton expressing concern
over the level of investment in federal research programs in the
FY 2K budget request now being prepared. "If government is to
fulfill its primary functions," the letter said, "it must support
and embrace science and technology." The Senate recently passed
the Federal Research Investment Act without opposition
(WN 9 Oct 98).
FRIA calls for doubling civilian research over 12 years.
The bipartisanship that led to FRIA, however, is nowhere to be
found in Washington today. CEOs of 36 major high-tech firms also
appealed to the President to "meet or exceed" the FRIA target,
and there has been a surge of letters from individual scientists.
Late word is that budget numbers for science are up in response.
The only group not weighing in were university presidents;
sources told WN that only one had written on behalf of science.
2. SCIENCE POLICY: JUST WHAT WE NEED -- A CULTURAL REVOLUTION.
In a plenary address at a AAAS Symposium on the Ehlers Report
(WN 25 Sep 98),
Richard Sclove sharply criticized the report for lack
of social responsibility. Ehlers recommended that scientists set
science priorities. That's fine for scientists, Sclove sniffed,
but ignores the public good. He proposed that panels of citizens
with no science background grill scientists and then make binding
policy decisions. As an example of a program that should
benefit, he cited alternative medicine, which is very popular
with the public, but not with scientists. In the Mao years, WN
recalls, doctors in China's hospitals were assigned to scrub
floors, while janitors treated the patients. Sclove is director
of something called the Loka Institute. WN located one of his
papers in "cy.Rev: A journal of Cybernetic Revolution,
Sustainable Socialism, and Radical Democracy."
3. SHOPPING TIP: MAGNETIC THERAPY KITS ARE HOT THIS YEAR.
The largest department store in DC is featuring the Thera:P 10-piece
magnetic therapy kit in its Washington Post ads for only $39.95.
Inspired by the Loka Institute, WN decided to conduct research on
this popular alternative therapy. According to the box, the 29
"Gold Standard" alternating wave-form bipolar magnets are 800+
gauss. "It is believed that alternating magnets offer greater
penetration," the box said. Can that be right? Alternating
poles are usually meant to LIMIT the range, so you won't
accidentally ruin your credit cards. We measured the range of
the field by sticking a Thera:P magnet on a refrigerator. Sheets
of paper were then inserted between magnet and refrigerator till
the magnet fell off. Ten sheets! That worked out to one
millimeter. The field would not penetrate to the muscle.