Friday, 16 April 1999 Washington, DC
1. ASIAN ARMS RACE: WOBBLY GOVERNMENTS BRANDISH RICKETY MISSILES.
At about this time last year
(WN 15 May 98),
Indians were dancing
in the streets to celebrate a series of dubious nuclear tests.
The celebration was short-lived; Pakistan evened the score with
its own dubious tests just two weeks later
(WN 29 May 98),
economic sanctions worsened the economic crises in both India and
Pakistan. The two countries promised to sin no more. On Sunday,
however, the arms race got a new dose of Viagra when India tested
the Agni II ballistic missile. It was answered three days later
by a test of Pakistan's Ghauri-II missile. The cheering in both
countries will quiet down in a few days when prices go up.
2. PLANETS: ASTRONOMERS EXULT OVER DISCOVERY OF PLANETARY
After 11 years of observations of the star Upsilon Andromeda, 44
light-years distant, a system of three planets was discovered
independently by groups at San Francisco State University and the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. All three are huge,
"Jupiter class" planets unlikely candidates for life, but their
discovery implies that planetary systems are more abundant than
supposed. It also appears to end speculation that reported
single-planet systems were in fact brown dwarfs.
3. COSMIC QUESTIONS: CONFERENCE RAISES OTHER KINDS OF QUESTIONS.
The AAAS sponsored a three-day conference this week dealing with
such questions as "Is the universe designed?" Physics Nobelist
Steven Weinberg gave the physics answer with the title of his
talk: "No." "Intelligent design" is the fallback position of the
creationists. The conference was funded by the John Templeton
Foundation, which pretty much owns the field of Science and
Religion, having paid for it with hard cash. The annual
Templeton Prize for Science and Religion, for example, is bigger
than the Nobel Prize in dollars that is. Templeton also gives
grants to colleges that "encourage character development,"
including "moral aspects of sexuality." The AAAS Program of
Dialogue Between Science and Religion was itself created with a
$1.5M grant from the Templeton Foundation. Weinberg noted that
his invitation described the conference as "a constructive
dialogue between science and religion...I favor a dialogue,"
Weinberg commented, "but not a constructive one."
4. COLD FUSION: PONS AND FLEISCHMANN CITED IN TIME MAGAZINE.
magazine devoted a special issue to The Century's Greatest Minds.
However, the two "fusion pioneers," as they are referred to in
Infinite Energy magazine, did not actually make the list of
scientists and thinkers. Instead they were listed along with
Wilhelm Reich, the discoverer of "orgone energy," as "cranks" of
the Century. This did not sit at all well with Eugene Mallove,
the editor of Infinite Energy, who fired off a letter to the
editors of the issue, calling the designation a "vile outrage."