Friday, 6 August 1999 Washington, DC
1. COLD FUSION: RESULTS OF "PATTERSON CELL" TEST ARE WITHHELD.
Two years ago, Norman Olson told correspondent Michael Guillen on ABC Good Morning America that he was taking a "Patterson cell" back to Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories to see if it could neutralize radioactive waste
(WN 13 Jun 97).
He said he was optimistic. Alas, nothing more was heard about the test. Last week, Science magazine reported on a controversial proposal to DOE for neutralizing radioactivity. Since the proposal's author was also involved in the Patterson cell, WN suggested that someone should check with Norm
(WN 30 Jul 99).
We have since learned that the results of the PNL tests are proprietary and have never been disclosed. So WN asked: "Does PNL plan to pursue this remarkable technology?" The answer was an amused "No!"
2. ACADEMIC PORK: HOUSE ABANDONS ALL RESTRAINT IN FY2K
Earmarks in appropriations report language directing agencies to fund science projects at specific institutions is at an all time high, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. It's about to get much worse. The budget caps mean that every pork project comes at the expense of peer reviewed science. With the loss of the most vocal critic of scientific pork, George Brown, no one is even bothering to disguise the pork. It is appropriation by intimidation. The FY2K VA-HUD Appropriations Report, for example, "recommends" changes to the budget that would cancel or reduce a half-dozen space science programs, while adding such things as Science Centers at Glendale Community College and Ohio Wesleyan.
3. CONGRESSIONAL VISITS!
The bad news: The House VA-HUD Appropriations Bill, reported out of Committee last Friday, calls for flat NSF funding and a 12% cut in NASA Science, Aeronautics, and Technology funding (with Space Science down 11% and Earth Science down 20%). The good news: Floor action will be delayed until September, when Congress returns from the summer break. From August 7 to September 7, legislators will be back in their districts. Visit or write to your representative or senator to emphasize the importance of science! Over the past 30 years the federal investment in research and development, as a fraction of GDP, has decreased by half. We can only counter this trend by speaking out. Contact Helene Grossman at (202) 662-8718.
4. SHROUDED: "SCIENCE" STORY OF THE WEEK?
Helene Grossman contributed to this issue of WHAT'S NEW.
Carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin in 1988 showed it to be a 14th century forgery. But wait! Pollen grains found on the shroud are native to the Gaza Strip. Does this reopen the debate? "The theoretical physicist part of me is skeptical--carbon dating is pretty firm evidence," said Michael Guillen on ABC's GMA. "But my religious beliefs transcend any notion of scientific proof," he added.