Friday, 15 October 1999 Washington, DC
1. CTBT: CAN THE TEST BAN TREATY BE REVIVED?
It has to be, but don't look for it to happen in this Congress. Majority Leader
Trent Lott said yesterday that with changes it "may be something
we'd like to consider in 5 or 10 years." Meanwhile, many of the
senators who voted against the treaty on Wednesday are calling
for a continuation of the voluntary U.S. moratorium that has been
in effect since 1992. If we aren't going to test, you may wonder
why they would oppose a treaty that deters others from testing?
And why would the President call for a vote he could not win?
2. FREE ENERGY: MARTIN FLEISCHMANN SPEAKS ON COLD FUSION AT NRL.
The term of choice these days is "chemically assisted nuclear
reactions," but the co-discoverer of whatever it is was having
none of that; his seminar was titled Cold Fusion: Past Present
and Future. He acknowledges that after ten years of research the
effect is still plagued by irreproducibility, but if he has any
doubts about the source of "excess heat," it didn't show. At one
point, as if speaking to himself, he reflected that "sometimes I
think we've made no advance since 1990. Certainly, not since
1994." Sure we have; for one thing, Steven Jones at Brigham
Young, who also claimed back then to see cold fusion, albeit at
barely detectable levels, is now working on a simple solar cooker
for people in Third World countries to use instead of open fires.
On the minus side, we find that the Entropy Systems, Inc. ad in
Physics Today, for a machine that runs off ambient heat
(WN 24 Sep 99),
was also carried by Applied Physics Letters.
3. CREATIONISM: TEACHING STANDARDS IN NEW MEXICO ARE EVOLVING.
In 1996, the New Mexico State School Board was taken over by
religious fundamentalists, who voted to remove "evolution" from
the state's teaching standards. The legislature later voted to
put evolution back in after a debate in which a creationist
senator brought a stuffed ape to the floor. As has happened in
other states, people began paying attention to school board
elections. The result was that last week, alarmed by events in
(WN 17 Sep 99),
the new school board amended the standards
to prevent religious alternatives from creeping in. For example,
"Discuss evidence for and against evolution," was replaced with
"Discuss the various mechanisms proposed to interpret evolution."
Meanwhile, Kentucky replaced the emotionally loaded "evolution"
with "change over time." Hmmm. It's sort of like replacing
"cold fusion" with "chemically assisted nuclear reactions" isn't
4. MOON: THE CASE OF THE MISSING ROCKET FUEL.
ago, the chief scientist for the Lunar Prospector announced that
the probe had discovered water in craters near the poles. When
we go to the moon "we can fuel up," he exulted. Fuel? Anyway,
this week, with spectrometers around the world trained on the
plume, Prospector crashed into one of the craters. Dry hole