Preposterous Universe

Sunday, December 19, 2004
What's New

All of Bob Park's What's New is good this week. I'm on the road again, so I'll just cheat by reproducing this (you're welcome to subscribe yourself).
WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 17 Dec 04 Washington, DC

1. MISSILE DEFENSE: EXPLAIN TO ME AGAIN WHY THEY WERE TESTING IT? The Missile Defense Agency said this week's flop would not affect the decision to declare the system operational. In the previous test, two years ago, the kill vehicle failed to separate from the booster. That was unfortunate, but MDA said it didn't affect the "success rate" because the interceptor never reached the "endgame" http://www.aps.org/WN/WN02/wn121302.cfm. This week, the Missile Defense Agency tried again. This time the interceptor failed to make it out of the silo. In April, a GAO report said the tests were not realistic. The MDA director, General Kadish, director explained, "you can't operationally test the system until you put it in place" http://www.aps.org/WN/WN04/wn043004.cfm. So what's the problem? There are now 6 interceptors in place in Ft. Greely, AK, just hanging out waiting to be tested operationally.

2. NASA: THE SEARCH IS ON FOR SOMEONE TO REPLACE SEAN O'KEEFE. General Kadish is said to be high on the list. Under O'Keefe, top NASA positions were often filled by military men, but competition is stiff. Although several former astronauts are rumored to on the list, the front runner is thought to be Bob Walker, a former Member of Congress who was chair of the House Science Committee. He predicted the space station would produce a Nobel Prize, backed cold fusion, and introduced his Hydrogen Futures Act, which in the initial version violated the First Law of Thermodynamics. He is now the Chairman of Wexler & Walker, a Washington lobbying firm tied to science and space interests. A member of the President's Moon-Mars commission, Walker has no science background, but then neither does O'Keefe, who has just accepted the job of Chancellor of Louisiana State University. He says he took it for the money.

3. THE HUBBLE FACTOR: O'KEEFE SHOULD BE GIVEN A MEDAL OF FREEDOM. O'Keefe bore none of the blame for the Columbia accident, but it led to the Hubble problem. The Columbia review called for using the ISS as safe haven in case of a shuttle problem, but that's not practical for a shuttle flight to the Hubble orbit. While O'Keefe pushed hard for the President's Moon-Mars plan, he decided Hubble should go. O'Keefe is going instead. It's time to start over. Put the shuttles in museums, and drop the ISS in the Philippine Trench, but take care of Hubble till it can be replaced. In the meantime, if Tenet is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom after telling the President that weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are a "slam-dunk," why not give one to O'Keefe?

4. TARGETED PRAYER: "PRAYER WARRIORS" ARE LINKED BY THE INTERNET. On ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings there was a report about Christian prayer teams organized over the internet from the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs. By praying in unison for specific targets they say the effect is multiplied. They could pray for Missile Defense. It will have as much effect as a test.

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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