The Week That Was
January 12, 2002

David Wojick takes on the Scientific American

Implicitly endorsing terrorism and discrediting science

Could it be of natural origin?

Prof. Heisenberg's role is re-examined. Will they now rewrite the play "Copenhagen"?

A bad idea. Read David Wojick's analysis

We are beginning to detect OMB's influence on regulations. Amazing what adult supervision can do.

Political changes in Italy and Germany spell bad news for Kyoto

Now that's a real global threat - unlike global warming


David Wojick takes on the Scientific American


A confused manifesto by 108 Nobel Prize winners was mercifully ignored by the press. It identifies poverty, global warming, and spread of arms as contributing to global terrorism (acc. to a story in 21 Dec. Science). The declaration implicitly endorses terrorism. It ws obtuse to release it after what happened on Sept 11. You'd think the organizers would know better.

The preponderance of signers were physicists and chemists, all apparently eager to comment on social problems. Only two of them can claim any involvement or understanding of cliamte issues. It's a disgrace for science. Read for yourself:

"The most profound danger to world peace in the coming years will stem not from the irrational acts of states or individuals but from the legitimate demands of the world's dispossessed…Global warming, not of their making, will affect their fragile ecologies most. …We must persist in the quest for united action to counter both global warming and a weaponized world. These twin goals will constitute vital components of stability…"

So there you have it, folks. Global warming and poverty, both blamed on developed nations (i.e. the world's democracies), are the root causes of instability, terrorism, and war. Not Iran, Iraq, Syria and other terrorist states. Of course, there is not a shred of evidence that poverty promotes the well-financed terrorism of Al Qa'eda. And Bin Laden can now claim in his defense: "Global warmng made me do it."

Thirty Nobel laureates declined to sign, Science reports. One wonders why Peace-Prize winner Yasir Arafat was not a signer. Perhaps the promoters thought it impolitic to ask a CERTIFIED EXPERT on terrorism to sign on; or perhaps he just didn't want his name listed alongside Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama. We'll never know…

From Bob Foster in Australia

School Shark caught in the Great Australian Bight is an important commercial fish - sold as flake on the Australian domestic market. It has been long known to display elevated mercury levels to the point where individual catches are sometimes condemned for human consumption.

The Bight is to the south of the Nullabor (lit. "no trees") Plain of flat-lying Miocene marine limestone almost 1,000 km E-W, and mostly separated from the Southern Ocean (of which the Bight forms a part) by vertical cliffs 50 metres high. The Plain is only sparsely vegetated thanks to the introduced rabbit. There is little rainfall, and that which falls sinks into the limestone. No rivers enter the sea.

The small towns of Port Lincoln in South Australia (fishing) and Esperance in Western Australia (wheat export) abut the Southern Ocean either side of the Bight, and are over a thousand km apart. For once, we can say with near-certainty that observed pollution is naturally-caused. It originates in the sea.

There is no adjacent submarine volcanism as the obvious cause. But the Australian plate is moving NNE at about 7 cm/year, and there is a line of compensatory sea-floor spreading about 2/3 of the way to Antarctica. It appears likely that the mercury comes from 2000 km to the south of the place where these fish are caught. Surface flow between Australia and Antarctica is strongly W-E, rather than S-N; therefore, transport is presumably within the food chain.

There is also a spreading-ridge in the Atlantic (and Iceland is on it). I wonder what, if any, role this sort of thing plays in Northern Hemisphere fish quality.


By James Glanz

The leader of the Nazi atomic bomb program, Werner Heisenberg, revealed its existence in September 1941 in a meeting in Copenhagen with a scientist who later became part of the Manhattan Project, the Allied effort to produce the bomb, according to secret documents cited in a London newspaper yesterday.

But contrary to several historical accounts of the meeting and major themes of an award-winning play, "Copenhagen," Heisenberg never expressed moral qualms about building a bomb for Hitler or hinted that he might be willing to sabotage the project, the documents reveal.

Some of the new information about the documents - especially a letter that Niels Bohr, the scientist with whom Heisenberg met, wrote but never sent - was reported yesterday by The Times of London, in an article citing Dr. Finn Aaserud, director of the Niels Bohr Archive in Copenhagen.

Dr. Aaserud is one of the few people outside the Bohr family who have seen the letter, which may be the only way to learn what happened at a meeting that is one of history's enduring mysteries. Bohr died in 1962, and Heisenberg died in 1976; both were Nobel laureates and considered among the greatest physicists.

"Essentially, the letter shows that he told Bohr that it was possible that the war would be won with atomic weapons, indicating that he was involved in such work," Dr. Aaserud said.

The only other living person outside the Bohr family known to have read the letter is Dr. Gerald Holton, an emeritus professor of physics and the history of science at Harvard. Dr. Holton declined yesterday to describe the letter fully, citing confidentiality agreements with the Bohr family. But he said that "Dr. Aaserud's report about some of its content is quite coherent with what we know" from other sources, including statements by one of Bohr's sons, the physicist Aage Bohr.

Dr. Holton said, "It is significant that Dr. Aaserud does not mention that any moral scruples or intention to sabotage the bomb project were reasons for Heisenberg's visit to Bohr."

Historians and scientists have argued for decades over why Heisenberg never succeeded in building an atomic bomb for Hitler. But the journalist Thomas Powers, author of the 1993 book "Heisenberg's War: The Secret History of the German Bomb," has argued that Heisenberg sabotaged the project.

In Mr. Powers' view, Heisenberg went to Copenhagen to make a deal with Bohr: The Germans would not develop the bomb if Allied scientists did not, either. The play "Copenhagen," by Michael Frayn, was inspired by Mr. Powers' book.

That view of Heisenberg has always generated skepticism among some historians. The new information is likely to solidify a less favorable view, that Heisenberg simply failed despite his best efforts, said David Rhodes, the author of a history of the Manhattan Project, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" (1986).

"This letter confirms what I think was always pretty clear in the record, and that is that Heisenberg was not making some deal with Bohr," Mr. Rhodes said. "He was trying to find out what Bohr knew. He was trying to do a little espionage."

Dr. Jeremy Bernstein, a theoretical physicist and author of "Hitler's Uranium Club," a 2001 book on secret recordings of members of the German bomb program, said the letter appeared to support his own criticism of Heisenberg's motives.

"This is exactly what Aage Bohr has been saying all along," Dr. Bernstein said.
Mr. Powers did not respond to messages seeking comment left on his answering machine yesterday.

Dr. Holton also shed new light on why Bohr suddenly cut off the meeting and why it destroyed what had been Bohr's lifelong friendship with Heisenberg. Though some have attributed Bohr's reaction to anger, another explanation is more likely, Dr. Holton said.

"The first thing that would come to mind is not anger but deep fright," Dr. Holton said of Bohr's reaction to learning of a Nazi bomb program. "He understood what that would mean for civilization."

Many historians have praised the historical studies that Mr. Frayn undertook before writing the play. Still, in contrast to the complex Heisenberg of the play, the physicist in reality may have been easier to understand, Dr. Bernstein said.

Mr. Frayn "wants to see both sides of the story," Dr. Bernstein said, "and there's some stories where there's only one side. This may be one of them."

by David E. Wojick, Ph.D., P.E. -- 540-858-3503>

Tucked away in the back of the mammoth Senate energy bill - S1766 - is a proposal for a radical new direction in applied climate change research. Its proponents say it will make U.S. climate science "policy relevant" at all levels of government for the first time. Climate skeptics call it a cruel hoax on the American people.

The heart of the proposal lies in Title XIII of the bill, beginning on page 411. It would establish a National Climate Service in the Commerce Department, along the lines of the National Weather Service. Like the NWS, the NCS would do computer modeling, then issue forecasts and warnings at national, regional, State and local scales.

But while the NWS mostly looks just a week or so ahead, the NCS will be looking years and decades into the future, if not centuries. In addition, while the Weather Service just makes forecasts, the Climate Service is charged with "developing assessment methods to guide national, regional, and local planning and decision making" based on its predictions.

Proponents of the NCS argue that major infrastructure projects have design lives of 50 years or more, while planning methodologies to incorporate climate change are virtually nonexistent. They point to the recent National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Change as a model for the Climate Service. Skeptics counter that the two computer models used by the National Assessment disagree wildly at all forecasting levels, so such forecasts will be worthless. As one puts it, "the science needed to justify the NCS is simply not there, so the only possible result will be groundless scaremongering."

Title XIII also authorizes global climate and ocean monitoring systems to support the NCS. An "atmospheric monitoring and verification program" would utilize aircraft, satellites, ground sensors, and modeling capabilities to "monitor, measure, and verify atmospheric greenhouse gas levels, dates, and emissions." The NCS would also verify emissions from U.S. sources, such as fossil fueled power plants, that participate in the voluntary reduction program.

The bill also creates a climate science czar in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, plus a National Office of Climate Change Response, both in the Executive Office of the President. Under NOCCR, there is to be National Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Program, in which the Commerce Department is directed to prepare "climate change vulnerability assessments" and "preparedness recommendations," based on NCS predictions. The V & A Program is to be carried out with "the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Transportation, and other appropriate Federal, State, and local government entities."

The Department of Energy is also given broad new climate science responsibilities. These range from field experiments with terrestrial ecosystems and ecological processes, to looking at the "effects of human-induced climate change on economic and social systems."

The Agriculture Department also gets a piece of the new, multi-billion dollar climate action. It is to conduct or fund field research in soil sequestration of carbon, as well as the reduction of greenhouse gases from agricultural practices. The Cooperative State Research Extension and Education Service is charged with disseminating information "on the policy nexus between global climate change mitigation strategies and agriculture, so that farmers and ranchers may better understand the global implications of their activities."


Pollution Rarely Found to Cause Cancer Clusters: According to a recent article in the Chicago Sun-Tribune, investigations of possible cancer clusters at schools, offices, factories and neighborhoods rarely find environmental causes. Only about 2 percent of all cancers have been linked to pollution. By comparison, an estimated 30 percent of cancers are caused by smoking and another 30 percent by poor diet and obesity, according to Melinda Lehnherr of the Illinois Public Health Department. Between 1961 and 1982, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated 108 suspected cancer clusters, finding no clear cause for any of them. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health investigated 61 purported cancer clusters between 1978 and 1984. In only 16 cases did investigators find a higher-than-expected cancer rate. And among those 16 cases, investigators could find only five that could be linked to chemical exposures. In the United States, men have a 1-in-2 lifetime risk of getting cancer and women have a 1-in-3 lifetime risk. Thus, it's perhaps not surprising that people are quick to spot cancer clusters where true ones don't exist, notes the article.

OMB Targets EPA Rules for Rollback: The White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) has developed a list of "outdated or outmoded" rules, including eight major EPA rules, that officials say will soon be targeted for discussions with agency officials and could eventually be "rescinded or updated," according to Inside EPA. The list was developed as part of a congressionally mandated report on the annual costs and benefits of federal regulations that was submitted to Congress late last year. It includes: the mixture and derived from rule governing hazardous waste disposal; proposed changes to the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program governing impaired waterways; cost-benefit analysis for drinking water regulations; the new source review rule governing new air emissions controls; effluent guidelines for concentrated animal feeding operations; notice of substantial risk under toxics law and the arsenic in drinking water regulation. The list is drawing strong criticism from environmentalists, who are vowing an "all out fight" against any Bush administration effort to roll back environmental protections.

Lawsuit Calls for Disclosure of Federal Funds for Activist Groups: The Landmark Legal Foundation (LLF) has filed suit against EPA and two other federal agencies to compel them to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests for information on federal grant money being awarded to environmental groups such as World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense and The Nature Conservancy. LLF charges that environmental groups are using millions of dollars in federal grant money to further their political agendas, a move that is illegal under federal tax rules and violates the intended purpose of the research or pilot project contracts under which the money was awarded. According to Inside EPA, the foundation also suspects that federal agencies are not tracking how the money is used. The FOIA requests ask for information on the terms and conditions of contracts written for the federal grant money, how much the grants were for, and whether federal agencies are performing audits or management reviews on the groups receiving grant money. The FOIA requests were prompted by an October article in The Sacramento Bee that alleged that since 1998, $400 million in federal grants have gone to environmental groups to further their political agendas. "Our ultimate goal is to make sure that no advocacy groups, right or left, are misusing the funds," one Landmark source says.
EPA Won't Increase Dioxin Regulations for Sludge: Greenwire (National Journal) reports that EPA will not impose additional regulations on dioxin and dioxin-like compounds in sewage sludge, finding that existing regulations for such sites adequately protect the environment and human health. The decision applies to sludge that is incinerated or disposed of in landfills or containment ponds. The agency plans to make a separate ruling on dioxin in sewage sludge used as fertilizer.


In Italy, foreign minister Renato Ruggiero is out. He is the man who persuaded prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to go along with Kyoto as a "good European." Now Berlusconi may feel freer to reject Kyoto - as he had promised before his election.

In German, the Industry Assocation's director Dr. Klaus Mittelbach spoke out strongly against ecotaxes and Kyoto. Meanwhile, Bavarian governor Edmund Stoiber is running ahead of his somewhat Green rival Angela Merkel in becoming the Conservative candidate to oppose chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the federal elections upcoming on Sept. 22. We are waiting to see if Stoiber will dare to speak out on Kyoto.
FLASH: Stoiber won the nomination on Jan 11.

BTW, Japanese industry has been given to understand that Kyoto targets are voluntary. No enforcement, and likely no penalties either.

By The Associated Press via Cambridge-Conference Network

LOS ANGELES - An asteroid large enough to wipe out France hurtled past Earth at a distance of a half-million miles just days after scientists spotted it. The asteroid, dubbed 2001 YB5, came within 520,000 miles of Earth on Monday, approximately twice the distance of the moon.

Astronomers with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program discovered 2001 YB5 on Dec. 26. Soon after, astronomers calculated the asteroid's orbit and determined there
was no danger it would strike Earth.

Had it been on a collision course, it would have created "one of the worst disasters in human history," said Steven Pravdo, the NEAT project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"What could we have done about it? The answer is not much," Pravdo said.

Copyright © 2002 The Seattle Times Company

via CCNet

London ( - Disappointed after failing to take advantage of Earth's relatively near miss with a large asteroid on Monday, scientists today excitedly unveiled what they called an "asteroid chute" that they said will direct the next massive space object directly into Earth's path, where it can be studied more closely.


"We don't know what will happen," said one NASA astrophysicist. "It's all so very exciting." Scientists hope the redirected asteroid, now expected to strike Earth by June of 2003, will also settle a pair of long-running debates: Did an asteroid cause the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago? And what size must an asteroid be in order for it to render a planet uninhabitable?

According to Michael Banio of Great Britain's Royal Astronomical Society, asteroid "2001 YB5" passed within 375,000 miles of Earth on Monday, but it was still too far away for useful studies to be conducted. And because YB5 was not discovered until December, scientists did not have time to prepare for its arrival. However, using electron particle impulses emitted by a modified NASA satellite early this morning, British and American astrophysicists said they successfully nudged the next asteroid, a kilometer-wide giant they've labeled 2002 CUL8R, directly into Earth's path.

Asked what impact CUL8R will have, NASA astrophysicist Karen Lurg excitedly hesitated to speculate.

"Well, we're not sure, and that's the beauty of it," she said. "What we think will happen is, the ECO (Earth Crossing Object), which most likely has an iron/nickel core, will slam into Earth with the force of roughly 1 million nuclear bombs. But now we'll be able to test that hypothesis."

"The 1 million nuclear bombs is an average postulation, by the way," she added. "Some say 2 million. Others, believe it or not, say only 15,000. I think those folks are going to have egg on their faces when it's all said and done."

The non-scientific community, however, failed to share Lurg's interest. Moments after the announcement, the United Nations Security Council demanded that CUL8R be directed away from Earth immediately, and dozens of international leaders called the chute "catastrophically irresponsible" and "just bad science."

Scientists were quick to label the reaction "typical laymen's myopia."

"Every 10 million years, an object at least 1km across smashes into Earth, so it's inevitable that someday it's going to happen," said Banio. "By steering such objects toward us now and studying the results close up, we will be better prepared for that eventuality."

Meanwhile, Heinrich Voom, director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, bristled at the charges of capriciousness. "Far from being irresponsible, we plan to strictly adhere to the Scientific Method; that is: Observe. Hypothesize. Predict. Test. Repeat until there are no discrepancies left," he said.

"It's the 'no discrepancies left' part that bothers me," countered U.S. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.

Voom acknowledged that CUL8R may not settle every question. Three years ago, scientists at Los Alamos predicted an asteroid three miles across that strikes the mid-Atlantic Ocean would produce a tidal wave that would cover the East Coast of the United States to the Appalachian Mountains. It would also envelop the coasts of France and Portugal. Voom conceded CUL8R is not large enough to adequately test this model. However, he insisted, even a small tidal wave that only destroys Portugal would be useful in devising further experiments with the asteroid chute.

Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, however, said he would rather the model remain in the hypothetical stage. "I do not want to be a resolved discrepancy," he said.

Sampaio added that if the asteroid must come, he wished it would come now and "get it over with," but Voom said the rock should not be rushed.

"If we were to increase the asteroid's speed, we would not have enough time to apply for several multi-million-dollar grants we'll need to study its impact," he explained. "That is what I would call bad science."

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