Physics and Society Oct '97 - News

Volume 26, Number 4, October 1997




Alien Autopsy--With the 50th anniversary of the alledged UFO crash in Roswell, the FOX network has once again broadcast a film of an alleged autopsy of an alien killed in the crash. Many have examined this film looking for authenticity. In the Skeptical Inquirer (July 97), John English, who is former director of the International Aerospace Hall of Fame and a graphics designer, noted that one of the signs on the wall in the operating room (a "DANGER" sign) was a standard government-issue sign, as would be expected in a military surgery room. He tracked the graphic design to a specific OSHA issue. It was issued for government use in 1973. If this really was an autopsy in 1947, then the dead alien must have been capable of precognitive telportation, in order to bring a 1973 sign back 26 years in time. Wow!



Yemenis Claim Ownership of Mars (SANCA, Yemen, AP) -- Three Yemeni men claiming ownership of Mars have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. space agency NASA for invading the red planet, the weekly Al-Thawri reported Thursday. It said Adam Ismail, Mustafa Khalil and Abdullah al-Umari presented documents to Yemen's prosecutor general which they said proved their claim. "We inherited the planet from our ancestors who had lived on it 3,000 years ago," the Arabic-language paper quoted the men as saying in one of the documents. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Pathfinder spacecraft landed on Mars July 4. Its Sojourner rover has been exploring the planet and sending back photos and data for analysis. "Sojourner and Pathfinder, which are owned by the United States government, landed on Mars and began exploring it without informing us or seeking our approval," the men said. The men demanded the immediate suspension of all operations on Mars until the court delivers a verdict. They also requested that NASA refrain from disclosing any information pertaining to Mars' atmosphere, surface or gravity before receiving approval from them or until a verdict is reached.


Eliminate dihydrogen monoxide-- A freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair, April 26. He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to the alarmists practicing junk science and spreading fear of everything in our environment. In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical "dihydrogen monoxide." And for plenty of good reasons, since it 1) can cause excessive sweating and vomiting, 2) is a major component in acid rain, 3) can cause severe burns in its gaseous state,4) can be lethal if accidentally inhaled, 5) contributes to erosion, 6) decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes,7) has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients. He asked 50 people if they supported a ban of the chemical, which is water. The title of his prize winning project was, "How Gullible Are We?" He feels that the conclusion is obvious.

(Found on the ubiquitous e-mail nets.)



Powerlines and Leukemia - -A National Cancer Institute epidemiology study of childhood leukemia from power lines has come to a definitive conclusion: There is either no connection at all, or else there is a connection that is so weak as to be of negligable consequence. This study came to essentially the same conclusions as an APS study from two years ago, and becomes part of the history of a controversy that is now close to 20 years old. The New England Journal of Medicine editors concluded, "It is time to stop wasting our research resources [on studies of a link between magnetic fields from power lines and childhood leukemia].

CTBT Statement by APS Council (April 1997)-- On September 10, 1996 the United Nations overwhelmingly approved thComprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a treaty ending all nuclear testing, of any yield, at any location, for all time. The United States, all other declared nuclear weapon states, and a growing majority of the world's nations have now signed that treaty. Although the date at which the CTBT will enter into force is not yet certain, the treaty is of extraordinary importance to the United States and to the future of all humankind.

The CTBT, the culmination of over 40 years of effort, ends the qualitative arms race among the nuclear states and is central to future efforts to halt the further spread of nuclear weapons. The promise to negotiate and put into force a CTBT was an essential pre-condition to achieving an indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in May 1995. Ratification of the CTBT will mark an important advance in uniting the world in an effort to contain and reduce the nuclear danger.

Having been the first country to develop nuclear weapons, having been a major participant in the nuclear arms race of the Cold War, and having played a leadership role in the NPT extension and the CTBT negotiations, it is appropriate and imperative that the United States ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at the earliest possible date. The Council notes that detailed, fully informed technical studies have concluded continued nuclear testing is not required to retain confidence in the safety and reliability of the remaining nuclear weapons in the United States' stockpile, provided science and technology programs necessary for stockpile stewardship are maintained. This conclusion is also supported by both the senior civilian and military officials responsible for US national security.

The Council of the American Physical Society, representing 41,000 academic, industrial, and laboratory physicists, endorses the CTBT, including its extensive technical and procedural provisions to verify compliance with treaty requirements.


Competitiveness Policy--Audrey T. Leath, in AIP's FYI #71 (June 6, 1997), describes a "new document from a bipartisan federal advisory commission, the Competitiveness Policy Council (CPC)..." The document takes a position that technology research, i.e., research into "the tools, materials, processes and systems" is as essential to the nation's well being as investment in basic science. The 27-page document was released on April 24, and its text can be found on the Web at: The document will be of interest to readers who are interested in public-private partnerships, increased state and regional roles in federal technology initiatives, and enhanced government effectiveness in its role of technology nurturer.


Proposed NIE-- A National Institute for the Environment (NIE), under the auspices of NSF, is being proposed by the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment. The NIE would be non-regulatory and would engage scientists, environmentalists, state and local officials, business leaders, and others to work together to provide cost-effective solutions to environmental problems. The proposed NIE would leverage the knowledge that is already known about environmental problems, fund peer-reviewed research on environmental issues, communicate the results of that research via the Web and other means, support education in environmental science, and create a governing board comprised of a broad cross section from science, government, and industry. If you are interested in learning more about this proposal, contact the non-profit organization Committee for the National Institute for the Environment at; 1725 K Street, NW, Suite 212, Washington, DC 20006; ph: 202-530-5810; fax: 202-628-4311;


MIR space station safety-- AIP's FYI # 81, by Audrey T. Leath, quotes the following remarks by House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner regarding the June 25 collision of an unmanned supply vehicle with the MIR space station,

" This morning I met with NASA Administrator Dan Goldin...During that meeting, I called on Administrator Goldin to comply with the safety provision in H.R. 1275, the Civilian Space Authorization bill, that passed the House. This provision requires that NASA not place another U.S. astronaut on board Mir, for a long-term stay, until the Administrator certifies to Congress that Mir meets or exceeds U.S. safety standards. This certification by the NASA Administrator must be based on an independent review of the safety of Mir... I, for one, can no longer sit idly by as mishap after mishap occur while we continue to plan the next Shuttle mission to Mir hoping for, but not really expecting, the mission will succeed without a potentially life-threatening situation...The review should be initiated immediately and be concluded in advance of any decision to send the STS-86 crew to Mir as scheduled for September."


APS/AIP 1998-9 CONGRESSIONAL SCIENCE FELLOWSHIPS: The American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics are currently accepting applications for their 1998-9 Congressional Science Fellowship programs. Fellows serve a one-year term on the staff of a congressional committee or in a personal office, learning the legislative process while lending scientific expertise to public policy issues. Qualifications include a PhD or equivalent in physics or a closely related field and strong interest in science and technology policy. A stipend of up to $46,000 is offered, in addition to allowances for relocation, in-service travel, and health insurance premiums. The deadline for applications is January 15, 1998. For additional information on qualifications and how to apply, look up the Congressional Science Fellowship on either the APS or AIP HomePages: and or call (301) 209-3094.


REQUEST FOR FORUM NOMINATIONS--The Forum's Committee on Nominations would like your suggestions for the postions of (1) Chair, (2) Secretary-Treasurer, (3) two Members at Large on the Executive Committee. The Nomination Committee consists of Dave Hafemeister (chair), Phil Goldstone (LANL), Tina Kaarsberg (DOE), Marc Ross (UMichigan). Please send nominations to David Hafemeister, 3711 Appleton, NW, Washington, DC 20016, (202)-362-3731, 647-6793, FAX 736-4977, Closing date is Oct. 1, but we will look at nominations that come in later. Early is better, thanks.


You are also reminded that nominations for the Burton/Forum or Szilard Awards, as well as those for APS/Forum Fellowships, are always welcome by; for details, see http:\\