[EAS]WHAT'S NEW--13 Dec 02
pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Fri Dec 13 17:52:57 EST 2002
Mail*Link¨ SMTP WHAT'S NEW--13 Dec 02
Dear Colleagues -
I decided to send you this in its entirety, for a moment of reflection
on our technologically benighted times.
Date: 12/13/02 3:43 PM
From: opa at aps.org
WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 13 Dec 02 Washington, DC
1. MISSILE DEFENSE: TEST FAILS, BUT "SUCCESS RATE" IS UNCHANGED.
The "exoatmospheric kill vehicle" failed to separate from the
booster in Wednesday's test over the Pacific. "It must be pretty
gloomy around the office this morning," I said to my friend Puff
Panegyric in the Missile Defense Agency. "Not really," Puff
replied, "this one didn't count; it failed to reach the endgame.
Our success rate remains at the 88 percent quoted by General
Kadish." I did a quick calculation: "But the interceptor only
hit the target in 40 percent of the tests." Puff's voice was
rising, "You can't include tests that don't reach the endgame;
they haven't gotten to the technically challenging part." Then
why, I wanted to ask, do they fail? But Puff had hung up.
2. MISSILE DEFENSE II: WE STILL CAN'T SEEM TO STOP SCUDS. The
ship had been tracked by the US since leaving North Korea bound
for the Middle East. It was stopped and searched before reaching
Yeman, and buried under bags of concrete, inspectors found Scud
missiles. What would a nation that threatens preemptive nuclear
strikes be expected to do next? Citing International Law, the
United States allowed the ship to proceed with its cargo. You
will recall that during the Gulf War the U.S. claimed to be able
to stop 96% of the Scud missiles with the Patriot, but in a
careful analysis of actual tapes, MIT physicist Ted Postol showed
the actual figure was zero percent (WN 20 Mar 92). A decade
later the United States still can't seem to stop scud missiles.
3. GENESIS PROJECT: A REALLY GOOD SCAM CAN BE USED OVER AND OVER.
Back in the early '70s, an inventor named Sam Leach claimed to
have built a car that used ordinary water as a fuel. The idea
was simple: You use electrolysis to decompose the water into
oxygen and hydrogen and then use the hydrogen as a fuel to run
the engine and generate electricity for the separation. So there
you have it: You start with water and end up with water plus
work. Scientists scoffed: it would take more energy to decompose
the water than you could get from the combustion of hydrogen.
Ordinarily yes, Leach agreed, but he had a secret catalyst that
reduced the energy of decomposition. The great thing about the
First Law of Thermodynamics, however, is that it doesn't care
what's in your secret box, it gives you the limit of any process.
Leach raised millions from investors and then retired to a
seaside villa in California. Who needs a car that runs on water
when you have a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce? The rumor spread
that he had been bought off by the oil companies. Now something
called Genesis World Energy is running the same scam over again.
4. RICHARD MESERVE: BECOMES PRESIDENT OF CARNEGIE INSTITUTION.
Meserve, a Democrat, resigned as Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission. A physicist-lawyer, Merserve earned a Physics PhD
from Stanford. He was the APS/AIP lawyer during the protracted
legal dispute with Gordon and Breach and won in every country in
which APS was sued (WN 19 Aug 94). He replaces Maxine Singer, a
leading geneticist, who retires after an illustrious career.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND and THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY.
Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the
University or the American Physical Society, but they should be.
Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.aps.org/WN.
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