What's New | 6 Jun 23:43 2008

What's New Friday July 6, 2008

WHAT’S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 6 Jun 08   Washington, DC

1.  ENERGY: $4 GAS SEEMS TO BE THE TIPPING POINT. 
The nation has suddenly become energy conscious, forcing GM to slash 
production of SUVs and dump the Hummer.  Why, you may wonder, did it take 
so long?  Meanwhile, old energy scams are blossoming again.  This week, a 
reader pointed out, a new web site that sells instructions ($49.95) for 
converting your car to run on tap water www.runyourscarwithwater.com.  It 
uses the car battery to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.  Are these 
the same people who sold George W. Bush on the hydrogen car in 2003?   
Predictably, the focus on energy has even brought cold fusion back, with 
physicist Yoshiaki Arata at Osaka University claiming to have the 
first "real" demonstration of the 1989 Pons and Fleischmann fizzle.  Even 
the hydrino is back.

2. HYDRINOS: HOW LONG CAN A REALLY DUMB IDEA SURVIVE? 
BlackLight Power (BLP), founded 17 years ago as HydroCatalysis, announced 
last week that the company had successfully tested a prototype power 
system that would generate 50 KW of thermal power.  BLP anticipates 
delivery of the new power system in 12 to 18 months.  The BLP process, 
http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN91/wn042691.html , discovered by Randy 
Mills, is said to coax hydrogen atoms into a "state below the ground 
state," called the "hydrino."  There is no independent scientific 
confirmation of the hydrino, and BLP has a patent problem.  So they have 
nothing to sell but bull shit. The company is therefore dependent on 
investors with deep pockets and shallow brains.

3.  CREATIONISM IN TEXAS: ITS STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES.
Texas is a huge textbook market with a major influence on content.  
Republican Governor Rick Perry, and Don McLeroy, a dentist who chairs the 
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What's New | 13 Jun 23:52 2008

What's New Friday June 13, 2008

WHAT’S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 13 Jun 08   Washington, DC

1.  FREEDOM OF SPEECH: DO AMERICANS TAKE IT FURTHER?
Maclean’s, Canada’s leading newsweekly, is on trial for disrespecting 
Islam.  The magazine argued that the rise of Islam threatens Western 
values.  This prompted a front-page article by Adam Liptak in yesterday’s 
New York Times, "Unlike Others, U.S. Defends Freedom to Offend in 
Speech."  What sets the U.S. apart from all other countries is The First 
Amendment to the Constitution.  In a sense, these 45 words ARE the 
Constitution - the rest of it is just operating instructions.   But does 
the rise of Islam really threaten Western values?  At the risk of being 
put on trial in Canada, we note that the NY Times reported a day earlier 
that an increasing number of Muslim women in Europe seek hymenoplasty, a 
surgical restoration of the hymen to recapture the illusion of virginity.  
It’s not clear whose values are being threatened.      

2.  OPENNESS: SCIENCE HAS ITS OWN "FREE SPEECH" CLAUSE.  
The success and credibility of science is anchored in the willingness of 
scientists to expose their work to the scrutiny of the rest of the 
scientific community, and to abandon or modify accepted facts or theories 
if better evidence becomes available.  This includes sharing the details 
of how the work was done.  The basic assumption is that for every physical 
effect observed there must be a physical cause.  Science is a matter of 
tracing the chain of causes back in time until we can write the theory-of-
everything on a T-shirt.  Governments would do well to emulate the 
openness of science.  

3.  FOOD: POPE URGES WORLD TO COMBAT CAUSES OF HUNGER. 
In a message read at the June 3 opening of a three-day World Food Security 
Summit in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said that hunger is unacceptable in a   
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What's New | 20 Jun 23:45 2008

What's New Friday June 20, 2008

WHAT’S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 20 Jun 08   Washington, DC

1.  OSTP: URGENT RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE NEXT PRESIDENT.
On Monday, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars held a 
media briefing to release a report, "OSTP 2.0, Critical Upgrade."  Drawing 
on the advice of former Presidential Science Advisors, the report calls on 
the next President to:
1) Name a Cabinet-level Assistant for Science and Technology Policy early, 
2) Integrate OSTP with other policymaking bodies in the White House, and 
3) Establish mechanisms to obtain expert advice in a timely manner.  
Above all, the Science Advisor must have easy access to the President.  
Written by some of the smartest science-policy experts in Washington, the 
report refrains from bashing the current OSTP.  What’s New is under no 
such restraint.

2.  SHELL GAME: PRESIDENTIAL POWER AND THE HYDROGEN HOAX.
In his 2003 State-of-the-Union Address, President Bush promised to free us 
from dependence on oil from the Middle-East and clean up our environment 
by using hydrogen as a fuel.  Oceans of hydrogen are available.  
Presidents are not required to be familiar with the first law of 
thermodynamics, but the willingness of industry to play along is 
frightening.  Within months, GM had a hydrogen car driving around Capitol 
Hill, and Shell had added a hydrogen pump at a nearby station.  This week 
Honda announced the Clarity, a highly-subsidized hydrogen fuel-cell car 
and said Jamie Lee Curtis is buying one.  She lives near one of the four 
hydrogen stations in California.  Today a NY Times editorial was mildly 
skeptical.  You can make cars that run on hydrogen, although they have big 
problems, but it won’t fix the energy problem or clean up the 
environment.  

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What's New | 27 Jun 23:43 2008

What's New Friday June 27, 2008

WHAT’S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 27 Jun 08   Washington, DC

1.  THE PRIZE: WILL $300 MILLION BUY A BETTER BATTERY?
I told my class last year that if they invent a better battery they could 
save the world and become rich doing it.  I neglected to explain how that 
would happen, but John McCain has a way.  He proposes that we offer a 
prize for a better battery amounting to "one dollar for every for every 
man, woman and child in America."  I’m in!  McCain figured the prize at 
$300 million, but I just checked the Population Clock and he’s $4,450,595 
short.  Oops!  In the time it took to type that the population went up 
another person, or another dollar depending on how you look at it.  It 
does that about every 10 seconds.  If I win the prize, I plan to sue 
McCain for the difference.  To win the prize, McCain said, the battery 
must "leapfrog" commercially available batteries.  How much is "a 
leapfrog"?  The Oxford English Dictionary defines "leapfrog" as "surpass 
or overtake."  The Financial Times explained that by "leapfrog," McCain 
means it must deliver power at 30 percent of current costs.

2.  PEW FORUM: U.S. RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPE SURVEY. 
The latest findings of the respected Pew Forum’s massive survey make it 
clear that we are an overwhelmingly religious people.  Only 16 percent 
identify themselves as "unaffiliated" and only a tenth of those are 
atheists.   The strongest predictor of a person’s faith has always been 
the faith of their parents, but with interfaith marriages increasing, a 
quarter of adult Americans have switched to another religion.  The 
greatest gain was in unaffiliated, but even among the unaffiliated 70 
percent said they believe in God.  The willingness of Americans to 
compartmentalize their beliefs, holding totally contradictory convictions 
in different spheres, is remarkable.  Scientists accept as a given that 
behind every physical effect lies a physical cause.   That seems to rule 
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