What's New | 4 Apr 00:02 2009

What's New Friday Apr 3, 2009

WHAT’S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 3 Apr 09   Washington, DC

1.  SPACE: A LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT ABOUT NASA SCIENCE.
Dear Mr. President: Last month you said the space agency is drifting and 
needs a mission "appropriate for the twenty-first century."  The new 
Administrator, you said, should think about "the next great adventures and 
discoveries under the NASA banner."  I know you’ve been busy with G20 
stuff and haven’t had time to name this visionary, so in an effort to help 
What’s New did the thinking for whoever it will be:  1) Astronauts are a 
relic of the 1960’s "space race" and a major obstacle to the continued 
exploration of space.  Therefore the ISS, which serves no useful purpose 
anyway, should be given to China and the crew sent home on the Soyuz.  
Maybe astronauts could be awarded medals for courage in fighting the Cold 
War.  2) Global-warming critics insist climate change is the result of 
solar variations and is not anthropogenic.  Therefore, NASA should move 
with due haste to locate DSCOVR at the unique Lagrange-1 vantage point to 
resolve this question.  3) The greatest quest in science is to find life 
to which we are not related.  Therefore, NASA’s robotic exploration of the 
solar system should be expanded to include the ocean moons of Jupiter.   
There should also be a ban on human visits to any planet that might harbor 
life; we’re crawling with bugs.  4) The great discovery of this century is 
the existence of planets around other stars.   The bad news is that we 
can’t get to an exoplanet. The good news is they can't get here. Therefore 
we should employ the huge advances in optical technology to develop a new 
generation of advanced space telescopes capable of examining exoplanets 
for evidence of life.  

2.  SPENDING: BOTH HOUSES PASSED A BILL, BUT NOT THE SAME BILL.
The $3.5 trillion spending bill is good news for science.  Major 
differences between House and Senate versions must be resolved by a 
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What's New | 10 Apr 14:07 2009

What's New, April 10, 2009

WHAT’S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 10 Apr 09   Washington, DC

1.  DATELINE: A NEW WRINKLE ON THE HYDROGEN-FUEL SCAM. 
Last Sunday, NBC Dateline exposed the Hydro Assist Fuel Cell, sold by 
Dennis Lee, as a scam.  It seemed like such a simple idea: powered by the 
alternator, the HAFC decomposes water into hydrogen and oxygen and adds a 
whiff of hydrogen into the combustion mixture, supposedly extending the 
mileage you get. There are two small problems: it takes more energy to 
decompose water than you get from combustion of the hydrogen, and Dennis 
Lee is notorious for his scams. The hydrogen fuel scam has been fooling the 
scientifically ignorant, including George W. Bush and former congressman 
Robert Walker, for at least 40 years. This time, however, Lee was up 
against tough Dateline investigators aided by the indefatigable Eric Krieg 
of the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking, and a cameo 
appearance by Bob Park.  Lee got clobbered.  I think.

2. DENNIS LEE: TOP DOG OF THE PERPETUAL SCAM.
In July of 1997, I was invited to go with an NBC Dateline camera crew to 
cover a demonstration of a perpetual motion machine in Hackensack, NJ. You 
don't get a chance to do that everyday.  "Put one in your home and you will 
never have to pay another electric bill," an ad in the Wall Street Journal 
said. But Lee doesn't sell perpetual motion machines; he sells dealerships 
for perpetual motion machines. The machine turned out to be the Gamgee Zero-
motor, invented in 1880 by John Gamgee who managed to sell it to the Navy; 
it didn't work then either http://bobpark.org/WN97/wn071897.html .  The 
idea is to use a liquid that boils at room temperature to drive a piston, 
thereby extracting energy from the ambient.  Gamgee tried ammonia, but only 
confirmed the Second Law of Thermodynamics.   Lee solved that by using 
carbon dioxide, which is liquid only under pressure.  Thus the machine 
actually ran on compressed carbon dioxide; not quite perpetually, but long 
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What's New | 18 Apr 01:25 2009

What's New Friday Apr 17, 2009

WHAT’S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 17 Apr 09   Washington, DC

1. EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS: GUIDELINES WERE ISSUED TODAY. 
A door was opened today for a vast expansion of research, but stopped just 
short of allowing scientists to create human embryos for research purposes 
or pursue cloning techniques.  There is broad public support for the use 
of cells from embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility 
clinics.

2. POPULATION: HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN FIT ON THE PLANET?
Last week, a demographer in Moscow warned that the population decline in 
Russia will have serious economic consequences.  This week, Investors 
Business Daily criticized famous British broadcaster Sir David 
Attenborough for supporting the Optimum Population Trust, a group that 
wants to reduce the number of people in the world.  Reduce?  No, no, the 
IBD editor says "we must produce more young workers to pay for our elderly 
retirees."  He credits this uh insight to the "late, great economist 
Julian Simon," a University of Maryland libertarian who said, "People 
aren’t a cost they’re an asset."  Personally, I grow more aware of the 
needs of the elderly with each passing year: Finding a parking place, for 
example.  Fewer people I could live with.  To ensure species survival, 
Darwin said, species reproduce far more often than needed for 
replacement.  Evolution made it the dominant force in human relations.  
It’s overkill, and behavior modification, as the church has discovered, is 
futile.  Equilibrium is reached only when the death rate rises to meet the 
birth rate. For most species, therefore, the "balance of nature" is not a 
happy condition. The only exception is Homo sapiens, which has a 
technology (the pill) to restrain population growth reliably and 
humanely.  Now, however, there’s an added urgency; we’re rendering our 
planet less habitable.
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What's New | 25 Apr 01:51 2009

What's New April 24, 2009 Washington, DC

WHAT’S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 24 Apr 09   Washington, DC

1. COLD FUSION: PLEASE, MAY I HAVE A CUP OF TEA?
Last Sunday's edition of the CBS News program 60 Minutes was titled "Race 
to Fusion."  It was 1989, Fleischmann and Pons are shown with the "cold 
fusion" test tube that would have killed them had they been right.  Because 
they lived, the race was called off.  Michael McKubre of SRI apparently 
didn’t get the memo; he just kept doing it over and over for 20 years. 
Lucky for him there’s still no fusion, but he says he does get heat – 
except when he doesn't.  How does it work?  He hasn’t a clue, but he showed 
a video cartoon of deuterium defusing through palladium and said it might 
be fusion.  In fact McKubre called it "the most powerful source of energy 
known to man."  Whew!  But wait, Dick Garwin did a fusion experiment 60 
years ago; it worked all too well.  Garwin thinks McKubre is mistaken.  
Just about every physicist agrees, so the American Physical Society was 
asked to name an independent scientist to examine the claims of Energetics 
Technology, according to 60 Min correspondent Scott Pelley.  An APS 
statement issued Wed. says this is totally false, and the APS does not 
endorse the cold fusion claims on 60 Min.  (Aside:  This morning I thought 
I should watch the video on the 60 Min web site one more time. Drat!  CBS 
took it off.  No matter, there’s a full transcript.  Uh oh!  The part where 
CBS says the APS picked Rob Duncan to look into the ET SuperWave is gone.  
CBS can change history?  My God, time travel!  Now that is powerful.)

2. SUPERWAVE: IMPALED ON THE SHARP STAKE OF REPLICATION.  
Rob Duncan, vice chancellor of research at the University of Missouri, went 
to Israel with 60 Minutes to visit Energetics Technologies, which claims 
SuperWave Fusion will solve the energy problem. It shouldn’t be necessary 
to remind scientists that neither visiting a laboratory, nor peer reviewing 
a manuscript, is enough. There must be independent replication of the ET 
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What's New | 2 May 00:59 2009

What's New May1, 2009 Washington, DC

WHAT'S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 1 May 09   Washington, DC

1.  IT'S STILL COLD: BUT DO I STILL THINK IT’S SCIENCE?
A month before CBS aired the 60 Minutes program on cold fusion, I commented 
in WN that "I think it's real science."  I still do. That doesn't mean I 
think it's good science.  Science is conditional; everything is open to 
further examination. Some scientists think the community was too hasty in 
writing off the claims of cold fusion in 1989. They believe there may be 
important truths yet to be revealed. They have searched for those truths 
for 20 years and have every right to continue doing so. However, I think 
the likelihood of success is extremely low and, if asked, I would recommend 
against the use of public funds for that purpose. Their case is not helped 
by embracing any scientific sounding nonsense that purports to show excess 
energy -- which brings us to Irving Dardik.

2.  SUPERWAVE: IT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING -- BUT PREDICTS NOTHING.
Written as SuperWave it seems to be a registered trademark.  What exactly 
is it?  Anything you want it to be. Irving Dardik was in sports medicine, a 
specialty notoriously prone to alternative medicine. He treated sports 
injuries with rhythmic exercise, and invented a catchy name, LifeWaves.  
This led to an epiphany: you can explain everything by wave interference.  
The French mathematician Fourier, figured that out in the 18th century, but 
Dardik doesn't do math.  Even solid matter is waves, he concluded, i.e. 
SuperWaves. Is this big? Louis de Broglie won a Nobel Prize for that idea 
in 1929, and Irving Schrodinger won the Nobel Prize in 1933 and transformed 
the world by putting wave theory into an equation.  But Dardik doesn't do 
equations.  Instead he hired a flack, Roger Lewin, to gush endlessly about 
him in a 2005 book, Making Waves, with a Forward by, uh, Michael McKubre.  
So the CBS “science buzz” consists of one chemist?   

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