WHAT'S NEW by Robert L. Park Friday, 11 Mar 94 Washington, DC 1. NASA BUDGET: A CHOICE BET

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WHAT'S NEW by Robert L. Park Friday, 11 Mar 94 Washington, DC 1. NASA BUDGET: A CHOICE BETWEEN SPACE SCIENCE AND SPACE STATION? Invoking the metaphor of King Solomon's solution to a parenthood dispute, George Brown repeated his threat to chop off the space station to save space science (WN 4 Mar 94). It depends on how hard NASA gets hit in this year's budget and whether spending can be stretched out. Brown's choice of parables was significant--Solomon didn't mean it either. It's easy to oppose the station in March. Consider this a wake-up call for aerospace lobbyists. 2. EXTRACT ENERGY FROM THE ZERO-POINT FLUCTUATIONS OF THE VACUUM? Where do such uuhhh--unusual--ideas come from? Well, this is one of the predictions from "The Road to 2012," the futuristic report prepared for the U.S. Coast Guard (WN 18 Feb 94). But the idea probably did not come to the author in a dream. In fact "The New Energy News," which comes out of (where else?) Salt Lake City, credits the idea to physicist Harold E. Puthoff and proclaimed him "The New Energy News Theorist of the Year." Puthoff was even featured, along with two colleagues, in a two-page news story in Science magazine (4 Feb 94); it concerned their paper "Inertia as a zero-point-field Lorentz force," which appeared in the February Physical Review A. Wow! PRA publishes some 1,300 papers a year, but I don't remember Science ever commenting on one before. It's fair to say that, outside Salt Lake City, Puthoff's ideas are controversial; but he's accustomed to controversy. In 1972, at the Stanford Research Institute, Puthoff and Russell Targ were promoting psychic spoon-bender Uri Geller; five years later, they published "Mind Reach," a book about remote-viewing that inspired the CIA to invest in psychic espionage. Reportedly, Puthoff himself once sent his mind to explore the surface of planet Mercury. 3. WELL THEN, WHY NOT EXTRACT ENERGY FROM EARTH'S MAGNETIC FIELD? NASA announced yesterday that it will try the tethered satellite experiment again in 1996. In 1992 the shuttle Atlantis sought to deploy a small satellite on a 13-mile long wire. NASA explained at the time that as the wire cut through Earth's magnetic field it would generate electrical power. "It's the nearest thing to a free lunch we can find," the mission manager said. Well, maybe not quite free; if any power is extracted, the reverse emf will produce drag. To maintain its orbit, the spacecraft would have to fire its thrusters. It's hard to imagine a less efficient way to generate electricity. Alas, the reel jammed just 256 meters out; it generated less than one watt. NASA's announcement of a reflight in 1996 makes no mention of electrical power generation. 4. THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY LINKS TO THE "WORLD WIDE WEB," whatever that is. Use your favorite browser(?) to see our home page; NCSA's Mosaic is recommended. Connect to http://aps.org/. If you have questions (who would have questions with anything this clear) send e-mail to webmistress@aps.org, but DON'T ask me. THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)


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