Boston Globe: The Foundational Questions Institute, which is funded by the John Templeton Foundation, launched today an ambitious international effort to fund physics research with potential theological implications. The first round of $2,2 million grants will go to 30 physicists at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and other top institutions.
The institute will not tackle explicitly religious questions like “Does God exist?” but will instead focus on deep questions in physics that may be too speculative or philosophical for government funding such as whether the fundamental laws of nature seem specially designed to allow life, and whether there are truths about the universe which physics is inherently incapable of proving says the Boston Globe.
The Daily Telegraph: The answer to a question thousands of students ask their parents during their first week at university “how do I boil an egg?” , may soon have an electronic answer thanks to new “self timing” eggs. The new eggs, which will appear in UK supermarkets, have “thermochromic” invisible ink, printed on the shell. When the egg reaches a certain temperature, the ink becomes visible, letting the cook know that the eggs are ready. The eggs will come in cartons marked soft (three minutes), medium (four minutes) or hard (seven minutes).
Alternately, Exeter physicist Charles D.H. Williams, has created a web site for his students entitled The Science of Boiling an Egg which explains how you can use a formula to calculate the boiling time for a soft-boiled egg, given its weight and initial temperature.
NPR (audio): The “Archimedes Palimpsest”, a 12th century prayer book that has the only known references to some of archimedes mathenmatical research hidden in its pages, has revealed a few more secrets thanks to Stanford physicist Uwe Bergmann’s interest in spinach. The palimpsest is extremely fragile and most of the Archimedes text can only be read by photographing the pages at different infrared wavelengths (see Physics Today June 2000 page 32). Bergmann realized that X-ray pulses produced by the Stanford Linear Accelerator should be able to pick up the iron in the ink, just as they pick up concentrations of iron in leaves of spinach. After placing the book in the accelerator, scientists and historians discovered a whole new batch of writings from Archimedes that were previously unknown. They also discovered the name of the scribe who over wrote the text: Johannes Myronas.
LA Times: Cost over runs and delays of projects managed by the National Nuclear Safety Adminstration, which manages the US nuclear weapons program and the associated Department of Energy laboratories, is upsetting some members of Congress. In particular, the National Ignition Facility at Lawerence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which jumped from $1 billion to $3.4 billion, and the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico which jumped from $10-million to $360 million are causing lawmakers to question NNSA competence. Officials from the national labs say that cost overs should have not come as a surprise considering the technically difficult nature of the two programs, and that scientific benefits for the stockpile stewardship program (which help maintains the safety and capability of the US nuclear weapons program), will outweigh any of the costs.
New York Times: Coal-burning utilities are contributing money University of Virginia professor, Patrick J. Michaels, one of the few remaining climate scientists openly critical of the broad consensus that fossil fuel emissions are intensifying global warming.
Dr. Michaels told Western business leaders last year that he was running out of money for his analyses of other scientists’ global warming research. So a Colorado utility organized a collection campaign for him last week and has raised at least $150,000 in donations and pledges.
Nature: Is it possible to always replicate scientific results asks Jim Giles in Nature. In 2002, at least two papers in the journals 4 July issue contained result that may not be replicable. There is nothing suspicious about the papers, nor any suggestion that their authors are anything other than excellent scientists. Nor was that week particularly odd, and there is no reason to think that other journals publish fewer problematic papers. It is simply the case that the replication of results, a process absolutely central to science, is not always possible.
Reuters:After three years of continual cuts in its budget, US research on the International Space Station may be completely killed off to fix a $100 million shortfall in NASA’s budget. When ISS was originally proposed twenty years ago, nearly 27 hours of astronaut time per week was set aside by NASA to conduct scientific experiments. However, since ISS has had three instead of the proposed seven astronauts in orbit at any one time, the amount of time set aside for science has dropped to 2.5 hours per week. Delays and cost over-runs has also led to many of the proposed scientific instruments for ISS to remain stuck on the ground. A $350 million cut in NASA’s life science budget last year helped bring the research program to the point of collapse. Fixing the budget shortfall by cancelling the remainging ISS research budget would bring NASA’s proposed Moon-Mars program back on track say NASA officials.
Florida Today: This August NOAA is to repeat a research project from the 1970s to try and find out why one in 10 of the tropical waves that come off Africa turns into hurricane. The 2006 program will use better instruments than the earlier project, and combine ground observations, aircraft and satellites to study these stormy systems. Hurriances are receiving more attention this year after hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans almost a year ago. “Katrina’s a great example of a system that was not doing very well in the eastern and central Atlantic, and then it managed to blossom into a very strong, major hurricane,” said Jason Dunion of NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division.
BBC: Indian PM Manmohan Singh has said India will not accept any new conditions in the bilateral US-India nuclear technology agreement which will share US civilian nuclear technology with India. Prime minister Singh statement was released when the US House of Representatives began debating whether to ratify the agreement. Critics of the accord say it will damage non-proliferation efforts, help generate an nuclear arms race in the region, and free up some India’s existing reactors solely to produce warheads for the military. Proponents for the agreement say it will help India put some of its reactors under international safeguards, and help the US nuclear industry. The deal also has implications for India’s science community. Pakistan has ramped up efforts for producing its own plutonium stockpile since the deal was announced. The US Congress is expected to ratify the US-India agreement before the end of July.
The Christian Science Monitor: The Department of Energy has finally announced a timeline for Nevada’s Yucca mountain nuclear waste storge site to start receiving the 50,000 tons of radioactive spent fuel rods from the US nuclear industry. The date, 2017, is 19 years behind the facility’s original schedule. The delays have caused frustration in the nuclear industry, as well as among state governments, who recently sued the DoE to take the waste that has been piling up near power stations. An added urgency to opening Yucca mountain is the expected increase in building new US nuclear power plants over the next few years, as power demands, the high price of oil, and concerns about global warming, make nuclear power more attractive as a energy source.