Yes, this could become a daily feature. You’ll recall that Hillary Clinton once claimed to have been named for Mt. Everest climber Sir Edmund Hillary, even though he didn’t achieve that feat until several years after Hillary was born. No matter. Her latest claim is that she wanted to be an astronaut, but that NASA wrote back to say, “Thank you very much, but we’re not taking girls.”
This story might actually be more or less true, not because of NASA sexism back in the 1960s, but because of common sense. (NASA in the 1960s was struggling to figure out the risks of putting men into a tiny tin can for a few days; did you really expect them to put women of childbearing age into an unknown high radiation environment right out of the box? James Taranto has a lot more on this story in his “Best of the Web” column today.)
More interesting in this story were Hillary’s additional comments on scientific research:
“You know, back in the early ’90s, our country invested in mapping the human genome, and my husband was president when it finally was revealed. Money had been put in by both Republican and Democratic presidents and Congresses because we wanted to know more about what this meant. And in the years since, hundreds and thousands of jobs have been created and many millions of dollars have been generated for our economy,” Clinton said.
“I think we’re just at the beginning of trying to understand what is a black hole? Why is it there? What is in it? What does it mean for us?”
We might actually be further ahead in answering some of those latter questions if her husband and the Democratic Congress of 1993 hadn’t killed the superconducting supercollider that even the budget hawks of the Reagan administration had supported. (Maybe Bill just wanted to be the only “supercollider” in the hood.) Instead, the action in subatomic physics has shifted to the LHC at CERN in Switzerland. Worth remembering the next time you hear the “Republican war on science” cliché. Ironically, one of the defenders of the superconducting supercollider in Congress was Joe Barton, since the project was being built in Texas.
Likewise Congress has stiffed fusion energy research, such that Japan, China, and even South Korea are ahead of the U.S. in fusion energy research and development. In 2006 President George W. Bush did commit the U.S. to supporting the ITER fusion consortium in Europe, but the new Democratic Congress under Nancy Pelosi in 2007 refused to appropriate the U.S. funding commitment. The explanation is simple: not enough opportunity for graft and cronyism in fusion research, unlike solar and wind flim-flam.