Titan Coolness

While checking my daily science sources, I ran across this interactive tour of Titan at the Cassini web site. It lets you peer beneath the heavy clouds that hide this world from our view.

Titan is the largest moon orbiting Saturn and is a fascinating blend of organic materials in its atmosphere and on its surface. The Cassini mission to Saturn will pass by this fascinating place 45 times during its extended exploration. What planetary scientists are finding here may well rewrite the books on many aspects of solar system science.

Imagine That: Science and Politics

Imagine that an astronomer announces the discovery of a new planet in our solar system. Imagine that that planet has life on it and that it may actually be intelligent life. That science is peer-reviewed and other scientists agree that there is a discovery here.

Now, imagine that a non-scientist political appointee to NASA decides that the discovery doesn’t conform to White House guidelines on what science should be, and so he yanks the report and hides it from the media and public.

Imagine that a medical researcher discovers a treatment that can completely cure AIDS. It is tested and seems to work on all patients who have AIDS. Or that the doctor finds a cure for breast cancer.

Now, imagine that a non-medical political appointee to National Institutes of Health decides that the breakthroughs are “controversial” because they doesn’t conform to White House guidelines about what diseases should be treated and which ones shouldn’t. So, the NIH is directed (by non-scientists) stop the research and refuse treatment to people who need the cure.

Imagine that a research team finds a way to create fuels from some commonly available ingredients. The team tests it and shows that it could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and could also help our economy.

Now imagine that a White House operative decides that this breakthrough is directly athwart political goals and therefore isn’t in the best interest of the business community. And so he yanks the research and hides it.

As far as I know, none of these scenarios have happened.

Yet. But they (or similar ones) will.

Why? The White House in the U.S. is now putting non-science political appointees in agencies to control the science and its outcomes. Why? Partly so that this administration can direct science and hide anything that may be inconvenient or perceived as a threat to its ideology.

Why, that sounds very familiar. Didn’t they used to do that in communist countries? Don’t they still do that in some countries?

We all know what the 800-pound gorilla in the room is here: global warming. Suddenly the reports on global warming are coming out, and even as manipulated as they are by industry heavies, the word isn’t good. In the U.S., the president is largely handicapped by truth and reality, and so now he must put in his operatives to control science’s truths in order to effect some sort of reality that assumes that if they manipulate science, nobody will notice that things are going wrong.

Today’s news stories are pointing to some inconvenient truths about acts of scientific sabotage by the Bush administration. Here are the links.

White House Stonewalling Release of Climate Change Documents

Widespread Interference in climate science”

More reports on interference

Bush increases control over agencies (wasn’t this Congress’s job? —note that some business groups think it’s great…)

Science and Politics
And there are more. These articles all describe a bad precedent of politically motivated ideologues in government interfering in the workings of science, and not in a good way. Would you want the government to interfere in a family member’s chance for a cure? For your ability to travel to your job using clean fuels? For a scientist’s discovery to be announced free of political interference? Think that interfering in science just inconveniences scientists? Think again. It’s not just politics as usual. Unwarranted political interference in science harms us all for the benefit of a few.