Cool and Crap Awards of the Week

At least two things happened in the worlds of science and science fiction last week. One of them was cool and the other was crap.

Coolest soul-searching by a giant green monster who reads Anne Rice: Last week saw the DVD release of season 4 of the Hulk TV series, and the 1980-81 season is widely regarded by fans as one of the best (though marred by tragedies both personal and financial). It featured Lou "Hulk" Ferigno's first and only speaking role, and an Interview with the Vampire homage ("Interview with the Hulk") where Bruce tells a reporter all his sorrows with the aid of a lot of clips from previous episodes. The season focuses a lot on Bruce trying to rid himself of his angry alter-ego, trying out all kinds of crazy things. He gets electrocuted and sees the future; he encounters a meteor and becomes trapped halfway between Bruce and Hulk; and he gets hit by a car and becomes a paraplegic for an episode. Sadly, the actor who played Bruce Banner, Bill Bixby, suffered a great loss mid-season when his son died of a throat infection — and his acting wasn't quite the same after that. The show also lost a lot of its funding, which meant fewer effects and less facetime with Hulk. But the season is still great, both for cheese value and for a glimpse at what Hulk meant to people during a very different time in U.S. history. Check out some crap below.

Crappiest effort to prevent the public from having access to truthful scientific information about global warming: Earlier this week,a two-year investigation of NASA's public affairs office concluded. Investigators released a report confirming that the PR wing of NASA had prevented scientists from informing the pubic about research that proved the existence of global warming and other kinds of climate change. According to the Washington Post:

From the fall of 2004 through 2006, the report said, NASA's public affairs office "managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public." It noted elsewhere that "news releases in the areas of climate change suffered from inaccuracy, factual insufficiency, and scientific dilution."

Officials of the Office of Public Affairs told investigators that they regulated communication by NASA scientists for technical rather than political reasons, but the report found "by a preponderance of the evidence, that the claims of inappropriate political interference made by the climate change scientists and career public affairs officers were more persuasive than the arguments of the senior public affairs officials that their actions were due to the volume and poor quality of the draft news releases." . . . Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), one of the senators who pressed for the investigation, said in a statement that the report showed that citizens had been denied access to critical scientific information that should inform public policy.

NASA did not prevent scientists from publishing their findings in scientific journals — they only prevented them from publicizing those findings to the general public via press conferences or reports written in layperson's terms. Not only is this crappy for the public, which deserves access to the latest scientific information in clear language, but it's also crappy for NASA scientists who have been so ill-served and abused by their own public relations team. Crap, I tell you, crap! [Washington Post]