On December 17 the New York Times published a correction of a December 3 Times story which said that polonium-210 had been used to power U.S. spacecraft after a December 14 Secrecy News story showed that the claim was almost certainly incorrect:
“An article on Dec. 3 about the many uses of polonium 210 referred incorrectly to the radioactive material utilized in early American satellites. While plans were drawn up to use polonium 210 as a power source, and one federal document said it was used, nuclear experts say that the government decided instead to rely on plutonium 238; no American satellites ever flew with polonium 210,” the Times wrote.
The error was trivial but the correction was grand.
Some institutions and some government officials have an aversion to admitting error, viewing it as a sign of weakness. But admitting and correcting errors paradoxically enhances credibility, not diminishes it. It makes it possible to approximate the truth ever more closely.
An openness to admitting error is also essential to a vital functioning democracy.
The president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Gilbert S. Omenn, touched on this point recently in a wide-ranging address published in Science Magazine:
“Science works best in a culture that welcomes challenges to prevailing ideas and nurtures the potential of all of its people. Scientific ways of thinking and of re-evaluating one’s views in light of new evidence help strengthen a democracy.”
To empower new voices to start their career in nuclear weapons studies, the Federation of American Scientists launched the New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship. Here’s what our inaugural cohort accomplished.
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The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]
According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ August 2023 pulse panel, 60% of public schools were utilizing a “community school” or “wraparound services model” at the start of this school year—up from 45% last year.