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When Senator Tom Coburn retired last year, we wondered if his retirement would also mark the end of the Wastebook – the Oklahoma senator’s annual compendium of the most absurd items that the U.S. federal government spent money upon during the previous year.
Fortunately not, as it appears that Senator Jeff Flake has picked up the mantel of collecting examples of the most bizarre projects and programs that receive federal government funding that were reported in the media over the past year with the release of Wastebook 2015: The Farce Awakens. Here’s a short list of really questionable budgetary line items that caught our attention:
The Most Wasteful Place in the USA
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state is the most “wasteful” site in the
country, in every sense of the word.
The 586-square-mile site is contaminated with hazardous waste leftover from the Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons program and is widely regarded “the most contaminated place in the country.” It has been costing taxpayers $1 billion every year, yet DOE will not even begin the clean-up of the complex—which could take decades-until 2039, making this the single most wasteful place in the country when it comes to squandering taxpayer money.
After more than $19 billion was spent on the project over 25 years without any waste ever being treated, the clean-up was suspended three years ago.
At $1 billion per year, this is the largest single line item noted in this year’s Wastebook, as the U.S. government’s Hanford site accounts for 40% of the Department of Energy’s entire budget for environmental cleanup. We wonder what the U.S. Department of Energy has been doing with the money for the last three years.
As it happens, should the ongoing failure to clean up the radioactive and toxic government-produced waste result in the Earth becoming uninhabitable, NASA is working on a solution….
Cloud City on Venus
A city in the clouds, floating in the gassy atmosphere above an alien planet.
Has the return of Star Wars to the silver screen caused an awakening in the force at
The science fiction space adventure that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away seems to be the inspiration to create a “cloud city” above Venus similar to the one in The Empire Strikes Back where Han Solo was frozen in a block of carbonite.
NASA’s High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC) would begin by sending a
robot into the atmosphere of Venus to “check things out” with the goal of establishing “a permanent human presence there in a floating cloud city.”
Did you know that the surface temperature on Venus is 880 degrees Fahrenheit? Which is the major reason why the “cloud city” concept would be considered by NASA’s scientists in the first place. Unfortunately, we should point out that clouds on Venus aren’t made up of ice crystals, like on Earth. They’re made of highly corrosive sulphuric acid instead, which would make construction a cloud city on Venus, even if technically feasible, highly problematic for the occupants, which is why such a city would more likely be populated by robots instead of people. Speaking of which….
Jazz Playing Robots
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is spending $2 million to hire
a team of musicians and researchers to develop musical machines including robots capable of performing a trumpet solo and jamming with human musicians.
Known as the Music Improvising Collaborative Agent (MUSICA), the system—it is hoped—will be “capable of musically improvising with a human player.”
The team working on the project is led by jazz musician Kelland Thomas and includes
researchers from the University of Arizona, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Oberlin College.
“We may be the first musicians ever funded by DARPA,” laughs Thomas.