Friday, July 25, 2003
NOTE: Nothing in this issue is based on British Intelligence.
1. DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: 9 YEARS
AND 100 DEATHS LATER.
The 1994 Dietary
Supplement and Health Education Act left the industry almost unregulated,
exempting manufacturers from proving safety or effectiveness. If you have
never used the WN search engine, start now. Go to www.aps.org/, type
in “Dietary Supplement.” The current scandal involving the
herbal supplement ephedra erupted with the death of Orioles pitcher Steve
Bechler (WN 14 March 2003). It may bring about a change; Secretary of Health
and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, asked the Congress on Wednesday to
revise the law to give the FDA greater authority.
2. CLIMATE CHANGE: NOW HERE’S THE PLAN,
WE STUDY THE PROBLEM.
the Administration released its Climate Change Science Program, a draft
of which was circulated in December (WN
6 Dec 2002). The White House is
sticking to its standard solution: wring your hands about the problem and
call for more research. In all, the various agencies spent a year and a
half putting the plan together. The aim is to address the most crucial questions
in the next four years. It’s hard to object to a call for more research,
but we seem to be using science to stall action.
3. VOTING MACHINES: “HANGING CHAD” WASN’T
no way to independently verify results of electronic voting machines that
run on proprietary code (WN 25 April 03). Worse yet, teams at Johns Hopkins
and Rice analyzed one leading company’s system and found gaping holes
in security, leaving the system open to both insider and outsider attacks.
4. PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM: THE NATION’S
TOP CIVILIAN HONOR.
of mass destruction are hard to find in Iraq, but in this country, contributions
to methods of mass fatality are recognized with the Medal of Freedom. Recipients
this week included: Edward Teller for the H-bomb, Charlton Heston for the
Saturday-night special, and Dave Thomas for Wendy’s square hamburger
5. INFINITE ENERGY: REVOLUTIONARY AIRCRAFT IS
POWERED BY GRAVITY.
ad in the Wall Street Journal last week sought investors for a fuel-less
aircraft. The idea is refreshing; unlike free-energy scams that tap
the zero-point energy, or shield gravity, Hunt Aircraft Corp. proposes
to do it the old-fashioned way, i.e., violate Conservation of Energy.
Helium bags lift the winged craft vertically, whereupon the helium
is compressed to make the craft heavier than air. It then glides
downward. At low altitude, the cycle is repeated. Aha!, you say, compressing
the gas takes work. These guys aren’t that dumb. As it glides,
a wind-turbine will generate the power. The inventor has applied for
a patent, but our research uncovered the shocking similarity to Tom
Swift’s “Black Hawk” airship described in Tom
Swift and His Electric Rifle (Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1911).
(Andrew Essin contributed to this issue of What’s New.)