Friday, April 23, 2004
1. SPACE TURKEY: GYROSCOPES ARE NOT COVERED BY DEALER’S WARRANTY.
Two of the four gyroscopes on the International Space Station have now failed. The ISS can maintain orientation with only two gyroscopes, but what if there’s another failure? We called the customer-service desk to ask how long repairs would take. They connected us to Hi Rodomontade, who sets NASA schedules. "You’re in luck," Hi said, "we have one in stock. We’ll send it up on the next shuttle." We asked when that would be. "Well, that’s a problem, the shuttle fleet is being fixed. We use the Russian Soyuz to get to the ISS." But the Soyuz just traveled to the ISS on Wednesday for a crew change, "Did it deliver a new gyro," we wondered? "Unfortunately, the gyroscope is too large for the Soyuz. You ’ll just have to wait for the shuttle." When will that be? "It’s scheduled for May," there was a pause, "May 2005."
2. SCIENCE BUDGET: CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED FOR BASIC RESEARCH FUNDING.
On Tuesday at the National Press Club, a group of industry and academic leaders held a Press Conference to launch a campaign to reverse the decline in federal investment in basic research in physical sciences and engineering. The group, which ranged from Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, to Rick Smalley of Rice University, 1996 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, linked basic research funding to economic growth and jobs. Thursday, AAAS issued an analysis showing that the proposed Bush budget for the next five years would cut funding for research at 21 of 24 federal agencies.
3. CREATION SCIENCE: IS IT SCIENCE OR RELIGION, OR JUST BUSINESS?
When they’re demanding equal time in public science education, creationists usually insist that their position is arrived at by rigorous application of scientific principles. Kent Hovind, a creation-science evangelist, operates Dino Land, a creationist theme park in Pensacola, FL. But now the IRS has charged Hovind with trying to evade taxes on more than $1 million in income. Hovind, who also sells creationist books and videos, argues that the IRS is targeting him because of his religious beliefs.
4. DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: AREN’T HORMONES NATURAL SUBSTANCES TOO?
Among the worst pieces of legislation ever enacted, the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act exempted natural supplements from proof of safety, efficacy or purity, creating a huge uncontrolled industry. The framers had in mind such natural substances as herbs. But before long the industry began testing the definition of "natural." Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a hormone that humans and other primates manufacture in the adrenal gland. Closely related to "andro," the steroid taken by home run record holder Mark McGwire, it is wildly popular among wannabes. When Congress moved to ban steroids, DHEA was exempted from the bill due to pressure from the supplement industry.