Friday, July 2, 2004
1. THE OTHER NASA: THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF SPACE EXPLORATION.
There were two NASA stories in the news this week: 1) Now almost a billion miles from Earth on its incredible voyage of discovery, Cassini deftly slipped through the gap between Saturn's F and G rings, and fired its main rocket to slow down. In the next four years Cassini is scheduled to orbit Saturn 76 times, using 18 instruments provided by 17 nations to study the planet and its moons. On Christmas Eve, Cassini will deploy the Huygens probe, which will parachute onto the moon Titan. 2) Meanwhile, about one hundred miles from Earth, the entire International Space Station crew (a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut in a borrowed space suit) went outside to replace a gyroscope circuit board. Alas, housekeeping chores leave little time for science. No matter, the science planned for the ISS will never be missed.
2. SPINOFFS: WHAT'S NEW CREDITED WITH INVENTING THE FLUSH TOILET.
In an effort to defend $100 billion flushed down the toilet for missile defense, the Pentagon claims in today's Washington Post that its missile technology could lead to advances in breast cancer detection. Exaggerated spinoff stories are a spinoff from NASA, which admitted its spinoff claims were wildly exaggerated (WN 22 Jan 93) . Claims that breast cancer treatment technology could lead to better missiles should also be disregarded, as should Saddam Hussein's claims that the invasion of Kuwait inspired the invention of the mouse-pad.
3. MEDICINE: WITH FRIENDS LIKE PRINCE CHARLES WHO NEEDS ENEMAS?
When the Prince of Wales can spare time from warning about the dangers of "grey goo", (WN 09 May 03) , he promotes the use of alternative medicine. He now recommends that cancer patients abandon chemotherapy in favor of Gerson Therapy, a controversial alternative treatment. In addition to vitamin injections and a fruit juice diet, Gerson Therapy calls for "coffee enemas", but the American Cancer Society warns that coffee enemas have been associated with infections, constipation, colitis, and even death. Gerson therapists claim it strips harmful bacteria and pollutants from the colon, which suggests what Charles should do with this nonsense.
4. PRAYER THERAPY: UNRELENTING INQUIRY INTO A FRAUDULENT STUDY.
Time Magazine this week has a scathing account of a study by researchers at Columbia published in a prestigious journal three years ago. It claimed intercessory prayer helped infertile women conceive (WN 04 Jun 04) . The case is a growing embarrassment for Columbia, the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, the authors, one of whom was chair of obstetrics and gynecology, and even media outlets like ABC Good Morning America and the New York Times, who embraced the story without checking. Time credits exposure of the fraud to the persistence of Bruce Flamm, a clinical professor of obstetrics at UC Irvine.
Paul Gresser contributed to this week's issue of What's New.