Friday, December 16, 2005
The big news this week is that New Mexico is building the first
commercial spaceport. British entrepreneur Richard Branson says
his Virgin Galactic Airline will use the spaceport to launch
tourists on suborbital flights beginning in 2008. A $200,000
ticket will buy you five minutes of weightlessness, with no extra
charge for space sickness. With America's once-proud space
program hard-put to support a crew of only two, wandering lost in
the cavernous ISS, the future in space seems to be theme parks.
According to China Daily, even the newest space-faring power
wants some of the theme park action. Guiyang, capital of Guizhou
Province, said to have been visited by a UFO in 1994, received
$20M from a Taiwan-based company for a UFO research center.
The goal of treating people with tissues cloned from their own
stem cells had seemed almost in reach. In May, Woo Suk Hwang and
his colleagues reported in Science that they had cloned stem
cells from 11 patients. Hwang became an international celebrity
and a Korean hero. Then there were reports that women who worked
in his lab had been pressured to donate eggs for the experiment.
Last month, an American collaborator asked that his name be taken
off the paper citing "ethical violations." Now the work seems to
be unraveling completely, with Hwang reportedly admitting that
critical parts of the "discovery" had been fabricated.
On Tuesday, a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal, by
Staff Reporter Anna Wilde Mathews, dealt with publication of
ghost-written papers in major medical journals. The papers bear
the names of academic researchers, who presumably agree with the
articles. The intent, however, is not to disseminate knowledge,
but to promote the products of the company that paid to have it
written. We expel students who turn in ghost-written papers. WN
has reported before on unhealthy ties of NIH scientists to drug
companies, (WN 9 Jul 04) .
Something like it seems to be going on with academic scientists.
Yesterday, a federal appeals court panel seemed to some observers
to be critical of the ruling requiring removal of a sticker from
biology texts (WN 14 Jan 05) .
It read: "This textbook contains material on evolution.
Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living
things. This material should be approached with an open mind,
studied carefully, and critically considered." The sticker was
not factually inaccurate. The attorney who argued the case
against the stickers at last years trial remarked admitted that,
"I'm more worried than I was when I walked in this morning."