Friday, December 8, 2006
Perhaps hoping to recapture that moment of uh, "glory," 35 years
ago when Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard hit two golf balls with
a six iron, NASA announced plans on Monday for a permanent base
on the moon. WN believes the fairway will stretch along the rim
of Shackelton crater at the south pole, which is in sunlight 70%
of the time. The announcement did not actually mention golf, but
what else could astronauts find to do on the moon? A source at
JPL assured WN that by 2024, which is the date set for the base,
robots will be available that can play golf. The announcement
did mentioned other objectives like harvesting helium-3 as fuel.
Are they serious? Maybe that should wait until someone actually
extracts energy from He-3. A robotic radio observatory on the
dark side would make perfect sense, but that wasn't mentioned.
Right now NASA is having trouble getting people to the ISS.
A study in the current issue of the Journal of the National
Cancer Institute found no increased cancer risk from cell phone
use over a 20 year period. This is an update of a Danish study
in JNCI five years ago. The Danes keep good records. By just
going to the computer they could compare cell phone use with the
National Cancer Registry. I was invited to write an editorial in
the same issue, JNCI, Vol 93, p.166 (Feb 7, 2001). I noted that
cancer agents act by breaking chemical bonds, creating mutant
strands of DNA. Microwave photons, however, aren't energetic
enough to break a bond. Predictably, fear mongers said there
must be an induction period. Still waiting. In 1993, a man
whose wife died of brain cancer was a guest on Larry King Live.
Her cancer, he said, was caused by a cell phone. The evidence?
"She held it against her head and talked on it all the time."
It's not book burning yet, but the president of the American
Library Association strongly protested a Bush Administration
decision to dismantle the system of regional EPA libraries under
the guise of fiscal responsibility. Meanwhile, at the suggestion
of the American Petroleum Institute, EPA changed the way it sets
air pollution standards, leaving it to political appointees and
postponing the required review by independent outside experts.
Its purpose remains the same. CSICOP was confusing and narrow.
Besides, I couldn't spell out what CSICOP stood for on one line.
CSI publishes the Skeptical Inquirer.
Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich is the one I meant, not the one
who won the 1908 Nobel Prize in Medicine. I appreciate the many
readers who pointed out several errors in last week's WN.