Friday, July 25, 2008
By now everyone has heard the news frenzy over Ronald Herberman, Director
of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, advising faculty and
staff to limit cell phone use because there is no proof that it's not a
cancer risk. Nonsense! All cancer agents act by disrupting chemical
bonds. In a classic 2001 op-ed LBL physicist Robert Cahn explained that
Einstein won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physics for showing that cell phones
can't cause cancer. The threshold energy of the photoelectric effect, for
which Einstein won the prize, lies at the extreme blue end of the visible
spectrum in the near ultraviolet. The same near-ultraviolet rays can also
cause skin cancer. Red light is too weak to cause cancer. Cell-phone
radiation is 10,000 times weaker.
This week it was a NY Times op-ed, "Harvest the Sun From Space" by O.
Glenn Smith, a former Manager at the Johnson Space Center. The technology
already exists, Smith says, large solar collectors would be built in Earth
orbit. Unhampered by clouds or darkness, these panels would collect loads
of energy. "Once collected," Smith says, "the solar energy would be
safely beamed to Earth via wireless radio." How is it stored in the
meantime? He wants to use the solar panels on the ISS for
a "demonstration." Uh, there are a few snags: the ISS has an orbital
period of 91 min. It's in the dark half the time. Beaming energy back to
a ground antenna calls for a geosynchronous orbit - 100 times the 340km
ISS altitude. What will be the energy fantasy next week?
The March 8, 2002 issue of Science published a controversial Taleyarkhan
article reporting d-d fusion in sonoluminescence even though several
distinguished scientists had asked that it be delayed and published with a
conflicting paper (WN 8 Mar 02) .
Meanwhile, Taleyarkhan moved to Purdue, which has been embroiled in the
controversy ever since. Today's issue of Science relates what may be the
final chapter in a sad journey of Rusi Taleyarkhan from foolishness to
fraud. The third Purdue committee to review the controversy "clearly
documents that there has never been any successful replication except when
Taleyarkhan is present or supervising."
Suppose, I asked myself, that the deniers are right and the CO2 thing is a
mistake? What will happen if the world takes the CO2 thing seriously,
adopting common sense measures to counter anthropogenic warming and there
never was any warming in the first place? 1) there will more non-
renewable resources to leave to our progeny; 2) we will breath cleaner
air and see the stars again, the way we saw them half a century ago; 3) we
could stop paving over the planet, and 4) cut down on the number of
billionaires. If we're wrong we could have a party. We could have a
party either way.