Friday, 4 July 97 Washington, DC
1. EMF: THEY SAY IT'S NOT OVER TILL IT'S OVER -- WELL, IT'S
A long-awaited National Cancer Institute
epidemiological study of residential exposure to magnetic fields
and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in children (WN 8 June 90) was published this week in
The New England Journal of Medicine. It was a reported link
between EMF and ALL that started the trouble 18 years ago. A NRC
report in October (WN 1 Nov 96) left
the door open just a crack-- the NCI study slams it shut. The
exhaustive, seven-year study concludes that if there is any link
at all, it's far too weak to be concerned about. The APS
completed its own review two years ago, concluding that "the
diversion of resources to eliminate an unsubstantiated threat" is
"incommensurate with the risks, if any" (WN 5 May 95). The controversy, which
began with a sloppy epidemiological study in Denver in 1979,
turned into full-scale public paranoia after professional fear-monger Paul Brodeur wrote a series of New Yorker articles (WN 25 Aug 89). A New England Journal of
Medicine editorial sums it up:"...hundreds of millions of dollars
have gone into studies that never had much promise of finding a
way to prevent the tragedy of cancer in children. ...
It is time to stop wasting our research resources." Past time.
2. ARCHER TAX BILL: HOW TO MOVE MONEY FROM RESEARCH TO THE
WN has pointed out that the House tax bill eliminates
tuition tax wavers (WN 13 Jun 97),
creating a substantial new tax burden on graduate assistants. At
private institutions with relatively high tuition, the increase
could well be prohibitive. The likely response of principal
investigators would be to increase the subsistence stipends for
assistants to cover the added tax, in which case, the net effect
would be to transfer federal funds from research to the IRS.
Given the strong bipartisan emphasis on increasing the federal
investment in research this year, it's hard to imagine that this
is what Congress had in mind.
3. SPACE SCIENCE: COLUMBIA ASTRONAUTS ARE BACK TO SETTING
Back in April, they only got to set 14 before the
mission was aborted, so they are back up there setting more.
NASA scientists explained that the research will reduce air
pollution on Earth. Well, at least it won't add to it. Columbia
is not the first to study fire in microgravity: In February, the
Mir crew witnessed the uncontrolled combustion of a backup oxygen
generator; flames shot out two feet, spewing bits of molten
metal, for 14 min. Mir is again forced to use the backup oxygen
generators. Meanwhile, NASA's microgravity cheerleader, Larry
DeLucas of the University of Alabama, gushed in a Senate hearing
that "in a year on the International Space Station, the science
done will exceed that done on the shuttle, Skylab and in the
whole history of NASA."
4. MARS: PATHFINDER WILL ARRIVE AT THE RED PLANET TOMORROW,
with the robot Sojourner. There are no plans to start any fires.