Friday, 23 October 1998 Washington, DC
1. MELATONIN: THEY NEEDED A SHUTTLE MISSION FOR THIS?
The press this week made a big deal
out of the fact that septuagenarian
astronaut John Glenn has been
dropped from a "high-priority" age-
related experiment in his return to
space next week. The action was
taken for undisclosed medical
reasons. So what was this
powerhouse experiment? They were
going to study the effect of taking
the hormone melatonin on the
adjustment of a 77-year-old
astronaut to the 90-minute day-
night cycle on the shuttle. The
effect on astronauts of other ages,
it seems, has already been studied.
This was supposed to provide great
insights into sleep disorders in
the elderly, who must now suffer
without hope until we find another
77-year old astronaut. Whoa! Let
me give you a test: You've got
three seconds to come up with a way
to do this experiment without a
billion dollar shuttle mission.
OK, you all passed. So why has no
one in the media drawn attention to this?
2. GLOBAL WARMING: DOES THE WAVING OF THE TREES MAKE THE WIND BLOW?
At a Wednesday press conference,
the U.S. Public Research Interest
Group presented charts of economic
losses from severe weather showing
a sharp rise since 1960. They
blamed the rise on extreme weather
events caused by global warming.
It may be so, but were the figures
corrected for increases in
population and development? No,
but the number of disaster
declarations rose 86% during the
same period. And what were the
disaster declarations based on?
The amount of economic loss, of
3. DOD RESEARCH: IT GOES DOWN IN SPITE OF ANNUAL INCREASES.
The basic research (6.1) budget for
DOD was increased by 6% in this
year's budget, which puts it about
where it was a year ago. This
annual contradiction works this
way: Each year Congress increases
the 6.1 budget based on what was
spent the year before. But every
year DOD finds it necessary to tax
the program 5% or so after the
appropriation to cover some other
shortfall. So "increases" just
about keep it even, and with
inflation it actually erodes.
4. TELEPORTATION: BEAM ME UP SCOTTY, IT'S CRAZY DOWN HERE.
It began with the IBM "Stand by.
I'll teleport you some goulash" ads
(WN 2 Feb 96).
Alas, the media,
just like the IBM advertising
department, was incapable of
distinguishing an entangled photon
from Captain Kirk. Then a group at
Innsbruck reported in Nature that
they had successfully "teleported"
the polarization state of a photon
-- more Star Trek stories
(WN 12 Dec 97).
Now Reuters is reporting
that a group at Cal Tech has done
the first "full" teleportation
experiment. "We claim this is the
first bona fide teleportation,"
they quote Jeff Kimble. The
article explains that teleportation
allows information to be
transmitted at the speed of light.
Marconi probably thought he did
that. Kimble says that before
teleporting a person, you might
want to start with a bacterium.
Good plan, just in case there are problems.