WHAT’S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 11 Nov 16 Washington, DC
1. THE ALTERNATIVES: SYMPOSIUM EXAMINES QUACK CURES.
Sadly, the death of Steve Jobs from pancreatic cancer came just a month before the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium, “Alternative Medicine, Under the Microscope” was held 7&8 Nov 2011 at McGill University in Montréal, Canada. Although it’s unlikely that alternative medicine contributed directly to Jobs’ death, his delay in seeking effective treatment probably did (WN 28 Oct 11). Not a scientist, Jobs initially turned to alternative medicine rather than face surgery. The four symposium speakers, Harriet Hall, Paul Offit, Bob Park, and Edzard Ernst, are well-known debunkers of alternative medicine. Free to the public, the symposium was funded by McGill alumnus and benefactor Lorne Trottier. He co- founded Matrox, a computer graphics corporation.
2.CANCER AND CAUSALITY: EINSTEIN DIDN’T HAVE A CELL-PHONE.
Of the world’s 7 billion people, an incredible 5 billion have cell phones (“mobiles” in most countries). The safe use of mobiles is therefore a global health concern. The response of the World Health Organization was to conduct a huge epidemiologic study aimed at demonstrating a link between cell-phone radiation and brain cancer. The effort was seriously misguided – no such link exists. The study served only to raise widespread public alarm over a nonexistent hazard. Epidemiology, which is the study of health patterns in populations; is important, but it’s not a substitute for science. Science is the organization of knowledge into testable laws and theories. It has been known for more than 100 years that electromagnetic radiation at frequencies below the ultraviolet is non-ionizing, and thus cannot create the mutant strands of DNA that constitute incipient cancers.
In 1905, Einstein’s “miracle year,” he theorized that electromagnetic radiation consists of discrete units of energy, now called “photons,” which are equal in energy to the frequency multiplied by Planck’s constant. It marked the origin of wave-particle duality and earned Einstein his 1921 Physics Nobel Prize. His theory is verified every time a cell phone works.
3. SPACE STATION: SOYUZ MISSIONS TO THE ISS ARE RESUMED.
Why is not clear. A three month suspension of manned Soyuz flights, imposed after the crash of an unmanned supply vehicle in August, ended Monday with the launch of a three astronaut replacement team to the ISS. Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut will rendezvous with the ISS today to replace a team that has been there since June. What will the new team do?
They will attempt to stay alive until they’re replaced.
4. “CURIOSITY”: NEXT WEEK THE NEW MARS ROVER WILL BE LAUNCHED.
The new rover has far greater capability than its predecessors to retrieve and analyze samples. Moreover, the solar panels have been replaced with Pu-
238 radioisotope thermoelectric generators that will supply far more power than the solar panels.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.
Opinions are the author’s and not necessarily shared by the University of Maryland, but they should be.
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