What's New | 4 Oct 22:30 2002

What's New for Oct 04, 2002

WHAT'S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 4 Oct 02   Washington, DC

1. CELL-PHONE LAWSUIT: THE LAWS OF PHYSICS ARE UPHELD.  A federal
judge dismissed an $800M lawsuit filed by a Maryland neurologist
who claimed his brain cancer was caused by cell phone use.  There
is, of course, no claim so preposterous that an expert cannot be
found to vouch for it.  This case rested on research by Swedish
oncologist Lennart Hardell, who published a study in this month's
European Journal of Cancer Prevention that found long-term users
of analog cell phones were at least 30 percent more likely than
nonusers to develop brain tumors.  His claim was widely reported
by the media. However, a review of epidemiological research on
cell phone use, commissioned by the Swedish Radiation Protection
Authority, described Hardell's study as "non-informative" and
concluded that "there is no scientific evidence for a causal
association between the use of cellular phones and cancer."  

2. EMF AND CANCER: GETTING THE WRONG ANSWER THE HARD WAY.  From
the beginning, it was clear that the Hardell study got the wrong
answer.  All known cancer-inducing agents, including radiation,
certain chemicals and a few viruses, act by breaking chemical
bonds to produce mutant strands of DNA.  Photons with wavelengths
longer than the near ultraviolet do not have enough energy to
break a chemical bond in DNA.  Case closed.  If epidemiology
comes up with a different answer, the study is simply wrong.  

3. FREE ELECTRICITY: JUDGE RULES AGAINST DENNIS LEE.  As part of
his 50-state tour (WN 7 Sep 01), the notorious con man made his
pitch in Spokane, WA on August 28, 2001.  It was one state too
many.  The Washington Attorney General charged Lee with violating
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What's New | 11 Oct 22:19 2002

What's New for Oct 11, 2002

WHAT'S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 11 Oct 02   Washington, DC

1. LIAR, LIAR: ACADEMY PANEL DISCOVERS THE POLYGRAPH TELLS LIES. 
The polygraph looks for abrupt increases in heart rate, blood
pressure and perspiration.  The polygraph is, therefore, a highly
reliable detector of orgasms.  But does it detect lies?  Only if
you're lying about having an orgasm.  After a hundred years of
exonerating the likes of Aldrich Ames and ruining the careers of
nameless thousands, the Wen Ho Lee case led the Administration to
call for a huge expansion of polygraph testing.  To its credit,
the DOE called instead for testing the polygraph.  The National
Academy of Sciences convened a study panel, and its report was
released this week.  The report confirms, as WN has maintained,
that no spy has ever been caught using the polygraph(WN 05 Apr
02).  "Too many loyal employees may be falsely judged deceptive,
or too many major security threats could go undetected," the
report said, warning against reliance on the tests.  The next
day, New Mexico senators, Jeff Bingamen (D)and Pete Domenici (R),
called on DOE to abolish the tests.  And that's no lie.

2. THE PRIZE: OPENING NEW WINDOWS ON THE UNIVERSE.  This year's
prize went to senior physicists.  Riccardo Giaccone, a US citizen
who was born in Genoa and studied in Milan, was awarded half the
prize for founding X-ray astronomy.  He was the first to detect a
source of X rays outside the solar system and constructed the
first X-ray telescope.  He is a Fellow of the APS and President
of Associated Universities Inc.  The other half of the prize was
split between Raymond Davis Jr and Masatoshi Koshiba.  Davis was
the first to detect solar neutrinos, thus proving that solar
energy comes from fusion.  A Fellow of the APS, he is Professor
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What's New | 18 Oct 22:59 2002

What's New for Oct 18, 2002

WHAT'S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 18 Oct 02    Washington, DC

1. THE KIM IL JUNG BOMB: NORTH KOREA FLAUNTS ITS CAPABILITY.  The
U.S. is prepared to go to war with the Iraqis because they have
an unstable leader, and may have weapons of mass destruction.  Is
there another country that fits that description?  Yes, but it
has no oil.  Under a 1994 agreement, North Korea agreed to halt
its nuclear weapons development in exchange for proliferation-
resistant nuclear power plants.  Now, confronted with new U.S.
intelligence, North Korea responds with a sort of in-your-face
admission that not only has its program been going on in secret,
they have enough stuff to make nuclear weapons.  And, like Iraq,
it seems they've been focusing on highly enriched uranium.  On
the other hand Kim Il Jung never tried to kill Bush's dad.

2. PATENTLY ABSURD: THERE ARE A LOT OF SCREWY PATENTS OUT THERE.
The standards have been too lax, and the Patent Office knows it. 
Patents are reexamined in extreme cases, such as hydrinos (WN 6
Sep 02) and the motionless electromagnetic generator (WN 23 Aug
02), but it's rare.  However, a provision in the Patent and
Trademark Office Authorization Act making it clear that it's
never too late to reexamine a patent if substantial new questions
of patentability are raised, should help (WN 6 Sep 02).  

3. THEOLOGICAL GYNECOLOGY: PURGING SCIENCE ADVISORY COMMITTEES. 
Every administration seeks to load advisory committees with like-
minded experts, but the practice seems to have reached a new
level.  In a particularly controversial case, W. David Hager, an
obstetrician-gynecologist who strongly opposes abortions, has
been asked to serve on the FDA panel that reviews reproductive
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What's New | 25 Oct 21:25 2002

What's New for Oct 25, 2002

WHAT'S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 25 Oct 02   Washington, DC

1. SCIENCE AND SECURITY: RESTRAINING GOVERNMENT SECRECY.  Every
government relishes the power to hold secrets.  Good news is made
public; those who leak bad news are punished.  The Presidents of
the National Academies issued a statement last Friday warning
that the Bush Administration has gone too far in attempting to
control scientific information that might aid terrorists.  They
were particularly critical of the resurrection of the category of
"sensitive but unclassified" information, invented in the early
'80s by the Reagan Administration.  Led by the American Physical
Society, which issued a strongly worded statement on Freedom of
Scientific Information in 1983 www.aps.org/statements/83.2.html ,
scientific opposition persuaded the White House to back down in
1995, issuing National Security Decision Directive 189: 
     "No restrictions may be placed on the conduct or
     reporting of federally funded fundamental research 
     that has not received national security classification,
     except as provided in applicable U.S. statutes."
The statement of the Academy presidents called on the federal
government to "affirm and maintain" the principle of NSDD 189.

2. LEAKS: ADMINISTRATION'S TOP PLUMBER VOWS TO STOP THE LEAKS.
President Clinton vetoed legislation that would have made it a
felony to leak classified information that does not involve
espionage(WN 17 Nov 00).  But although he says such leaks have
resulted in only one conviction in 50 years, Attorney General
John Ashcroft insists strict enforcement is what's needed, not
tougher laws.  Alas, conscientious government employees willing
to risk their careers by leaking classified documents, may be the
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What's New | 31 Oct 18:44 2002

What's New for Oct 31, 2002

WHAT'S NEW   Thursday, 31 Oct 02   Washington, DC

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What's New | 31 Oct 21:29 2002

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THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND and THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY.  
Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the University or 
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