Daily Archives: 07/30/2004

Smokin’ In The Locker Room

Ricky WilliamsSo Ricky Williams, one of the best and oddest running backs in the NFL these last few years, retired on Sunday. He said he was tired of the game and lost his desire to go through another grueling season. Sounds fair to me, I’ve played football and I know the older you get, the worse you feel after a game. I can only imagine what it feels like to get pounded by professional players, and I grimace just thinking about it. If he wants to bow out of the league and wander the earth like Caine in Kung Fu, so be it.

Smokin' a doobieToday comes a story about how Williams failed his third drug test in as many years, and was facing suspension by the league before he decided to retire. He readily admitted he smokes marijuana, and while he knows the league bans drug use, he refused to stop smoking it. Call it reefer madness, but it looks like Williams knew the gig was up and decided to exit stage right before facing censure and fines by the NFL.

I’m sure a front page story in High Times will be out soon.

Preaching To The Choir

James van Allen, noted space scientist and discover of the radiation belts that cocoon the planet Earth, spoke out against human space flight in a recent essay.

Writing in the journal Issues in Science and Technology, van Allen calls for a rational examination of the costs versus the benefits of manned space flight. The costs are high, both in human lives and finances, and the scientific data returned is paltry compared to unmanned satellites and interplanetary probes.

In his book Race to the Stratosphere: Manned Scientific Ballooning in America (Springer-Verlag, New York, 1989), David H. De Vorkin describes the glowing expectations for high-altitude piloted balloon flights in the 1930’s. But it soon became clear that such endeavors had little scientific merit. At the present time, unmanned high-altitude balloons continue to provide valuable service to science. But piloted ballooning has survived only as an adventurous sport. There is a striking resemblance here to the history of human spaceflight.

“Almost all of the space programs important advances in scientific knowledge have been accomplished by hundreds of robotic spacecraft in orbit about Earth and on missions to the distant planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune,” van Allen writes. Similarly, robotic exploration of comets and asteroids “has truly revolutionized our knowledge of the solar system,” he adds.

Four decades of human space flight have proven one thing: Space is inimical to human life. It is a harsh place, full of radiation and debilitating zero gravity, to say nothing of the launch and re-entry hazards. To ensure the safety of astronauts, astronomical costs are incurred designing safety measures and backups; money that could be better spent on unmanned robotic missions to the frontiers of the solar system. A perfect example is NASA’s decision to abandon the Hubble Space Telescope in favor of completing the orbiting boondoggle also known as the International Space Station.

Francis Crick Obit

Frances Crick, Nobel Laureate and co-discoverer of DNA, passed away in San Diego at age 88, after a long battle with cancer. A sad day for the scientific community.

Working with James Watson, Crick published their findings on the double helix shape of DNA in 1953, correctly theorizing that the structure of DNA contained the genetic information, encoded in the base pairs, that passed from generation to generation in all life.

Crick was later president of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.