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July 19, 2007
Hype In Spaaaace!
This week's award for the most straight-faced research whopper goes to. . .the government of Brasil, of all the possible candidates. In their attempts to bounce back from a disastrous explosion at their launch site a few years ago, the Brasilians have successfully fired a sounding rocket with an experimental payload.
I'm not quite sure what exactly was in these experiments - from press reports, it looks like some enzyme kinetics and some DNA repair studies. Both of these were to be looked at under microgravity (aka free fall), which I have to say does not sound like a very fruitful area of research to me - of all the forces that affect enzyme behavior, gravity seems like one of the least likely to show any effects.
And there's the problem that (since this was far from an orbital flight) the payload experienced only about seven minutes of free fall. With a faster enzymatic reaction, you might be able to run something similar on a "Vomit Comet" airplane flight, frankly. And as for the DNA repair work, that was to be after exposure to ambient radiation, which no doubt can be simulated quite well on the ground. But that wouldn't be so good for publicity and national pride, would it?
So, what will these experiments lead to, you ask? I'll let the experimental coordinator field that one, although you may well have guessed the answer already: "Eventually, the results could help us develop new processes and pharmaceutical products to treat cancer." Well, sure - with a sufficiently open-minded definition of the word "eventually". And the word "treat". And probably the word "new", and while we're at it, the word "results" as well.
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