P. 1
The Fight to Save Planetary Science

The Fight to Save Planetary Science

|Views: 6|Likes:
Published by Dilruk Gallage

More info:

Published by: Dilruk Gallage on Jan 23, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOCX, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





The Fight to Save Planetary Science, and Why the New Mars Rover Doesn’t Mean Victory Planetary

scientists have come together to prioritize the most compelling, cutting-edge questions across our entire field. Some of these questions are best addressed by ambitious, sophisticated, large-scale missions. Others are best addressed by smaller, more focused missions. Some require continued operations of existing plantary orbiters or rovers. All require a commitment to maintaining the existing planetary science community. While the future of large-scale missions has been receiving the most headlines, the other priorities have uncertain, worrying futures, and American planetary exploration may suffer greatly as a result. The relationship between planetary science and NASA is deeply intertwined and fraught with complications. Almost every US planetary scientist depends on the space agency in some way: either directly as civil servants employed by NASA, recipients of peer-reviewed science grants funded by NASA, participants in the operations or science planning of ongoing or anticipated planetary missions, or simply as users of the vast quantity of data returned by those missions since the first one 50 years ago. Every ten years a ―Decadal Survey‖ (DS) is conducted across planetary science to identify the highest-priority science questions and chart a course for answering those questions. The DS is conducted by the National Research Council, sponsored and initiated by NASA and the NSF. While it does not carry the force of law, the recommendations of the DS are seen by Congress, the public, and planetary scientists themselves as representing the consensus of the planetary science community. Usually, NASA then uses these recommendations to ensure that it plans and implements the most scientifically productive suite of projects possible. The most recent DS was completed in 2011. The highest profile DS recommendations relate to spacecraft missions. Three cost classes exist for NASA planetary science missions, the first two of which are the direct result of past DS recommendations:Discovery (roughly $500 million), New Frontiers (a bit less than $1 billion), and Flagship (everything more than $1 billion). The selection process differs from class to class: Discovery and New Frontiers missions are chosen after a two-step competitive proposal process that first winnows the dozens of submitted proposals down to a handful, then picks a final winner from the remaining few. The destinations and goals of Flagship missions are set by NASA, and scientists then compete to provide and work with individual instruments, while the mission as a whole is run from a specific NASA Center. Discovery missions can be targeted anywhere in the solar system that compelling science can be addressed within the allotted budget. A set of acceptable New Frontiers destinations are generated through the DS process, along with the desired science to be done at each destination. The top priority Flagship mission, according to the DS, is Mars Sample Return, sort of. A mission to collect and return a sample of the martian surface to Earth is a project that will cost at least $7-8 billion, an eye-opening cost even in the best of budgetary times, which this is not. So the sample return mission was divided into three easier-to-swallow pieces, the first of which is this decade‘s priority Flagship and simply identifies and collects the desired samples and caches them for later retrieval. The unspoken assumption is that this retrieval and subsequent return to Earth will occur in the following decade, possibly as the next two highest-priority Flagships in the queue. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is rumored to be wary of committing the government to such a large outlay and biasing future decadal surveys toward completing the sample return, especially since the caching mission has uncertain immediate science value on its own. In all, the priorities in the Decadal Survey are pretty clear. If Mars Sample Return cannot be achieved within budget constraints, a Europa mission that fitsshould be attempted. In either case, as resources become scarcer, the largest projects (i.e. Flagships) should be descoped or postponed to protect the smaller mission projects, with continued operations of existing missions and funding of research and analysis grants(R&A) the highest priority for continued funding, even when budgetary conditions are bad. This, to me, is most obviously interpreted as putting highest priority on these grants and continued operations, the PI-led Discovery and New Frontiers programs second, and the largest-scale Flagship missions last. However, for reasons that are obscure to me but which some of my colleagues find compelling, an alternative set of priorities has been asserted focusing on the ―balanced program‖ preference in the Decadal Survey. In this view, some progress should always be occurring on missions at all scales, though this balance is only applicable to mission classes and potentially targets: R&A, technology development, and ongoing missions are clearly intended to be exempt from this ―balance‖, with a separate protected status. There has been considerable effort placed on studying and restudying large missions to find some way to fit them into the available budgets. This has led, in some way, to the announcement that the Curiosity rover currently on Mars will be rebuilt for a 2020 launch as the next Flagship-class mission. It is thought that the 2020 rebuild, if a close copy to the original, can be done more cheaply than Curiosity‘s final cost, perhaps for $1.5 billion. However, such a rebuild is not obviously

However. but a lack of transparency and a steady stream of surprises makes too many scientists feel more like pawns than partners. However. has also been largely neglected. Furthermore. It may be the case that a Curiosity copy could be made responsive to those recommendations. and that proposal success rates have been dropping precipitously over the past decade from upward of 40% to a current rate of 25% or lower. even this 25% success rate may be cut further. What I think we can ask for. A recent analysis by Mark Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute shows that recent increases in R&A funding have been concentrated in near-Earth object studies (good for my personal interests. there has been no obvious effort to maintain the desired pace of smaller missions. The people working at the agency are in a difficult situation and are working hard for planetary science. with recent evidence that rates as low as 10% are planned for coming years. It may be the case that a copy of Curiosity could be built for $1. It would be naive to assume that the goals and agendas of NASA as an agency are always aligned with the best interests of the field of planetary sciences (or earth sciences. lost in the maneuvering and rescoping and ruckus with respect to the Flagships are the other priorities in the DS. While connections to the DS and Mars Sample Return can be imagined for this new rover. This is an astonishing slowdown compared to the 1992-2001 period when 10 missions were selected. nor that Mars is the highest priority mission target. which have provided amazing andvaried science results and trained tomorrow‘s leading planetary scientists. If we are to get coal in our stockings. the highest priority to the science community. but it appears that the rest of the planetary science community is not considered important enough by NASA to maintain. Again. scientists close to the mission report that it is unclear whether sufficient funds will be available to continue its operation beyond 2013. or astrophysics. In my opinion there is simply no honest. Yet only one selection was made in the entire 2002-2011 decade. as scientists and as citizens. The technical workers and engineers who enabled amazing Mars landings are being rightfully acknowledged and their skills protected. Yet. this is despite the exceedingly high priority placed on continuing these missions by the planetary science community. with multiple selections per competition. there has been too little attention paid to the constantly slipping timelines and lengthening years between opportunities for these programs. and so on). and supporters are now fighting for its life. is that decisions made due to non-science considerations are honestly presented as such. any overruns or unforeseen additions will have consequences for other projects. . While the startup funds for a 2020 rover may be present in the current Mars Program budget. but we are watching NASA by and large abandon the recommendations of the DS. rational reading by which the Flagship missions are higher priorities than Discovery or New Frontiers.motivated by science reasons. don‘t tell us it‘s because that‘s what we put on our wish list to Santa. Finally. Astonishingly. It would be folly to demand that science always take precedence over political or financial constraints. none have been explicitly made. the majority of funding will be required several years from now. as we have unfortunately seen in the past in similar situations. as outlined above. the next Discovery opportunity is not scheduled before 2015. Beyond all of this. not great for colleagues who study Venus or the rings of Saturn). and while InSight (a Mars mission) was selected in 2012. It has been argued in some circles that the 2020 rover represents a good-faith effort to fly the highest priority mission in the DS. Furthermore. it is not the case that such a copy is responsive to the recommendations of the planetary science community. The temptation to put off the Discovery and New Frontiers program for yet another year (or two or three) will be present. there have been threats to the operation of ongoing missions. While NASA leadership has focused on large missions in general and Mars specifically. even if everything runs smoothly. It is definitely the case that Mars Sample Return is the consensus choice for the next large mission. but the necessary alterations would make it less likely it can be built for $1. beyond the time for which budgets are currently planned.5 billion. Discovery opportunities would be available every 24-36 months. TheMESSENGER spacecraft orbiting Mercury has enough fuel to remain in orbit for two more years. especially if doing so supports a more capable Mars rover. However. As originally conceived and still recommended in the DS. the maintenance and expansion of R&A. This will cripple the scientific community that NASA relies on to make its exploration missions successful and generate the ideas and research that leads to future missions. it is neither the case that the community thinks Mars Sample Return is the top priority for planetary science. and plans to fill those years with follow-up science investigations that have been in place.5 billion. The bottom line for many concerned planetary scientists is this: we have been asked by NASA to rally behind the DS since its publication. The Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn has also been the subject of shutdown rumors. if not more often.

Some translations of the glyphs from a partially illegible Maya stela suggest that the end of the present b’ak’tun will see the ‗descent‘ of the god Bolon Yookte‘ K‘Uh (sometimes translated as the ‗Nine-Footed God‘). But. However. The 2012 Apocalypse. major professional societies. bringing the thirteenth b’ak’tun of the current age to an end. Yes. however. Some people are clearly deeply . as have groups of science enthusiasts like the Planetary Society. it is not too soon to start thinking about missions that may not launch for a decade. and delay major investments in Flagship missions until funds are available. and our achievements along with those of other spacefaring nations have thrilled the world. and beyond. flocking to remote villages andheading for mystical peaks from whence ‗an extra-terrestrial mothership‘ housed for centuries in an alien temple inside the mountain ‗will pluck believers to safety‘.0. or Why the World Won’t End This Week If you believe The Daily Mail. many of us are uncomfortable appearing to criticize NASA or wondering if we are breaking a law against lobbying by doing so. quite apart from the question of practicalities (I mean. we would have been able to start work on all three recent finalist mission candidates for the Discovery program – not only the Mars seismic station that was selected. Americans have played a leading role. have made several statements related to the NASA budget. including Mars. So why all the recent hysteria? According to Maya myth. the prospect of apocalypse is a very real fear. far too easy) but for some people. As long as humans have sent machines to explore the solar system. and all of the high-priority items in the DS. Yet NASA‘s apparent disregard for the clear recommendations of the Decadal Survey concerning the relative priorities of Flagship vs. NASA is such a high-profile agency that the public thinks it spends much more money than it actually does. how many of you have a calendar on your desk which reaches to 2406 – a b’ak’tun from now?) even this tenuous evidence has recently been refuted by the discovery of an early Maya mural in Xultún which includes calendrical and cosmological calculations stretching some 7. If every American old enough to vote decided to give up one cup of coffee or a six-pack of soda and could donate that money to support planetary science. professional societies and citizen supporters are starting to be more active in promoting the benefits of planetary science. maintain a steady rate of cost-effective Discovery and New Frontiers missions. This creation was the fourth incarnation of the world. With the long lead times necessary to plan planetary missions.One solution to these problems is for NASA to follow the Decadal Survey‘s recommendations (and Congressional instructions: see the House report language for Planetary science) to protect and expand R&A.0 and the ‗Great Cycle‘ will be completed. because they are so terrified by the horrific idea of living through the end of the world. Discovery missions causes much concern.0 by the Maya count. or 13. On 21st December. scientists know we must share sacrifice with our fellow citizens. including sustaining the health of the scientific community. as evidenced by the beginning of work on the 2020 Mars rover.0. ‗With ten days to go before the Mayan apocalypse supposedly casts Earth into oblivion. and hence the end of this one. In these difficult economic times. Apparently people arestockpiling food and weapons. a scarcity of Maya calendrical references to dates post-2012 was also seen as a possible indication of a cataclysmic end to the world this December. says that they have received thousands of questions about the 2012 doomsday predictions. We hope to increase our engagement and improve the prospects of achieving the highest-priority goals in planetary science. David Morrison.000 years into the future. we all hope and expect easier times to return to our country. time is running out for believers to find alien salvation‘ the Mail proclaims. Eventually.0.0. some of them from people who have considered suicide. we will continue to learn more about all objects in the solar system from the sun-baked plains of Mercury to the expanses where the Voyager spacecraft still gather data. the world was created on 11 August 3114 BC in the Gregorian Calendar. but also a boat to sail the seas of Titan and a spacecraft to explore the surface of a comet. The Division for Planetary Sciences and American Geophysical Union. With continued support from NASA and the American people. But does that mean they thought the world would end? It‘s easy to mock The Daily Mail (far.400-year cycle). A better solution is not necessarily a politically popular one: increasing NASA‘s budget for planetary science so that all these goals can be achieved. it will once again be 13. and we are doing so and have been doing so. the previous age having ended after the thirteenth b’ak’tun (a c.0. a moment of potential transformation. of NASA‘s Astrobiology Institute. we‘re all convinced that the world is going to end on 21st December 2012. For many years. however. This convergence of dates and prophecies has been seen as marking the transition to the next world.0. Certainly. Given the complicated relationship mentioned earlier. the Precolumbian Maya might have considered 21st December 2012 a symbolic date. to our government and fellow Americans.

despite the spectre of impending doom. in some cases. of course—but for many of us it‘s paradoxically a reason to stop worrying. I doubt that many of the so-called ‗preppers‘ who are ‗preparing‘ themselves for the end of the world or an ascent into the stars with their alien overlords believe in the Precolumbian myths of creation. who studies the fear system. The Power of Knowledge Beyond the universal aspects of fear and our survival response to it. why not listen to the Maya themselves. we relax. finding a group of like-minded fatalists is reassuring. Lissek believes. humans were created in this. not an end. organisms with a better-safe-than-sorry approach survive.‖ Douglas says. the fourth world. Knowing when the end will come doesn‘t appeal equally to everyone. and looking forward to my imminent research leave.‖ Lissek says. Over evolutionary history. secure in the knowledge that the ancient Maya didn‘t believe the world will end on Friday. so (even if we had conclusive evidence of a Maya belief in a 2012 apocalypse) why would they believe in the myths of destruction? And if you don‘t believe me. the concept of doomsday evokes an innate and ancient bias in most mammals. these convictions of mistrust and impotence make their conspiracies more precious—and real. for example. are engaged in goal-oriented behaviors. the belief that government agencies know about an impending disaster and are intentionally hiding this fact to prevent panic. certain personality traits may make individuals more susceptible to believing it‘s the end of the world.‖ Lissek says. I‘m going to carry on Christmas shopping. And even if they did. So. is predictable. For them. This is the architecture with which we‘re built. This also means people can focus on preparing. That‘s because. Social psychologist Karen Douglas at the University of Kent studies conspiracy theorists and suspects that her study subjects. ―The initial response to any hint of alarm is fear. This kind of mythology removes any sense of individual responsibility. Individuals with a history of traumatic experiences. Enjoy the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy University of Minnesota neuroscientist Shmuel Lissek. She points out that. wood and clay). such as an electric shock. ―Apocalyptic beliefs make existential threats—the fear of our mortality— predictable.troubled by the recent obsession with apocalypse. I don‘t. ―One trait I see linking the two is the feeling of powerlessness. according to much-hyped misreadings of the Mayan calendar. For these people. ―People feel like they have knowledge that others do not. will mark the end of the world. may be fatalistic. According to the Maya legends eloquently recorded in the sixteenth-century Popol Vuh. certain apocalyptic beliefs are also at the heart of conspiracy theories—for example. which are a proven therapy in times of trouble. There‘s an even broader allure to knowing the precise end date.‖ . This mechanism has had consequences for both the body and brain. deep down for various reasons. share attributes with those who believe in an impending apocalypse. believes that at its heart. Among conspiracy theorists. But why would anyone enjoy kindling this fearful response? Lissek suspects that some apocalyptic believers find the idea that the end is nigh to be validating. has found that when an unpleasant or painful experience. although these are essentially two different phenomena. often connected to a mistrust in authority. Psychology Reveals the Comforts of the Apocalypse December 21. in collaboration with National Institute of Mental Health neuroscientist Christian Grillon and colleagues. The anxiety produced by uncertainty is gone. but that the origins of their fear lie in a highly disputed and extremely tenuous Maya prophecy is a fascinating and baffling situation. It‘s not the first ―end is nigh‖ proclamation—and it‘s unlikely to be the last. a new beginning. Modern-day Maya see the ‗apocalypse‘ as a European invention. Lissek. Doomsday preppers who assemble their bunker and canned food. There may also be comfort in being able to attribute doom to some larger cosmic order—such as an ancient Mayan prophecy. when the gods moulded our ancestors from maize dough (after unsuccessful attempts at fashioning men from monkeys. there‘s something appealing—at least to some of us— about the end of the world. where the fast-acting amygdala can activate a fearful stress response before ―higher‖ cortical areas have a chance to assess the situation and respond more rationally. the end of the b’ak’tun is a time of renewal and celebration.

They say. He and Joey Medved of Rhodes University in South Africa have since written up their proposal. physicists were flummoxed.Relatively few studies exist on the individuals who start and propagate these theories. Physicists Find a Backdoor Way to Do Experiments on Exotic Gravitational Physics The whole point of an explanation is to reduce something you don‘t know to something you do. They are hard to understand in much the same way Earth‘s climate is: the laws governing their constituents are perfectly well-known. The plasmas must actually be liquid. . following upearlier discoveries at CERN. But the particulate debris betrayed pressure gradients that a gas cannot sustain. In today‘s complicated world with terrorism. string theorists have discovered unexpected parallels. Harvard physicist Subir Sachdev describes how to take analyses of gravitational phenomena and apply them to otherwise intractable problems regarding superconductors. Schlozman has noticed that people frequently romanticize the end times. likes the idea of returning the favor that string theorists have paid his subject area. should ideally teach us something about the world we should avoid—and how to make necessary changes now. if anything. In the course of studying black holes. They‘d predicted the plasmas would behave like a gas. Sabine Hossenfelder at Backreaction blogged on this topic recently. They imagine surviving. thriving and going back to nature. although she presumed a comfort level with vector fields and critical points. In the January issue of Sci Am. Douglas points out that research into the psychology of persuasion has found that those who believe most are also most motivated to broadcast their beliefs. however. drawing both from his experiences as a Harvard Medical School child psychiatrist and novelist (his first book recounts a zombie apocalypse) believes it‘s the post-apocalyptic landscape that fascinates people most. using laboratory measurements of extreme materials to probe exotic gravitational physics? At an afternoon coffee-and-cookie break this spring at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.‖ The experiments in question entail smashing gold or lead nuclei together to create plasmas of quarks and gluons.‘‖ Schlozman says. He was discussing his book on a radio program and they had to cut the show short when listeners misconstrued his fiction for fact. ―Can these experiments be used to learn about aspects of gravity?‖ Venugopalan wonders. people are primed for panic. ―All of this uncertainty and all of this fear comes together and people think maybe life would be better‖ after a disaster. ―That would just be a phenomenon. tales of apocalypse. that‘s an easier feat than ever before. since quarks and gluons interact only weakly under the conditions that RHIC achieved. string theorist Ramy Brustein of BenGurion University in Israel told me a way to do just that. He points out that.‖ between gravitational systems and non-gravitational ones. but there are just so damned many constituents. These correspondences may be purely mathematical or may reflect deeper physical linkages. ―I talk to kids in my practice and they see it as a good thing. or ―dualities. By that standard. you can leverage your knowledge of one domain to solve problems in another. most of their post-apocalyptic dreams are just fantasies that ignore the real hardships of pioneer life and crumbling infrastructure. Evidently the sheer number of particles compensated for the inherent weakness of their interactions. They don‘t suck you to your death—indeed. you don‘t gain much by explaining anything in terms of black holes. too. An expert on nuclear plasmas. In both literature and in speaking with patients. Raju Venugopalan at the Brookhaven National Lab. war. In the Internet age. When Brookhaven‘s RHIC accelerator. Schlozman recently had an experience that eerily echoed Orson Welles‘s 1938 The War of the Worlds broadcast. Lessons from Dystopia Steven Schlozman. particularly involving zombies. fiscal cliffs and climate change. Appealing to themost mysterious objects known to science as an explanation sounds likeusing one mystery to explain another. Of course. But what about running the dualities in the other direction. Yet this is precisely what physicists have been doing to make sense of high-temperature superconductors and plasmas of nuclear particles. He believes the propensity to panic is not constant in history but instead reflects the times. first created these plasmas in 2005. Schlozman says. but either way. the force of gravity plays no role in them at all—and they don‘t split open the very foundations of physics. Both of these states of matter are about as un-black-hole-like as you can imagine. in truth. ‗life would be so simple—I‘d shoot some zombies and wouldn‘t have to go to school.

―That was a big surprise. Shape is another.‖ The answer: 1/4π. Brustein was out shoveling his driveway in the French village of Thoiry and got talking to his neighbor. (A technical note: by ―viscosity. theorists couldn‘t tell. and validate it as a tool in the search for a unified theory. as string theory holds.‖ I really mean the ratio of viscosity to density. Some months later. Nuclear physicists would not expect an ephemeral roiling fireball to have such symmetry. viscosity and shape will be related in a way that pins down the corresponding theory of gravity. Through the logic of duality. Venugopolan cautions: ―Though I appreciate where Brustein is coming from and it would be indeed great if one can make an empirical determination of these questions. If the duality is valid. and the uncertainty principle relates these two quantities. Then the viscosity value will differ from 1/4π and may no longer be universal among substances. Surprisingly. That universe may or may not be a model for ours. The viscosity measured by RHIC comes close. which currently has the status of a conjecture. this universality has a simple explanation: Viscosity is equivalent to a gravitational phenomenon. A gas actually has a fairly large viscosity. Brustein‘s insight was that viscosity is not the only fluid property you can measure. What the measurements would do.‖ Brustein says. which is CERN‘s answer to RHIC. however. Viscosity depends on the energy of the fluid‘s constituent particles and the average time between successive particle collisions. it is to persuade RHIC and ALICE experimentalists to take the data he needs. The best they could manage was a rough argument based on Heisenberg‘s uncertainty principle. if Einstein‘s general relativity governs the gravitational dual. is molasses in comparison. Even a so-called superfluid can‘t evade Dr. since its particles are spaced farther apart and collide less frequently than those in a liquid. the minimum viscosity will equal 1/4π and the plasma should be spherically symmetrical. until Dam Son of the University of Washington and his colleagues applied duality. Clearly it was meant to be. ―It‘s an actual way of proving the quark-gluon plasma has a gravitational dual. the friction of fluid flow. but only the law of gravity that is implicit in the plasma dynamics. in the appropriate units.‖ Particle experimentalists are busy people these days and have no shortage of ideas for what to look for. Turned out the neighbor was the technical director of the ALICE experiment. They equated the viscosity of a fluid to gravitational waves caroming off a black hole in higher-dimensional space—which.‖ Venugopalan says. Brustein bumped into the ALICE team leader at a formal dinner. When You Fall Into a Black Hole. Things get even more interesting if Einstein‘s theory is only an approximation to a deeper theory. and (2) CERN cafeteria. thereby implying a minimum possible value to the viscosity (as explained here). Not long after. For instance. Brustein has at least checked off two items on physicists‘ list of 1000 things to do before you die: (1) napkin sketch. a storied hangout where scientists have come up with such ideas as the World Wide Web. This is the line of reasoning Brustein hopes to flip around. To be sure. is not an analogy that springs to mind. rather than the details of the particles‘ energy and momentum. Water. the plasma shape will gain some angular structure (a quadrupolar correlation function. these measurements would not probe the law of gravity that governs our universe. and according to Einstein‘s general theory of relativity. So Brustein might have to eat a lot more cookies and shovel more driveways to convince them. it all started on an extended visit to CERN during the snowy winter in Europe two years ago.‖ Brustein says. Heisenberg‘s strictures. such as viscosity—loosely speaking. the minimum value is the same for all fluids. some 400 times more viscous. so this counts as a strong and significant prediction.Theorists were at a loss to calculate basic parameters of the fluid. whatever they are made of. Even if they don‘t work out. ―The fact you can calculate hydrodynamical parameters from gravity was not understood. even for a physicist. gravitation is blind to compositional details. the plasma‘s fluid behavior can be thought of as related to some hypothetical universe where gravity acts a certain way. Typically experimentalists measure just the numbers of particles coming out in different directions. there are a large number of nontrivial issues to resolve before one gets there. is test the general concept of duality. That is to say. ―He‘s looking for new observables that are a bit more discriminating than viscosity. The way he tells the story. Brustein sat with ALICE scientists in the CERN cafeteria and sketched out his ideas on a napkin (see photo above).) But what exactly the minimum value should be. How Long Have You Got? . Brustein‘s biggest challenge is not the physics per se. to be technical). So the experiment is able to probe post-Einsteinian physics.

each particle flying away from the hole must be thoroughly entangled with its doppelgänger inside the hole. I first heard about their brainstorm while visiting the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara this spring. emptiness is a holistic property in quantum physics—true for a region of space in its entirety. To maintain this finely balanced condition. like those particles in laboratory experiments you read about.) A particle is nothing more or less than a vibration one of these fields. The worst trouble is the black hole information paradox that Stephen Hawking loosed upon the world in 1976. leaving the fields becalmed. it‘s the sudden stop at the end. a vacuum is a very special state of affairs. Indeed. but just a hypothetical location that marks the point of no return. So. did so last week. To the outgoing observer. each martyr to the cause of knowledge can still be separated out and pieced back together. They are just insanely curious about what would happen. Once inside. the outside observer infers that each particle he or she sees has a doppelgänger inside the horizon. the horizon (or membrane) cleaves space in two. In the process. a hole must gradually release everything that fell in.In chatting with colleagues after a talk this week. this observer never sees anything actually cross over. Black holes are where the known laws of physics come into their most direct conflict. by step #2. Polchinski blogged about it a few months ago.) Individually. If Joe Polchinski jumps into a black hole. since the fields are what is fundamental and the presence of particles is a matter of perspective. All the stuff piling up at the horizon forms a ghostly membrane. For consistency between the two viewpoints. An outside observer knows you‘re doomed. There‘s no getting rid of the electromagnetic field and other fields. To the infalling observer. and James Sully—wrote it upover the summer. Because of a kind of gravitational mirage. and he was still fending questions an hour after it ended. which obeys the usual laws of physics and has conventional properties such as viscosity and electrical conductivity. the outside observer sees entangled particles b and b′. you have a few seconds to look around before you reach the very center and get crushed into oblivion. and another theorist who helped to usher in the idea. Step #3 is to consider the long-term fate of the hole. See the diagram at left: the infalling observer sees vacuum state a. not a single person snuck out early. so I‘ll jump straight to the new version. It is a region of space that is empty of particles. space looks like a vacuum. but not for individual subregions. he will get scrambled with all the other theorists who have done the same. According to current theories of physics. but likewise doesn‘t think anything untoward happens upon passing through the event horizon. the particles of the Hawking radiation must be thoroughly entangled with one another. (Watch this lighthearted video that my colleagues made earlier this year to explain entanglement. but together they form a matched pair. As they say. Most theoretical physicists would. Polchinski‘s talk to the New York University physics department drew a standing-room-only crowd. black holes must decay—quantum mechanics mandates it. the region would not merely be empty. This is perfectly compatible with the infalling observer‘s viewpoint. John Preskill. too. things seem to slow down and freeze in time. it‘s not the fall that kills you. One of Einstein‘s great insights was that observers who are freely falling—whether into a black hole or toward the ground—don‘t feel the force of gravity. Ahmed Almheiri. Though mangled beyond recognition. because quantum . but nonexistent. the particle must also be thoroughly entangled with other particles that are flying away from the hole. By then. and what makes a vacuum a vacuum is that all the possible vibrations cancel one another precisely. Joe Polchinski said he‘d love to fall into a black hole. (If you could. The two are quantum-entangled. and in quantum theory. the vibrations must be thoroughly quantum-entangled with one another. These two conclusions clash. you are gripped too tightly by gravity ever to get back out. since everything around them is falling. Particle b is part of what physicists call the Hawking radiation. Like everything else in this world. Almost as much has been written about Hawking‘s original paradox (including by me) as about the fiscal cliff. It‘s not because they have some peculiar death wish or because science funding prospects are so dark these days. Its perimeter or ―event horizon‖ is not a material surface. and the morbid gruel will emerge particle by particle in the Hawking radiation. Step #1 of the argument is what Polchinski and his co-authors call the ―no-drama‖ principle. It looks like there are particles flying off in every direction. and the vibrations no longer appear to cancel out. Step #2 is to relate these two viewpoints. Polchinski and his colleagues have shown that the predicament is even worse than physicists used to think. a black hole is mostly just empty space. But nothing noticeable should happen at the moment of crossing. both particles behave completely randomly. To enable this reconstruction. To put it differently. falling at nearly the speed of light. It is not a region that is empty of everything. and the team—Polchinski and fellow Santa Barbarans Don Marolf. By step #3.

. Wisconsin. The least radical conclusion is that the no-drama principle is false. the National Weather Service said. Missouri. Heavy snow and high winds were expected anywhere from the central plains into the Midwest/Great Lakes regions through much of the day Thursday. Polchinski and his co-authors have shown that a popular approach known as black-hole complementarity. This means many parts of the country could see a White Christmas. meteorologist for Accuweather." He said the wind attached to the storm is also blowing dust in the West Texas area. could dump more than a foot of snow in some areas of the central Plains late Wednesday.‖ Polchinski told the assembled multitudes at NYU. The heaviest snow is falling at a rate of up to an inch per hour in parts of Nebraska. "It's a pretty nasty storm. The worst of the blizzard is expected to hit communities from Omaha.com. Crane also said a stretch of Interstate 70 in the mountains near the ski resort of Vail was closed temporarily on Wednesday so crews could do some work to prevent avalanches. the product of thinking about the situation in the wrong way. the infalling observer can‘t see just a vacuum. Now they have officially given up hope. Kansas." said Alex Sosnowski.. This formulation of the black-hole paradox vindicates Hawking‘s original argument. They can be partially entangled. could dump more than a foot of snow in some areas of the central Plains late Wednesday.‖ Polchinski admitted. Interstate 70 was closed east of Denver to the Kansas state line due to high winds blowing snow into drifts and reducing visibility. Sosnowski said. Wisconsin and Michigan. but that is not enough to ensure consistency between the observers‘ view or to reconstruct the infalling physicists. More storms are expected in the middle of next week. In Colorado. More surprisingly. the storm is expected to begin as rain and later change to snow Thursday. not just quantumgravitational corrections. Wednesday night into late Thursday. Hazardous travel conditions were expected through Thursday and into early Friday. Minnesota. Blizzard warnings have been issued Wednesday in parts of Colorado.The first major winter storm of the season. ―I think it‘s crazy. said Mindy Crane. Kansas and Colorado. In that case. But in order for a black hole to decay and its contents to spill out. meteorologists said. Sosnowski said. so no single observer is ever faced with a direct contradiction. which started Tuesday in the Rocky mountains. isn‘t up to the task. something deep about modern physics must be wrong. ―I spent 20 years confused by this. but hits a wall of fire and is instantly incinerated. Nebraska.‖ It would be nice to answer the question. if only so that no one ever has to undertake the journey to answer the question. They can‘t be thoroughly entangled with more than one other partner at a time. the paradox is only ever conceptual—suggesting it is somehow illusory. The storm marks a major change from the mild December so far in most of the nation. Nebraska and Kansas border area. Several other roads in eastern Colorado were closed because of the blizzard conditions. "It has evolved into a full-fledged blizzard around the Colorado. But Polchinski and colleagues showed that a single observer can catch a particle in the act of polygamy by first lingering outside the hole and then jumping in.mechanics says that particles are monogamous. For years physicists hoped that the devil lay in the details— that more precise calculations would reveal an escape route—only to be serially disappointed. One of the basic premises must be wrong—which is to say. the National Weather Service said. as quantum mechanics demands. championed by Leonard Susskind of Stanford University. ―and now I‘m as confused as ever. CHICAGO (Reuters) . either. In Chicago. Susskind reasoned that. spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation. Someone falling into a black hole doesn‘t pass uneventfully through the horizon. Iowa. Winter Storm Bears Down on Midwest After Dumping Snow on Rockies The first major winter storm of the season. the National Weather Service said. which started Tuesday in the Rocky mountains.com. to invalidate Hawking‘s argument. to Green Bay. Nebraska. causing traffic accidents. . no single observer can be both infalling and outside. The firewall idea strikes me as similar to past speculation that black holes are somehow material objects—so-called black starsor dark matter stars—rather than merely blank space.‖ Polchinski said. ―You need huge changes. she said. although infalling and outside observers might see different and mutually incompatible events. according to Accuweather.

hospitals. transmission lines and substations that is hundreds of miles long. compensating load reduction. Although microgrid systems may normally be connected to regional transmission networks. The sustainability of energy supply amidst emergencies that take down regional power systems has been a primary driver for microgrids. However. utility involvement. In the Netherlands. they also have the ability to be self-sustaining or ―islanded‖ when the electric grid goes down. the concept has morphed into ―energy security‖ which encompasses not only a domestic abundance of energy resources. efficient combined heat and power systems. ice. allowing responsiveness to instabilities in the transmission grid.6 million customers were without power following Sandy. pushing east into the southeastern states Friday. Does energy security mean using only renewable or carbon-neutral energy resources to prevent further anthropogenic global warming? How do fossil fuels. Voltage instabilities. A recent Department of Defense (DoD) study cataloged 44 existing. the situation is causing some states to investigate microgrids as a solution. according to the Center for American Progress. fit into a secure energy future? One thing is certain – we know an energy security failure we when we see it…or worse. Recently. more than any other storm in history. coal. as many energy technologies rely heavily on water. a system along the Pacific coast will bring scattered snow and rain showers into the northwestern states. and efficient deployment of available generation. Consider the difference between the microgrid approach and centralized power generation. While nationally there has not been a coordinated policy effort to address energy security impacts from climate change. After a series of storms walloped the state with large-scale outages. amidst the extensive Northeast blackouts were ―islands‖ of power that may point the way to true energy security. According to the Department of Energy.. equipment malfunctions. Centralized power generation relies heavily on large baseload nuclear. Ongoing drought is also a huge concern.Moisture off the Gulf of Mexico is expected to cause rain in the lower Mississippi River Valley Thursday.S. The aftermath of Superstorm Sandy was the most recent example of how vulnerable society is to disruptions in energy supply. Two noteworthy institutional microgrids are the Santa Rita jail and the ―living laboratory‖ microgrid at UC San Diego. but freedom from energy market manipulation. Connecticut is exploring policy to encourage microgrid development. These microgrid . The Climate Change Case for Microgrids Over the last two years (2011 and 2012) fourteen (14) extreme weather events. A microgrid is the interconnection of local generating resources and electric users (loads) optimized for reactive and sustainable operation. Connecticut will be an important case study in how policy must be crafted to facilitate adoption. Disruption of power between the centralized generating plants and the delivery of that electric to end users can occur anywhere along the network of transformers. and natural gas plants. and lightning can cause widespread blackouts. Many of these events have caused widespread power outages. and renewable energy sources. In contrast. data centers. according to the weather service. military has been exploring the use of microgrids for obvious energy security needs during field operations. Over a foot of snow is expected in the higher elevations of the Washington Cascades and upper Rockies. terrorist attacks. there are numerous and conflicting definitions for energy security. which can be derived from conventional generators. a microgrid system has multiple (and often diverse) generating sources as well as energy storage capability that are local to end users. Other applications for microgrids include remote areas that do not have access to larger transmission networks. centralized generating plants that provide the backbone of the transmission grid. including steam electric power and natural gas fracking. planned. experience it. 50 percent of global water usage is for energy production. and economics. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA). or demonstrated DoD microgrid installations. and other mission critical systems that can‘t afford to lose power. microgrids utilize distributed generation (DG). more than 8. particularly natural gas. and the issues involved with community-based microgrids including parity. In the West. As opposed to the large. Still. Microgrids kept the lights on when the electric transmission system failed. fuel cells. The U. each causing more than a billion dollars in damage have occurred in the U. Vulnerability is not limited to winds and flooding. Control is also local. unplanned generator outages.S. PowerMatching City is a 22-home community where advanced microgrid technologies are being demonstrated. Guest Post: Are Microgrids the Key to Energy Security? ―Energy independence‖ is a concept that has become part of the political lexicon and touted as a panacea for a downturn economy.

2 gigawatts (GW) of existing microgrid capacity. The report concludes that private. optimizing loads in response to changes in generation. and the ability of local distribution networks to manage intermittency are expected to improve the economics. Globally. Adequate operating reserve must be available from generating sources to meet the highest projected demand for a given time of day.and public-sector funding for microgrid. Despite the cost barriers.systems provide valuable technology vetting and learning opportunities. distributed system infrastructure. Siemens. DG.e. the global microgrid market is projected to reach $13. microgrids help smooth out the variability in renewable generation delivered to the grid. and grid-level storage projects would advance cost-effective application of these technologies. and energy markets has developed an intuitive visualization tool to assist with master planning of microgrids. ROI. By 2020. technology costs. propane. has estimated that a microgrid to support a 40 megawatt (MW) load can require an investment upwards of $150 million. Renewable energy sources are well suited for microgrids for a couple of reasons. the economic justification for microgrids includes energy savings. and changing demand. DNV KEMA. building efficiency. a recent survey of smart grid executives commissioned byIEEE reported that hospitals and healthcare institutions were the largest expected market for microgrids over the next five years. microgrid planning is a complicated exercise in investment optimization. a key developer of microgrid power generation resources and management software. smart meters. efficiency improvements. theysupport carbon reduction and green living goals. and new technologies. A hybrid power supply also reduces reliance on traditional generator fuels such as diesel. Regulatory Hurdles . In addition for making the business case. the smaller scale of microgrid storage. for mixed use developments) while evaluating uncertainty and risks associated with climate. thermal load management. the technology requires large upfront investment which can be a barrier to entry. reliability. and switching to islanded operation if disruptive events in the regional transmission grid occur. incentives. DNV KEMA‘s proprietary Microgrid Cost/Benefit Analysis model evaluates the financial decisions for a range of technologies including generation. a nearly three-fold increase from 2012 investments. and occupancy rate (i. Because there are numerous technology options for generating resources. The Sustainability Case for Microgrids Besides improving reliability. control system architecture. energy prices. emissions performance. That means a great deal of redundancy (some would call it waste) in generating resources. track energy balances. The impact of each of these choices on the system cost and return on investment (ROI) is not obvious. energy storage. microgrids. efficiency improvement. and communication networks. Regional electricity balancing authorities consider most renewable sources as stochastic (unpredictable) and for forecasting purposes treat them as negative loads rather than a generation source. and allow automated adjustable and sheddable loads to improve efficiency and reliability. Further. microgrid optimization models can also inform policymaking by comparing the impacts of different rate structures. an energy and sustainability company with extensive experience in smart grids. microgrids offer other benefits including energy efficiency and integration of renewable energy sources. Making the Economic Case for Microgrids Even with a renewed attention on the energy security benefits of distributed generation and microgrids. Microgrids are designed and customized to the mix of electric (and sometimes heat) needed for a particular mixed-use community or installation. if a renewable source such as a wind farm produces more generation than expected. energy storage. The location-specific optimization tool allows the user to evaluate the cost. By matching renewable generation to demand on the load side (locally) and utilizing energy storage. In addition to enhanced energy security. the transmission network must compensate for potential voltage and frequency fluctuations along transmission lines caused by that increased power. and gasoline. Microgrids employ sophisticated technology architecture and controls to allow demand response. Pike Research has identified a total of 3. And because microgrids often use renewable energy sources and fuel cells.40 billion. transformers. telemetry and controls. load automation. and reduced emissions. Such optimization tools help identify long-term investment approaches. Although large-scale energy storage has been cost prohibitive. and quantify the duration of support for critical loads.

―Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World. The comprehensive report serves as a valuable tool for developing state-level policies.Policy and regulatory hurdles complicate microgrid development and can make the economics less than favorable. However. microgrids will play an expanding role in the quest for energy security. Issues such as regulations governing generating asset ownership. from bacteria to viruses. with service areas that do not have the option of connecting to a larger transmission grid. on December 10 and 11. Leadership in a Post-Western World conference got a thoughtprovoking look at the current ―megatrends‖ leading to four possible futures for the world some 10 to 15 years from now. can be transported by air. transporting them.000 distinct species from Asia to North America – right across the Pacific Ocean.. a microbial pollution that may have consequences for all manner of things.‖ . D. Because of the regulatory and economic challenges. and smart grid automation become more competitive. The main subjects of the conference were the U. In 2011 IEEE published ―Guide for Design. utility legal responsibility as the provider of last resort. New York State conducted an extensive assessment of regulatory definitions and legal requirements to which microgrids would be subjected. but at least 50% are bacterial. There’s Something in the Air: Trans-planetary Microbes Cover your mouth when you cough! We‘ve all learned the hard way that microbial organisms. Scientists in Austria have found bacteria in cloud droplets at 10. Cutting across all of them is the disruptive influence of emerging technologies—which was the theme of the panel I moderated at the event.000 feet as well as clear signs that these microbes are not just passengers – they‘re actually growing and reproducing in-situ in the super-cooled water environment. it does seem that the Asian microbes represent a distinct population that‘s usually only a trace on the continental USA – but when the wind blows their numbers on the western hemisphere definitely increase significantly.S. This means that there is real mixing of species going on. lofting organisms into the air. state policies on net metering that don‘t apply to microgrids. This might not seem so surprising. Now a new study finds that dust plumes in the troposphere are carrying over 2. including local ecosystem function and even disease. It‘s also food for thought in considering the potential ecosystems of Mars. transmission charges. rights of way. Utility response to microgrid opportunities has been tepid. in part due to lack ofestablished microgrid standards. and Integration of Distributed Resource Island Systems with Electric Power Systems‖ and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed implementation standards for demand response which provided much needed engineering protocols. There‘s also growing evidence for just how widespread airborne microbial ‗ecosystems‘ might be. I and some 200 other attendees of theGlobal Trends 2030: U. a place where planet-wide dust stormsregularly loft particles high into the atmosphere.C. It‘s fascinating stuff. This kind of transportation must have been going on across all three to four billion years of life on Earth. and developed a roadmap for facilitating microgrids in the state. and feed-in tariff structures for renewable generation present legal and regulatory hurdles. seeding clouds and encouraging precipitation. Utilities that are at the forefront of microgrid development arerural electric cooperatives. and with an average covering of 60% of the planetary surface represent a pretty major ecosystem. But as the costs for energy storage. classification of a microgrid as a distribution or steam utility under state laws. which was released with the Atlantic Council‘s Strategic Foresight Initiative‘s companion opus. There is good evidence that bacteria (or bacterial spores) can help nucleate water condensation. This suggests that clouds are quite literally another habitat for life on Earth. microgrids will likely remain a niche application over the next several years. But the extent to which organisms exist in the Earth‘s atmosphere is only now becoming clear.S. grid interconnection. It has been speculated that this could even form part of abacterial life-cycle. held at Newseum in Washington. Some of these organisms are fungal. renewable generation. and make the trans-planetary journey in only 7-10 days when storms loft them as high at ten miles into the atmosphere. leading us to wonder exactly what role it may have played in maintaining the global biosphere. we know that single-celled organisms occupy almost every niche on the planet. Operation. and bringing them back to earth for fresh pastures. National Intelligence Council‘s ―Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds‖ report. Which World Will We Face in 2030? Last week.

―How the U. Paul Saffo. along with its wide-ranging complications. Center for Strategic and International Studies. as we speak. and even transferring knowledge stored on a chip from one brain to another.S. technology experts. In the panel I moderated. Discern Analytics.S. business leaders and futurists for an expansive discussion of how the U. The other half received more intensive lifestyleintervention assistance.Recent research demonstrated that gastric bypass surgery—a form of bariatric surgery that reduces the size of the stomach—can lead to at least temporary remission of type 2 diabetes in up to 62 percent of extremely obese adults. executive vice president. leading to greater global cooperation). Africa and Asia Pacific for SAS. identifies the problem of new technologies that increase wealth without creating many jobs. ―The U.‖ the researchers noted. As you‘ll see in the video below. Some 25 million Americans are afflicted with the illness. The 2030 report dubs the four futures: Stalled Engines (the U. About half of the subjects received basic diabetes support and education (including three sessions per year that covered diet. The study tracked 4. Cartwright. The Journal of the American Medical Association. remote operation of devices.‖ said Frederick Kempe.200 to 1. irreversible disease.‖ wrote the authors of the new paper. Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies.The conference brought together policy leaders. he warned. The findings suggest that ―partial remission. collaborate broadly. the potential of additive. he added. talks about how moving knowledge around is key to success in many venues—from military engagements to the kinds of man-machine interfaces in advanced prosthetics. turns out will affect all the other game changers. physical activity and support). is an obtainable goal for some patients with type 2 diabetes. ―The increasing worldwide prevalence of type 2 diabetes.‖ we explored several themes that brought home the yin and yang of any technology: how it can be both a tool for our benefit or detriment. has led to hopes that the disease can be reversed or prevented.S. But can less drastic measures also help some people fight back the progressive disease? A new randomized controlled trial found that intensive weight loss programs can also increase the odds that overweight adults with type 2 diabetes will see at least partial remission.800—in particular by reducing saturated fat intake—and to help them get the recommended 175 minutes per week of physical activity.S. we touched on the force of social media. The Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. such as a crisis-prone global economy and the impacts of emerging technologies. Europe. Along the way. which received only basic support and education. ―Emerging Technologies that Could Change Our Future. and I hope you enjoy the discussion.‖ we can navigate current transition to a better world. Atlantic Council. But. should respond to global trends. said Chuck Hagel.S. And Gen.‖ Other factors in that shaping will include collaborating with other nations and the economy. . led by Edward Gregg of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All three men were incredibly articulate about these complex issues. referring to the broad trends identified in the report. kicks us off with some thoughts on the need for governance for digital assets. tech center of gravity—innovation and so on—is moving away from the U. chair of the Atlantic Council and a former U. The interventions aimed to help individuals limit daily calories to 1. managing director of Foresight. draws inward and globilization falters).S.503 overweight adults with type 2 diabetes for four years. meaning that a patient‘s blood sugar levels reverted to below diabetes diagnosis levels without medication. or 3-D printing for manufacturing. The findings were published online December 18 in JAMA. nonstate actors take the lead in confronting global challenges). Intensive Weight Loss Programs Might Help Reverse Diabetes Type 2 diabetes has long been thought of as a chronic. This second group received weekly individual and group counseling for six months.S. robotics and automation.S. will either dynamically shape trends thru 2030 or be unfavorably shaped by them. which is associated with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.‖ Ultimately. defined by a transition to prediabetic or normal glucose levels without drug treatment for a specific period. is no longer ―global policeman‖). ―At the same time. James E. and Nonstate World (with emerging technologies. Fusion (China and the U. Senior Fellow. as well as high blood pressure. and refresher group sessions and individual contact for the subsequent three years. After two years about one in 11 adults in the intervention group experienced at least partial remission of their diabetes. panelist Mikael Hagstrom. Only about one in 60 in the control group. during his opening remarks. ―If we‘re wise and steady. Senator. president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. followed by three-sessions each month for the next six months. Strategic Foresight Initiative. Middle East. Gini-Out-of-the-Bottle (inequalities increase disruptive social tensions and the U. saw any remission after two years.

who acted as both Dan Markingson‘s treating physician and as Principle Investigator on the CAFÉ study. After four years. health system $116 billion each year and is estimated to affect 50 million Americans by 2050. that individuals in the lifestyle intervention group had lower risks for heart trouble. ―The disappointing results of recent trials of intensive lifestyle and medical management in patients with existing type 2 diabetes also underscore the need to more aggressively pursue primary prevention of diabetes.S. homicidal patient who was involuntarily hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital could give an informed consent for participation in a clinical trial. I asked how a psychotic. Bariatric surgery seemed to reduce the onset of diabetes in obese patients by 83 percent. which already costs the U. Pope testimony). According to Ms. The study did not find. ―Dr. For people who already have diabetes. ―A more potent intervention—bariatric surgery—already appears to achieve what intensive medical and lifestyle interventions cannot: reducing cardiovascular events and mortality rates among severely obese patients with type 2 diabetes. particularly over the objections of Dan‘s mother. ‗stick his head in occasionally at study visits.The improvement. Olson‘s signature appears only twice throughout all of the study documents‖ from 12/8/2003 until his death 5/8/2004. delegation of authority. stroke or death than did those in the control group. Physicians The most obvious and egregious COI was that shown by Dr. and Good Clinical Practice tenets. In my second post. of HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research in Minneapolis. — Not examining Dan closely and regularly. Harrison Pope.‖ they noted. Mary Weiss. those who are still in the early stages and those with the biggest weight loss and/or fitness improvement had the best odds for beating the disease. Olson ―failed to meet the standards for good clinical practice both as a principal investigator and as the study physician for Mr. however. ―This recently led the National Institutes of Health to halt the [trial]. again a basic clinical research ethics principle that was violated. however. The medical records confirm that impression. and Patrick O‘Connor. Arterburn and O‘Connor pointed out in their essay. only about one in 30 people in the intervention group were still seeing an improvement in their condition. however. lifestyle interventions reduced the onset of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent in people with pre-diabetes (and the medication metformin reduced the onset rate by 31 percent). There appeared to have been abuse of a vulnerable patient and extraordinary coercion—participate in this trial or be committed to a psych hospital seems to have been the bottom line. Now we turn to the need to disclose conflicts of interest (COI). in an essay in the same issue of JAMA. — Not dropping Dan from the protocol when Dan was clearly not showing improvement. About one in 75 in the intervention group saw complete remission of their diabetes. —Improperly acting as both Markingson‘s study physician and treating physician . In myfirst post.‖ He failed his ethical responsibilities to Dan by: —Enrolling him in a clinical trial he was incapable of consenting to. Olson would. Weiss. we looked at investigator responsibilities. at most. prevention is the best strategy. however.‘‖ Olson likely would have had to examine Dan more frequently if he were not on a study. Researchers think that regaining weight and falling behind on diet and physical activity goals increase the risk that people will return to a diabetic state. in which glucose levels returned to normal without medication. all of which were violated with no consequences. (p 30. As Dr. any reduction—whether through lifestyle or other changes–in the need for medication and in medical complications due to diabetes can be considered an improvement in managing the disease. concluded in his testimony.‖ Arterburn and O‘Connor noted. Stephen Olson. And even if lifestyle interventions aren‘t capable of dialing back the disease entirely.‖ noted David Arterburn. a Harvard expert. There are so many obvious conflicts of interest that it is hard to know quite where to start. One recent study found that compared with no treatment at all. was not indefinite for everyone. As with any disease. of Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. Similar results have come out of studies looking at moreintensive medical treatment of diabetes. A Clinical Trial and Suicide Leave Many Questions: Part 3: Conflict of Interest We‘ve touched on some of the many disturbing things that happened during the clinical trial on which Dan Markingson committed suicide. as he would not have had the additional staffing funded by the study to have a surrogate see his patients. Markingson. Dan had told her ―that Dr.

Thus.‖⁠ Olson‘s involvement. plaintiff attorney ―Barden read an excerpt from a bioethics book arguing for the importance of informing patients about a doctor‘s financial ties to drug companies. Dan Markingson—aka Subject 13—was worth over $15. so any care they provided him outside of the study would have had minimal reimbursement—we often didn‘t feel that the payments from Medical Assistance even covered the cost of billing. aware that informed consent requires disclosure of financial COIs: ―At another point. had he completed the study. including $149. ancillary personnel could do many of the assessments. Schulz received $562. For example. as well as for the university. Weiss‘ 3rd letter (her first two went unanswered). arguing that disclosing this information could ―confuse‖ the situation. such as increased prestige and publications. too. potential participants may be reluctant to question the advice of a health provider on whom they depend for care. according to the state records. ―I don‘t agree with that statement. Pope noted. As Dr. Olson had to keep Markingson on the trial to get the full payment. when he hadn‘t yet been seen by Mr. Nor was Schulz. nor did he forward her serious concerns to the IRB. including $112. And Dan was destitute.‖ replied Schulz. ―Do you agree or disagree with that statement?‖ asked Barden. I suspect this contributed to his recommendation that Dan‘s stay of commitment be extended to keep Dan a captive participant. Olson‘s roles as Dan‘s personal physician and as researcher is further detailed by Dr. often 50% of the total grant. He also failed to inform them of information about Dan‘s inability to consent and that the judge had granted a stay of commitment for Dan if he followed recommendations. Charles Schulz. Olson and Schulz. was prohibited and would have resulted in significant financial penalties—and this was not explained in the ―informed consent.‖ Yet these significant COIs were not disclosed to study participants. A physician‘s duty is to honor the best interests of the patient. (Note: not all of the grant money goes to the investigator.000 from six companies since 2002.000.‖ Because the study period was one year. and that of the department chairman and coinvestigator. Financial Conflicts of Interest There were major financial incentives for both Drs.The conflict between Dr. The CAFÉ study not only yielded $327. though they had other incentives. These two objectives are not always consonant. Dan was far more valuable to the University and psychiatrists as a study patient than as a regular psychiatric inpatient. above. he did not disclose that he was a principal investigator.000 to the university. Physicians are also expected to generate monies to cover much of their salaries.000 from AstraZeneca. there may be an additional conflict of interest.000.000 as a researcher and consultant to AstraZeneca. or adding additional medications.) According to the Pioneer Press in 2008. Pettit. Dr. ―I‘ve taken the courses at the University of Minnesota that are required for us to participate in clinical research. ―Have you had any training in biomedical ethics?‖ pressed Barden. Much of it then has to be disbursed to the university for direct costs and for their administrative overhead charge. appear to have been significantly driven by financial interests. it likely kept Dan from getting a second opinion and from getting additional medications.‖ ―And isn‘t this part of that training?‖ . Olson reportedly mislead the IRB⁠. Pope. but helped generate more attention (and probably more trials) for the university‘s schizophrenia program. let alone the medical care provided. This particular study was structured so that patients had to complete the trial in order for the full payment to be received by the institution. An investigator must do what is best for the study. leading them to believe that Markingson‘s enrollment had been agreed to by his case manager. The protocol also prohibited Olson from measuring blood levels of the anti-psychotic. which would have shown if he were being compliant in taking his meds. ―Olson received $220. (p 156 Schulz deposition). a leading schizophrenia researcher. dropping the patient because the study drug was ineffective. The NIH website summarizes the problem succinctly: ―If an investigator is also the personal health provider of the potential research participant. I was shocked to read Dr. Further. Schulz‘s testimony that he hadn‘t even read the consent form for a study in which he was a co-investigator (and was listed on the FDA Form 1572 as being a responsible party). Schulz replied to anguished Ms. When Dr.

and attending psychiatrists daily Research staff attend morning report before inpatient rounds take place. ⁠‖ This is so coercive and unethical.4 million in research spending at the U — 5. for instance. though they have admitted no wrongdoing.―I‘m not aware. So they try to motivate their sites to enroll patients. Of course. While CROs can often provide helpful tips from their experience doing trials. more fame. Even back in 1996. known as ―Station 12. I should no longer be surprised by anything. . It also seems to bring considerable protection from those in power at the university. This used to be done by the pharma company itself. The IRB is paid by the study to review the protocol and consent and. The load on IRBs is well described in Trials and Tribulations.‖ said Schulz. they generally farm that work out now. and more research grants from other sponsors as well. . ―In the CAFÉ study.4 billion global market⁠.931 to $1 million per day and slow recruitment is the major factor. alarms were raised by the GAO that the workloads of IRBs were too heavy and precluded thorough review. sometimes by threats of having the trial taken away⁠. IRB The IRB holds a fair measure of blame in this tragedy. The CAFÉ study initially suffered from poor enrollment—so much so that Quintiles.000 just to the University‘s two psychiatrists. to provide oversight. ―In fiscal 2010. to avoid having to have their own staff. responsible for the CAFÉ study. .‖ And between 2002-8. CROs put a lot of pressure on sites to enroll. in that successful enrollment begets publication. Quintiles. So the university established a 16 bed specialty psychosis unit at Fairview hospital. The entire university feeds happily at the trough. Research staff are in contact with nurses. case managers.‖ ―in part to enhance the hospital‘s startup schizophrenia program and meet the U‘s mandate to bring in more research dollars. on this unit ―All patients are reviewed for possible research candidacy. ―I don‘t recall that. The focus is to identify any possible subjects that may be eligible for studies. grants and fees to Minnesota doctors and caregivers. it almost defies belief. University It‘s not just individual researchers who benefit from industry-sponsored research. a Quintiles study monitor suggested that each of the CAFÉ study site coordinators try recruiting subjects at homeless shelters. had placed the site on probation and threatened to terminate it. business and industry sponsored $35. Jeanne Kenney. For example.‖ What an exemplary role model. IRBs have had their own share of bad press. Ellen Roche. As business has gotten more competitive. the Johns Hopkins‘ IRB received scathing criticism for failures of oversight in an asthma study that led to the death of a healthy volunteer.6 million. who are often much easier to approach than attendings.but the longer I am in this field (and in medicine). the more disillusioned I have become. The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) temporarily suspended all federally funded research involving human subjects at Hopkins. I was flabbergasted to read. capturing 14 percent of the lucrative $11. there are other COIs and pressures as well. Delays in completing the approval of a new drug cost from $684. I‘m afraid.‖ According to a CAFÉ Study Coordinator Teleconference. This is also focused on building a repertoire [sic] with psychiatry residents. They employed both tactics to manipulate the study coordinator. sometimes with encouragement (holding them up as examples to other sites or similar recognition) or promises of further studies. drug companies gave ―$88 million in gifts. as well.‖ So we have a University department chairman demonstrating leadership by being unaware of basic research tenets and by saying that disclosure of financial COIs would just cause ―confusion.‖ CROs Contract research organizations (CROs) are intermediaries hired by a sponsor (generally pharmaceutical) to administer a clinical trial. in theory. is the largest CRO. illustrated by their e-mails here and here.4 percent of total research expenditures of $653. the CRO administering the study. At University of Minnesota alone.‖ including $782.

‖⁠ Conclusion In the Markingson case.” Yet Moira Keane. ―So it‘s not the Institutional Review Board‘s purpose to protect clinical trial subjects. The New Tamper Tantrum Disorder by David Dobbs. second. so that they can tout that it is providing ―state-of-the-art‖ medical care and that it has been selected as a research site over its competitors by a leading pharmaceutical company. Who will step up? [I will continue this series in early January. even if a patient was not responding to therapy. The DSM-V is out I‘m not a psychologist. The funding goes to the institution for administrative overhead). And while the fees are thousands of dollars. but take a careful look to see if similar breaches tainted the NIH trials. Grumble grumble . although holding positions of responsibility and authority. Academic institutions have an incentive to approve studies.S. insightful. I have been teaching the shift from the DSM-IV to DSM-V (excuse me. or amusing things I‘ve been reading this week. the investigators claimed ignorance of basic ethical principles." so we still have lots of questions to bring up. Two of the main ones I‘ll be assigning: The DSM-5 has been finalized by Vaughan Bell. government radiation experiments. with students doing a close reading of the proposed changes. "It can be difficult to keep up with the research scandals at Minnesota‘s Psychiatry Department over the years. it seems essential that OHRP and an independent review examine not only the CAFÉ study. The University’s processfor protecting human research subjects reflects federal regulations developed in response to such cases as the Public Health Service syphilis study and the U. individual members of a committee are not paid for their reviews. As Matt Lamkin just noted. But IRBs have certain responsibilities. they absolved each other of any responsibility for this young man‘s death. They all claimed shocking levels of ignorance about basic research ethics.] Link love: December 2012 Some interesting. Bell summarizes the major changes — mostly I can‘t believe they took out the bereavement clause for depression. but the DSM. that subjects are not placed at undue risk. is that what you‘re saying?‖ And she replied. the CATIE study. at each level. ―The IRB reviews research projects which involve human subjects to ensure that two broad standards are upheld: first. or projects on some of the new diagnoses. was asked in her deposition. Shockingly. or Diagnostic Systems Manual. AstraZeneca likely paid the U. (Note. most especially my teaching. I guess it‘s DSM-5 now) for the past several years. or increasingly. The investigators had significant financial incentives to enroll patients—and to not alter therapy. With failures at multiple levels of supposed safeguards. looking a bit at the NIH and CATIE concerns and the University's troublesome response to this case. is still important to my research. but as someone who teaches evolutionary medicine. there are apparent conflicts of interest on multiple levels. responsible for overseeing the CAFÉ study. from competition between the PI and IRB members.Funding for IRBs comes from the study sponsors—in this case. and knowing that some of the same staff provided the assessments and care for patients on the AstraZeneca study as on a major NIH trial. including informing potential subjects of financial conflicts of interest. And. The IRB works with investigators to modify projects to ensure adequate protection for its subjects’ welfare and right of self-determination. the workload of most IRBs results in just minutes spent on each protocol. that they give uncoerced. Minnesota IRB fee. the director of the IRB (and now a Board member for PRIM&R). ―Yes. There are also nonfinancial ethical conflicts of interest involving IRBs. It will be interesting this year to have a finalized document to talk about — as well as the reactions. As noted even on the U Minnesota website. informed consent to their participation. These may be due either to excessive personal involvement or prejudgment by the experts on the board. A smart perspective on the pathologizing of normal behavior.

‖ but only say it‘s bad to call a female professor (note professors are default-male) ―Mrs. Teachers. why are we into ―flipping‖ so much in academia right now (I‘ve also read a few articles on ―flipping‖ the classroom)? Why not call it ―inverted‖ or ―transparent‖ or ―outreach-focused?‖ And now my favorite post: Michael Eisen puts Darwin‘s Tangled Bank in verse. like many antibiotics. Have a tissue handy. A blog that posts letters from parents who love and support LGBTQ kiddos. with many of his treatments first being tested in animals. Stop Saying That. In the same vein as ―stop saying that. He totally wins at parenting. pink. and he wanted to give her something scientific and beautiful. researchers recruited 2. 22. Common Antibiotic Not Helpful for Cough and Respiratory Infection When I was growing up in the 1980s and ‘90s with two younger brothers. such as a nagging cough. if I don‘t know the student. Shelley Adamo takes a smart look at the factors that drive attrition of female scientists. too. A great blog post that points out the error of complaining that women should ―put as much time and effort into researching their birth as they do researching their next smartphone.. but it links to the pdf of the manuscript. She suggests that the factors that are blamed for fewer female scientists exist in medicine. the antibiotic amoxicillin was a frequent guest in our house. For the new study. particularly if I advise them.‖ Personally. A week of a student‘s electrodermal activity. among your friends. sinus infections. or Prof. but with actions over words. that found that amoxicillin (know by names such as Amoxil. but I didn‘t see a clear way the flipped academic was going to push her university to consider her for tenure under that model. published online December 18 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. your home. Kate is fine. How to Email a Professor over at WikiHow. check out the activity during classes and when sleeping. I Am the Woman in Your Department Who Does All the Committee Work at McSweeney‘s. sore throats. Re-emerge from a tough week Mouse research saves a little girl with leukemia. I find it interesting that in the how to address professors section. Both . such as viral infections. Trimox and others) is not effective in treating sinus infections when tested against a placebo.‖ stop permitting sexist humor in your workspace. Your Holiday Mom. but if you let it go. Some day my daughter will learn this. mandated parental leave seems to reduce attrition in Canada but doesn‘t exist in the US). Because my husband is a two-time cancer survivor. The Journal of the American Medical Association. Once I know the student. Certainly an article that supports those of us that blog. How do you pack your bag for a 7 year. Adamo claims policy issues drive differences instead (for instance. You don‘t have to be obnoxious about it. I take issue with anything that isn‘t Dr. Overall not bad advice.A new study shows that it is indeed no more helpful than a placebo in treating patients with a non-pneumonia lower respiratory tract infection. coughs. they tell you how bad it is to call a professor ―Mr.‖ Sexist humor… leads to more sexism. Don‘t be a silent witness. bubble gum-flavored liquid perhaps a little too well. I am grateful to animal researchers every single day. Strep throat. Decide you‘d probably be better napping during your own lecture after all. is overprescribed—often given for illnesses that it will not help. and be the guy who interrupts sexism.000 mile international reporting assignment? Journalist Salopek will walk the ―out of Africa‖ route to South America. I highly recommend a few pairs of Ex Officio underwear — they last for years and you can wash and hang dry them overnight. I agree. Dispermox. I didn‘t know whether to laugh or cry about this one. we all remember that thick. make it abundantly clear to anyone around you who needs to know it that you are a holiday mom. But this popular drug. Eisen wrote this poem because his daughter needed to recite a poem for school. you‘re telling your friends that being sexist is ok.061 patients 18 years and older (across a dozen European countries) who went to their doctor for a lower-respiratory infection that was not suspected to be pneumonia and had a cough lasting fewer than four weeks. This article describes academics who are doing outreach or making their results available to the public before putting them in academic jargon-speak and up for peer review. Also. The research complements a paperpublished in February in JAMA. The flipped academic: turning higher education on its head. Also. but the same gender differences in attrition don‘t exist.Why Do Women Leave Biology? This is the page for the press release of an article in BioScience. Half of the hackers were randomly assigned to receive amoxicillin and the other half received a placebo. Alphamox. too.

Its patent has expired.‖ The biggest hurdle might now be explaining to patients that these familiar drugs are not actually helping any better than a sugar pill would. The findings held even in patients 60 and older. Uncomplicated lower respiratory tract infections.3 percent) than for those taking the antibiotic (15. ―Overuse of antibiotics—which is dominated by primary care prescribing—particularly when they are ineffective. And there was only a slightly higher rate of new or worsening symptoms for those patients taking a placebo (19. researchers could now begin looking to see what might set them—or their infections—apart. etc. ―Using amoxicillin to treat respiratory infections in patients not suspected of having pneumonia is not likely to help and could be harmful. with some 52. ―It is difficult to convince patients and their physicians against antibiotic use.g. Schuetz wrote an essay published in the same issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases. ―Guidance from measurements of specific blood biomarkers of bacterial infection might help to identify the few individuals who will benefit from antibiotics despite the apparent absence of pneumonia and avoid the toxic effects and costs of those drugs. So in the case of these ailments. last for a week. For the subset of patients for whom the drug appeared to have had a slight benefit. vomiting. and neither the patients nor clinicians knew which treatment was which.9 percent). in a prepared statement. and co-author on the new study.groups were instructed to take their medication three times a day for seven days. But the new findings should help convince everyone to think twice before starting an antibiotic prescription. The severity or length of moderate or intense symptoms was about the same for both the antibiotic and placebo groups. so generic versions of this drug have made it exceptionally affordable—often less than $25 per course even without insurance. rash vomiting—and the development of resistance. rashes.) as well as for side effects (including diarrhea.‖ said Philipp Schuetz of the Medical University Department Kantonsspital Aarau in Switzerland in a prepared statement. etc. of Primary Care and Population Sciences Division at the University of Southampton in the U.‖ said Paul Little. A person might be infected for more than a week before showing symptoms. ―Patients given amoxicillin don‘t recover much quicker or have significantly fewer symptoms. phlegm. runny nose. ―Our results show that most people get better on their own.3 million prescriptions written each year. Amoxicillin is the eighth most commonly prescribed drug in the U. are often caused by viruses. This new study also underscores the natural lengthiness of lower respiratory tract infections. themselves. and gradually improving symptoms can linger for much longer. But doctors are often not able to identify a virusimmediately—especially in rushed and resource-strained clinical settings—leading physicians to often prescribe antibiotics as a cautionary measure. The severe symptoms can.) for up to four weeks. can lead to side effects—e. the study showed that more people taking the amoxicillin (which is in the penicillin family) experienced side effects such as diarrhea. perhaps time itself is the best treatment.. according to the IMS research group‘sInstitute for Healthcare Informatics‘ 2011 report. however. Participating patients received follow-up phone interviews and completed daily diary entries for symptoms (detailing. who have been thought to benefit more from antibiotic treatment for such infections. might be doing more harm than good.‖ Little said.S.K. This drug habit. feeling unwell. which are not susceptible to antibiotics.‖ Schuetz wrote. cough. for example.‖ Schuetz said. diarrhea.‖ What‘s more. such as the ones being tracked in the study.. . rashes and/or vomiting than those taking the placebo. headaches. The findings ―should encourage physicians in primary care to refrain from antibiotic treatment in low-risk patients.

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->