Coffee Spill Causes Emergency Landing
The friendly skies turned a little scary on Jan. 3 when a United Airlines flight made an emergency landing in Toronto, Canada after experiencing problems with their communications equipment. The pilot of Flight 940, slated to fly from Chicago, Ill. to Frankfurt, Germany, spilled his coffee on a panel in the cockpit during turbulence. The spill interfered with the plane’s radio equipment and possibly caused several distress signals including Code 7500, which means hijacking or unlawful interference.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the cause of the communication problems, which is not known for sure. It is looking into whether it was the coffee or another factor that caused the alarm.
Pilots are allowed to have beverages in the cockpit of planes but are not allowed to engage in distracting activities, such as eating meals. A United Airlines spokesman said the pilot was in contact with air traffic control during the incident and followed standard operating procedures.
Space Taxi Rules Released
Astronauts and supplies will need a means of transport to the International Space Station after NASA retires its space shuttles in 2011. NASA will either rely on other countries’ spacecrafts or hire a space “taxi” owned by a private company.
In a 39-page document entitled “Commercial Crew Transportation System Certification Requirements for NASA Low Earth Orbit Missions,” NASA outlines the certifications requirements for a commercial transport system. The chance of the crew being killed during a launch or landing cannot be higher than 1 in 1,000, or 0.1 percent. The taxi would also need a manual override system and the ability to be operated remotely.
The FAA regulates space travel when NASA is not involved. It plans on making its own set of
regulations based on NASA’s.
Influential Autism Study Called A Fraud
An article published in the “British Medical Journal” (BMJ) claims a study that linked autism with vaccinations was an “elaborate fraud.” Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 study falsified and altered the medical history of all 12 patients in the study, the investigation in the BMJ said. Brian Deer, the investigative journalist who authored the BMJ article, believes Wakefield should face criminal charges for this.
Wakefield defended himself, saying that he is the target of “a ruthless, pragmatic attempt to crush any attempt to investigate valid vaccine safety concerns.”
The editor-in-chief of the BMJ, however, says the study attempted to “create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data” and the study has done real damage. Parents, worried they were giving their children autism, kept them from being vaccinated. Since the original release of the Wakefield study, the incidence of measles sharply increased, and 90 percent of those who fell ill had no records indicating they had received the vaccine.
Last year, the Wakefield study had been retracted from “The Lancet,” the journal in which it was published, and Wakefield’s co-authors removed their names after discovering in 2004 that Wakefield was partially funded by a law firm that planned to sue vaccine manufacturers.
Mass Bird Deaths Confound Scientists
Pointe Coupee Parish, La., became the latest locality to suffer a scientific mystery on Jan. 3 after hundreds of dead birds littered the ground, an event akin to a mass bird kill on New Year’s Eve in Beebe, Ark. The red-winged blackbirds and starlings in Parish were found near a high school along Louisiana Route 1. State biologists have collected the birds for testing.
The blackbirds related to the incident in Arkansas were found to have suffered from blunt force trauma. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said it was likely that the birds were scared by a loud noise and were flying at a low altitude due to fireworks, which caused them to fly into houses, vehicles and trees. Pest control experts believe the mass kill in Louisiana could be due to legal pest control, as they are considered pests by farmers.