The Price of Preemies
And other news from the techno-frontier.
Outlet: New York Times, Jan. 5
Gist: Several pilots have reported distraction or temporary vision loss from ground-based lasers since Christmas. Some people thought it might be terrorism. But now prosecutors are blaming one incident on a guy fooling around with a laser pen he bought online for $100. The charge, interference of the operator of a mass transit vehicle, is based on the USA Patriot Act. Prosecutors say they're sending a message that after 9/11, no funny business will be tolerated.
Security implication: Now anyone can blind a pilot.
The good news: The lasers haven't downed any planes, and this incident wasn't terrorism.
The bad news: 1) This guy had nothing to do with the other incidents, so those could still be terrorism. 2) The government has no mechanism to regulate laser pens. 3) The only reason this idiot was caught is that he aimed his pen at the helicopter that came back to search for the source of the original beam. Otherwise, good luck enforcing a ban.
Item: Morning-after pills don't lull women into risking unprotected sex.
Outlet: Washington Post, Jan. 5
Gist: Last year the Food and Drug Administration refused to allow nonprescription sales of Plan B, a morning-after pill, on the grounds that its easy availability might lull young women into having more unprotected sex. A study by CRHRP finds no such effect.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.