By: Danielle Friend, Ph.D.
A deal with Iran leads to new hope for science
On July 14th, six countries and Iran agreed on a nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Action Plan, that would increase the amount of time necessary for Iran to produce enough fissile material to produce a nuclear bomb. Should the Iran nuclear deal pass scrutiny by the United States Congress, in addition to loosening sanctions on Iran, the deal may also give Iran the opportunity to expand scientific programs and develop scientific collaborations with Western countries. In agreement for dismantling the nuclear program, Iranian scientists could have the opportunity to work with scientists across the globe on issues relate to nuclear fusion, astrophysics, and the development of radioisotopes for the treatment of cancer. Additionally, the deal includes converting one of Iran’s uranium enrichment sites, known as Fordow, into an international nuclear, physics, and technology center. Fordow is located beneath a mountain and its location is concerning because it would be difficult to destroy. Re-purposing the location into a science center could be a positive alternative. While the exact research that will be conducted at Fordow has yet to be determined, Iran plans to invite proposals for projects and will host an international workshop to review and determine which projects will be chosen. Russia has also agreed to help Iran convert the existing uranium centrifuges at Fordow into centrifuges that have the ability to produce isotopes for medical imaging. An additional part of this agreement would include strengthening Iran in other areas of science such as neutrino astronomy and fusion research, and allowing Iran to participate in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. Of course, Iranian scientists will be restricted in their ability to participate in some types of nuclear research such as studying metallic uranium and plutonium but overall these terms provide Iranian scientists with hope for the future of science in Iran. (Richard Stone, ScienceInsider and Declan Butle, Nature News)
Science and Ethics
APA overhauling policies and leadership after torture report
For the last five years, the American Psychological Association (APA) has denied involvement in United States government’s use of torture to interrogate detainees. However a recent external investigation commissioned by the APA reports that APA psychologists and association officials were in fact involved in the interrogations lead by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the George W. Bush administration. The report from Former inspector general, David Hoffman reports that the APA assisted the United States government in allowing torture of detained individuals. The APA has since released statements indicating that they will change their policies including the prohibition of psychologists from participating in national security interrogations. In addition to announcing these new policies, much of the APA leadership has resigned their positions. Although president Obama since banned interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration, interviews conducted by psychologists are still widely used by the United States. Should these new policies be adopted by the APA, interrogation techniques would need to change. ( , ScienceInsider and James Risen, NY Times)
The Unites States Army takes a scientific view at preparedness for combat
What fitness and combat tests best predict whether a service member is prepared for combat? And more specifically, what tests best judge a female service member’s ability to carry out certain tasks? As the United States government begins to allow female service members to participate more in combat operations, questions such as these become important given that women physically have smaller hearts, skeletons, smaller muscle mass, and a greater percentage of body fat relative to their male counterparts. In order to answer these questions and help identify the best predictors of those who will most successfully be involved in combat, the US Air Force has designed a study to be led by exercise physiologist, Neal Buamgartner. Buamgartner has already recruited 63 female and 109 male airmen to participate in the study. The subjects will complete fitness tests as well as combat and rescue simulations and Baumgartner plans to examine the data for correlations between measures of physical fitness. Such correlations might be “does the ability to do crunches predict how fast an airman can climb a rope ladder, or do push-ups correlate better?” From this data, he will also develop standards to to judge whether an airman is physically fit for combat. Although Baumgartner’s work is geared at setting standards for all airmen these data may specifically inform standards for women in combat. Additional concerns regarding women serving in combat positions include their increased risk for musculoskeletal injuries. More research examining the differences between men and women in combat training may provide greater insight into how these injuries can be better prevented. (Kelly Servick, Science News)
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