Rob Carr writes: "A lot of speculation has been made on what caused astronaut mission specialist Lisa Nowak to break. None of the articles mention one of the worst stressors: the job of astronaut is one of the worst jobs in science. People are willing to pay tens of millions of dollars to be an astronaut, which doesn't give the astronaut much leverage with the employer. Since the beginning of spaceflight, NASA has treated its astronauts poorly even while promoting them as American heroes. The first public break came during the Skylab 4 mission when the astronauts staged a work stoppage because of the inhuman schedules they faced. On the ground, astronauts are hired "at will" and have to do any scut work or lab rat duty they're assigned. The steady strain of humiliation and disrespect can disrupt even the strongest of coping mechanisms. Did "astronaut abuse" set Nowak up for her breakdown? If not corrected, does NASA's treatment of its employees put missions away from Earth (like lunar colonies and manned trips to Mars) at grave risk?"
Rob Carr writes: "Considered unethical to ever perform again with humans, researcher Mel Slater recreated the Milgram experiment in a immersive virtual environment. Subjects (some of whom could see and hear the computerized woman, others who were only able to read text messages from her) were told that they were interacting with a computer character and told to give increasingly powerful electric shocks when wrong answers were given or the "woman" took too long to respond. The computer program would correspondingly complain and beg as the "shocks" were ramped up, falling apparently unconscious before the last shock. The skin conductance and electrocardiograms of the subjects were monitored. Even though the subjects knew they were only "shocking" a computer program, their bodies reacted with increased stress responses. Several of the ones who could see and hear the woman stopped before reaching the "lethal" voltage, and about half considered stopping the study. The full results of the experimental report can be read online at PLoS One. Already, some (like William Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute) are asking whether even this sanitized experiment is ethical. The application of these results to video games are obvious, and it's only a matter of time before someone starts using this research to question the effects of violent video games on people."
Rob Carr writes: "Before the European Space Agency SMART-1 spacecraft impacted the Lake of Excellence last night, it continued to acquire data. Some of the last images were of an area of the Moon lit only by Earthshine. The unprocessed images were posted to the ESA web site. In writing up a post on the SMART-1 impact for my blog, I did a quick enhancement of one of the SMART-1 starfinder images. According to the ESA FAQ, 'You may freely use the images you find on our site, as long as it is not for commercial use. You may not modify the images.'
Enhancement of images is a standard part of astronomy...in fact, a standard part of modern digital photography itself. I cannot believe the ESA intended to prevent science from being done with their data, and so I published the original and the enhanced versions of the photograph on my blog. But I wonder: could they demand that I take down the altered image? Is this really in the best interest of scientific research? While my alteration was trivial, amateurs working with the ESA Huygens data were the first to generate topographic maps of Titan. That, too, was a modification of the images and technically against their copyright policy.
I'd be interested in hearing Slashdotters take on this."