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Thirty Years Ago, the Challenger Crew Plunged Alive and Aware to Their Deaths

The Challenger made it through the spectacular eruption of its external fuel tank with its cabin more or less intact. Rather than being carried to Heaven in an instant, the crippled vessel kept sailing upward for another three miles before its momentum gave out, then plunged 12 miles to the ocean. The crew was, in all likelihood, conscious for the full two and a half minutes until it hit the…

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Challenger Disaster: 30 Years

I was a high school senior, watching on the TV in the library. The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger (OV-099) (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members, which included five NASA astronauts and two Payload Specialists. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape…

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Lotteries: America’s $70 Billion Shame

Can this be true? People spend more money buying lottery tickets than they spend on books, movies, music tickets, video games and sports tickets— combined! Lotteries set aside about 40 percent of their ticket sales as state revenue that often goes to schools. Then, winners of more than $600 are subject to 45 percent windfall taxes on their good fortune. “The house” is winning, even when it’s losing. But it’s…

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How Mickey Mouse Evades the Public Domain

I get my fill of Disney pretty quick. In the 90s I chose the time period 1920-1950 for my dissertation, because at the time works published in the early 1920s were entering the public domain in the US. I figured I could publish online annotated editions of the works I had studied, as each fell out of copyright. A certain rodent changed all that. Every time Disney’s beloved mouse is…

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Excessive Copyright Strikes Again in 2016

Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years—an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1959 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2016,…

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An Open Letter to Reuters Reporters Nate Raymond and David Ingram

How did Reuters happen to get a picture of the arrest of Martin Shkreli (the pharmacy bro who bought the rights to a drug and raised the cost an obscene percentage)? Why is that question at least as important as what Martin Shkreli looks like while being arrested? There are two subjects on which Reuters could have informed its audience, two sets of questions it could have answered: Subject One:…

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‘Great Pause’ Among Prosecutors As DNA Proves Fallible : NPR

It seemed the labs were using an outdated protocol for calculating the probability of DNA matches in “mixtures”; that is, crime scene samples that contain genetic material from several people. It may have affected thousands of cases going back to 1999. At first, they assumed the update wouldn’t make a big difference — just a refinement of the numbers. But when a state lab reran the analysis of a DNA…