Synopsis: The United States’ future as an Olympic power is being threatened as college athletic departments struggle to support sports such as gymnastics, swimming and wrestling that are important to the quadrennial games but do not make money for colleges. Major universities continue to invest in the two major revenue-generating sports, basketball and football, but are cutting support for other sports. The University of Maryland, for example, recently eliminated eight of its 27 varsity teams, including track, swimming, diving and tennis.
Takeaway: College sports are in effect the “farm system” for many U.S. Olympians. “It’s not a good thing,” says the head of the wrestling coaches association, “for our farm system . . . to be eroding.”
For background, see my report “College Football,” Nov. 18, 2011.
--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor
Synopsis: Sky watchers around the world this week will be able to observe a rare and significant event: the planet Venus silhouetted against the Sun as its orbit passes between Sun and Earth. Such rare, but ultimately predictable events, meticulously observed over thousands of years, allowed ancient astronomers to unravel the workings of the solar system.
Takeaway: In the 1760s, even during wars, astronomers traveled to exotic and dangerous places, “at great peril and against heavy odds in many cases — because they believed that the transit held the key to one of the most pressing quests of the age: the distance between Earth and the sun and, by extension, the size of the solar system.”
For related material, see the CQ Researcher reports Space Program (Feb. 24, 2012) and Science in America (Jan. 11, 2008) and the CQ Global Researcher report, Globalizing Science (Feb. 1, 2011).
--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer
Synopsis: A steady stream of evidence in the last few years indicates that annual physical examinations and many of the screening tests that accompany them are pointless and even potentially dangerous.
Takeaway: Routine screening tests and medical procedures that research has indicated are unnecessary annually include EKGs, pap smears, blood work, cholesterol tests and bone scans to detect osteoporosis for women under 65.
For background see “Patient Safety,” CQ Researcher, Feb. 10, 2012.