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Forecast: solar storms with increasing radiation. A National Research Council committee chaired by CAS Research Professor of Space Physics George Siscoe has found that an upcoming cycle of intense solar storms will increase radiation levels in space, posing significant health hazards to the U.S. and Russian crews building an international space station.

The report recommends that NASA create an early-warning space weather system to provide real-time data on the intensity, size, and shape of solar storms. The system could use existing equipment and models to predict when solar events will occur, allowing for flights to be rescheduled during more moderate space weather.

"An unofficial NASA flight rule specifies that changes in flight plans must be based on current data that reflect the weather immediately around the space station," explains Siscoe.

The space station is scheduled for completion in 2004. This coincides with the peak in the 11-year activity cycle of the sun, which can include severe solar storms that emit streams of high-energy, electrically charged particles in the space station's path.

The panel notes these radiation exposures aren't immediately life-threatening, but long-term effects could be serious, including increasing astronauts' chances of developing cancer later in life. They could also develop symptoms of acute radiation sickness, such as nausea and vomiting, which could impact shuttle missions and possibly deter astronauts from flying at all.

The report suggests the establishment of a high-level task force among NASA researchers and flight controllers, senior managers, and other government agencies that can develop a radiation plan, which will help NASA deal with the problem in the near term.

"The point is to keep the doses low, like diagnostic X-rays," NASA's solar activity chief George Withbroe told Reuters.

The NRC study was published by the National Academies on December 9.

Teen mags assure tobacco's lure. A new study shows that, despite industry claims to the contrary, tobacco companies target advertising directly to kids. SPH Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Siegel and Charles King of Harvard Business School examined the relationship between cigarette brand specific advertising and magazine readership and found evidence that between 1986 and 1994, cigarette brands popular among youth were advertised more heavily in magazines that teenagers read.

"The tobacco industry engaged in a persistent pattern of advertising to underage youth for nearly a decade," says Siegel.

The researchers analyzed the advertising presence of 12 cigarette brands in a sample of 36 popular U.S. magazines and compared the youth (age 12-17), young adult (age 18-24), and total readership of each magazine.

They found that "youth" brands, such as Marlboro, Newport, and Camel, were more likely to advertise in magazines with a high percentage of youth readers. Accordingly, "adult" brands were less likely to advertise in magazines with a high youth readership.

Disparities in advertising were most apparent in magazines with the highest and lowest percentages of youth readers. In Woman's Day, which had an average youth readership of 7.5 percent, only 22.3 percent of cigarette advertising pages were devoted to youth cigarette brands. However, in Sport, with a youth readership of 39.8 percent, an overwhelming 83.4 percent of the cigarette advertising pages were devoted to youth brands.

The authors concluded, "Our findings provide strong new evidence that cigarette brands popular among youth smokers are more likely to advertise in magazines with high levels of youth readership, that this relationship is not explained by levels of young adult readership in the magazines, and that this pattern of advertising persisted throughout at least a nine-year period during the late 1980s and early 1990s."

The study appeared in the December 20 issue of the Journal of Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
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