February 02, 2003 —
An experiment by Paul Ronney, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering
had the Space Shuttle Columbia's astronauts creating miniscule balls of flame
-- setting records for the weakest flame and leanest mixture ever burned in space
or on Earth. The flames -- too weak to be seen by the human eye -- could lead
to more efficient and cleaner automobile engines.
Associated Press and United Press International carried the story around the
"We were getting some of it downloaded but lost quite a bit of data," Mohamed
Abid told the L. A. Times for a story about ruined scientific experiments. Abid
is a researcher working with Ronney. "We only got a fraction of the data."
Abid also touted the benefits of space research noting that if the USC experiment
brought only a slight improvement in the efficiency of internal combustion engines,
the results would more than pay for the cost of research.