Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (December 1996)

Science news and science current events archive December, 1996.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from December 1996

Smarter Than You Think: Babies are Amazingly Quick Studies, Psycholinguists Find
One of the hardest things in understanding a new language is to pick out words from the rushing stream of speech. Babies master this challenge around the age of 8 months and do it, surprisingly enough, by thinking like little statisticians, according to a University of Rochester study published in the Dec. 13 issue of Science

Water Value Highest In The U.S. West, RFF Report Finds
Researchers at Resources for the Future have released one of the largest and most comprehensive compilations of estimates of the value of water for its various uses in the United States. They find water's value to be highest in the West for its withdrawal uses

Nitrogen And Global Warming
Nitrogen from air pollution is unlikely to moderate the greenhouse effect, according to researchers at the universities of Minnesota and Toronto. Studies on prairie grasses showed that medium and high rates of nitrogen addition caused loss of species diversity and lowered carbon storage capacity

First-Light Declared At Hobby-Eberly Telescope
The largest and most powerful optical telescope in the continental United States has just taken its first look at the universe, demonstrating the feasibility of its novel design and ushering in a new era of cost-effective large telescopes.

Diversity In Science & Engineering: Progress And Problems
Amid a few signs of recent progress towards more diversity in education and the workplace, underrepresentation persist. For example, women and minorities continue to take fewer high- level mathematics and science courses in high school; they still earn fewer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in science and engineering (S&E); and they remain less likely to be employed in S&E jobs than are white males

ORNL Method May Treat Breast Cancer Without Surgery
A new method capable of destroying breast tumors without surgery and side effects has been developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Three ORNL scientists applied for a patent on this minimally invasive therapy for breast cancer that combines laser light and presently available drugs

Monitoring Of DNA Strand Breakage In Freshwater Mussels Offers A New Way To Detect Pollution, University of Georgia Study Says
Scientists have known for several decades that bivalves such as freshwater mussels readily accumulate many classes of environmental pollutants. A study by environmental toxicologists at the University of Georgia reports that a new method of studying theDNA of freshwater mussels could make them an even more effective tool in limiting the effects of pollution

Discovery of "KiSS" Gene May Help Stop Spread Of Melanoma
Researchers at Penn State's College of Medicine in Hershey have discovered a new gene that suppresses the metastasis--or spread--of melanoma, the often fatal skin cancer

Watching Biology In Action In Billionths Of A Second
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in making a

Optical Microscopy Shines Light On Biology
A chance to study individual biological molecules in a liquid environment has been a goal of scientists for years. Researchers at the University of Kansas have developed a

Right Brain May Control Writing In Some Lefties, Study Shows
Researchers have shown for the first time that, in some left-handed people, writing may be controlled completely and independently from the right hemisphere of the brain

Study: Heart Failure Kills Men Faster Than Women
Women who suffer from a common form of heart failure live longer than men with the same condition, according to a new University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill study

Copolymer1 Gets FDA Approval
Approval by the FDA of an Israeli drug, copolymer1 (COPAXONEtm) originally synethesized and developed for treatment of relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis

Scientists To Assess Effects Of Ozone, Carbon Dioxide On Trees
A multidisciplinary team of 17 scientists from universities in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Mississippi, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the U.S. Forest Service are building an experimental facility near Rhinelander, WI to test the effects of combined ozone and carbon dioxide on forest stands

UW Research May Lead To Contraceptive Gel To Prevent Chlamydia--The Most Prevalent Sexually Transmitted Disease
A University of Washington study may point the way to development of a contraceptive gel to prevent transmission of Chlamydia trachomatis, the most common cause of sexually transmitted disease. The findings, reported in the mid-December Journal of Clinical Investigation, identify the structure by which chlamydia bacteria attach to and infect cells.

SU Researcher's International Team Discovers Unexpected Molten Layer In Himalayan Crust
An article in this week's

Scientists Discover Smallest Frog
A new frog discovered in Cuba by scientists funded by the National Science Foundation is the smallest in the Northern Hemisphere, and is tied for the world record with the smallest frog in the Southern Hemisphere, says a biologist from Pennsylvania State University in a paper published in the December issue of the journal Copeia

Arctic Tundra Now Pumping More Carbon Into Atmosphere
The arctic tundra's vast carbon reservoir has sprung a leak. Recent experiments on Alaska's North Slope show that carbon molecules have started moving out of the tundra and into the atmosphere in larger amounts than ever before.

Brain Scan Could Help Resolve Controversy Over Diet Drug
Johns Hopkins researchers have developed a new method for studying an important group of brain cells that they say should help define the cells' functions and help resolve the controversy over the safety of two popular diet drugs

When Genes Make Their Mark: Genetic Cause For Common Birthmarks Reveals How Blood Vessels Are Built
In the December 27 Cell, researchers led by Bjorn Olsen at Harvard Medical School, report their discovery of a genetic mutation responsible for venous malformations, the most common type of birthmark

Discovery About Lubricants Could Lead To Less Machinery Wear
Scientists long have known that surface roughness plays a major role in the wear and tear of moving parts. Now, researchers at the University of Illinois have found that randomness, not roughness, is a major contributor to friction at the molecular level

Lightning Research Is Charged With Finding A Rain Gauge In Space
The solution to monitoring the climate in remote areas of the globe where there are no weather stations may be lighting up the sky. New research at the University of Washington in Seattle indicates a clear connection between lightning and precipitation.Researchers believe that lightning frequency could become an important tool in climate studies.

Northridge Earthquake Hasn't Stopped; Hills Have Risen
Researchers measuring the movement of the Earth's surface with the Global Positioning System (GPS) have concluded that the Northridge earthquake has continued in a

Diffusion Of Technology, Economic Incentives For Reducing Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Examined By Policy Experts From China, Japan, And U.S.
Climate change policy experts from China, Japan, and Resources for the Future in the United States are investigating innovative and cost-effective options for reducing global levels of greenhouse gases to identify how international cooperative efforts might be structured

Researcher Discovers Key Brain Center For Speech
A key area of the brain that controls the mouth, tongue, larnyx and other intricate movements necessary for speech has been identified for the first time by a UC Davis researcher.

Toddler's Attention Affects Social Competence
Studies of low-income 2-year olds by Cornell psychologist Cybele Raver find that children whose parents actively direct and maintain visual attention during play spend more time distracting themselves from objects of stress and tend to be more sociallycompetent

Study: Media Unintentionally Distorting Hazards Of Child Vaccines, Causing Fear, Litigation, Danger
Media reports of injuries to children from vaccines designed to prevent diphtheria, pertussis, measles and other illnesses scare parents, increase costly litigation and prevent some infants from being immunized, thereby putting them in danger, according to a new study

Study Finds Physician Report Card Data Not Used By Physicians
Published reports evaluating the performance of cardiac surgeons in Pennsylvania have little or no effect on the referral practices of cardiologists in that state, Harvard Medical School researchers report in the July 25 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Imperiled Shorebird Struggles For Recovery
Results just released by the USGS's Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, indicate that the 1996 International Piping Plover Census, the most extensive endangered species census in North America, accounted for 5,837 breeding plovers scattered primarily across beaches in 20 Great Plains, Great Lakes, and Atlantic states and nine Canadian provinces -- a seven percent increase in the Piping Plover population over the last census carried out in 1991

BATSE Discovers Unique Sequence Of Cosmic Gamma Ray Bursts
Using the BATSE experiment on NASA's Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, astronomers at NASA/Marshall have observed four successive cosmic gamma-ray bursts from the same part of the sky, something unseen in the satellite's 5.5 year mission that many burst models cannot explain. The findings will be presented December 18 in a paper to the Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics in Chicago, Illinois

Twin Study May Ease Parents' Concerns About Late Talkers, Underscores Impact Of Environment On Language Development
The number of words toddlers understand is far more important than the number they speak during the second year of life, according to a recent study of twins by Yale University psychologist J. Steven Resnick.

Scientific Conference On Amphibian Decline Taking Place On Internet
In what organizers believe is the first of its kind, researchers studying amphibian declines are interacting in a three-month-long scientific conference being held exclusively on the World Wide Web

Exercise - A Safe And Effective New Treatment For Knee Osteoarthritis
Now there's scientific proof that exercise can be a safe and effective treatment option for knee osteoarthritis - good news for the millions of disabled Americans suffering from this degenerative joint disease. A recent clinical study, funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), suggests that people with osteoarthritis of the knee who exercise in moderation have less pain, reduced disability, and improved physical performance.

Premature Birth Sometimes Can Adversely Affect Infant's Ties To Mother
For mothers of premature, very low birth-weight babies that began life in the sterile confines of a neonatal intensive care unit, the second year of motherhood may bring new stresses and a barely 50 percent chance that a secure bond will form with the children, University of Illinois researchers report

Robots, Virtual Reality & Other "Smart" Tools Soon Will Help Physicians Heal Patients
Voice-controlled surgical instruments; navigational systems to guide surgical tools; three-dimensional images projected onto patients in the operating room; and physicians thousands of miles apart participating in live surgery -- these are among early 21st century technologies doctors and engineers are dreaming about and developing now

Capturing Sprites And Elves From Afar
A Penn State graduate student, sitting in a field in central Pennsylvania, is capturing a record of sprites and elves that were seen over northern Texas. Not the mythical creatures from a storybook, but these sprites and elves are optical phenomena that occur during some thunderstorms.

Scientists Convene To Discuss Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
Researchers from a sweeping array of disciplines will gather in San Francisco on December 15 to take stock of the extraordinary scientific challenges posed by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The scientists will discuss four major monitoring technologies: seismology, hydroacoustics, infrasound (atmospheric sound waves), and detection of radionuclides

Multiple Genes Lead To Same Problem In Enlarged-Heart Disease Linked To Sudden Death In Athletes, New Study Shows
The genes that cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) weaken the the heart in different ways, but the heart's response is uniform -- it grows larger to compensate, leading to heart failure. So, the variants of HCM, the leading cause of sudden death in young adults, might yield to a single therapeutic approach

Cell Transplant Repairs Diseased Nervous System In Dogs
In a hopeful new development for people with multiple sclerosis (MS), researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have shown in studies with dogs that they can repair diseased areas of the spinal cord by transplanting nervous system cells into theanimals

Monsoons Of Arabian Sea Control Productivity And Carbon Export
Investigation of the oxygen and nutrient content of the Arabian Sea could help shed light on how monsoons influence ocean productivity and the carbon cycle, according to a Penn State oceanographer

Columbia Scientists Theorize That Equatorial Winds Launched Iceberg Armadas In The North Atlantic
Scientists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory unveiled a new theory that tropical winds caused vast iceberg armadas to surge across the North Atlantic during the ice age. In the Dec. 13 Science, they theorize that Atlantic equatorial winds relaxed periodically, allowing a large reservoir of warm tropical waters to be whisked northward, where they triggered ice sheet melting.

Study Hopeful About Children's Ability To Adjust To Divorce
In a study of adolescent adjustment to parental divorce that tracks 522 children, ages 10-18, a Wake Forest University psychologist examines what custodial arrangements are best, whether contact with the non-custodial parent matters and other factors that most influence children's adjustment to life after divorce

Christmas Bird Count: Another Holiday Tradition
To make it easier for couch potato bird watchers, 30 years of counting is now available on the World Wide Web.

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Reaseachers Establish Link Between Depression And Heart Attack
A prospective study published in the December issue of

B Cells Enjoy A Cellular Second Childhood
Challenging a fundamental tenets of immunology, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have discovered that mature B cells can rearrange their own genetic material when confronted by unfamiliar antigens. This may explain the origin of follicular lymphomas and could lead to better control of immune-system response

UF Researcher Helps Establish New Views On Human Origins
University of Florida anthropologist Susan Anton is part of an international research team whose new findings could change the way human evolution theory is taught in some classrooms. The team used a relatively new dating technique to show that the remains of a modern-human ancestor are thousands of years younger than previously thought

Hydrogen Escaping From Ganymede Hints Oxygen Lurking At Surface
Atomic hydrogen found escaping from Ganymede implies Jupiter's largest moon has large amounts of oxygen hovering over or locked up in its icy surface, according to University of Colorado observations with NASA's Galileo spacecraft.

Severity Of AIDS Dementia Is Linked To Nitric Oxide Levels
Runaway production of nitric oxide (NO), a gas with effects as varied as nerve cell communication, control of blood vessel action and male erections, may contribute to AIDS dementia, according to Johns Hopkins researchers

Study Implicates Programmed Cell Death In Familial Alzheimer's Disease
Scientists have found additional evidence that dysregulation of programmed cell death --the normal process by which old or superfluous cells self-destruct -- may underlie the earlier onset and more rapid downhill course of inherited forms of Alzheimer'sdisease.

Mechanism For Disease Resistance Identified In Plants
A molecular mechanism for plant disease resistance has been identified for the first time by two separate research teams at the University of California's Davis and Berkeley campuses and at Purdue University. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to