Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (December 1998)

Science news and science current events archive December, 1998.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from December 1998

NYU Researchers Find Infants Understand How To Put Words Together Into Simple Language-Like Sentences
A team of researchers led by NYU psychologist Gary Marcus has discovered that seven-month-old infants have a previously undiscovered ability for learning about the world and attacking the problem of language acquisition. Marcus found that infants can recognize and generalize simple language- like rules.

Key Asthma And Allergy Molecule Pictured
In a finding that is expected to lead to the development of a new class of drugs for allergy and asthma sufferers, researchers at Northwestern University and Harvard Medical School have determined the precise shape of the receptor molecule that triggers the allergic response in the immune system.

Radiation Belts Around Earth Adversly Affecting Satellites
Much of the energetic electron activity in Earth's radiation belts, once thought to be generated by the sun and solar wind, actually is accelerated to light-speed by Earth's own magnetic shell, creating periodic havoc with satellites.

Researchers Discover Why Some Athletes' Performances Fail To Improve On A Live-High, Train-Low Regimen
Exercise physiology researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have learned why certain athletes don't respond to the internationally accepted

PAHO Director Urges Health Protection In Hurricane Talks
The Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Dr. George Alleyne, called on the international community Thursday to protect the health of the Central Americans affected by Hurricane Mitch and sought support for a project to control and eventually eliminate cholera.

American Parkinson Disease Association Center Opens At Cedars-Sinai
The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) Information and Referral Center has opened at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to assist individuals diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, including their families and caregivers. Services are free of charge and include a wide range of information and support to help understand the disease and maintain quality of life.

"Mirage" Used To Measure Age Of Universe
An international team led by a young Australian scientist has used CSIRO's Australia Telescope to measure how fast the Universe is expanding-and found it to be both older and larger than previously thought.

Interstellar Burp Leads To Discovery Of New Pulsar
Astrophysicist makes her second discovery of an astrophysical oddity - a pulsar orbiting a massive star.

Jefferson Surgeons Using New Technique To "Melt" Tumors
Surgeons at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital are using electrical energy to essentially

The Teacher Is A Softbot
Meet Steve and Adele, pedagogical agents. These advanced 'softbots' -- robots consisting solely of artificial intelligence software -- are designed to teach human students.

Maternal Tissue Typing Could Improve Selection Of Kidney Transplant Donors
NIH-supported researchers have discovered that cellular markers, or human leukocyte antigens (HLA), on maternal tissue can provide valuable information for identifying the most suitable donors for individuals in need of kidney transplants.

Gender Issues Are Keys To Adolescent Reproductive Behavior
Adolescent reproductive behavior cannot be understood and modified without an understanding of the social pressures that shape it--the societal and familial forces that pressure girls into involuntary and unprotected sexual relations and early childbearing. A new Population Council book,

High education plus heart attack: Sure-fire way to quit smoking
The more education you have, the less likely you are to be a smoker, but at least one study shows that among middle-aged smokers, unless someone has had a heart attack,

Americans Urged To Consume More Folic Acid
In Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, the AHA issued a Science Advisory urging doctors to begin screening high-risk patients with a personal or family history of heart disease for homocysteine levels in the blood and urged all Americans to increase intake of foods containing folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12, such as Total, made by General Mills, as well as leafy green vegetables, fruits, legumes, and other good sources.

UC Scientists Search For Alternatives For Methyl Bromide
Methyl bromide solves an array of problems for farmers. When American usage of the chemical is banned in 2004, this extremely effective broad-spectrum pesticide will be replaced with a variety of alternatives. The alternatives are now being studied by University of California scientists.

Champagne Gets Its Fizz From Tiny Acid Burns
The delicious tingle as you sip a glass of champagne has nothing to do with bursting bubbles. Researchers in California have found that the sensation of

Digital Mammography Offers Better Breast Cancer Diagnoses
Images of the female breast created digitally could lead to more accurate breast cancer screening and diagnoses than traditional X-ray films, according to a new study.

Exercising Just Three Days May Provide Heart Attack Protection
Less than a week's worth of walking, jogging or cycling can help the heart produce enough of a protein called Heat Shock Protein that can protect against the damage done during a heart attack.

Bartenders' Health Improves After Smoking Banned in Bars
The respiratory health and lung function of bartenders improved after a California law prohibited smoking in bars, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Gail Weinmann, a lung specialist with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, is available for comment.

Imaging Camera Developed At Toshiba Stroke Research Center Could Provide Views Of Tiniest Brain Vessels
Researchers at the University at Buffalo's Toshiba Stroke Research Center have developed a prototype camera that can turn blurred X-ray images of brain stents made of thin wire into images clear enough to detect the condition of wire as fine as a hair.

Science Magazine Announces Breakthrough Of The Year: Berkeley Lab's Supernova Cosmology Project A Winner
By observing distant, ancient exploding stars, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and elsewhere have determined that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate -- an observation that implies the existence of a mysterious, self-repelling property of space. This finding has been named Science magazine's

Old Growth Forests May Shed Light On Worldwide Greenhouse Effect
Michigan Tech researchers are studying ecosystem responses to global climate change in old growth forests in an attempt to find a part of the solution to the greenhouse effect problem.

USGS Sends First Science Team To Honduras As Part Of Reconstruction Effort
A team of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists will arrive in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on Tuesday, December 8 to provide scientific and technical expertise, including field work surveys on geologic, hydrologic and biologic impacts and risks still facing Central America.

Views Of Tamoxifen And Synthetic Estrogen In Action Provide Clues For Designing Better Drugs
Researchers have discovered the molecular mechanism by which tamoxifen blocks the effects of estrogen, a process that has been shown to prevent breast cancer in some women at high risk. The results provide valuable clues about ways to design new, more effective disease-preventing medications with fewer side effects.

Major New Study Shows HIV-1 Antibodies Found In Urine
Clinical Reference Laboratory (CRL), one of the country's leading clinical reference laboratories, announced results of the largest study to date showing a significant proportion of individuals - approximately one of every 1,000 - within the low-risk population test positive for HIV-1 antibodies in their urine and negative in their blood.

Severe Pain Following Shingles Safely Relieved In Clinical Trial Of Anti-Convulsant Drug Gabapentin
In a clinical trial of a new type of drug to relieve severe, chronic pain caused by nerve damage, the anti-convulsant medicine gabapentin has provided significant relief from the aching, burning, tearing pain that some shingles patients suffer for years after other symptoms subside.

Brain Building May Depend On DNA Cutting And Pasting
Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Children's Hospital in Boston and the Center for Blood Research have made a discovery that could help solve one of the central riddles of biology--how the brain, with its dazzling display of cell types, develops from a relatively undistinguished pool of progenitor cells.

Duke Study Shows Umbilical Cord Blood Transplant Is Viable Treatment For Genetic Disorders
Children whose genetic disorders have previously been a death sentence have a reasonable chance for life with umbilical cord blood transplants, according to Duke University Medical Center researchers.

Scientists Describe Structure Of An Enzyme That Uses Iron To Make Hydrogen
The workings of an iron-laden bacterial enzyme could one day provide researchers with an inexpensive and stable catalyst to create hydrogen, according to scientists at Utah State University.

Novel Therapeutic Approach To Treatment Of Arthritic Disease
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have studied an investigational anti-angiogenesis treatment -- previously employed against various forms of cancer -- to assess its impact on arthritic disease in an animal model. Their results, published in the January 1, 1999, issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation, provides evidence for a central pathogenic contribution of angiogenic blood vessels to the maintenance and severity of arthritic disease.

Scientists Discover How Cystic Fibrosis Badly Damages Lungs Of Young Patients
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists have discovered how cystic fibrosis -- the most common fatal genetic disease among whites - damages young lungs. The discovery should improve treatment, the researchers say.

At Night, Birds May Review The Songs They Learn During The Day
Zebra finches in a University of Chicago lab are providing strong evidence that sleep plays an important role in learning. Researchers have shown that while young birds sleep at night, they may be reviewing the songs they've learned from their parents during the day. The findings were published in the December 18 issue of Science.

Immortalizing Enzyme Does Not Make Human Cells Cancerous
Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have shown that human cells grown in the laboratory and immortalized by the introduction of the enzyme telomerase are not transformed into cancer cells, perhaps clearing the way for safe, future medical applications.

People Who Are Diabetic And Glucose Intolerant Can Benefit From "Statin" Drug Therapy, Even If Cholesterol Levels Are Normal
A cholesterol-lowering drug may help reduce the risk of another heart attack and the need for artery-opening procedures in people with diabetes and heart disease who have average blood levels of cholesterol.

Global Climate Change: Ill Wind For California Wildfires
Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have released the first-ever analysis of the potential effect of global climate change on wildfires in California. In most cases, climate change would lead to dramatic increases in both the annual area burned by California wildfires and the number of potentially catastrophic fires -- doubling these losses in some regions.

Global Plan Launched To Cut Childhood Asthma Deaths By 50%
In Barcelona, Spain at the World Asthma Meeting, international experts in asthma management called for global action to reduce childhood asthma deaths by 50%. The five- year effort was announced on the eve of the first ever World Asthma Day coordinated by the Global Initiative for Asthma - established by the World Health Organization, and the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

First Robotically-Assisted Heart Bypass Surgery Successfully Performed In United States
A Penn State College of Medicine researcher yesterday performed the first robotically-assisted heart bypass surgery on a 70-year-old female patient at the Penn State Geisinger's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. The patient is stable today and is recovering as expected.

Science And Law Team Up On Legal Reform Proposal
A Purdue University physicist and a political science professor have proposed a new way to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits that are choking the court system.

Science-Based Decision Guide May Be Answer To EPA's Controversial Rule
A two-year dispute between an 11-society scientific consortium and the Environmental Protection Agency over the agency's proposed rule to regulate genetically modified pest- resistant plants has culminated in the near finalization of a rule that the consortium maintains is

First Complete Fossil Of Fierce Prehistoric Predator Found In South Africa
Paleontologists from the South African Museum and the University of Washington have discovered what appears to be the first complete fossil of a gorgonopsid, a ferocious predator with both reptilian and mammalian characteristics that became extinct 250 million years ago.

'Fireworks' Form Magnetic Ceramics
A new process that uses controlled 'fireworks' to produce designer magnetic ceramics has been developed by researchers working at University College London (UCL). The process could revolutionise the production of the magnetic ceramics that play a vital role in TVs, computers and on the back of credit cards - leading to cheaper and better quality products.

Promising New Drug Uses Antibody Targeted Chemotherapy To Fight Leukemia
Scientists presented data today at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting, how a new experimental compound, known as CMA-676, uses an antibody connected to chemotherapy molecules to help patients fight a virulent and often fatal form of cancer - acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). The data appeared to confirm that CMA-676 shows promising efficacy and a more tolerable side effect profile than current chemotherapy treatments.

Tips For Surviving The Holiday Season From The American Heart Association
If you are at risk for or have heart disease, following a little good sense during this season of reflection can reap benefits all year long. Here are some tips from American Heart Association volunteer, Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., that can help you to enjoy the many festive treats that abound during the holiday season.

Phase I Trial Promising For Cord Blood Transplant "Booster"
Adding a dose of slightly more mature stem cells to an umbilical cord blood transplant shows promise for increasing the success of transplants in children, Duke researchers reported Friday.

American Psychiatric Association Tipsheet - December
In the December issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry:
  • Persons With Mental Disorders More Often Denied Care.
  • Managed Care Carve-out Decreases Costs In Massachusetts.
  • Patients With Down's Syndrome Can Attempt Suicide.

Russia Has Designs On Its Astronauts' Used Underwear
Waste-guzzling microbes could help solve one of space travel's most pressing problems: what to do with dirty underwear. Russian scientists are designing a cocktail of enzyme-producing bacteria to digest astronaut's special issue underpants - and the resulting methane gas could even be used to power spacecraft.

Simple Method May Save Lives By Reliably Sorting Data
A data-sorting method based upon the human ability to visually group objects seen near each other, rather than upon complex mathematical equations, has proven so successful that Sandia will use it in its hand-held sensors to defend battlefields, airports, and other vulnerable areas.

Formaldehyde Emissions From Consumer Products
The most comprehensive study of in-home formaldehyde emissions to be conducted in more than a decade shows that emissions from new permanent press clothing, paints, floor finishes, wallpaper and fingernail polishes may be more significant than previously recognized. Formaldehyde is a suspected human carcinogen.

'Tis The Season To Sneeze, Sniffle And Itch - Allergists Can Help Holiday Allergy Sufferers
Are you allergic to Christmas? Thousands of Americans are allergic to the oil or sap of Christmas trees, and evergreen wreaths and garlands. For relief, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommend allergy vaccinations. In fact, a

Columbia Researchers Synthesize Compound With Possible Link To MacularDegeneration; Work Is Critical To Pinpointing Causes Of Disease, Scientists Say
Researchers at Columbia University have synthesized large quantities of a vitamin A derivative that accumulates in human eyes and may contribute to age-related macular degeneration. They also isolated the compound, called A2E, from donor eyes and hope to correlate its accumulation with the onset of age-related macular degeneration. 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