Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (January 2011)

Science news and science current events archive January, 2011.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from January 2011

New approach to modeling power system aims for better monitoring and control of blackouts
Major power outages are fairly infrequent, but when they happen they can result in billions of dollars in costs -- and even contribute to fatalities. Now research from North Carolina State University has led to the development of an approach by which high-resolution power-system measurements, also referred to as synchrophasors, can be efficiently used to develop reliable models of large power systems, which would help us keep an eye on their health.

Teens + sugars = increased heart disease risk later in life?
Researchers found that teens who consume elevated amounts of added sugars in drinks and foods are more likely to have poor cholesterol and triglyceride profiles now which may lead to heart disease later in life. Overweight or obese teens with the highest levels of added sugar intake had increased signs of insulin resistance, often a precursor to diabetes.

malERA: a research agenda for malaria eradication
A collection of 12 reviews, comprising three reflective pieces and nine research and development agendas, is published as part of a sponsored supplement on Jan. 25, 2011, in PLoS Medicine. This collection highlights the outcomes of a series of consultations among more than 250 experts that were undertaken by the Malaria Eradication Research Agenda (malERA) initiative.

For robust robots, let them be babies first
In a first-of-its-kind experiment, a University of Vermont scientist created robots that, like tadpoles becoming frogs, change their body forms while learning how to walk. These evolving robots learned to walk more rapidly than robots with fixed bodies and developed a more robust gait. The research suggests that the quest for adaptive and resilient robots will arrive at better designs by encouraging co-evolution of a robot's body and

Maternal depression adversely affects quality of life in children with epilepsy
A study by Canadian researchers examined the prevalence of maternal depression and its impact on children newly diagnosed with epilepsy. Prevalence of depression in mothers ranged from 30-38 percent within the first 24 months following a child's epilepsy diagnosis. The mother's depressive symptoms negatively impacted the child's health-related quality of life. Details of this novel study appear online in Epilepsia, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the International League Against Epilepsy.

Ammonites dined on plankton
New research published in Science shows ammonite

Voiding defects: New technique makes LED lighting more efficient
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are an increasingly popular technology for use in energy-efficient lighting. Researchers from North Carolina State University have now developed a new technique that reduces defects in the gallium nitride (GaN) films used to create LEDs, making them more efficient.

Household bugs -- a risk to human health?
Superbugs are not just a problem in hospitals but could be also coming from our animal farms. Research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Microbiology indicates insects could be responsible for spreading antibiotic resistant bacteria from pigs to humans.

How spring-loaded filaree seeds self launch
When filaree seeds ripen and burst, they are launched with an inbuilt spring. Scientists based at the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard University have discovered that the inbuilt spring stores energy as the seed head dries and can flick the seed as far as 0.5m before drilling it into the soil by repeatedly unwinding and rewinding as the humidity rises and falls.

Wastewater treatment lowers pathogen levels
A recent study by a team of researchers at the University of Arizona has tracked the incident of pathogens in biosolids over a 19-year period in one major US city. In the same study, the researchers also analyzed pathogen levels in biosolids at 18 wastewater treatment plants in the United States.

Fears of Ontario pharmacy shortage after slashed generic drug prices unfounded: UBC research
A University of British Columbia study shows that there are enough pharmacies situated throughout Ontario communities to absorb many closures without negatively affecting geographical accessibility for residents. The research suggests concerns that reducing generic pricing could result in pharmacy shortages are unfounded.

New hardware boosts communication speed on multi-core chips
Computer engineers at North Carolina State University have developed hardware that allows programs to operate more efficiently by significantly boosting the speed at which the

Research provides new kidney cancer clues
In a collaborative project involving scientists from three continents, researchers have identified a gene that is mutated in one in three patients with the most common form of renal cancer. The gene -- called PBRM1 -- was found to be mutated in 88 cases out of 257 clear cell renal cell carcinomas (ccRCC) analysed, making it the most prevalent to be identified in renal cancer in 20 years.

Strong scientific peer review leads to better science and policy formation
The current Special Issue of Technology & Innovation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors, focuses on the history, process and practice of scientific peer review, with several articles aimed at assessing scientific peer review within the federal government and peer review's relationship to federal policy formation.

Curved carbon for electronics of the future
A new scientific discovery could have profound implications for nanoelectronic components. Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen have shown how electrons on thin tubes of graphite exhibit a unique interaction between their motion and their attached magnetic field -- the so-called spin. The discovery paves the way for unprecedented control over the spin of electrons and may have a big impact on applications for spin-based nanoelectronics. The results are published in Nature Physics.

Brain's 'autopilot' provides insight into early development of Alzheimer's disease
Watching the brain's

Dating sheds new light on dawn of the dinosaurs
Careful dating of new dinosaur fossils and volcanic ash around them by researchers from UC Davis and UC Berkeley casts doubt on the idea that dinosaurs appeared and opportunistically replaced other animals. Instead -- at least in one South American valley -- they seem to have existed side by side and gone through similar periods of extinction.

Cosmic magnifying glasses could shed light on the origin of the Universe
Astronomers have shown how gravitational lensing allows us to see the faintest and most distant galaxies, helping us to understand the origin of the Universe.

Awake despite anesthesia
Unintended awareness during surgery is classified as an occasional complication of anesthesia (one to two in 1,000 patients) -- but being aware of things happening during the operation, and being able to recall them later, can leave a patient with long-term psychological trauma. Petra Bischoff and Ingrid Rundshagen describe how to avoid awareness events and minimize their consequences.

First report on fate of underwater dispersants in Deepwater Horizon oil spill
Scientists are reporting that key chemical components of the 770,000 gallons of oil dispersants applied below the ocean surface in the Deepwater Horizon spill did mix with oil and gas spewing out of the damaged wellhead and remained in the deep ocean for two months or more without degrading. However, it was not possible to determine if the first deep ocean use of oil dispersants worked as planned in breaking up and dissipating the oil. Their study appears in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Egg donation: The way to happy motherhood, with risks and side effects
Women who have become pregnant after egg donation should be categorized as high-risk patients. Why that is the case, and which consequences egg donation may have for women is the subject of a review article by Ulrich Pecks and co-authors from the University Hospital Aachen in the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.

Academics urge universities to change culture to value teaching as highly as research
The reward systems at universities heavily favor science, math and engineering research at the expense of teaching, which can and must change. That's the conclusion of UC Irvine biology professor Diane K. O'Dowd and research professors at Harvard University, Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and elsewhere.

A research study identifies who uploads the majority of the content to the P2P piracy networks
A study done at Carlos III University of Madrid identifies and characterizes the users who upload contents on the main P2P piracy networks on Internet and points out the incentives that they find to carrying out this activity.

Knee protectors can form allergenic substances on the skin
Common rubber products can form isothiocyanates in contact with skin and cause contact allergy. This is the conclusion of research carried out at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden). Isothiocyanates are a group of reactive substances that are potent contact allergens.

Household sewage: Not waste, but a vast new energy resource
In a finding that gives new meaning to the adage,

Pioneering treatment could help people with severe depression
Pioneering neurosurgical treatment, a world first in Bristol, which very accurately targets brain networks involved in depression, could help people who suffer with severe and intractable depression.

Surf's up: New research provides precise way to monitor ocean wave behavior, shore impacts
Engineers have created a new type of

Baby-led weaning is feasible but could cause nutritional problems for minority of infants
Most babies can reach out for and eat finger food by six to eight months, according to a study of 602 infants. But baby-led weaning -- babies feeding themselves solid foods, rather than being spoon fed purees -- could lead to nutritional problems for the small number of children who develop later than average. That is why researchers recommend combining self-feeding with solid finger food with traditional spoon feeding.

Manchester leads green chemical training push
The University of Manchester is leading a £3.7 ($5.8) million project to train the next generation of biotechnologists to make chemical processes greener.

Contagious cancer thrives in dogs by adopting host's genes
A curious contagious cancer, found in dogs, wolves and coyotes, can repair its own genetic mutations by adopting genes from its host animal, according to a new study in the journal Science.

Making a point
Northwestern University researchers have developed a new technique for rapidly prototyping nanoscale devices and structures that is so inexpensive the

8 percent of fans legally drunk after attending professional sports games
A new study published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research finds that blood alcohol content (BAC) levels can be measured using a breath tester on fans as they exit football and baseball events. And the results show that 60 percent of the fans had zero BAC, 40 percent had a positive BAC, and nearly 8 percent were legally drunk.

Clinical waste management needs specialized regulation
A study carried out by the University of Granada warns of the need to unify existing plans for clinical waste management in the different autonomous communities to improve recycling and waste disposal. There is currently no specific state-wide regulation, just a framework law that the Spanish Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs is planning to reform.

Family, friends, social ties influence weight status in young adults
Does obesity tend to

Most consumers want predictive tests to learn if a disease is in their future
Consumers may place a high value on information to predict their future health, and may be willing to pay out of pocket to get it. In a national survey conducted by researchers at Tufts Medical Center, roughly 76 percent of people indicated that they would take a hypothetical predictive test to find out if they will later develop Alzheimer's disease, breast or prostate cancer or arthritis.

Antibiotics best treatment for ear infections in toddlers, NIH grantees find
Adding new evidence to the debate on the best treatment for middle-ear infections, or acute otitis media, in young children, clinical researchers at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have found antibiotics to be more effective than a placebo in relieving symptoms. These findings appear in the Jan. 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Study finds celiac patients can eat hydrolyzed wheat flour
Baked goods made from hydrolyzed wheat flour are not toxic to celiac disease patients.

Research on obesity targets the brain's use of fatty acids
Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine have created a new and exciting mouse model to study how lipid sensing and metabolism in the brain relate to the regulation of energy balance and body weight.

The Orion nebula: Still full of surprises
This ethereal-looking image of the Orion Nebula was captured using the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory, Chile. This nebula is much more than just a pretty face, offering astronomers a close-up view of a massive star-forming region to help advance our understanding of stellar birth and evolution. The data used for this image were selected by Igor Chekalin, who participated in ESO's Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition.

Safety checklist use yields 10 percent drop in hospital deaths
A Johns Hopkins-led safety checklist program that virtually eliminated bloodstream infections in hospital intensive-care units throughout Michigan appears to have also reduced deaths by 10 percent, a new study suggests. Although prior research showed a major reduction in central-line related bloodstream infections at hospitals using the checklist, the new study is the first to show its use directly lowered mortality.

January 2011 Geology and GSA Today highlights
Geology studies ancient rain to understand uplift in the North American Cordillera; synchronous colonization of magnetotactic bacteria in four freshwater lakes in Norway; the role of ocean islands and coastal mountain ranges in organic carbon retention; the 4-million-year-old Godzilla megamullion; ice-free oases on Snowball Earth; rock hyrax middens as palaeoenvironmental archives; and levee failures along the Mississippi River corridor. GSA Today presents findings of microbial life inside fluid inclusions modern and ancient buried salt crystals.

Farther and farther apart
A new Northwestern University study is the first to show that something may be happening cognitively that leads people to gradually become more biased, and at the same time more accurate, when it comes to their spatial memory as they become more familiar with a particular area. In other words, as people better understand the relationship between buildings on a campus, for example, over time memory biases cause them to exaggerate the distance.

Genetic abnormalities identified in pluripotent stem cell lines
A multinational team of researchers led by stem cell scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Scripps Research Institute has documented specific genetic abnormalities that occur in human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cell lines.

Low socioeconomic status increases depression risk in rheumatoid arthritis patients
A recent study confirmed that low socioeconomic status is associated with higher risk of depressive symptoms in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Statistically significant differences in race, public versus tertiary-care hospital, disability and medications were found between depressed and non-depressed patients. Study findings are reported in the February issue of Arthritis Care & Research, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology.

Conference program: Energy systems and energy technologies for the next century
The next international energy conference takes place at Risoe DTU from May 10-12, 2011.

Call for truth in trans fats labeling by the FDA
An article by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine student Eric Brandt, published in the January/February 2011 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, reveals that misleading labeling practices can result in medically significant intake of harmful trans fat, despite what you read on Food and Drug Administration-approved labels.

Aberrations in adipose tissue could increase risk of diabetes in PCOS
A study from the University of Gothenburg, shows that women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have aberrations in their adipose (fat) tissue. This discovery could provide answers as to why these women develop type 2 diabetes more readily, and shows that it is important for their health that women with PCOS do not put on weight.

Khalifa Foundation grants MD Anderson $150 million for cancer research
The Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity Foundation is granting $150 million to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to support genetic-analysis based research, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Water, water everywhere focus of new sustainability project
An interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is turning a comprehensive lens on Madison's water in all its forms -- in the lakes, streets, faucets, ground and atmosphere -- thanks to the National Science Foundation.

Iowa State, Ames Lab researcher developing bio-based polymers that heal cracks
Michael Kessler of Iowa State University and the Ames Laboratory is researching biorenewable polymers capable of healing themselves as they degrade and crack. The self-healing properties can increase material lifetimes and reduce maintenance. There are challenges, but Kessler thinks there's potential to develop new and effective materials. 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