Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (May 2003)

Science news and science current events archive May, 2003.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from May 2003

Memory for music: Musicians don't have to hear themselves perform after they learn a song
Musicians who hear the music they are performing while learning a new piece have a better memory for the music later, a new study suggests. But after they learn a song, actually hearing the music as they play does not improve the accuracy of their performance. These results shed new light on how memory works and on theories about how people learn.

Study suggests genetically modifying sunflowers for white mold resistance
A field study conducted by plant scientists at Vanderbilt University and Indiana University found that a transgene that can provide commercial sunflowers with additional protection against a disease called white mold is unlikely to spread throughout the wild sunflower population: Wild sunflowers already possess a degree of resistance to white mold and, as a result, those that pick up the transgene do not appear to gain a reproductive advantage that would cause them to spread widely.

Antibody coated stent a breakthrough in cardiovascular treatment
An innovative medical discovery that has the potential to vastly improve the lives of people suffering from coronary artery disease was implanted today in the first human patient. The antibody coated stent, developed by Dr. Michael Kutryk, a cardiologist and clinician scientist with St. Michael's Hospital and assistant professor, University of Toronto, was implanted into the first human patient at Thoraxcenter, University Hospital Rotterdam in Holland.

Association between increased risk of stillbirths and abnormalities with proximity to incinerators
The risk of some lethal congenital abnormalities and stillbirths may be slightly higher among babies of mothers living near incinerators and crematoria.

Science picks-leads, feeds and story seeds (May 2003)
Looking for hot science stories? This monthly compendium of USGS science information can help you cover the ongoing earth and natural science research and investigations at USGS--footage, photos and web links provided can enhance your story.

Researchers challenge belief of how macrophage activity is controlled by biochemical brake pedal
A team of investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has challenged a currently held belief about how immune system cells called macrophages control their biochemical activity after being stimulated by signaling proteins called cytokines. The researchers showed that a molecular

NPR's 'Living on Earth' series launches new segments on environmental research
Starting the week of May 9, NPR's environment program,

Does television news turn people off politics?
Television news may be contributing to current political apathy, according to research at Cardiff University, UK. An in-depth study of more than 5600 TV news reports in both Britain and the USA between September 2001 and February 2002 reveals that the news media may be encouraging a disengaged citizenry by representing the public as generally passive and apolitical.

Tiny protein prevents disease-related cell death
Researchers at The Burnham Institute found that humanin, a small, 24-amino acid protein recently discovered in studies of Alzheimer's, suppresses activation of the protein Bax. Bax triggers pathologic cell death in a number of diseases, including Parkinson's, stroke, heart attack and degeneration of ovaries during menopause. These results suggest a novel target for therapeutic design based on inhibiting the cell destructive activity of Bax.

Cleaning up contaminated soil, groundwater
Geologists are helping scientists better understand how to keep contaminants from reaching groundwater during the clean up process. The problem requires many different approaches because there are hundreds of different types of contaminants and the soils and geology differ from place to place. One approach that has shown promise for some situations can be viewed as

Surgery better than drugs for serious lack of blood flow to the heart
Surgery or angioplasty to improve blood flow in patients with moderate to severe levels of blood flow restriction to the heart reduces the risk of cardiac death more than medication alone, researchers report in today's rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Physicists measure individual electrons in real time
In the May 22 issue of Nature, physicists at Rice University describe the first real-time measurement of individual electrons. Using a radio-frequency single-electron transistor, the researchers observed single electrons moving on and off of a quantum dot inside an ultracold chamber. The experiments open the door for new studies in single electron dynamics, a critical research area in the emerging field of quantum computing.

Molecular defect may lead to osteoporosis
A defect in a molecule linked to bone stem cells may contribute to the development of age-related osteoporosis, say researchers at U of T and Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Alcohol increases rectal cancer risk, but risk is smaller among regular wine drinkers
Regular drinkers significantly increase their risk of rectal cancer, but that risk is reduced if wine makes up a third or more of weekly consumption.

Seizure drug improves abstinence from drinking, study shows
Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio announced that topiramate, a derivative of the naturally occurring sugar monosaccharide D-fructose, is effective at promoting abstinence among alcohol-dependent individuals.

Use of nicotine inhalers could reduce rates of smoking-related illnesses
A study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis predicts that smokers might significantly reduce the adverse health effects of their habit if they could switch from cigarettes to inhalers that deliver doses of

Culturally sensitive smoking cessation programmes needed
Culturally sensitive smoking cessation programmes for South Asian people are needed, say researchers in this week's BMJ.

Earthquake alarm system may ease risk for southern Californians
Capitalizing on the low-energy waves that invariably precede major earthquakes, scientists have designed and demonstrated the feasibility of an early-warning system that promises southern Californians as much as 40 seconds of advanced notice of major temblors.

Study confirms nursing shortage affects patient satisfaction
A study released by Press Ganey Associates, Inc. confirms fears that the nursing shortage has an impact on patient satisfaction.

From small change comes big rewards
Officials from Rotary Districts in the three states awarded a research grant of $250,000 to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine for their work on the prevention of oxidative stress damage - 'brain rust' - present in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. Each year, a collection Rotarians, from clubs throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, award promising researchers with grants from their CART (Coins for Alzheimer's Research Trust) fund.

For best results, stick to one search engine
Web users who stick to one or two search engines and learn those well will have better results for their queries than users who try the same query or various engines, a Penn State researcher says.

Snoring may increase risk of learning problems in some children
Some children who snore may be at increased risk of learning problems, according to a study presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference.

Astronomers show that low-mass stars in binary stars appear to behave like high-mass, evolved stars
UC Riverside astronomer Steve Howell and two colleagues from New Mexico State University have found from their observations of over a dozen mass-losing stars in 'cataclysmic variables' that most of the secondary stars do not appear to be normal main sequence stars in terms of their apparent abundances. To various degrees, each star seems to have low to no carbon and other odd mixtures of elements such as sodium and calcium.

Should Memphis build for California's earthquakes?
The federal government is urging Memphis and other parts of the Midwest to adopt a new building code that would make buildings as earthquake resistant as those in southern California, where shaking is much more likely to seriously damage a building than in the New Madrid seismic zone (NMSZ). A new study by a Northwestern University seismologist, however, finds that the prescribed measures for the NMSZ would cost far more than the damage prevented.

Epilepsy in developing countries often left untreated
A new study shows that the number of people with epilepsy in rural areas of China and the number who are not adequately treated are even higher than previously estimated. The study is published in the May 13 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

When it comes to jealousy, men and women may come from the same planet after all
Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, or so we've been told, and when it comes to jealousy this is especially true. Men, psychologists have long contended, tend to care more about sexual infidelity while women usually react more strongly to emotional infidelity.

Rensselaer awarded NY state funding for alcohol/substance abuse education
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has received $10,000 from The New York State Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) toward the university's continuing efforts to prevent alcohol abuse on campus and in the surrounding community. The OASAS award is part of the state's Healthy Campus Community Demonstration Project. Funds are provided through the Federal

The mystery of the disappearing planetary disks
Young Sun-like stars seem to lose the dusty disks that encircle them before planets can form. But there is new evidence that the disk material isn't lost, it just becomes invisible.

Researchers get to the root of cassava's cyanide-producing abilities
Cassava is the third-most important food source in tropical countries, but it has one major problem: The roots and leaves of poorly processed cassava plants contain a substance that, when eaten, can trigger the production of cyanide. That's a serious problem for the 500 million people who rely on cassava as their main source of calories, among them subsistence farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Novel drugs for the treamtment of diabetes
A new approach to providing medication for adult diabetics (type 2 diabetes) that is not dependent on insulin has been developed by a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For his work, which he did for his Ph.D. thesis in pharmacology, Arie Gruzman was awarded one of this year's Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University.

Benefits of lung surgery reported for emphysema patients
Patients with severe emphysema who undergo lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) along with medical management are more likely to function better and face no increased risk of death after two years compared to those treated with medical management alone, according to results of a five-year study at Johns Hopkins and 16 other clinical research centers across the country.

Ancient fault lines may have become re-activated
Study of a magnitude 5.0 earthquake occuring in southern Indiana in 2002 has led researchers to believe that a Wabash Valley fault line dating back to the Precambrian era has become reactivated.

Major government study: Surgery is a good option for selected emphysema patients
Results of a government-sponsored, long-term, 17-center study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of lung volume reduction surgery in the treatment of advanced emphysema have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. A thoracic surgeon and a specialist in pulmonary medicine - both of whom served as principal investigators on the study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center - are available to provide details and analysis.

Recall of skin conditions that increase risk of smallpox vacccine complications
A new study finds that standard screening questions do not identify all individuals who should be excluded from receiving the smallpox vaccine because of certain pre-existing skin problems.

Water treatment reduces risk of Legionnaires'
One county's change in its municipal water treatment system may have significantly reduced its risk from Legionnaires' disease, say researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They present their findings today at the 103rd General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

Carnegie Mellon demonstrates autonomous robot
Carnegie Mellon University researchers, working with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), will demonstrate a prototype, autonomous wheeled robot today as it explores and maps a 3,500-foot corridor of an abandoned coal mine near New Eagle in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Pelvic arterial embolization offers alternative to hysterectomy for treatment of postpartum bleeding
Results of a recent study show that pelvic arterial embolization can be used safely and effectively to treat uncontrollable postpartum bleeding with little or no long-term side effects, says Michael Tal, MD, assistant professor and director of research in the section of interventional radiology at Yale University School of Medicine and an author of the study.

A man for all seasons
Authors reflect on the scientific contributions of Lyman Briggs, soil scientist, aviation pioneer, and Manhattan Project architect in a Soil Science Society of America Journal article. They reviewed his research, field experiments, and inventions, including creating a compass used by Charles Lindbergh in his transatlantic flight. His experiments explored the physics of water, investigating the soil-water relationship. Briggs was also tapped by FDR to head a top-secret committee that evolved into the Manhattan Project.

Retinal prosthesis trial completes first phase of testing
Researchers from USC and Second Sight, LLC, are reporting on the initial results of their groundbreaking, FDA-approved feasibility trial of an intraocular retinal prosthesis that appears to be able to restore some degree of sight to the blind.

FOSRENOL (TM) (lanthanum carbonate) shows favourable effects in 12-month bone biopsy study
FOSRENOL (TM) (lanthanum carbonate), Shire Pharmaceuticals' candidate phosphate binder for end-stage renal disease patients on dialysis, has been shown to be free of bone toxicity and to normalise markers of bone disease (renal osteodystrophy) after one year of treatment, according to a study in the June Kidney International. These findings are the results of the first ever multicenter, paired bone biopsy investigation and comparison of the effects of phosphate binders on bone in dialysis patients.

Cannabis more damaging to health than previously thought claim doctors
Cannabis smoking could be responsible for up to 30,000 deaths in the UK, estimate doctors from Imperial College London and St Mary's Hospital.

Researchers aim to centralize N.C. emergency room data to combat epidemics, bioterrorism
Hospital emergency rooms constitute a key part of the first line of defense against infectious disease epidemics like SARS and even bioterrorism, but word of what happens in one emergency room might not get out to others for days or weeks. Local, state and national health officials need such information to identify and respond to public health emergencies fast. Now University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faculty members are trying to make the system react more quickly to health-care threats.

Rhode Island to test UC solution to contaminated water
A cure for cleaner air and better gasoline has become a threat to safe drinking water. University of Cincinnati and EPA methods to make groundwater safe once again will be tested in Rhode Island this summer.

Small protein helps special RNA make repairs
Fatal errors sometimes occur in messenger RNA, the blueprint for proteins. A special form of RNA, so-called tmRNA, bypasses these errors and cleans up the mess. Dutch researcher Sharief Barends discovered that the protein SmpB is an essential catalyst for the functioning of tmRNA.

Results of first major study of SARS show early hospital admission key to tackling epidemic
Research by UK epidemiologists and scientists from Hong Kong reports results of the first major epidemiological study about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Treating hypertension, other vascular risks, most important in heart failure
Scientists and physicians studying heart failure should focus on crucial questions surrounding the control of hypertension and other vascular risk factors, say two Penn experts in heart disease in a review of treatment methods for the New England Journal of Medicine.

The seashell's inner beauty
Researchers have developed a nanoscale, layered material that comes close to nacre's properties, including its iridescence. The ability to nanomanufacture artificial nacre may provide lightweight, rigid composites for aircraft parts, artificial bone and other applications.

Drug may work on secondary clots in stroke
Many stroke patients can be treated with clot-busting drugs to reduce their chances of death and disability. But for some patients, the treatment is unsuccessful because the clots reappear soon after treatment. Now researchers have identified a drug that can break up those secondary clots, according to a study in the May 27 issue of Neurology.

Setting boundaries between work and life helps families thrive
With e-mail at home, cell calls to the boss on the way to work, and text messaging the next appointment, home and office seem indistinguishable. However, people who integrate their work and families are not always happier, Michigan State University researchers say. Instead, Ellen Kossek, an MSU professor of labor and industrial relations, found that people who establish boundaries between work and family are more connected to their families than those who integrate their jobs and personal lives.

NIST assists NASA in Columbia accident investigation
NIST has provided significant assistance to NASA in its investigation of the space shuttle Columbia disaster on Feb. 1, 2003. NASA has drawn upon NIST's expertise in cold temperature research for data on the properties of liquid and solid nitrogen and for measurements of thermal conductivity in foam insulation. 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