Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (November 2001)

Science news and science current events archive November, 2001.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from November 2001

New ways to forecast presidential election in wake of disputed 2000 contest
Forecasting the winner of the next presidential election could produce a decided shift away from traditional polling, according to two papers being delivered at the annual convention of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMSĀ®) at the Fontainebleau Hilton Resort. The papers, which come in the wake of the disputed 2000 contest, offer pollsters, campaigns, and news organizations innovative ways of predicting which candidate will win the presidency in 2004.

Boneless, brainy, and ancient
How to make a robotic arm that is able to flex in an infinite number of ways and order it to do so without disorder and confusion? Get yourself an octopus and study it. That is exactly what researchers funded by the Office of Naval Research are doing.

VEGF gene therapy eases pain, improves heart function
Injecting a growth factor gene directly into the heart is safe and appears highly effective in treating advanced coronary heart disease.

Research to fine tune studies of geologic time
Research by a Virginia Tech geological-sciences graduate student has more closely defined the environmental effect on organisms over time, a step that will help in such fields as evolutionary biology, paleontology, paleoecology, and paleo-environmental interpretation. It can, for example, help oil companies with mapping.

Sky survey lowers estimate of asteroid impact risk
The odds of earth suffering a catastrophic collision with an asteroid over the next century are about one in 5,000, which is less likely than previously believed, according to research published this month. Astronomers using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey found that the solar system contains about 700,000 asteroids big enough to destroy civilization. That figure is about one-third the size of earlier estimates.

INEEL uses ethanol to reduce petroleum consumption, cut exhaust emissions
A different blend of gasoline is being pumped into government vehicles at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. It's reducing petroleum consumption and helping the INEEL cut air emissions without additional fuel costs.

Mutant proteins may be key to defeat chemical warfare
Enzymes -proteins commonly used to speed up chemical reactions - can render chemical warfare agents and insecticides harmless by breaking them apart. A group of chemists at Texas A&M University is now genetically modifying one of these enzymes, phosphotriesterase, to make it both faster and more selective.

Island study suggests predators key to healthy ecosystem
A study of animals and plants isolated since 1986 on small islands in Venezuela has yielded strong evidence that predators play a key role in perpetuating the diversity of plants and animals.

Short legs associated with precursor of diabetes and heart disease
Short-legged men have an increased risk of heart disease and a condition that leads to diabetes, insulin resistance syndrome, shows research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

First report on sublethal effects of smoke available from NIST
Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of U.S. fire deaths, but smoke doesn't have to kill you to cause problems during a fire emergency. NIST and the National Fire Protection Association have unveiled the first progress report of a multi-year initiative to define what is known about the sublethal effects of smoke. In this story from the NIST UPDATE newsletter, find out what the researchers learned and how to get a copy of their report.

Oral administration of estrogen replacement therapy suppresses the biological actions of growth hormones in GH-deficient women
Findings demonstrate for the first time that the impact of oral estrogen extends beyond effects on circulating IGF-I levels as GH-induced stimulation of fat oxidation, protein metabolism also affected.

Damage to buildings near World Trade Center Towers caused by falling debris and air pressure wave, not ground shaking, seismologists report
While the ground shaking caused by the World Trade Center twin towers collapse was consistent with the energy released by small earthquakes, it was not sufficient to cause the collapse of, or damage to, surrounding buildings, as some have thought. Rather, seismologists report, the buildings around the twin towers were impacted both by the kinetic energy of the falling debris and by the pressure exerted on them by a dust- and particle-laden blast produced by the collapse.

Study first to confirm acupuncture's effect
University of Vermont researchers have found the first scientific evidence of the response of body tissue to acupuncture needling. The research found that the key to acupuncture's biomechanical effect - a phenomenon called

Young athletes may be more prone to sudden death than non-athletes; enhanced screening urged
Young competitive athletes are more than twice as likely to experience sudden death (SD) as their non-athletic counterparts, according to an Italian study presented today at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2001 conference.

Clues to development of eye's light-sensitive cells found
Scientists from the University of Michigan are reporting important new insights into the development and differentiation of rod and cone photoreceptors, the light-sensitive cells in the eye's retina that initiate vision and are essential for clear sight. The discovery has implications for major blinding diseases such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

A novel chemotherapy and radiation regimen significantly improves outlook for patients with early-stage Hodgkin's disease
A short course of chemotherapy followed by radiation significantly improves time to disease progression and minimizes toxicity in patients with early-stage Hodgkin's disease, a study by the Southwest Oncology Group reports.

Gene study hunt finds new clue to premature heart attacks
In one of the largest genetic studies of its kind, researchers have discovered three previously unidentified genetic variants that may explain why some families are prone to premature heart disease.

Study: control of chloride channels localized, discovery may boost cystic fibrosis treatment
medical scientists have discovered that biochemical signaling mechanisms regulating the salt and water content of the liquid lining surfaces in the lungs are

Obese women convert carbohydrate to fat faster than lean women
Publishing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, McDevitt et al. found significant differences in de novo lipogenesis between lean and obese women in response to a control diet, but not to overfeeding of carbohydrates.

Landmark smallpox vaccine study underway
Volunteers are lining up this week to be vaccinated against smallpox, a once routine occurrence now considered extraordinary yet necessary because of recent events. A total of 684 healthy individuals will participate in the study in an effort to increase the number of available doses from existing stocks of smallpox vaccine. Taking part are Saint Louis University, Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Maryland, and the University of Rochester.

Air Force grant to ease communication bottleneck in design process
The design of large-scale systems such as automobiles, aircraft, and ships involve multiple disciplines. The global optimal-design problem must be divided into disciplinary sub-problems that ideally can be done concurrently and independently. An Air Force-funded project will develop mathematically rigorous decomposition theories so that large-scale design problems can be effectively solved on massively parallel supercomputers.

Landmark clinical trial at 22 medical centers finds implanted heart pumps lengthen and improve lives of terminally ill heart failure patients
Implanted heart pumps can extend and improve the quality of life of terminally ill heart failure patients, a three-year landmark study of 129 patients at 22 major medical centers has found.

NSF awards University of Georgia $8.7 million for crop genetics research
The National Science Foundation has awarded three grants to the University of Georgia to support research which aims to decipher the genetic blueprint of economically important crops in the grass family and identify useful genes for crop improvement, such as ones that confer drought tolerance. The total value of the awards is $8.7 million over four years.

UF study: Religion doesn't influence sense of well-being or fear of death in seniors
Simply attending religious services or turning to religion in times of need will not increase a person's feeling of well-being or make them fear death less, at least among people in later life.

Ocean frontier revealed: scientists to describe unexpected discoveries of arctic research cruise
The Arctic Ocean is one of Earth's least explored oceanic frontiers. Last summer, a research team aboard USCGC Healy, the U.S. Coast Guard's newest icebreaker, exceeded its most ambitious hopes to map the ocean's floor and reveal geological and biological features of the underwater Gakkel Ridge.

Expert panel issues recommendations for the treatment and management of pediatric nocturnal enuresis
Recommendations for patient evaluation and treatment of primary nocturnal enuresis were recently published in Infectious Diseases in Children.

Results of the OPTIMA study show significant benefits from early and sustained treatment of mild asthma
Earlier and more sustained treatment of mild asthma improves control of asthma symptoms and reduces the risk of a severe exacerbation, thereby preventing lung function damage according to the results of the OPTIMA (Oxis and Pulmicort Turbuhaler In the Management of Asthma) study, published today in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

NSF boosts funding for plant genome research
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 24 new grants totaling more than $71 million over the next five years for plant genome research.

Drug regimen adherence key in keeping babies virus-free, study suggests
The best available defense against serious lower respiratory infections in infants is a drug that can cost the consumer more than $2,000 a treatment. That cost may prove problematic for some parents, said Diane Langkamp, co-author of a study that looked at the factors affecting compliance with the drug palivizumab (brand name Synagis). Langkamp did the study while an assistant professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University.

NSF invests in a second year of grants to foster community innovation
A National Science Foundation (NSF) program to foster significant public/private partnerships and help better position local communities to accommodate new and enhanced research and development will continue into a second year.

Cognitive impairment high among older people, Indiana University study suggests
Nearly one in four older African Americans in Indianapolis have measurable cognitive problems, according to an Indiana University School of Medicine study published in the Nov.13 issue of the journal Neurology. The study is the first population-based study of cognitive impairment in the US. It suggests that the condition may affect a significant proportion of older people. Researchers looked at cognitive difficulties(thinking, learning, remembering) that had not progressed to the point of Alzheimer disease or dementia.

Best to be born last
You may hate being the youngest, but you're less likely to get allergies than your older siblings. American researchers have found that firstborn babies have higher levels of a key immune protein associated with allergies.

Skin expert issues winter sports warning
SKIERS and snowboarders and competitors in the 2002 Winter Olympics should heed sun safety messages this season to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer, says an expert from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He says they need to take as much care of their skin as a summer holidaymakers in hot countries.

Common chest blows can cause sudden death in children
Seemingly innocent chest blows - even from attempts to remedy hiccups or a blow from a toy plastic bat - can result in rare cases of sudden death in children.

Drowsy fruit flies illuminate first molecular pathway, in any species, known to regulate rest and wakefulness
Working with sleep-deprived fruit flies, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have uncovered the first molecular pathway, in any species, implicated in the shift between rest and wakefulness. The work indicates that a Drosophila melanogaster gene known as CREB - evolutionarily conserved in species from flies to humans - plays a role in rest's rejuvenating effects, apparently permitting sustained wakefulness.

Post-transcriptional regulation of COX2 in tumor cells
Prostaglandins apparently not only drive the initial formation of certain pre-cancerous lesions, but also support the development of blood vessels that permit tumor growth and the phenotypic changes that result in metastasis. Much of the analysis of COX-2 regulation has focused on transcriptional control, but Dixon and coworkers now show that post-transcriptional effects may be equally important.

Molecular 'nanogenerator' developed that can target cancer cells and destroy them
Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) have developed a molecular nanogenerator that releases a cascade of atomic fragments known as alpha particles on the inside of cancer cells.

Even small rise in family income helps young children from poor families
A small amount of money can make a big difference for young children from poor families, increasing their social skills and readiness for school to levels seen in children from middle-class families, according to a new study.

UAF scientists share results of arctic research on global warming
Several hundred international scientists studying environment change in the Arctic will meet Nov. 14-17 in Salt Lake City to report the results of recently completed studies that document major changes and improve scientific understanding of the Arctic as an integrated regional system. The objective of the research is to contribute fundamental documentation and understanding of the Arctic's terrestrial, marine, and atmospheric environments in support of Arctic System Science and the U.S. Global Research Program, leading to an enhanced predictive capability.

Researchers discover way to make electrical circuits by self-assembly
Researchers at NC State University and the University of Delaware have discovered that colloidal nanoparticles - dispersed particles ranging in size from 15 to 30 nanometers - can spontaneously self-assemble into wires when placed under the force of an alternating electric field, a process called dielectrophoresis. The formation of the microwires, which are about a micrometer in diameter and a few millimeters long, can be controlled and used in rudimentary electrical circuits.

Internal documents reveal tobacco industry strategy to undermine unwelcome research
Philip Morris tobacco company launched a hidden campaign in the 1990s to change the standards of scientific proof needed to demonstrate that secondhand smoke was dangerous, according to an analysis of internal tobacco industry documents by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The

NCAR's 'Blue Sky' to spur climate, weather research
Atmospheric scientists will soon have access to powerful new computational, storage, and communications technologies provided by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The new IBM SP supercomputer and latest-generation technologies, code-named Blue Sky, will advance U.S. climate and weather research.

Positive attitude is best prevention against heart disease
For years, hospital emergency physicians have used nitrogylcerin as a gold standard for identifying heart disease as a cause of chest pain. If a patient presents with chest pain, and a nitroglycerin pill or spray under the tongue relieves the pain within a few minutes, the likely diagnosis is coronary artery disease (CAD).

Imaging studies illuminate competition between brain systems
What areas of the brain are activated during the process of learning and how does the pattern of activation change as learning proceeds? Brain imaging studies conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in collaboration with scientists at Rutgers University-Newark, are revealing that brain systems known to be involved in learning seem to compete with each other, with the type of learning involved determining which system is dominant.

Melting glaciers diminished Gulf Stream, cooled Western Europe, during last Ice Age
At the end of the last Ice Age --11.5 to 13 thousand years ago -- the north Atlantic deep water circulation system that drives the Gulf Stream may have shut down because of melting glaciers that added freshwater into the north Atlantic Ocean over several hundred years, confirm researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s paleoclimate program.

New analysis promises to speed application of human genome draft
A small team of scientists has dramatically improved

Explore the early history, culture of Japan
Two divergent accounts of the political, cultural and social currents running through Japan from the 3rd to the 5th centuries--a turning point on the road to state formation--will be explored at a lecture Saturday, November 17, at The Field Museum. Gina Barnes, author of the best-selling textbook The Rise of Civilization in East Asia: The Archaeology of China, Korea and Japan, will discuss the differences between the Chinese dynastic records and Japanese court chronicles during this era.

New Val-HeFT data shows valsartan reduces total heart failure hospitalizations
According to new data, the angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) valsartan reduces not only the time to first hospitalization for heart failure but all hospitalizations for this devastating disease. A separate analysis of neurohormonal data from Val-HeFT demonstrated that valsartan has positive effects on norepinephrine, a neurohormone associated with morbidity outcomes in heart failure patients.

Nearly two-thirds of GPs are unaware that insulin resistance, a fundamental cause of type 2 diabetes, is thought to be present in 92% of people with the disease
While GPs' understanding of the definition of insulin resistance is excellent (85% know it is the inability of the body to respond to its own insulin1), the number of patients that it affects is being greatly underestimated. An independent survey carried out by Taylor Nelson Sofres* has revealed that 60% of GPs and 85% of practice nurses are unaware that at least 92% of people with type 2 diabetes are insulin resistant1,2,3.

Assaulting the mosquito's sense of smell
The mosquito may be nature's most effective bioterrorist, accounting for millions of deaths each year. But the end of its eons' long reign of terror may be in sight. Scientists have begun to apply the power of genomics and molecular biology to understand how the mosquito detects the subtle chemical cues that lead it to its targets. 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