Brightsurf Science News & Current Events Archive (October 2003)

Science news and science current events archive October, 2003.

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Top Science News & Current Event Articles from October 2003

Let gravity assist you...
'Fly-bys', or 'gravity assist' manoeuvres, are now a standard part of spaceflight and are used by almost all ESA interplanetary missions.

Researchers find that Superman's teeth can superconduct
Researchers at the University of Warwick have found that phosphorus, an element commonly found in teeth, can act as a 'superconductor' - but you would have to have the strength of Superman to clench your teeth hard enough for it to work - as it happens at a pressure of around 2.5 megabars - some 30,000 times harder than an ordinary human can clench their teeth.

Breast feeding may not protect against obesity
Breast feeding does not protect against overweight and obesity, according to two studies in this week's BMJ.

Inventor of Kevlar(R) to be inducted into National Women's Hall of Fame
DuPont scientist Stephanie Kwolek -- who has helped save nearly 3,000 lives in law enforcement through her research leading to the discovery of DuPont Kevlar® aramid fiber -- will be inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 4.

College is first to be Kyoto Protocol compliant
For the cost of a movie and popcorn for each student, Lewis & Clark College has become the first campus in the nation to comply with the greenhouse gas emissions targets called for in the Kyoto Protocol.

New drug for non-small cell lung cancer shows efficacy
A new anti-cancer agent designed to block the signals responsible for telling cancer cells to grow has shown promising results for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

UC scientists discover plant gene that promotes production of ozone-destroying methyl halides
A team of University of California scientists has identified a gene that controls the production by terrestrial plants of methyl halides, gaseous compounds that contribute to the destruction of ozone in the stratosphere.

Use eggs, not embryos, to derive stem cells, say researchers
Concerns about the ethics of using embryos created to treat infertile couples for stem cell research is discussed by researchers at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester in this week's BMJ.

A new molecular culprit for type II diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
Israeli scientists say they have solid evidence that precursor molecules -- called protofibrils -- are the problem molecules in type II diabetes, and their results support a similar mechanism for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Further, they say that the current focus on breaking up the abnormal clumps of protein -- called fibrils -- may in fact be doing more harm than good. The report is in the Sept. 23 edition of Biochemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society.

Dietary fat not linked to risk of stroke
Unlike heart disease, dietary fat does not seem to be associated with risk of stroke, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Brain maps perceptions, not reality
A new study by Vanderbilt researchers finds the map of the cortex in the brain is a perceptual, not a physical, map. The team used a touch illusion called the tactile funneling illusion and optical imaging to determine that perception, not actual sensory stimuli, are mapped in Area 3b in the somatosensory cortex of squirrel monkeys.

ESA's Integral discovers hidden black holes
Integral, ESA's powerful gamma-ray space telescope, has discovered what seems to be a new class of astronomical objects.

NCAR tip sheet: Weather modification experts tackle a slippery subject
Weather modification is big business, but how reliable is it? Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have experimented with weather modification methods for decades. Now several NCAR scientists have contributed to a special report issued Monday by the National Research Council of The National Academies.

Scientists find more efficient way to 'unlearn' fear
Behavior therapists may have a better way to help anxious patients, thanks to insights from a UCLA study of different ways to get mice past their fears. Rodents have long been used to study learning by association. Neuroscientists compared different ways of exposing mice to a stimulus that they had learned to fear, and found that

Down and dirty: Airborne ozone can alter forest soil
The industrial pollutant ozone, long known to be harmful to many kinds of plants, can also affect the very earth in which they grow. Researchers at Michigan Technological University and North Central Research Station of the USDA Forest Service have discovered that ozone can reduce soil carbon formation--a measure of the amount of organic matter being added to the soil. Their findings are published in the October 16 issue of the journal Nature.

Increased religiosity in countries affects attitudes toward sexual morality, study shows
When a nation's overall levels of religious belief and attendance are high, its citizens voice greater disapproval of divorce, homosexuality, abortion and prostitution -- issues involving sexual morality. But religiosity is less likely to spur such disapproval for cheating on taxes or accepting bribes in public office, says two Penn State researchers.

M. D. Anderson expands peer counseling program for African-American breast cancer survivors
Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center are reaching out to African-American women across the United States in an effort to improve their sexual quality of life after surviving breast cancer.

NASA research team successfully flies first laser-powered aircraft
Since the dawn of powered flight, all aircraft have had to carry onboard fuel to stay aloft. But a team of researchers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., and the University of Alabama in Huntsville is trying to change that. The team has developed and demonstrated the first-ever small-scale aircraft that flies solely from power delivered by an invisible, ground-based laser.

Molecular test proves to be effective in measuring remission and relapse after cancer treatment
An international consortium of researchers from Seattle, London and Australia report the first use of a sensitive molecular test to measure the precise extent of remission or the likelihood of relapse in cancer patients being treated on Gleevec or a combination therapy consisting of interferon and cytarabine. The test is hundreds of thousands of times more sensitive than any other test making it a way to detect relapse earlier than ever before.

Patient simulator improves performance of clinical trial coordinators
Duke University Medical Center researchers have demonstrated that training research coordinators on a human simulator prior to a complex clinical trial can significantly improve the coordinators' confidence in their abilities.

Case Western Reserve University scientists test protein as early cancer detection agent
Scientists at Case Western Reserve University have identified an agent that could lead to the early detection of many cancers. The Case research team discovered that the human body increases production of the protein clusterin as a signal of cell distress and provides a reliable gauge of the general health of a cell. The findings were reported in a recent issue of the scientific journal Cancer Biology and Therapy.

GenSAT (Gene Expression Nervous System Atlas) project announced
For scientists studying the brain, this week's Nature announces a remarkable new map describing previously uncharted territory, plus the means of exploring the new horizons for themselves. Rockefeller University scientists led by Nat Heintz, Ph.D., and Mary Beth Hatten, Ph.D., are well under way on a genetic atlas of the mammalian brain that provides unprecedented access to central nervous system regions, cell classes and pathways.

Census study: whites less likely than blacks to live with extended family
A hundred years of census data indicates whites are now less likely than blacks to live in extended-family households, a reversal from the earlier half of the century, according to a study published in the August Demography.

Robot skin stretches to the task
American researchers have found a solution to the difficult requirements of robot skin - which needs to be elastic to allow movement and yet carry wiring to sense its environment. Their answer is to use broad corrugated metal strips that can stretch twice their length and still conduct electricity.

Launch of Ariadna to boost advanced space research in Europe
Will spacecraft travelling through interplanetary space be able to determine their positions by using signals from dead stars as astronomical clocks?

Alcohol use increases the risk of hormonally sensitive breast cancers in postmenopausal women
Older women with a history of alcohol use are significantly more likely than nondrinkers to be diagnosed with hormonally sensitive forms of breast cancer, including lobular carcinoma and ER/PR-positive tumors.

Prehistoric footpaths in Costa Rica indicate intimate ties with villages, cemeteries
New findings by the University of Colorado at Boulder indicate tiny footpaths traveled by Costa Rican people 1,500 years ago were precursors to wide, deep and ritualistic roadways 500 years later leading to and from cemeteries and villages.

Georgetown University receives $6.5 million grant to enhance emergency preparedness in Washington
A team from Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Health has been awarded a $6.5 million research grant by NIH's National Library of Medicine to create a unique emergency preparedness system rooted in advanced information technology.

Every week is 'Earth Science Week' at NASA
While mid-October has been designated Earth Science Week around the world, every week is Earth Science Week at NASA. To mark its continuous dedication to studies of Earth's land, sea and air, NASA will join the American Geological Institute (AGI) and the U.S. Geological Survey in celebrating Earth Science Week, October 12-18th.

Are UK consent rules too restrictive?
Regulations on the use of human tissue in the United Kingdom are now more restrictive than any other European country. Is the UK leading the way or overreacting to recent publicity about inadequate consent procedures?

Meeting to address scientific evidence of Arctic environmment change
Dramatic declines over the past 30 years in sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean appear to be part of a complex and interrelated set of environmental changes that already are affecting traditional ways of life, according to researchers attending a landmark scientific meeting in Seattle this week.

New genomic data helps resolve biology's tree of life
A team of scientists from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, writing in the current issue (Oct. 23) of the prestigious journal Nature, has shown that new genomic-scale data offers powerful, unprecedented resolution of the evolutionary tree.

Genetic differences in termite castes may lead to better control
Learning the molecular processes that cause termite larvae to grow into workers, soldiers or reproductive adults may lead to new methods to decimate colonies of the wood-eaters, according to Purdue University researchers.

NASA research propels development of new glass
There's a new glass in town. The glass, developed with the help of a unique NASA levitator facility, is available for numerous commercial applications including lasers and optical communications.

Two UCSD professors awarded Nobel Prize in Economics
For their pioneering work in statistical modeling of economic data, known as econometrics, Clive W. J. Granger, 69, and Robert F. Engle, 60, long-time collaborators in the Department of Economics at the University of California, San Diego, have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.

UCSD scientists explain and improve upon 'enigmatic' probability formula
Scientists at UC San Diego have developed a new version of the breakthrough probability formula that helped the Allies crack Germany's Enigma code in World War II. It's published in the new Science Magazine.

Brain may 'hard-wire' sexuality before birth
UCLA scientists have identified 54 genes that may explain the different organization of male and female brains. The discovery suggests sexual identity is hard-wired into the brain before birth and may offer physicians a tool for gender assignment of newborns with ambiguous genitalia.

Developing elevators that function during fires
In the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. fire experts are beginning to advocate the use of elevators in high-rise buildings throughout a fire, both to carry firefighters to the site of the blaze and as a secondary method (after stairwells) for evacuating building occupants. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has joined others to study ways to build

Not all aerial reptiles were level-headed, CT scans show
With its 13-foot wing span, a flying dinosaur soars above a lake, scanning for dinner as its shadow glides across the water's surface below. Eying a fish, the aerobatic reptile, called a pterosaur, dives through the air, its shadow shrinking and darkening until - splash! The fish is in the pterosaur's beak, which resembles a cross between a pelican's bill and a crocodile's snout.

School clinics best way to get birth control to students
Minneapolis high school students are more apt to take advantage of free contraception if they can get birth control directly from clinics at their schools, according to new research in the November issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

New drug proves helpful for treating long-term insomnia
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center and elsewhere have completed the first large-scale study demonstrating sustained efficacy of a medication to treat insomnia for a period of six months.

MIT, Tshinghua U. collaborate on advanced nuclear reactor
Researchers at MIT and Tsinghua University in Beijing will collaborate on the development of a pebble-bed nuclear reactor, thanks to an international agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the China Atomic Energy Authority. The reactor could become a cost-competitive, meltdown-proof alternative to today's commercial nuclear power plants.

Space Days approaching
The ESA-sponsored Industry Space Days 2003 will provide companies with an inside view of the European space sector's future direction, delivered first-hand from top names in institutions and industry.

Grant of powerful computer to Rutgers-Newark will increase understanding of brain activity
Rutgers-Newark has been chosen as one of only 19 research universities nationwide to receive a powerful new state-of-the-art computer through a grant from Hewlett-Packard. The computer will be used to dramatically enhance scientists' ability to analyze brain activity.

Polar bears' habitat threatened by thinning of Arctic sea ice
The only natural habitat of the polar bear is under increasing threat as a consequence of the dramatic thinning of the Arctic sea ice.The link between the thinning of the ice and rising temperatures has been discovered by scientists at UCL and the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

Rutgers geneticist to battle autism with $3.7 million NIH grant
Linda Brzustowicz, an associate professor in Rutgers' department of genetics, has been awarded a five-year, $3.7 million NIH grant to investigate the genetic basis of autism.

November Geology and GSA Today media highlights
Topics include: discovery of biomarkers preserved in oil that may give a more complete picture of life on early Earth; new evidence that non-photosynthesis-based ecosystems originated much earlier than previously thought; role of decreased levels of atmospheric oxygen in mass extinctions; and evidence that the Great Barrier Reef may have had a now-extinct precursor. The GSA Today science article challenges the existence of mantle plumes and widely held views of how plate tectonics works.

Rocks could reveal secrets of life on Earth - and Mars
A new UK project could help detect evidence for life on Mars, as well as improve our understanding of how it evolved on Earth.

Jefferson scientists find anemia drug may help lessen effects of heart attack
Researchers at Jefferson Medical College have found that the anemia drug erythropoietin (EPO) may lessen the effects of a heart attack due to ischemia, or lack of oxygen, by protecting heart cells from dying.

Thoughts translate to actions
One promising approach for recovery after spinal cord injury involves circumventing neuronal damage by establishing connections between healthy areas of the brain and virtual devices, called brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), programmed to transform neural impulses into signals that can control a robotic device. Miguel Nicolelis and colleagues report long-term studies in monkeys that shed light on some of the fundamental issues surrounding the programming and use of BMIs and have important implications for medical applications.

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