MY AMERICAN SCIENTIST
LOG IN! REGISTER!
SEARCH
 
RSS
Logo IMG
HOME > SCIENCE IN THE NEWS

Science in the News

Barbadians Slam Discovery, Naming of Tiny Snake

from the San Francisco Examiner

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Associated Press) - A small snake has sparked a big debate in Barbados. Residents of the wealthy Caribbean nation have been heating up blogs and clogging radio airwaves to vent their anger at a U.S. scientist, who earlier this week announced his "discovery" of the world's smallest snake and named it "Leptotyphlops carlae," after his wife Carla.

"If he needs to blow his own trumpet ... well, fine," said 43-year-old Barbadian Charles Atkins. "But my mother, who was a simple housewife, she showed me the snake when I was a child."

One writer to the Barbados Free Press blog took an even tougher tone, questioning how someone could "discover" a snake long known to locals, who called it the thread snake.

Read more...

Save to Library

Perseid Meteor Shower to Peak August 11 and 12

from National Geographic News

Unlike short-lived solar eclipses or unpredictable auroras, meteor showers regularly offer skywatchers a dazzling show. Soon the curtain will rise on one of the best of these showers: the Perseids, so called because the meteors appear to originate in the constellation Perseus.

Slated to peak sometime during the night and early morning of August 11 to 12, the shower offers one of the year's best chances to see a shooting star.

Under perfect conditions, observers can expect to see about 90 to 100 meteors an hour, said Wayne Hally, a self-professed "meteor geek" who writes a newsletter for the North American Meteor Network.

Read more...

Save to Library

Invisibility Cloak 'Step Closer'

from the BBC News Online

Scientists in the US say they are a step closer to developing materials that could render people invisible.

Researchers at the University of California in Berkeley have developed a material that can bend light around 3D objects making them "disappear."

The materials do not occur naturally but have been created on a nano scale, measured in billionths of a metre. The team says the principles could one day be scaled up to make invisibility cloaks large enough to hide people.

Read more...

Save to Library

Cassini to Search for Source of Saturn Moon's Plumes

from New Scientist

On Monday, the Cassini spacecraft will return to Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, passing within 50 kilometres of its south pole. NASA team members hope the flyby will provide evidence for subsurface liquid water containing the building blocks of life.

Previous encounters revealed huge plumes of ice and water vapour venting from blue-green fault lines, or "tiger stripes", that criss-cross the south pole. The source of these jets, which feed Saturn's rings, is hotly contested.

Gathering data about these features has been slow because only a few instruments can be used fully during each flyby. Early budget cuts to the mission in 1992 limited the ability of its detectors to move independently, so some are often on the wrong side of the spacecraft to be useful.

Read more...

Save to Library

The Recipe for You

from the San Diego Union-Tribune (Registration Required)

In episode 17 of the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (Stardate 41463.9), a silica-based life form called a “microbrain” disparagingly describes humans as “ugly bags of water.”

Which is true – at least the part about us being bags of water. Every school kid learns that humans are mostly water, albeit in varying amounts. The average adult is about 60 percent water. Newborns are 78 percent; obese people can be less than 50 percent water, since lean muscle tissue contains much more water (75 percent) than fat (14 percent).

But as basic as water is to the human condition, other things are even more elemental, such as the hydrogen and oxygen that combine to make water. Roughly 99 percent of your body's mass is composed of just six elements: oxygen (65 percent); carbon (18 percent); hydrogen (10 percent); nitrogen (3 percent); calcium (1.5 percent); and phosphorus (1 percent).

Read more...

Save to Library

Snake's Impact on Guam Appears to Extend to Flora

from the Washington Post (Registration Required)

One of the most infamous examples of what can happen when a nonnative species is introduced into a new environment involves the brown tree snake -- a voracious, semi-venomous species that in less than 50 years all but destroyed bird life on the northern Pacific island of Guam.

Introduced inadvertently from the South Pacific just after World War II, apparently on a cargo ship, the snake has killed off 10 bird species on the island and is in the process of wiping out the remaining two.

The virtual extermination of Guam's birds has been bemoaned for decades, but new research suggests that the damage to the ecology of the narrow, 30-mile-long island did not stop there. The hundreds of thousands of snakes, researchers say, are now changing the way Guam's forest grows ...

Read more...

Save to Library

Skin Cells Produce Library of Diseased Stem Cells

from the San Diego Union-Tribune (Registration Required)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. stem cell experts have produced a library of the powerful cells using ordinary skin and bone marrow cells from patients, and said Thursday they would share them freely with other researchers.

They used a new method to re-program ordinary cells so they look and act like embryonic stem cells – the master cells of the body with the ability to produce any type of tissue or blood cell.

The new cells come from patients with 10 incurable genetic diseases and conditions, including Parkinson's, the paralyzing disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, juvenile diabetes and Down's Syndrome. Writing in the journal Cell, the team at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital in Boston said the point is not yet to treat anyone, but to get as many researchers as possible experimenting with these cells in lab dishes to better understand the diseases.

Read more...

Save to Library

US Nuclear Submarine Leaked Radiation Over 2 Years

from the Seattle Times

TOKYO (Associated Press) — An American nuclear-powered submarine leaked radiation for more than two years, releasing the bulk of the material in its home port of Guam and at Pearl Harbor, Japanese and U.S. officials said Thursday.

On Aug. 1, the U.S. Navy notified Japan that the USS Houston had leaked water containing small amounts of radiation during three calls to the southern Japanese ports of Sasebo and Okinawa in March and April this year but caused no threat to people or the environment.

The U.S. Navy released a detailed chronology of the leaks over the past two years, showing that the cumulative radioactivity released was less than 9.3 micro curies - with 8 micro curies released in Guam alone. ... Navy Commander Jeff Davis said the Houston is still in Hawaii being repaired and the reactor is turned off.

Read more...

Save to Library

Bullets Tagged with Pollen Could Help Solve Gun Crimes

from the Guardian (UK)

Pollen could be used to identify the perpetrators of gun crimes, thanks to developments in nanotechnology. The microscopic grains can be coated onto bullets during manufacture and are sticky enough to hold on even after the gun has been fired. Each 'nanotag' is made up of pollen and a unique chemical signature that can be used to identify the batch of ammunition.

The pollen grains – from one of two species of lily – are around 30 micrometres in diameter and are invisible to the naked eye. Thousands can be attached to each cartridge.

"The tags primarily consist of naturally occurring pollen, a substance that evolution has provided with extraordinary adhesive properties," said Prof Paul Sermon from the University of Surrey, who led the research.

Read more...

Save to Library

Cern Lab Set for Beam Milestone

from the BBC News Online

A vast physics experiment - the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - reaches a key milestone this weekend ahead of an official start-up on 10 September.

Engineers had previously brought a beam of protons - tiny, sub-atomic particles - to the "doorstep" of the LHC. On 9 August, protons will be piped through LHC magnets for the first time.

The most powerful physics experiment ever built, the LHC will re-create the conditions present in the Universe just after the Big Bang. For the two-day "synchronisation test," engineers will thread a low intensity beam through the injection system and one of the LHC's eight sectors.

Read more...

Save to Library

For Nanotech Drug Delivery, Size Doesn't Matter--Shape Does

from the Scientific American

As nanotechnology to ferry drugs to their destinations is tested in both the laboratory and in clinical trials, scientists have made a surprising discovery about the kinds of nanoparticles that might be most effective for eventually transporting a number of different cancer-fighting therapies throughout the body.

The conventional wisdom is that the smaller, the better. But that may not be true, according to a team of scientists led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (U.N.C.) chemistry professor Joseph DeSimone.

eSimone and his colleagues have shown that the shape of these microscopic drug carriers is much more important than size and can even mean the difference between whether a drug penetrates target cells effectively or ends up as a target itself, only to be destroyed by the immune system.

Read more...

Save to Library

Solar Systems Like Ours May Be Rare

from New Scientist

Our solar system is a Goldilocks among planetary systems. Conditions have to be just right for a disc of dust and gas to coalesce into such a set of neatly ordered planets, a new computer model suggests.

Similar planetary systems are likely to be a minority in the galaxy, says model developer Edward Thommes of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Even so, if only 1 percent of the Milky Way's hundreds of billions of stars have a terrestrial planet with a stable orbit in the habitable zone, the Earth could have plenty of company.

Astronomers long thought planets orbited where they formed, with small terrestrial planets close to the star, gas giants near the middle, and smaller ice giants such as Neptune towards the edge of a 'protoplanetary' disc of gas and dust before it dissipated.

Read more...

Save to Library

Duck-Billed Dinosaurs "Outgrew" Their Predators

from National Geographic News

Talk about being a big baby. The duck-billed dinosaur Hypacrosaurus grew three to five times faster than the fearsome predators that hunted it, reaching its full size by age ten, according to a new study.

Unlike other plant-eating dinosaurs, duckbills such as Hypacrosaurus didn't have piercing horns, dagger-like teeth, or hulking body armor. So the ability to grow bigger faster provided the animals with a size advantage that likely served them well in their early years.

For example, baby duckbills were probably about the same size as Tyrannosaurus rex hatchlings, said study co-author Drew Lee of Ohio University's College of Osteopathic Medicine. But by five years old the duckbill would be the size of a grown cow, while the T. rex would be only as big as a large dog.

Read more...

Save to Library

Making T Cells Tougher Against HIV

from Science News

I pity the fool who messes with these T cells. A method to deliver molecular “scissors” into T cells in mice makes the cells downright hostile to HIV. Not only do the cells reject the virus’ advances, but copies of the virus already inside the cells get snipped up.

The technique is the first to deliver these HIV-fighting scissors — called small interfering RNAs, or siRNAs — into T cells in living animals, Premlata Shankar of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso and her colleagues report in the Aug. 22 Cell. Shankar performed the research while at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“I think they’ve shown very nicely that you can ... target T cells and knock down the virus,” comments John Rossi, an AIDS researcher at the Beckman Research Institute at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif. “It’s a nice proof of principle that I think could be developed into a viable therapy.”

Read more...

Save to Library

Fingerprints Yield More Telltale Clues

from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Registration Required)

WASHINGTON (Associated Press) — Scientists have found ways to tease even more clues out of fingerprints' telltale marks — one in a string of developments that gives modern forensics even better ways to solve mysteries like the anthrax attacks or JonBenet Ramsey's murder.

For example, if a person handled cocaine, explosives or other materials, there could be enough left in a fingerprint to identify them, says chemist R. Graham Cooks of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Progress in forensics comes from a combination of new techniques, like those involved in the anthrax investigation, and existing techniques, like those used in the Ramsey case, said Max M. Houck, director of West Virginia University's Forensic Science Initiative.

Read more...

Save to Library

Anthrax Case Raises Doubt On Security

from the Washington Post (Registration Required)

Revelations about anthrax scientist Bruce E. Ivins's mental instability have exposed what congressional leaders and security experts call startling gaps in how the federal government safeguards its most dangerous biological materials, even as the number of bioscience laboratories has grown rapidly since the 2001 terror attacks.

An estimated 14,000 scientists and technicians at about 400 institutions have clearances to access viruses and bacteria such as the Bacillus anthracis used in the anthrax attacks, but security procedures vary by facility, and oversight of the labs is spread across multiple government agencies.

Screening for the researchers handling some of the world's deadliest germs is not as strict as that for national security jobs in the FBI and CIA, federal officials said.

Read more...

Save to Library

Government Asserts Ivins Acted Alone

from the Washington Post (Registration Required)

Government officials asserted yesterday that a troubled bioweapons scientist acted alone to perpetrate a terrorism scheme that killed five people, a case that centered on a near-perfect match of anthrax spores in his custody and a record of his late-night laboratory work just before the toxic letters were mailed.

Federal investigators uncovered e-mail messages written by bacteriologist Bruce E. Ivins describing an al-Qaeda threat that echoed language in the handwritten letters mailed to Senate offices and media organizations in September and October 2001. Ivins, who worked in high-security labs at Fort Detrick, Md., had a motive because of his work validating a controversial anthrax vaccine that had been suspended from production, authorities said.

Even as Justice Department officials declared the worst act of bioterrorism in U.S. history all but solved, scientists and legal experts noted that the evidence is far from foolproof.

Read more...

Save to Library

Elastic Electronics See Better

from the BBC News Online

A new camera designed with a curved detection surface allows imaging devices to see as animals do. The camera, inspired by the human eye, relies on the ability to construct silicon electronics on a stretchable membrane.

In the future, these electronic membranes could be wrapped around human organs to act as health monitoring devices, say US-based developers. The new technology is described in a paper in the journal Nature.

Photosensitive displays - like the ones used in digital cameras - are made up of thousands of pixels and are usually formed on a flat, rigid, semiconductor wafer, explained Dr John Rogers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, US, who led the team of researchers.

Read more...

Save to Library

Dig Reveals The Theatre - Shakespeare's First Playhouse

from the Times (London)

Every year hundreds of thousands of visitors make their way to Stratford-upon-Avon and the Globe Theatre, on the Thames, to explore Shakespeare's intriguing past.

Not surprisingly, an unremarkable plot of land on New Inn Broadway, just north of London's medieval City wall, does not rate a mention on the Shakespeare tourist trail, since before now only the most fervent history buffs were aware of the site's significance in the playwright's life.

However, that history can be laid bare after an archaeological dig at the Shoreditch site uncovered the remains of The Theatre - one of the capital's first playhouses — where Shakespeare's works were first performed in the 16th century.

Read more...

Save to Library

What’s Black and Dirty and Messing with the Climate?

from the Christian Science Monitor

Soot nags at climate scientists like a child demanding a parent’s attention. While soot has played a minor role compared with the rock stars of climate change – carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – that perspective is changing. Recent research suggests that black carbon soot must be reckoned with.

Soot particles affect cloud formation and precipitation. Because it absorbs sunlight, soot can cool the surface while warming air aloft. The balance between such warming and cooling affects regional climates.

Last week, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences carried a report by Renyi Zhang at Texas A&M University and colleagues on the first study of what happens when the dirty black particles soak up sulfuric acid. This combination significantly changes the role these particles play in the atmosphere.

Read more...

Save to Library

DNA Tests to Study Tiny Mummies from King Tut Tomb

from the Baltimore Sun

CAIRO, Egypt (Associated Press) - Scientists will conduct DNA tests on two tiny mummified bodies found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun to determine whether they were the young pharaoh's offspring, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said today.

There has been no archaeological evidence that King Tut, who died around the age of 19 under mysterious circumstances more than 3,000 years ago, left any offspring. But mummies found in his tomb contained the bodies of two females born prematurely between five to seven months gestation who may be his stillborn children, said Zahi Hawass, head of the antiquities authority.

The DNA tests will also seek to establish Tutankhamun's family lineage, a mystery among many Egyptologists. "All of these results will be compared to each other, along with those of the mummy of King Tutankhamun," Hawass said in a statement.

Read more...

Save to Library

Dogs’ Yawns Could Be Sign of Empathy, Research Shows

from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Should this article bore you into a fit of yawning, don’t hold back. Let them rip, and then glance down at your dog. According to new research, your dog is probably yawning, too.

Scientists have found that dogs are more likely to yawn in response to a human yawn than either chimpanzees or other humans. And they think this might be an indication that dogs have the capacity to empathize.

“There have been a number of anecdotes that dogs catch human yawns,” said Atsushi Senju, a psychologist at the University of London and a principal researcher in the study that published today in the journal Biology Letters.

Read more...

Save to Library

Behavioral Approaches Overlooked in AIDS Fight

from the New York Times (Registration Required)

MEXICO CITY — While the world awaits findings from new AIDS prevention trials, millions of people are becoming infected because governments are overlooking studies showing that behavior modification works, AIDS experts said Tuesday.

Among the behavior modifications the experts cited: promoting safer sex through delayed intercourse and the use of condoms, decreasing drug abuse, providing access to needle exchange programs and promoting male circumcision.

But none of the measures alone offer a simple solution to preventing infection with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, the experts said in a number of reports and news conferences at the 17th International AIDS Conference here.

Read more...

Save to Library

Stone Age Milk Use Began 2,000 Years Earlier

from National Geographic News

Prehistoric humans consumed milk at least 8,500 years ago—up to 2,000 years earlier than previously thought—new discoveries of the the earliest known milk containers suggest.

he find shows that the culinary breakthrough of using animal milk was first developed by cow herders in northwest Turkey. The first milk users, though, are not thought to have been milk drinkers—but butter, yogurt, or cheese eaters.

"It's the earliest direct evidence for milk use anywhere," said lead study author Richard Evershed, professor of biogeochemistry at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom. Evershed and his team analyzed more than 2,200 ceramic vessels from late Stone Age sites across Turkey, southeastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Read more...

Save to Library

China, the Olympics, and the Environment

from the Scientific American

As the world's eyes turn to Beijing for the Olympics, China struggles to reconcile its rapid growth with the health of its people and environment.

Scientific American provides a series of reports on such topics as how the furious growth of China, fueled by burning coal, takes a toll on health and the environment; and how the cult of the car is growing there, along with the country's attendant environmental woes.

Another report looks at China's first carbon-neutral city, which aims to reduce--and eventually eliminate--greenhouse gas emissions through a circular economy.

Read more...

Save to Library

Invisible Clumps in the Galaxy

from Science News

Clumps of invisible “dark matter” lurk in the same galactic neighborhood as the solar system, a powerful new computer simulation shows. The finding, reported in the Aug. 7 Nature, could help scientists determine what the unseen material is made of.

Surrounding every galaxy is a halo of mysterious dark matter that can only be detected through its gravitational tug on stars and galaxies. This invisible halo is more spherical and much larger than the visible galaxy it encapsulates.

Past computer simulations suggested that relatively dense concentrations of dark matter would form in gravitationally bound “subhalos” within the galactic halo. But in those simulations, subhalos did not show up in the inner regions of a galaxy.

Read more...

Save to Library

Unrelenting Grief May Be Sign of Distinct Syndrome

from the Washington Post (Registration Required)

After Janice Van Wagner's mother died of breast cancer two years ago, her sense of loss was overwhelming. "I was devastated," said Van Wagner, 34, of Los Angeles. "I felt like a piece of me had gone missing. It was like I was split in two."

While most people grieve when someone close to them dies, the emotional intensity tends to recede with time. But for some, like [Janice] Van Wagner, their pain persists, sometimes for months or even years, often making it impossible to resume a normal life.

... This unrelenting form of mourning, which affects an estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of people who have lost someone close, is gaining recognition as a distinct psychological syndrome known as "complicated grief." Now, in the first attempt to study it with brain scanning technology, researchers have found a biological clue that appears to help confirm the existence of the syndrome and explain why it happens.

Read more...

Save to Library

South Korean Firm Delivers First Commercial Dog Clones

from the San Francisco Examiner

SEOUL, South Korea (Associated Press) - Booger is back. An American woman received five puppies Tuesday that were cloned from her beloved late pitbull, becoming the inaugural customer of a South Korean company that says it is the world's first successful commercial canine cloning service. ...

Seoul-based RNL Bio said the clones of Bernann McKinney's dog Booger were born last week after being cloned in cooperation with a team of Seoul National University scientists who created the world's first cloned dog in 2005.

"It's a miracle!" McKinney repeatedly shouted Tuesday when she saw the cloned Boogers for which she paid $50,000. "Yes, I know you! You know me, too!" McKinney said joyfully, hugging the puppies, which were sleeping with one of their two surrogate mothers, both Korean mixed breed dogs.

Read more...

Save to Library

For Aquariums, the Small Fry Swept North Become a Big Catch

from the New York Times (Registration Required)

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.—Fishing season has begun in northern waters, not for prize tuna or marlin, but for tropical fish small enough to fit on an angler’s fingertip. Luckily, the fishermen here are seeking neither trophies nor dinner.

From July to late October, the Gulf Stream carries these young, dime-size reef dwellers from tropical waters near the Florida Keys and the western Bahamas, and abandons them along the coastline of Long Island. In ichthyologists’ lingo, they are known as orphans, strays, expatriates. For an increasing number of aquariums, they are also the catch of the day.

Taking a cue from deep-sea fishermen who track Atlantic Ocean currents, aquariums in the Northeast have recently started to collect more—and more kinds—of the tropical fish in nearby waters. Catching the fish up north is cheaper and less disruptive to ocean ecosystems than trapping them in the tropics.

Read more...

Save to Library

The Sounds of Silent Movies

from Nature News

People with synaesthesia can’t help but get two sensory perceptions for the price of one. Some perceive colours when they hear words or musical notes, or read numbers; rarer individuals can even get tastes from shapes.

Neuroscientists have now reported another variant, in which flashes and moving images trigger the perception of sounds.

The finding could help to identify the precise neural causes of the phenomenon, reportedly experienced by at least one in every hundred people, and suggests that at least some types of synaesthesia are closely related to ordinary perception.

Read more...

Save to Library



 

Connect With Us:

    Pinterest Icon Google+ Icon Twitter Icon Facebook Icon Sm


Subscribe to Our Content!

Visit our RSS Feeds page to choose among 13 customized feeds, or create a free My AmSci account to request an email notice whenever a specified author, department or discipline appears online.


Subscribe to Free eNewsletters!

  • Sigma Xi SmartBrief:

    A free daily summary of the latest news in scientific research. Each story is summarized concisely and linked directly to the original source for further reading.

  • American Scientist Update

  • An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns, Science Observers and more. Every other issue contains links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.

  • Scientists' Nightstand

  • News of book reviews published in American Scientist and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.

    To sign up for automatic emails of the American Scientist Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an online profile, then sign up in the My AmSci area.


Subscribe to American Scientist