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Studies Suggest Unknown Form of Matter Exists
The New York Times -- Painstaking observations of a kind of subatomic dance suggest that the universe may contain a shadowy form of matter that has never been seen directly and is unexplained by standard physics theories, a team of scientists working at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island announced yesterday. The studies appear to confirm similar findings the scientists reported last year. The research involves muons, rare subatomic particles similar to electrons but 207 times as heavy. The work has been controversial, though for reasons that have little to do with the experiment itself. Theorists who are not involved in the research, but whose computational results must be used to interpret it, have recently uncovered errors and uncertainties in their own work. For that reason, the Brookhaven experimenters say they are not ready to claim they have proved a new form of matter exists.
posted by West 12:44 PM
Finnish Study Links Pollution with Heart Disease
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Air pollution worsens heart disease by cutting off circulation to the heart, Finnish researchers reported on Monday in a study that helps explain why polluted environments aggravate not only asthma but heart conditions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 60,000 people a year die in the United States alone from particulate air pollution -- the kind caused when small particles of smoke pervade the air.
posted by West 10:01 PM
Vegetarian group calls Atkins diet unsafe
WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) -- A vegetarian advocacy group says high-fat/low-carbohydrate diets -- such as the Atkins diet -- are dangerous and will launch an ad campaign later this week targeted at physicians and consumers. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine "is particularly concerned about the health effects of these high-fat diets" because "more people are going on them," spokeswoman Simon Chaitowitz told United Press International. The goal of the ad campaign, which will appear on the Internet on Yahoo.com and in a medical journal, is to "alert both consumers and physicians to the dangers of high-protein diets," Chaitowitz said.
posted by West 9:59 PM
Tinkering With The Forces Of Nature: D.C. West Nile outbreaks cluster around Army unit
WorldNetDaily.com -- WASHINGTON – Over the past 18 months, health officials here have found 407 dead birds infected with the West Nile virus, including two picked up at the White House this week. The mosquito-borne virus is spreading so fast in nearby Fairfax County, meanwhile, that health officials have stopped testing dead birds. Every quadrant of the county now has the virus. Fifty birds – two blue jays and the rest crows – have already tested positive in the county so far this year, an official told WorldNetDaily. That's up from 34 for all of last year. And neighboring Maryland has led the nation in West Nile virus cases, a few of which have resulted in human deaths. What's behind the Beltway outbreak? No one knows for sure. Experts don't even know how the North African virus, first discovered in New York in 1999, entered the U.S., although theories, such as bioterrorism, abound (even though the virus is not known to be an efficient bioweapons agent).
posted by West 9:55 PM
Genetically Mondified Genes Found in Human Gut
(John Vidal, The Guardian, July 17, 2002)
British scientific researchers have demonstrated for the first time that genetically modified DNA material from crops is finding its way into human gut bacteria, raising potentially serious health questions. . . . people's resistance to widely used antibiotics could be compromised. . . . "It suggests that you can get antibiotic marker genes spreading around the stomach which would compromise antibiotic resistance. They have shown that this can happen even at very low levels after just one meal." . . . Marker genes are inserted into GM plants to allow identification of GM cells or tissue during development. The House of Lords has called for them to be phased out as swiftly as possible. . . . Friends of the Earth called for an immediate halt to the use of marker genes in GM crops. "Industry, science and government advisers have always played down the risk of this happening and here, at the very first attempt by scientists to look for it, they find it," said Adrian Bebb, GM foods campaigner.
posted by Lorenzo 5:32 PM
MIND OVER MATTER: Elderly Can Think Themselves Into the Grave -Study
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Older people can literally think themselves into the grave by feeling bad about getting old, researchers said on Sunday. People who said they had more positive views about aging lived an average 7.6 years longer than those with negative perceptions, the researchers report in the August issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association. How one feels about getting old is more important even than having low blood pressure or cholesterol, said the researchers led by psychologist Becca Levy of Yale University. "The effect of more positive self-perceptions of aging on survival is greater than the physiological measures of low systolic blood pressure and cholesterol, each of which is associated with a longer lifespan of four years or less," Levy's team wrote.
posted by West 9:35 AM
Korean woman pregnant with human clone
The South Korean newspaper “Joongang Ilbo” reports that the company Clonaid Korea has implanted a cloned embryo into the womb of a woman, who will deliver the human clone early next year.
posted by West 6:19 PM
New Research to Find Environment-Cleansing Bugs
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Microbes that thrive on nuclear waste, that can scrub greenhouse gases from the air and turn toxic soil pure again are the targets of new federal research funds, the Department of Energy said on Tuesday.
It announced it was funding $103 million in grants to 26 laboratories to use genome science to try and make such bugs useful to humankind, part of its "Genomes to Life" program.
posted by West 9:04 PM
Asteroid 'on collision course' with Earth
bbc.co.uk -- An asteroid discovered just weeks ago has become the most threatening object yet detected in space. A preliminary orbit suggests that 2002 NT7 is on an impact course with Earth on 1 February 2019, although the uncertainties are large. Astronomers have given the object a rating on the so-called Palermo technical scale of threat of 0.06, making NT7 the first object to be given a positive value. From its brightness astronomers estimate it is about 2km wide, large enough to cause continent-wide devastation on Earth. Detailed calculations of its orbit suggest many occasions when its projected path through space intersects the Earth's orbit. Researchers estimate that on 1 February 2019 its impact velocity on the Earth would be 28km a second - enough to wipe out a continent and cause global climate changes. However, Dr Peiser was keen to point out that future observations could change the situation. He said: "This unique event should not diminish the fact that additional observations in coming weeks will almost certainly, we hope, eliminate the current threat."
Will the threat of total destruction from an outside force finally unite the human family? Maybe that is what it will take. If so, bring on the asteroids.
posted by West 8:58 PM
Interview With a Humanoid: Cows & Pigs With Human DNA... Yes, really!
The New York Times -- Check this out! Science fiction is now just science.
posted by West 8:53 PM
In the Beginning ...
The New York Times - A brilliant crash course in our species efforts to understand the physics of creation.
posted by West 8:43 PM
U.S. couple try to have first human clone baby
sundayherald.com -- A couple trying to become the parents of the world's first human clone, using the same process that produced Dolly the sheep, have spoken for the first time ... to the Sunday Herald. Bill, a high school teacher, and Kathy, a sales representative -- they do not want their last name revealed -- are one of six couples who will participate in a cloning experiment later this year led by American fertility expert Dr Panos Zavos. The couple, from northeast America, have agreed to a clone of Kathy and are awaiting a call to tell them to fly out to a secret destination where the historic attempt will take place. They insist they only turned to the radical procedure because they have no other way of producing their own child. Bill and Kathy have been trying to have children for the past nine years. After a series of gruelling IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatments, fertility doctors told Kathy, who is in her mid-40s, that they could do no more for her. Bill, in his mid-50s, said: 'If we could clone a child this would be our own child. We don't really regard this as cloning. To us this is an advanced IVF process. 'We are religious people and have searched deep into ourselves about this. We do not believe it should be used randomly. We think that this is something that should only be done for infertile couples. 'I have a huge family with brothers and sisters and they all have children. It is very important for us to have our own genetically-related children.'
posted by West 10:40 AM
FORCED EVOLUTION: Researchers create large-brained mice
BOSTON, July 18 (UPI) -- By mutating a single gene, researchers have created mouse embryos with abnormally enlarged brains, each with the ridges and grooves normally found only in human's wrinkly "gray matter" and other advanced brains. Although the team from two Boston hospitals has not yet grown these embryos into supergenius rodents, the researchers said their work could shed light on everything from brain tumors and mental retardation to the evolution of intelligence. "This give us an idea on how nature might put together a large brain," co-researcher Anjen Chenn, a pathologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told United Press International. "This could provide clues if you want to repair or replace brain cells that have been damaged."
posted by West 6:15 PM
New labs to explore alternative fuels
GOLDEN, Colo., July 18 (UPI) -- Several national laboratories and universities said Thursday they are boosting efforts, both individually and jointly, to expand the nation's fuel supply for ground transportation. The Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden is formally opening the Renewable Fuels and Lubricants Research Laboratory to develop cleaner fuels for trucks and buses. The ReFUEL facility is part of the department's drive to both improve air quality and spur creation of domestic alternatives to petroleum, said Richard Truly, NREL's director.
posted by West 6:13 PM
United Press International: An iron Sun: Groundbreaking or cracked?
ROLLA, Mo., July 17 (UPI) -- A new and radical theory about the composition of the Sun is challenging some well-established ideas about our nearby star's makeup and, predictably, has generated counter arguments and even some derision. Oliver Manuel, professor of nuclear chemistry at the University of Missouri-Rolla, said his research suggests the main element in the Sun is iron. However, David Hathaway, solar physics group leader at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, told United Press International, "This is crackpot science. We've got information on the composition of the Sun from a variety of different sources ... There's no way it's mostly iron. We would have known that a century ago." Manuel acknowledges his conclusions counter current scientific orthodoxy, but said the theory is based on a lifetime of research. Manuel said he believes the Sun was formed from a supernova -- a gigantic explosion caused by the sudden, gravitationally driven collapse of a super-massive star -- about five billion years ago. As the mass of the Sun accreted, he said, its heavier elements sank to the center while the lighter elements remained on the surface. "This is something I'm in essence quite certain of," Manuel told UPI. Although the surface of the Sun and its atmosphere are made of more than 90 percent hydrogen and nearly all rest helium, he said, there is no reason to think the Sun's center is composed of the same material as the surface -- any more than Earth's center is the same as the surface. Recent research has found evidence our planet's core actually may be composed of uranium and operating as a nuclear reactor.
posted by West 7:31 PM
Scientists identify the spark of life
timesonline.co.uk -- BRITISH scientists have discovered the gene that provides the spark of life, when an egg is fertilised by a sperm, in research that promises dramatic advances in fertility treatment and stem cell experiments. A ten-year study has revealed that the gene in sperm triggers the crucial process by which an egg starts dividing to form an embryo, solving a mystery that has confounded medical science for two centuries. The breakthrough, by researchers at the University of Wales College of Medicine in Cardiff and University College, London, paves the way for improved therapy for infertile couples and treatments that use cloned stem cells to tackle Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes. Scientists believe it will eventually allow them to fertilise eggs using sperm that have previously been considered useless, and to transform success rates in therapeutic cloning. It has long been known that fertilisation is followed by a surge of calcium but the molecules that start this process have remained elusive. “We’re thrilled to be at the forefront of such an exciting discovery,” Professor Tony Lai, head of the Cardiff team, said. “The potential benefits to medicine are immense.”
posted by West 7:14 PM
Secret U.S. Biopharms Growing Experimental Drugs
WASHINGTON, DC, July 16, 2002 (ENS) - Experimental plants engineered to produce pharmaceuticals are being grown at over 300 secret locations nationwide, a new report has revealed. Biotechnology firms are conducting experiments with corn, soy, rice and tobacco that are genetically manipulated to produce drugs designed to act as vaccines, contraceptives, induce abortions, generate growth hormones, create blood clots, produce industrial enzymes and propagate allergenic enzymes. "Just one mistake by a biotech company and we'll be eating other people's prescription drugs in our corn flakes," said Larry Bohlen, director of health and environment programs at Friends of the Earth, a member of a coalition of consumer and environmental groups that produced the report, released late last week. The experimental application of biotechnology in which plants are genetically engineered to produce pharmaceutical proteins and chemicals they do not produce naturally has been termed "biopharming." Companies engaged in biopharming keep their activities secret, citing the secret plantings as confidential business information.
posted by West 10:49 AM
Astronomers Hope to Find E.T. in Next 25 Years
CANBERRA (Reuters) -- Scientists searching the stars for aliens are convinced an E.T. is out there -- it's just that they haven't had the know-how to detect such a being. But now technological advances have opened the way for scientists to check millions of previously unknown star systems, dramatically increasing the chances of finding intelligent life in outer space in the next 25 years, the world's largest private extraterrestrial agency believes. "We're looking for needles in the haystack that is our galaxy, but there could be thousands of needles out there," Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer at California's non-profit Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. "If that's the case, with the number of new star systems we now hope to check, we should find one of those in the next 25 years."
posted by West 8:40 PM
Scientists Build Virus from Scratch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Using only a genetic map as a guide, U.S. researchers said on Thursday they had built a polio virus from scratch and used it to infect and paralyze lab mice. It is the closest anyone has yet come to creating life in a test tube -- although scientists deny a virus, which is not a living cell but which can replicate itself, is alive in the same way a bacterium, a plant, or a human being is. Nonetheless, it has genetic material like all other life. "If the ability to replicate is one of life's attributes, then poliovirus is a chemical with a life cycle," the researchers at the State University of New York in Stony Brook wrote in their report, published in the journal Science. Eckard Wimmer, who led the study, denies that he has created life. "No, I would not say I created life in a test tube," Wimmer said in a telephone interview. "We created a chemical in a test tube that, when put into cells, begins to behave a little bit like something alive. Some people say viruses are chemicals and I belong to that group." Wimmer said once the right genetic parts were in place, the virus virtually self-assembled in a lab dish.
posted by West 7:48 PM
'Astonishing' skull unearthed in Africa: Oldest Ancestor?
bbc.co.uk -- A recently unearthed human-like skull is being described as the most important find of its type in living memory. It was found in the desert in Chad by an international team and is thought to be approximately seven million years old. Scientists say it is the most important discovery in the search of the origins of humankind since the first Australopithecus "ape man" remains were found in Africa in the 1920s. The newly discovered skull finally puts to rest any idea that there might be a single "missing link" between humans and chimpanzees, they say. Analysis of the ancient find is not yet complete, but already it is clear that it has an apparently puzzling combination of modern and ancient features. Henry Gee, senior editor at the scientific journal Nature, said that the fossil made it clear how messy the process of evolution had been. "It shows us there wasn't a nice steady progression from ancient hominids to what we are today,"
posted by West 7:27 PM
Has the federal government been conducting a vast nutritional experiment on the American people, on very little evidence that it will do them any good?
How natural is it to eat processed grains, breads, and other manmade foods such as refined carbohydrates? What have animals, including humans, been eating for thousands of years? Meat, yes. Vegetables, yes. There's nothing wrong with vegetarianism, as long as you're educated on the risks. But, all the refined pasta, rice, sodas, and breads are...well, not exactly natural.
What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie? by Gary Taubes is a fascinating look at this very topic (this is a long article and you'll need to register with the New York Times site to view it).
An article in the Independent The myth of the low-fat diet outlines the research into low-fat diets which showed just how little evidence there is supporting the low-fat dogma. The essence of the report highlights the ways in which the low-fat dogma came into existence and suggests that what has not been shown convincingly, however, is that someone who is not at risk will have their life cut short as a result of regularly eating more than the recommended level of dietary fat. The article goes on to discuss other studies purporting to show that there are links between low blood cholesterol levels and an increase in non-heart disease related deaths as well as suggesting that the link between low-fat diets and weight loss hasn't fared well either.
We've all been told to avoid animal fats because they are saturated and that saturated fat raises cholesterol levels in the blood. But half the fat in a steak is actually "mono-unsaturated" – the same type as found in "good for the heart" olive oil. The other half is, indeed, saturated but about a third of it is a type called stearic acid, which, like olive oil, raises the "good" HDL cholesterol in the blood. So just 30 percent of the fat in a steak is the sort of saturated fat that can raise "bad" LDL cholesterol. However, even this demonised fat will simultaneously raise the "good" HDL. "All of this suggests," writes science journalist Gary Taubes, author of The Soft Science of Dietary Fat, "that eating a porterhouse steak rather than carbohydrates might actually improve heart disease risk".
Today the big question is What if the popular nutritional theories of the last 25 years were wrong? It might be that the cause of obesity is precisely those refined carbohydrates at the base of the famous Food Guide Pyramid -- the pasta, rice and bread -- that we are told should be the staple of our healthy low-fat diet. Then, add to that the sugar or corn syrup in the soft drinks, fruit juices, and sports drinks that we have taken to consuming in quantity if for no other reason than that they are fat-free and so appear intrinsically healthy. While the low-fat-is-good-health dogma represents reality as we have come to know it, and the government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in research trying to prove its worth, the low-carbohydrate message has been relegated to the realm of unscientific fantasy.
But, that might be changing. Over the past five years, there has been a subtle shift in the scientific consensus. After more than 20 years of low-fat recommendations and yet it has not managed to lower the incidence of heart disease in this country, and may have led instead to the steep increase in obesity and Type 2 diabetes. If it turns out that the low-fat/high-carb diet that the US government has been pushing on us for 25 years is not a healthy diet, then will we see lawsuits going after the government, the U.S.D.A, the Senate committee (originally led by George McGovern), the National Institutes of Health, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest?
Or maybe at least an apology?
posted by Hal 8:27 PM
Replace your mouse with your eye
bbc.co.uk -- Computers of the future could be controlled by eye movements, rather than a mouse or keyboard. Scientists at Imperial College, London, are working on eye-tracking technology that analyses the way we look at things. The team are trying to gain an insight into visual knowledge - the way we see objects and translate that information into actions. "Eye-trackers will one day be so reliable and so simple that they will become yet another input device on your computer, like a much more sophisticated mouse," said Professor Guang-Zhong Yang of the Department of Computing at Imperial College.
posted by West 10:34 PM
Merged science promises golden age: Is brain-to-brain communication close at hand?
WASHINGTON, July 8 (UPI) -- If several of today's leading scientific disciplines can overcome barriers to working cooperatively, within a couple of decades their efforts could produce concepts currently confined to science fiction, such as direct brain-to-brain communication, a National Science Foundation report released Monday predicts. In "Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance," the agency points to the fields of nano-, bio- and information technology as well as cognitive science -- collectively called NBIC -- as keys to "a golden age that would be an epochal turning point in human history." The report, edited by NSF scientists Mihail Roco, the agency's chief nanotechology adviser, and William Bainbridge, outlines possible payoffs in fields ranging from education and healthcare to national defense and sustainable development. "The sciences have reached a watershed at which they must combine if they are to continue to advance," Roco said in the report's introduction. "The New Renaissance must be based on a holistic view of science and technology that envisions new technical possibilities and focuses on people. (This) unification of science and technology is achievable over the next two decades." Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating matter at the atomic and molecular levels. Biotech and information tech applications are well known to many people, while cognitive science deals with the basics of thought and learning. In the report, contributor W.A. Wallace describes the four areas' intertwined possibilities this way: "If the cognitive scientists can think it, the nano people can build it, the bio people can implement it, and the IT people can monitor and control it."
posted by West 6:05 PM
Staggering AIDS Report From U.N.
(Jordan Lite, Wired.com, July 2, 2002)
The global AIDS epidemic has only just begun, reaching proportions once considered impossible in the world's most affected countries, the United Nations says in a devastating report released Tuesday. . . . HIV is spreading at alarming rates in Eastern Europe and Asia and "now outstrips even the worst-case scenarios" projected by epidemiologists tracking the deadliest disease in human history, the report says. . . . "You have," Lewis added, "the greatest single assault on humankind that we've ever known, greater than war and greater than the Black Death." . . . Without an infusion of funding into prevention and treatment programs, 68 million people will die of AIDS between 2000 and 2020 in the 45 countries most affected by the disease . . . Half of new infections are now occurring in young people ages 15 to 24. More than half of youth in this age group don't know how HIV is transmitted, and as few as 20 percent know how to protect themselves, according to U.N. surveys conducted in 60 countries. . . . The report sends a blunt message to world leaders that more money is needed to even begin to cope with the effects of AIDS. . . . In 2000, the United States donated about one-tenth of 1 percent of its gross domestic product to assist developing countries -- the lowest percentage of any wealthy nation.
posted by Lorenzo 2:13 PM
Hubble picks over star's demise
BBC -- A new Hubble Space Telescope image of the wreckage from a stellar explosion shows how violence and beauty go together during a star's life and death. The image reveals glowing gaseous streamers of red, white, and blue. They were produced by a titanic supernova explosion of a massive star towards the centre of our galaxy. The dead star's debris is called Cassiopeia A. This is the youngest known supernova remnant in the Milky Way. The star actually blew up 10,000 years before the light reached Earth, in the late 1600s.
posted by West 3:54 PM
Scientists estimate 30 billion Earths in the Milky Way galaxy
(Dr. David Whitehouse, BBC, 1 July 2002)
Their assessment comes after the discovery of the 100th exoplanet - a planet that circles a star other than our own. . . . Scientists say they are now in a position to try to estimate how many planets may exist in the galaxy and speculate on just how many could be like the Earth. The answer in both cases is billions. . . . Virtually all the stars out to about 100 light-years distant have been surveyed. Of these 1,000 or so stars, about 10% have been found to possess planetary systems. . . . Astronomers will have to wait for a new generation of space-based telescopes incorporating advanced detectors before they can detect Earth-sized worlds orbiting other stars.
posted by Lorenzo 2:10 PM