Sci/tech

Researchers discover the dawn of animal vision
October 17, 2007 09:29 AM - University of California - Santa Barbara

By peering deep into evolutionary history, scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara have discovered the origins of photosensitivity in animals.

The findings are published in this week’s issue of the scientific journal PLoS ONE. The scientists studied the aquatic animal Hydra, a member of Cnidaria, which are animals that have existed for hundreds of millions of years. The authors are the first scientists to look at light-receptive genes in cnidarians, an ancient class of animals that includes corals, jellyfish, and sea anemones.

India 'Lagging Behind' in Innovation Race
October 16, 2007 06:47 PM - T. V. Padma, SciDevNet

NEW DELHI - India is not realising its potential for innovation, warn experts, because its education and research institutes do not encourage a culture of experimentation and the exchange of ideas between disciplines.

Although India's potential is high, it is not nurturing innovation, Sri Krishna Joshi, scientist emeritus at India's National Physical Laboratory, told delegates at a conference on inventions and innovations in Delhi, India today (15 October).

India's education system "kills any spirit of innovation" by failing to close the gap between industry and academia, said S. Srinavasa Murthy, professor of electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

New force-fluorescence device measures motion previously undetectable
October 16, 2007 06:41 PM -

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A hybrid device combining force and fluorescence developed by researchers at the University of Illinois has made possible the accurate detection of nanometer-scale motion of biomolecules caused by pico-newton forces.

“By combining single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer and an optical trap, we now have a technique that can detect subtle conformational changes of a biomolecule at an extremely low applied force,” said U. of I. physics professor Taekjip Ha, the corresponding author of a paper to appear in the Oct. 12 issue of the journal Science.

Smallest Galaxies Give Insight Into Dark Matter
October 16, 2007 06:31 PM -

PASADENA, Calif.--An unusual population of the darkest, most lightweight galaxies known has shed new light on a cosmic conundrum. Astronomers used the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii to show that the recently uncovered dwarf galaxies each contain 99 percent of a mysterious type of matter known as dark matter. Dark matter has gravitational effects on ordinary atoms but does not produce any light. It accounts for the majority of the mass in the universe.

New observations of eight of these galaxies now suggest that the "Missing Dwarf Galaxy" problem--a discrepancy between the number of extremely small, faint galaxies that cosmological theories predict should exist near the Milky Way, and the number that have actually been observed--is not as severe as previously thought, and may have been solved completely.

New Book: Communication System At Tipping Point
October 16, 2007 06:22 PM -

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Our communication system is rapidly transforming before our eyes. But we don’t have to just watch, University of Illinois professor Bob McChesney says in a new book. In fact, we shouldn’t.

“Media policy is becoming everybody’s business,” and its direction is at a “critical juncture” – possibly short-lived – when significant change is possible, according to McChesney, a professor of speech communication, media historian, and media reform activist.

In “Communication Revolution: Critical Junctures and the Future of Media,” being published this month by The New Press, McChesney argues from his study of history that such junctures in communication are few and far between. Most of our major media institutions are the result of such times, when policies could have – and often should have, he believes – gone in different directions.

Leaded Lipsticks a Concern for Young, Frequent Users, Expert Says
October 16, 2007 04:17 PM - Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Newswire

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University expert says a recent study discussing levels of lead in lipstick should empower consumers with information to take more personal responsibility for their health.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said tests on 33 brand-name red lipsticks by a California testing group found that 61 percent had detectable lead levels of 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million.

Wei Zheng, (pronounced Way Zsheng) a professor and university faculty scholar in Purdue's School of Health Sciences, studies the toxic effects of heavy metals on the brain.

"It is interesting to me that cosmetics companies considered these relatively small amounts," Zheng says. "Other recent studies have shown that there really is no such thing as a safe level of lead in the blood."

China launches Effort To Green Inner Mongolian Desert
October 16, 2007 04:00 PM -

Bejing, China - Beijing and Seoul recently signed an agreement to launch a joint program to harness China's eighth-largest desert - the Ulan Buh in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

About 15 million yuan (1.99 million U.S. dollars) will be spent growing trees and building greenhouses to prevent environmental deterioration in the Ulan Buh region, according to officials involved in the project.

Study: Big Tobacco's War On Linking Secondhand Smoke And Heart Disease
October 16, 2007 12:46 PM -

San Francisco, California - After combing through nearly 50 million pages of previously secret, internal tobacco-industry documents, UC Davis and UC San Francisco researchers say they have documented for the first time how the industry funded and used scientific studies to undermine evidence linking secondhand smoke to cardiovascular disease.

In a special report published in the Oct. 16 issue of the journal Circulation, authors Elisa K. Tong and Stanton A. Glantz say that the tobacco-related documents they reviewed show how the industry initially worked to question scientific evidence about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke as a way to fight smoke-free regulations. More recently, they suggest, tobacco-company-funded studies have been conducted to support the development of so-called "reduced-harm" cigarettes.

Most complete new giant dinosaur found in Patagonia
October 16, 2007 08:35 AM - Andrei Khalip -Reuters

Brazilian and Argentine paleontologists have discovered the largely complete fossil of a new species of giant dinosaur that roamed what is now northern Patagonia about 80 million years ago.

The herbivorous Futalognkosaurus dukei measured an estimated 105 feet to 112 feet from head to tail and was as high as a four-storey building. It is one of the three biggest dinosaurs yet found in the world.

Heart deaths, suicides up after weightloss surgery
October 15, 2007 11:15 PM -

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Among people who have undergone so-called bariatric surgery for obesity, death rates are higher than seen among other people of the same age, new research shows. In particular, deaths due to suicide and coronary heart disease are higher than might be expected normally.

The study looked at data for all Pennsylvania residents who underwent a bariatric operation such as stomach stapling or gastric bypass between 1995 and 2004. Deaths in these patients were compared with those seen in the general population.

A total of 440 deaths were noted after 16,683 weightloss procedures during the study period, Dr. Lewis H. Kuller, from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues report.

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