Astronomy undergraduates have serendipitously discovered a new class of star that thrills astronomers who specialize in a relatively new field called “asteroseismology.” Astronomers worldwide will collaborate in continuous observations of one of these newly found stars for several weeks in May 2003. “Astronomers are always looking for new and better ways to study stars,” said Elizabeth Green, University of Arizona assistant staff astronomer at Steward Observatory, who with her students discovered the new class of stars. They have found sub-dwarf B stars that pulsate like Jell-O, quivering in space through cycles that typically last an hour.
If you are among the millions who receive flowers on Valentine’s Day, you likely will put your nose to a rose, only to find you can’t catch a whiff of your favorite floral aroma. And it isn’t because your sense of smell has diminished. Plant breeding has led to bigger, longer-lasting blooms, but in the process many flowers have lost their scents – a trend University of Florida researchers hope to reverse. The researchers are investigating ways to put scent back in, either through genetic engineering or by developing chemical formulations that might be used through a spray application.
Inmates infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, engaged in unprotected sex both before imprisonment and after their release at “exceedingly high rates,” according to a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine study. Seventy-eight percent of N.C. men and women prisoners carrying the virus who had a main sex partner reported unprotected sex with that person in the year before they were locked up, the study showed. Twenty-six percent of them interviewed again soon after release admitted to already having sex without condoms with their main sex partners.
A quick and painless technique recently developed by Wisconsin researchers could help clinicians identify signs of coronary heart disease (CHD), a condition that claims the lives of 2,000 Americans every day. The technique, called cardiac elastography creates real-time, two-dimensional images of muscle strain as the heart moves blood through its chambers to the rest of the body.
In a study of nonrelated people who have lived for a century or more, the researchers found that the centenarians had something in common: each was five times more likely than the general population to have the same mutation in their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). That mutation, the researchers suggest, may provide a survival advantage by speeding mtDNA replication, thereby increasing its amount or replacing that portion of mtDNA which has been battered by the ravages of aging.
If an impact from space debris was a factor in the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, NASA had been given ample warning. A report published in 1997 predicted a scenario that has disturbing parallels with what may have befallen the spacecraft. Written by an expert panel convened by the US National Research Council, Protecting the Space Shuttle from Meteoroids and Orbital Debris, warns that debris impacts that penetrate the leading edge or underside of a shuttle wing or fuselage might not be immediately critical or detectable.
IS EATING soya during pregnancy bad for your baby? That question is back in the spotlight thanks to a study showing severe long-term effects on the sexual development of male rats whose mothers ate a chemical found in soya. The animal study does not prove that soya has this effect on people, and no such effects have been observed in Asia where soya is a big part of many people’s diets. But the researchers say it is enough to spark concern and deserves further study. “The urologists on this project are actually advising pregnant women to avoid soya,” says Sabra Klein at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland.
Elderly men and women with normal body weight still may be at risk for developing type 2 diabetes if they have large amounts of muscle fat or visceral abdominal fat, according to a University of Pittsburgh study published in the February issue of the journal Diabetes Care. “Our study found that, even though an elderly person may not be overweight, he or she might still be at risk for developing diabetes,” said Bret H. Goodpaster, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh division of endocrinology and metabolism and principal investigator of the study. “An important factor is where in the body their excess fat is stored.”
NASA today released the best “baby picture” of the Universe ever taken; the image contains such stunning detail that it may be one of the most important scientific results of recent years. Scientists used NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) to capture the new cosmic portrait, which reveals the afterglow of the big bang, a.k.a. the cosmic microwave background.
Levels of a type of adult stem cell in the bloodstream may indicate a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to a study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.
Using microscale channels cut in an ultrathin biodegradable polymer, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory is working to regrow nerve cells. The technique, which may one day allow the paralyzed to walk and the blind to see, has been proven to work for peripheral nerve regeneration in laboratory rats.
First- or second-hand exposure to cigarettes can lead to a variety of diseases, including tissue destruction found in pulmonary emphysema and osteoporosis. Also included among cigarette smoking-induced diseases are disorders in which an excessive deposition of fibrotic scar occurs, such as with atherosclerosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Collagen is the major protein of the white fibers found in connective tissue, cartilage, and bone.
An important discovery in modern molecular biology is that double-stranded RNA can quash the activity of specific genes in plants, animals, and fungi. In 1997, Dr. Andrew Fire of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and Dr. Craig Mello of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and their team found that by specially designing RNA with two strands they could silence targeted genes. Their discovery, called RNA interference (RNAi) was recently patented (US Patent 6,506,559 B1), and it has been widely licensed in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Effexor XR for the treatment of patients with social anxiety disorder, a condition which may affect up to 13 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. EFFEXOR XR, already approved for the treatment of depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), is the first available serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), and is believed to increase the levels of two key brain chemicals thought to be deficient in individuals suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.
During the STS-107 mission, the review of the potential effects of the debris hit to Columbia?s left wing at ~80 seconds after liftoff resulted in a determination that there should not be any adverse affect on mission safety. On January 28, Tuesday, when the thermal analysis was completed, engineers and flight controllers at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) responsible for mechanical systems, including the landing gear system, contacted counterparts at the NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) to get an assessment of potential outcomes in the unlikely event that the landing gear door or wheel well was breached during the orbiter?s reentry into Earth?s atmosphere.
The interchange is typical of what takes place during a mission. Often, the broader NASA community is involved in evaluating potential issues. The Langley engineer identified no new concerns or failure conditions that had not previously been examined by Johnson engineers and flight controllers. For this reason, there was no reason to elevate the points raised in the discussion to the Mission Management Team.
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