Army helps DNA scientists unravel Mozart mystery

U.S. military DNA researchers have been involved in a 200-year-old mystery about the identity of a skull long-suspected to be that of classical music composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. “Past tests were inconclusive, but this time, we succeeded in getting a clear result,” said lead researcher Dr. Walther Parson, a renowned forensic pathologist at the Institute of Legal Medicine, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria. He said the results were “100 percent verified” by a U.S. Army laboratory.

Mental stress may lead to heart disease

Most people believe that stress plays a role in heart disease. A study published in the latest issue of Psychophysiology finds that large rises in blood pressure during mental stress are associated with higher levels of activity in the regions of the brain associated with experiencing negative emotions and generating physiological responses in the rest of the body. The research suggests that exaggerated activity in the cingulate cortex during mental stress may generate excessive rises in blood pressure that may place some individuals at a greater risk for heart disease.

SETI-like system lets public search for dust grains in Stardust

Astronomy buffs who jumped at the chance to use their home computers in the SETI@home search for intelligent life in the universe will soon be able to join an Internet-based search for dust grains originating from stars millions of light years away. In a new project called Stardust@home, University of California, Berkeley, researchers will invite Internet users to help them search for a few dozen submicroscopic grains of interstellar dust captured by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft and due to return to Earth in January 2006.

Spinning black hole leaves dent in space-time

MIT scientists and colleagues have found a black hole that has chiseled a remarkably stable indentation in the fabric of space and time, like a dimple in one’s favorite spot on the sofa. The finding may help scientists measure a black hole’s mass and how it spins, two long-sought measurements, by virtue of the extent of this indentation. Using NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, the team saw identical patterns in the X-ray light emitted near the black hole nine years apart, as captured in archived data from 1996 and in a new, unprecedented 550-hour observation from 2005.

Screening for prostate cancer may not cut men’s risk of death

Screening men for prostate cancer may not reduce their risk for dying, according to a new study in the January 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. More men will have been diagnosed with prostate cancer than any other cancer in 2005 and more than 30,000 men will have died from the disease, according to background information in the article. Men can be screened for prostate cancer by measuring prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in the blood and performing digital rectal examination. However, there is little evidence of these tests’ effectiveness in reducing death, the authors report.

Computers estimate emotions

Many computers are already able to see and hear. However, they have no way of telling whether their users are happy or angry. At CeBIT 2006, researchers will be presenting techniques that could one day enable the digital servant to respond to the mood of its human master.