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Bone Loss Still a Problem for Astronauts

By | April 12, 2004

While President George W. Bush waxes enthusiastically about astronauts further exploring space, the reality is that a major obstacle to an astronaut's health remains: bone loss in zero gravity.Despite an exercise program designed to counter bone loss, astronauts on the International Space Station showed as much degradation as did their counterparts one decade ago on the Soviet space station Mir,1 says a NASA-funded study.2 "Despite the passage of [time], this problem has not really been ameliora

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Mother Love and the Brain

By | April 12, 2004

If you're looking for the source of mother love, you might consider the orbitofrontal cortex. A new study1 finds that this part of the brain, just above the eyes, is active when new mothers view pictures of infants; the activity increases, as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging, when the women see pictures of their newborns. "This is evidence that positive emotional aspects of maternal attachment are reliably associated with this region of the brain," says lead author Jack Nitschke

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Getting Water to the Desert, the Old-Fashioned Way

By | March 29, 2004

Courtesy of William JamesThey may be the world's first example of technology transfer: ancient Persian irrigation systems known as qanats, whose use later spread as far east as Japan and as far west as Chile. Now, a new international qanat center based in Yazd, Iran, aims to revive the cultural heritage and use of these underground water channels. Still in limited existence in Oman and Syria, these systems are better known in Iran, where the center aims to repair and preserve approximately 2,500

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Radical Findings in the Mountains

By | March 29, 2004

When physicians examined members of a Swiss expedition to Mount Everest in the 1980s, they discovered widespread damage to the climbers' muscles. Mito-chondrial volume had decreased by 20% and there was evidence of cell deterioration in tissue samples. However, their guides, the indigenous Tibetan Sherpas, were not affected.Now a Swiss-Italian team has found that several antioxidant enzymes seem to shield the Tibetans from the insults of oxygen deficiency at high altitudes.1 "Hypoxia leads to th

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Deducing the Brain's Evolution, Scale by Scale

By | March 15, 2004

Courtesy of Allen ChartierDavid Crews' lab resembles an exotic pet store; there's not a mouse or rat in sight. This professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas, Austin, studies animals such as the inches-long whiptail lizard."I'm interested in the evolution of brain mechanisms involved in social and sexual behaviors," Crews says. "You have to have ancestral species." The lizard, Cnemidophorus uniparens, reproduces parthenogenetically, though it evolved from the still extant C. in

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Seeing the Whole Picture, and Then Some

By | March 15, 2004

Courtesy of Jason KuslerA quarterback decides where to throw the football based on the field's layout and the players' positions on it. Scanning the field, he sees loads of images that help him make his split-second decisions. He actually views even more that he may not recall.René Marois of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues study the delicate balance between seeing, registering, and recalling images in the visual field. If images come faster than two per second, subje

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More Predators, Healthier Prey

By | March 1, 2004

Courtesy of Jon Eisenback, NemaPixA new mathematical model is turning the conventional notion of predator-prey relationships on its head. David Brown and colleagues at the University of California, Davis, have shown that prey populations can benefit from a high predator density.1Ecologists previously have shown that predators can have indirect positive effects on their prey through nutrient cycling and mineralization. Brown's group, however, modeled predators' direct positive effects on the prey

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Nails and Hooves: Designed for Wear and Tears

By | March 1, 2004

At first glance, it seems like a paper worthy of an Ig Nobel Prize. Roland Ennos, University of Manchester, has examined why fingernails, when nibbled or torn, tend to rip in a transverse direction, not longitudinally toward the nail bed.1 Using 3 mm-long snippets of undergraduates' nails, he found that it took twice the energy (6kJm-2) to cut them lengthwise as crosswise (3kJm-2). "And that's a good thing," he says. "Otherwise, we would be in agony throughout our lives, because every tear would

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Among the Giants, Tiny Footprints

By | February 16, 2004

Courtesy of Martin Lockey, University of ColoradoIt's a slab of rock, two-by-two feet square, which tells a 75-million-year-old story. Imprinted in one part is a footprint indentation (below the coin) of a tiny mammal and the impressions of a leaf; on another part are marks typically left by raindrops."It looks like the animal took cover underneath some type of leaf that protected the surface from raindrops," says Martin Lockley, University of Colorado, Denver, who discovered the fossilized trac

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Sparkling Spirals: A Romantic Twist on DNA

By | February 16, 2004

Courtesy of CSHLWere you late getting that Valentine's Day gift? Not to fret: Buy double helix jewelry for your molecular biologist sweetheart. Cathy Cyphers Soref, a fundraiser for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), says the double helix is "as universal a symbol as the heart." And it looks just as lovely in diamonds.Soref has opened a store to benefit CSHL, called DNA Stuff http://www.DNAStuff.com. It sells DNA-themed items including jewelry and denim clothing that puns on "gene/jean." The

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