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Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon: Equals in the Hunt

By | November 3, 2003

Frontlines | Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon: Equals in the Hunt The hunting prowess of the Neanderthal matched those who supplanted them, the Cro-Magnon, say researchers who have examined ungulate teeth and bones found in a cave in which both types of hominids lived.1 The Grotte XVI in southwestern France contains remains dated from about 65,000 to 12,000 years ago. The study adds to a growing body of evidence that questions the idea that Cro-Magnon displaced Neanderthal because of their super

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Harvesting Car Bodies and Airplane Wings

By | October 20, 2003

Frontlines | Harvesting Car Bodies and Airplane Wings Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota  Hemp (Cannabis sativa) These days, farmers grow mainly food. But if the University of Toronto's Mohini Sain is right, in two to five years they'll also be growing material for auto bodies, airplane wings, football helmets, and artificial heart valves. Crops such as hemp, flax, wheat, and corn stalks can produce materials that are said to be as strong or stronger than

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Marking the First Americans' Arrival

By | October 20, 2003

Frontlines | Marking the First Americans' Arrival Thom Graves Media Y-chromosome genetic markers show that people first arrived on the North American continent about 14,000 years ago, according to two papers in the American Journal of Human Genetics.1,2 This is more recent than previously thought; mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) studies had suggested an entry date of 30,000 years ago. Researchers led by Mark Seielstad, Harvard School of Public Health, identified a single nucleotide polymorp

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A Discriminating, yet Artificial Palate

By | October 6, 2003

Frontlines | A Discriminating, yet Artificial Palate Erica P. Johnson Researchers are developing artificial tongues that eventually could detect aromas of cassis and smoky oak in a glass of cabernet. The device uses ultrathin films of conducting polymers as sensing units, which mimic the human taste buds for salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami (glutamate, the "fifth taste"). "When immersed in a test solution, each [sensing] unit provides a distinct electrical signal. The electrical respo

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The Herpetological 'Hand'

By | October 6, 2003

Frontlines | The Herpetological 'Hand' Courtesy of Gene Ott Snakes cannot properly wear gloves, but cottonmouths do exhibit some form of "handedness," says Eric Roth, a zoologist at the University of Oklahoma. In a recent study Roth demonstrated that the adult female snakes show a tendency to coil clockwise, with the left side of their bodies on the inside of the coil.1 Roth questions whether brain lateralization or other physiological asymmetry, such as the alignment of internal organs,

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Plant Police Go Online

By | September 22, 2003

Frontlines | Plant Police Go Online Courtesy of Mic H. Julien, Invasive.org Defending the United States against invaders of the vegetative variety is a job that airport agriculture inspectors can't handle alone anymore. Internet plant vendors have proliferated like kudzu, creating a problem requiring a Web-based solution. "You've got folks shipping things among states and from outside the US through the mail; it represented just a whole new pathway for invasive species," says entomologist

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The Sounds of Science

By | September 22, 2003

Frontlines | The Sounds of Science Courtesy of Nina Seiler What's the sound of two molecules touching? Ask James La Clair and Michael Burkart, two University of California, San Diego, scientists, who recently developed a biosensor on the surface of an ordinary compact disc. Data from a CD is nothing more than a stream of 1s and 0s, the digital representation of how laser light reflects off the disc's aluminum platter. Any dust or scratch on the CD's surface produces errors in the playback;

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Birds of a Feather, Banking Together

By | September 8, 2003

Frontlines | Birds of a Feather, Banking Together More than fluff makes a feather. Tucked away in its vane and shaft is a surprising amount of valuable data. Thanks to recent technology breakthroughs, researchers can glean a lot of information about a bird's diet, mating behavior, and migratory habits by merely examining its plumage. "With improved PCR-based genetics, stable isotope analysis, and trace element fingerprinting, feathers have become a great research tool," says Keith Hobson o

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Open Wide and Say

By | September 8, 2003

Frontlines | Open Wide and Say "Ribbit" Some frogs may be croaking before they go 'a courting. Scientists working with students in Acadia National Park in Maine have observed plenty of dead tadpoles among the preserve's vast wetlands. But it's impossible to know whether the death rates are unusually high--the park's 47,633 acres span two islands and a peninsula--or whether some species are dying at higher rates than others, says Aram Calhoun, assistant professor of wetlands ecology, Unive

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Investing With Your Brain's Heart

By | August 25, 2003

Frontlines | Investing With Your Brain's Heart Anne MacNamara When it comes to money, smart people act reasonably instead of emotionally to make good decisions, right? Not according to research conducted by an international team of neurologists, economists, and psychologists (J. Dickhaut et al., "The impact of the certainty context on the process of choice," Proc Natl Acad Sci, 100:3536-41, March 18, 2003). The results, based on brain scans of people making economic decisions, show that emo

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