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Tracking the Truth About Bloodhounds

By | August 25, 2003

Frontlines | Tracking the Truth About Bloodhounds It's common knowledge: Bloodhounds find their quarry. But until recently, the scientific literature has been nearly silent on it. Physiologist Lisa Harvey, of Valley Victor Community College in Victorville, Calif., who is married to a police officer, decided to test the bloodhound's renowned sense of smell when some of the police officers, who use these animals to track criminals, could not get the courts to accept evidence found by the dog

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Hydrogen Report is Full of Hot Air

By | July 28, 2003

Frontlines | Hydrogen Report is Full of Hot Air A paper1 claiming that a hydrogen economy could deleteriously affect the ozone layer is under fire. The popular media covered the report because of its iconoclastic attack on assumptions made by hydrogen optimists. However, few publications have noted charges that some of the authors' assumptions are flawed. If the United States were to adopt a hydrogen economy, the paper claims, then 20% of the gas, or 120 teragrams, would leak annually int

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Wham, Bam, Now I'll Die, Ma'am

By | July 28, 2003

Frontlines | Wham, Bam, Now I'll Die, Ma'am Courtesy of Matthias Foellmer Sex does not come easy for male spiders. In many species, the female attacks and eats its mate, and sometimes, the male offers itself as a morsel for the female to feast on after mating. But the male Argiope aurantia takes this to the extreme by spontaneously dying during copulation.1 It's not fatal attraction, but a smart way to protect paternal investment, says Daphne Fairbairn, University of California, Riverside.

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Cluck, Cluck, Chomp, Chomp

By | July 14, 2003

Frontlines | Cluck, Cluck, Chomp, Chomp Image by Erica P. Johnson; original photo ©2001 Eric L. Carlson An Anglo-French research team has created a chicken with teeth, shedding new light on the signaling mechanisms that underlie cell differentiation in organ development. Chicken embryos were implanted with murine cells that constitute teeth and parts of the head, which resulted in the development of tooth-like structures not found in any bird. According to Paul Sharpe, professor of cr

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Standing Guard--Inside the Zoo

By | July 14, 2003

Frontlines | Standing Guard--Inside the Zoo Erica P. Johnson With monkeypox a reality in the United States and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) perhaps only several sneezes away, it makes sense to use zoo animals, which are checked regularly for health problems, as sentinels to monitor public health threats from zoonotic (animal to human) organisms. After birds were found dead from West Nile virus (WNV) in New York zoos in 1999, the Zoo Network was established to monitor zoo animal

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Golden Oldies-Piscine Style

By | June 30, 2003

Frontlines | Golden Oldies-Piscine Style Erica P. Johnson It's not Mozart or Elvis that does so, but a cacophony of noises, resembling those that emanate from a reef, that makes the embryo of a clown fish heart's throb for a home. After birth, the ant-sized juveniles swim away, but eventually they return to a reef to live. In trying to determine how these flashy reef fish do so, marine biologist Stephen Simpson, University of York, investigated sound as a possible cue. He and colleague Ho

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It's True: Scientists Are Smart

By | June 30, 2003

A rowdy crowd of white-coated scientists, many recruited from the ranks of readers of The Scientist, upheld the community's braniac reputation by coming out on top in a televised national IQ test. "Test the Nation," a Fox television special, aired on June 9 in the United States. The show pitted scientists against groups of teachers, celebrities, students, hard-hatted construction workers, muscle-shirt-wearing body builders, and blonde women. The scientist group scored highest with an average

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Shopping on the Wing

By | June 16, 2003

Frontlines | Shopping on the Wing Diana Lynn Boyle It's a marketing ploy that routinely traps shoppers. Faced with only two choices, say microwave A, small and cheap, and microwave B, large and pricey, a buyer is apt to pick either one. But throw in choice C, which is slightly more expensive but also slightly smaller than B, and shoppers flock to microwave B. "Item C," says behavioral economist Dan Ariely, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "is used as a decoy to draw attention to targe

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Waiting Out Addiction

By | June 16, 2003

Frontlines | Waiting Out Addiction Erica P. Johnson Recent research shows that for smokers who are trying to quit, the day seems to pass slowly. Pennsylvania State University researchers found that time perception was impaired for these people, suggesting both a decrease in performance and an increase in discomfort for abstainers.1 Nonpuffers and daily smokers, who went 24 hours without inhaling, were asked to estimate how much time had elapsed during a 45-second span. To the abstaining s

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A Peek Inside a Medieval Medicine Cabinet

By | June 2, 2003

Frontlines | A Peek Inside a Medieval Medicine Cabinet Courtesy of Wolfgang Eckart For centuries, the University of Heidelberg, Germany, has housed hundreds of medieval medical texts, but their contents--the conditions that were described, the prescriptions that were advised--have remained largely unknown. Until now. Historians have begun cataloging 298 handwritten manuscripts from the 14th to 16th centuries, says medical historian Wolfgang Eckart, who heads the project. Written by doctors

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