Notebook

Mathematics Awareness Week Garden Party Wool And Oil Do Mix Arts And Sciences Underwater Astronomy A Fungus Below Us Brain Food? pp. 4. "Mathematics and Medicine" is the theme for this year's Mathematics Awareness Week, April 24-30. Organizers hope to draw attention to the critical but often overlooked role of mathematics in many areas of biomedicine. Important examples, they say, are the use of mathematics in genetic

Apr 18, 1994
The Scientist Staff

  • Mathematics Awareness Week
  • Garden Party
  • Wool And Oil Do Mix
  • Arts And Sciences
  • Underwater Astronomy
  • A Fungus Below Us
  • Brain Food?
    pp. 4.

    "Mathematics and Medicine" is the theme for this year's Mathematics Awareness Week, April 24-30. Organizers hope to draw attention to the critical but often overlooked role of mathematics in many areas of biomedicine. Important examples, they say, are the use of mathematics in genetic studies and DNA analysis; the reliance on mathematics of such medical-imaging technologies as computerized axial tomography (CAT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET); the construction of mathematical models for studying the immune system; and development of the algorithms that underlie computer molecular modeling. Colleges, universities, and research laboratories are sponsoring lectures, demonstrations, exhibits, and other special events to celebrate. The event is coordinated and funded by the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics in Washington, D.C., representing the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, with additional funding from the U.S. Army Research Office.


    The University of California, Los Angeles, Extension is organizing a tour of its diverse botanical gardens in the southeast corner of the university's main campus on May 8, hosted by Mildred E. Mathias, in whose honor the gardens have been named. The day-long program includes a lecture by Mathias, currently a professor, emerita, of botany at UCLA, who will conduct a guided walk in the gardens. Mathias, 87, was a professor of botany at UCLA until her retirement in 1974, and now organizes nature study tours for UCLA Extension in various parts of the world. The eight-acre gardens include a deep canyon and offer a variety of climates, which allow the university to maintain some 4,000 species of plants from various parts of the world. They also house a herbarium with 170,000 dried plant specimens. For information, contact The Sciences, UCLA Extension, 10995 LeConte Ave., Suite 714, Los Angeles, Calif. 90024; (310) 825-7093.


    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a new twist on an age-old product. Because of a myriad of qualities--inexpensiveness, biodegradability, and toughness, for example--low-grade wool is being developed into the latest environmental clean-up tool. A consortium of industry and academia is investing more than $700,000, along with an additional $700,000 from USDA, to turn wool into the booms, pads, and socks used in swabbing spilled and leaked oil.

    Developers expect that their wool pads will involve a lower cost to the environmental clean-up industry and will be reusable, after oil is removed and eventually broken down into polypeptides and amino acids, as a protein concentrate.


    "Natural History Illustration in New York State," an exhibition of the works of scientific and natural history illustrators, is currently on display at the New York State Museum in Albany. Recognizing the importance of illustrations in augmenting the results of scientific discoveries and research, the exhibit contains several works executed in a variety of media that reflect the unique alliance between art and science. All the 46 artists whose works are on display are either from the state of New York themselves, or work with scientists from the state. Running from April 13 through June 19, the exhibition complements the New York Natural History Conference III, held from April 13 to 16.


    A team of researchers is converting a 5 million-gallon reservoir in the New Mexico mountains into an observatory that will act "like a camera whose shutter is always open," to detect violent cosmic events.

    Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory; New York University; the University of Maryland; George Mason University; and the University of California's Santa Cruz, Riverside, and Irvine campuses expect by 1997 to equip the giant pond with more than 400 submerged and sensitive light detectors, with an additional 200 detectors along the edges. The observatory is designed to record signals from high-energy cosmic emissions as it surveys, for example, the explosive deaths of evaporating black holes, the centers of active galaxies, and gamma ray bursters. The detectors will be sensitive to a range of gamma rays--high-energy photons--and will sense the arrival of air showers when gamma rays, descending through the upper atmosphere, collide with air molecules. A cover on the pool will block outside light from entering, permitting only gamma ray-generated particles through. The $2.5 million project is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.


    A petroleum engineer in Texas has a suggestion for what to do with miles of tunnel constructed for the now-defunct superconducting supercollider, but it has more to do with high-energy gastronomy than physics. According to an Associated Press report, Naresh Vashisht believes the concrete-sealed, 200-foot-deep tunnel would be ideal for growing mushrooms. Vashisht says he'd like to use the tunnel because of its nearly perfect mushroom-growing conditions: total darkness, high humidity, and a steady 70-degree temperature. Vashisht notes that in Pennsylvania, mushrooms are grown in old limestone mines, and that the tunnel is constructed from a similar stone, Austin chalk.


    A University of North Carolina School of Public Health study may confirm some parents' worst fears and isn't likely to make the fast-food industry very happy, either. According to the study, pregnant women who eat hot dogs at least once a week appear to double the risk that their children will develop brain tumors, while children who consume the same amount also double their risk of brain cancer. In addition, kids who eat hamburgers that frequently are twice as likely to contract lyphocytic leukemia, says David A. Savitz, a UNC professor of epidemiology, and his former graduate student, Sara Sarasua. In the study, Savitz and his colleagues focused on certain processed meats that contain high levels of nitrites. They found the highest risk for contracting cancer among groups in which the children did not take vitamin supplements and consumed the most processed meats. Savitz says the study does not prove that nitrites cause cancer or that people should stop eating hot dogs and hamburgers. "Evidence like this should encourage us to moderate the amount of processed meat we feed our families and underscores the value of vitamin C and other vitamins, especially in fruits and vegetables," he says.