Science News Archive - July 21, 2009


Scientists have long sought to explain why raindrops come in such a variety of different sizes, with prevailing wisdom saying the rain begins as tiny micro-droplets that join with nearby droplets as they fall to form even larger drops.


A Japanese study using a NASA satellite found that dust clouds being generated by a huge dust storm in China's Taklimakan desert in 2007 made more than one full circle around the globe in just 13 days.


Xiang Zhang, a faculty scientist with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and professor at the University of California Berkeley, lead a study in which it was determined that the interactions of light and matter with spacetime, as predicted by general relativity, can be studied using the new breed of artificial optical materials that feature extraordinary abilities to bend light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation.

Researchers demonstrate how genetic mutations and natural variations combine to produce twin spores in bacteria that normally produce only singletons.

The once endangered Eastern bluebird is making a comeback of sorts in parts of Florida with nearly 100 birds nesting east of Tampa, bird watchers said. A solar-powered video camera in a nesting box gives visitors a close look at a bluebird family at Flatwoods Park, a Hillsborough County-owned wilderness preserve cared for by the Tampa Audubon Society, The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune reported Tuesday. From a television monitor at the ranger's station, visitors can watch the adults build a nest and tend to bluebird chicks as they feed, grow and fly away, all in about five to six weeks time, Audubon spokeswoman Mary Miller told the Tribune. The Eastern bluebird, which nests from March through August, primarily makes its home in Texas and throughout the U.S.


The wound that ultimately killed a Neandertal man between 50,000 and 75,000 years was most likely caused by a thrown spear, the kind modern humans used but Neandertals did not, according to Duke University-led research.


Scientists at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a fast and efficient way to determine the structure of proteins, shortening a process that often takes years into a matter of days.


Researchers have discovered that the sea lamprey, which emerged from jawless fish first appearing 500 million years ago, dramatically remodels its genome. Shortly after a fertilized lamprey egg divides into several cells, the growing embryo discards millions of units of its DNA.

Trout are better models for cancer research than mice or rats, a leading researcher at Oregon State University said. George Bailey helped found the university's world-class trout research center, which recently completed a study of the effects on tissue of carcinogenic Dibutyl phthalate, used in adhesives, plastics and ink, The (Portland) Oregonian reported Tuesday. Three decades of aquatic study convinced Bailey, 68, that trout are cheaper to raise and care for than rodents, and have inherently lower cancer rates, which lessens the margin for error in studies, Bailey said. Trout studies at the university led to the discovery that chlorophyllin, a derivative of the material that makes plants green, renders the carcinogen Aflatoxin harmless, Bailey said.


"Practice makes perfect" is the maxim drummed into students struggling to learn a new motor skill - be it riding a bike or developing a killer backhand in tennis.

Word of the Day
  • Stoppage; cessation (of labor).
  • A standing still or idling (of mills, factories, etc.).
The word chomage comes into English from French.]