Science In The Real World
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Strange objects from the sky, killer animals on the rampage, flesh-eating robots, and of course scientists tampering in God's domain - you'll find it all here! More..

Update on killer fish in Maryland!
(From: El Santo, AYCYAS’s man on the spot!)

"I just noticed the article you quoted on your site about the discovery of northern snakeheads in a pond in Crofton, Maryland, and I've got a couple of details to add which you might find amusing.

"First, the pond in question is only about 75 yards from a branch of the Patuxent river (well within wriggling distance, you'll note), which in turn empties into the Chesapeake Bay. In other words, there may be an ecological catastrophe waiting in the wings here. Sure, they've poisoned the pond (which, like all permanent bodies of standing water in Maryland, was man-made anyway), but who knows how many of the little ****ers could have crawled out into the river in the meantime?

"Second, the snakeheads apparently got there because some guy bought a couple (naturally, it had to be both a male and a female) to keep as pets, but didn't realize just how goddamned big the things got. Also knowing nothing of the snakehead's biology, this misguided ichthyophile decided to release his pets into the pond, where he figured they'd be happy. One assumes they were, at least if the substantial number of juvenile snakeheads that have since been caught is any indication. Finally (and for me, this is the best part of the whole business), the pond where the offending fish have been discovered is something like a mile and a half away from my house! I keep hoping that one day I'll be out for a walk, and I'll encounter one of the bastards slithering down the street looking for toddlers to eat.

"Oh, and of course some enterprising soul has gone and had snakehead t-shirts printed up-- the entrepreneurial spirit in action, eh?"

Scientists to build research station under the sea, under the sea!
(From: Tech Live, 15/10/02; submitted by Sildenafil)

Living underwater might sound like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel, but tonight "Tech Live" introduces you to the father and son team that is turning a timeless fantasy into reality.

It's not unusual for a son or daughter to follow the same career path as their parent. For Dr. Richard Cooper and his eldest son, Christopher, the family business is more like a literary fantasy. Building an underwater "space station" is more than just the family business, but a passionate undertaking for both men.

For 45 years Dr. Cooper, a professor of marine sciences at the University of Connecticut's Avery Point campus, has been a deep-sea diver and undersea researcher.

"The one frustration that I've had, right from the first year of doing this kind of work, has been how short a time and how limited you are, weather-wise, to being able to get down into the ocean depths to do whatever your job is," he said.

For Christopher, his love of the ocean came from hearing exciting underwater stories from his dad. "I really had my own Jacques Cousteau living at home with me," Christopher said.

But building an underwater lab takes talent, time, and money. Six years ago Dr. Cooper co-founded the Ocean Technology Foundation, a nonprofit organization with ties to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The long-term goal of the OTF is to build Ocean Base One, a habitat on the continental shelf. Christopher Cooper is a project manager for OTF and the Ocean Base One project.

Ocean Base One will be located 80 miles south of Nantucket Island on the continental shelf, 550 feet down. The design looks like an oil rig, and the above-water portion is a 5-or 6-foot high facility that will have medical facilities, shops, and communication centers. Then there's a 100-foot, 200-foot, 300-foot, and 550-foot level, with each level containing an underwater habitat. There will be a one-atmosphere elevator system that will transfer scientists, engineers, students, teachers, and materials to and from each level. One-atmosphere allows people to exist for longer periods of time underwater because it mimics surface-based conditions. This means people will not have to adjust or wear oxygen tanks while living underwater.

The bottom-most level will contain MANTA submarines, so research teams can explore the ocean floor for days at a time. Another design feature includes fiber-optic cables attached to the structure.

"Two days a week," said Dr. Cooper, "probably just before the supper hour -- live broadcasts from the ocean floor sent via fiber optic cables and then via satellite to various receiving stations on the shore in this country or in other countries. To have direct dialog with the scientists, men and women including students as young as high school age, in the various tasks that they are performing."

The technology to build a lab underwater and survive for long periods of time has existed for years. Dr. Cooper said that in the 1960s the Navy built an underwater habitat and worked out a lot of the problems associated with living under pressure, monitoring gasses in the air, and maintaining decompression schedules.

"The integration of all of these technologies into these tools working into a cohesive working unit will be a new challenge," he said. One of those challenges, for example, is creating an elevator that maintains a one-atmosphere system, so pressure acclimation will be a non-issue.

The Coopers said that the biggest hurdle is not the technology, but the $75 million price tag.

"NASA's program, where you can go out to your backyard and look up and see the stars and envision what it's like to be on the moon is a very high visibility sort of visualization of what mankind can do in the years to come. Nobody can go out and stand in their backyard or even on the beautiful shoreline where we are on now and look down into the depths," Dr. Cooper said.

If budgetary constraints weren't a factor, the Coopers believe the project could be built in the next three to four years. Or, it could take until the end of the decade.

One possible source of money for the project, according to Dr. Cooper, could be from the Department of Homeland Security budget. A permanent facility, he said, could serve as an underwater base for all aspects of protecting the northeastern coast of the United States.

The lab would really serve just about anyone who has an interest in underwater life, say the Coopers. So, N'Sync's Lance Bass might find vacationing in an underwater lab just as exhilarating and accessible than an outer space adventure.

"Bring people in the general public and their kids to learn something about the underwater world and the importance of it and the value of it to sustain our live as we know it," Dr. Cooper said.

Scientists create garbage-fueled battery!
(From: New Scientist, 15/10/02; submitted by Dr Freex)

A battery that runs on scraps of food could fuel a battery providing electricity to top up your home's supply, say UK researchers.

Although such "microbial fuel cells" (MFCs) have been developed in the past, they have always proved extremely inefficient and expensive. Now Chris Melhuish and technologists at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol have come up with a simplified MFC that costs as little as 10 to make.

Right now, their fuel cell runs only on sugar cubes, since these produce almost no waste when broken down, but they aim to move on to carrot power. "It has to be able to use raw materials, rather than giving it a refined fuel," says Melhuish.

Inside the Walkman-sized battery, a colony of E. coli bacteria produce enzymes that break down carbohydrates, releasing hydrogen atoms. The cell also contains chemicals that drive a series of redox, or reduction and oxidation reactions, stripping electrons from the hydrogen atoms and delivering them steadily to the fuel cell's anode. This creates a voltage that can be used to power a circuit.

To prove the MFC works, the researchers are using it to power a small light-sensitive robot. And when a number of the cells are connected in series, they could power domestic appliances, running a 40-watt bulb for eight hours on about 50 grams of sugar.

Earlier MFCs were inefficient because they relied on energy-hungry filters and pumps. By experimenting with different anode materials, the UWE team have figured out how to make their system work: they dump the bacteria and redox chemicals directly into the cell.

In its current form, the UWE team says its organic battery can produce eight times as much power as any previous MFC. But Melhuish wants to improve this, both by scaling it up and finding a better mix of redox chemicals.

A bird as big as a battleship threatens Alaska!
(From: the Anchorage Daily News, 15/10/02; submitted by Dr Freex)

A giant winged creature, like something out of Jurassic Park, has reportedly been sighted several times in Southwest Alaska in recent weeks.

Villagers in Togiak and Manokotak say they have seen a huge bird that's much bigger than anything they have seen before.

A pilot says he spotted the creature while flying passengers to Manokotak last week. He calculated that its wingspan matched the length of a wing on his Cessna 207. That's about 14 feet.

Other people have put the wingspan in a similar range.

Scientists aren't sure what to make of the reports. No one doubts that people in the region west of Dillingham have seen a very large rapto-like bird. But biologists and other people familiar with big Alaska birds say they're skeptical it's that big.

A recent sighting of the mystery bird occurred Oct. 10 when Moses Coupchiak, a 43-year-old heavy equipment operator from Togiak, 40 miles west of Manokotak, saw the bird flying toward him from about two miles away as he worked his tractor.

"At first I thought it was one of those old-time Otter planes," Coupchiak said. "Instead of continuing toward me, it banked to the left, and that's when I noticed it wasn't a plane."

The bird was "something huge," he said. "The wing looks a little wider than the Otter's, maybe as long as the Otter plane."

The bird flew behind a hill and disappeared. Coupchiak got on the radio and warned people in Togiak to tell their children to stay away.

Pilot John Bouker said he was highly skeptical of reports of "this great big eagle" that is two or three times the size of a bald eagle. "I didn't put any thought into it."

But early this week while flying into Manokotak, Bouker, owner of Bristol Bay Air Service, looked out his left window and 1,000 feet away, "there's this big….bird," he said.

"The people in the plane all saw him," Bouker said. "He's huge, he's huge, he's really, really big. You wouldn't want to have your children out."

Nicolai Alakayak, a freight and passenger driver from Manokotak who was flying with Bouker, said the creature looked like an eagle and was as large as "a little Super Cub."

Comparison to an eagle, certainly. Super Cub? Probably not, scientists said.

"I'm certainly not aware of anything with a 14-foot wingspan that's been alive for the last 100,000 years," said federal raptor specialist Phil Schemf in Juneau.

Schemf, other biologists, a village police officer and teachers at the Manokotak School said the sightings could be of a Steller's sea eagle, a species native to northeast Asia and one of the world's largest eagles. It's about 50 percent bigger than a bald eagle.

Giant bear was Creeper in disguise; "It was coming right for me!" claims US airman
(From: Ireland On-Line, 11/10/02; submitted by Dr Freex)

A US airman is believed to have killed the world's largest bear.

Ted Heuvelmans says he shot the 1,800lb Alaskan Brown bear from 35 yards away, in self defence.

The bear, which was 14ft tall, tried to attack him during a hunting trip on Hitchenbrook Island, near the Elmendorf Air Force Base in the Gulf of Alaska, south of Valdez.

It's twice the size of a normal brown bear, which is the largest of the bears, and experts say it could be the world's biggest.

Alaska has the highest concentration of brown bears in the world.

William Golding, Professor of National History at Toronto University, told the Yukon Courier that the bear's size suggests that it suffered from a growth disorder, such as acromegaly.

Mr Heuvelmans, an airman at Elemdorf airport, said: "She kind of snuck up on me. I was really taken by surprise. She stood up on her hind legs and prepared to charge.

"I was pretty scared, let me tell you! I emptied the chamber into her chest. It took four shots to bring her down. She was huge! If I hadn't gotten her first, I definitely would've been a gonner!"

The Yukon Courier says representatives from The Smithsonian Institution and the Guinness Book of Records will be visiting Alaska next week to verify the record capture.

Scientists create hydrogen-fueled cars!
(From: CNN, 9/10/02; submitted by Dr Freex)

They don't use gasoline or electricity, but these new Honda and Mercedes-Benz cars can whiz by at speeds up to 93 mph.

The new fuel cell cars are powered by hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, and they are pollution and noise free.

The mayor of smog-choked Los Angeles, Jim Hahn, likes them so much he signed a lease with Honda that will put city employees behind the wheel of five of the experimental cars by year's end.

"Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles hold great promise for future clean air vehicles," Hahn said in a press release. "It's important that Los Angeles play a leading role in development and early use of this technology."

Not to be outdone, DaimlerChrysler also announced the production of a fleet of Mercedes-Benz A-Class cars in the U.S. and Europe. Like Honda's cars, the DaimlerChrysler cars get their power from compressed hydrogen, which mixes with oxygen to create electricity.

But finding a fueling station won't be easy. Companies who agree to use Mercedes-Benzes' 60 fuel cell cars will also have to install hydrogen-filling stations, and a Honda spokesman said his company plans a mobile refueling unit.

If all that compressed hydrogen sounds dangerous, DaimlerChrysler spokesman Max Gates offered some reassurance.

"The engineering has been done with the fuel tanks to ensure their safety in all kinds of conditions, including collisions," he said.

Honda said its cars are certified by the California Air Resources Board and the Environmental Protection Agency.

And the company claims its fuel cell cars even outlast the Mercedes version, covering 220 miles before needing refueling. The Mercedes car is a hydrogen guzzler in comparison -- getting only 90 miles per tank.

While the auto industry has tested hydrogen-powered cars for years, this is the first time that automakers are letting average drivers have the keys, a crucial step before the cars can be introduced to the general market.

That's not likely to happen for a decade or longer while more testing is done, Gates said.

Hydrogen is the latest in a long line of alternative fuels considered by automakers: electricity, methanol and natural gas among them.

With pressure to introduce more zero-emission vehicles -- including a California law requiring a percentage of new cars sold in that state to produce no smog -- the car industry is in a race to find a new fuel that will click with consumers.

Car industry critics say the problem lies with automakers reticent to shell out millions of dollars to develop the technology. Carmakers blame consumers for not embracing alternative fuel vehicles.

With environmental damage from vehicle emissions mounting, many fleets of alternative fuel cars will have to hit the road to clean the air, said Richard Varenchik, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.

"It's really for the automakers to decide to a great extent when they will introduce the cars to a wide enough market and then for the public to use them," Varenchik said.

Scientists create poison-craving plants!
(From: USA Today, 8/10/02; submitted by Dr Freex)

Scientists reported Monday that they have bioengineered a plant capable of absorbing arsenic from soil and sequenced the complete set of genes for a microbe that can remove heavy metals from water.

The announcements, reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology, represent the latest gains in the field of bio-remediation. The technique uses plants and microbes to clean up dangerously polluted areas cheaply and effectively. Some scientists even see the day when trees and grasses will be used to mine metals and minerals without disturbing the soil.

The first group of researchers added a gene from the E. coli bacteria and one from soybeans to make Arabidopsis thaliana, a distant relative of cabbage, develop its taste for arsenic, says Richard Meagher, lead author of the paper.

The plant efficiently pumps arsenic from the soil and stores it in its leaves, where it can be easily harvested and disposed of. Arsenic contamination is a serious problem worldwide, but removing it from the soil is prohibitively expensive. It requires digging up the soil and burying it more safely elsewhere.

The second group of scientists announced the sequencing of the Shewanella bacterium genome. The bacteria, which are found in almost all sediments in freshwater and at the mouths of rivers, have the curious trait of breathing not oxygen but metal.

When the bacteria breathe out, they take pollutants such as uranium and chromium that are dissolved in water and turn them into solids that the bacteria leave behind. The solids then can be removed.

By knowing the sequence, scientists say, they can better use Shewanella to prevent the spread of pollutants in groundwater. It could also clean polluted groundwater, says chief author John Heidelberg, an environmental microbiologist at the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md.

''You'd pump up the water and then you'd be able to filter out the heavy metals,'' he says.

Jane Rissler, a staff scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C., says there might be compelling benefits to bio-remediation but cautions that a risk/benefit analysis is necessary.

''Are these plants where we have to worry about the pollen flow that would affect the food supply?'' Rissler asks. ''What organisms would be affected by eating the plants?''

Bio-remediation first made news in the 1970s when scientists began using oil-eating bacteria to clean oil spills.

Long considered a ''crazy cousin'' of science, the field is beginning to come into its own; major research initiatives are underway in Germany, England, Australia and Canada. In the USA, the number of labs has grown from a handful a decade ago to close to 30.

Meagher says the field is finally ready to take off. His lab is testing trees that can pull as much as 50 parts per million of mercury from the soil every three months.

''I wasn't sure it was going to happen in my lifetime, but now I think it will.''

Scientists create blood for robots!
(From: ABC News, 2/10/02; submitted by Nathan Shumate)

Super Goop: An Ambiguous Substance Could Animate Robots, Prevent Earthquake Damage

A fluid that can transform from a liquid to a solid within milliseconds could soon be running through the "veins" of robots to give them a soft, human-like touch.

When not near a magnetic pull, so-called MR fluids appear as gray, unextraordinary oily liquids. But apply a magnetic force and the fluid instantly becomes the texture of thick clay. By pumping the fluid into an electronic sensing system that activates a magnetic field, it can be used to power robots, stabilize buildings and smooth bumpy automobile rides.

"These fluids have properties that can change in an instant when you apply magnetic fields," says Henri Gavin, a professor of engineering at Duke University. "This gives great flexibility in how you can design devices."

MR fluids are not new — the substance was discovered in the 1940s — but recently the fluid has been improved and researchers are devising new ways of putting it to use. The stiffness of the fluids can now be adjusted a thousand times a second.

NASA thinks they can do better and will be sending an MR fluid experiment to the space station in November to study the fluid so they can further improve it.

"We're trying to take it to the next level," says Juan Agui, project scientist with NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

MR fluid is already applied in a wide range of mechanisms. It's used to provide resistance in Nautilus home step machines and exercise bicycles. The fluid is incorporated into advanced shock absorption systems in some cars and even prosthetic limbs. And North Carolina's Lord Corporation is now working on developing washing machines with the magnetic dampers so they can operate with little vibration and virtually no noise.

Some are hopeful it could offer the next wave in building stabilization.

Engineers in Japan have become the first to install the technology to help stabilize buildings against tremors. And China's Dong Ting Lake Bridge is kept steady by the technology.

A primitive version of MR fluid can be crafted by adding iron filings to corn oil. Hold a magnet nearby and the mixture stiffens as the iron filings form lattice structures pointing toward the magnet. Professional MR fluids contain basically the same mix, but use a specially designed hydrocarbon as the oil and soft iron particles shaved so small that a bag of them looks like dark sand.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recently concocted another substance for adding to the mix that prevents a common problem — clumping.

"The additive transforms the fluid from a free flowing liquid to something like a yogurt over a period of hours," explains Gavin. "The 'yogurt' holds the iron filings in place."

When activated, Gavin explains, the yogurt-like substance instantly becomes liquid again and then transforms into its stiffer, more solid form.

This kind of advance is particularly key for damping systems in buildings since the MR fluid is rarely activated and iron filings are more likely to clump after time. Gavin explains the MR fluid would be placed in a shock absorbing system that fits into an isolation system of a building. As motion detectors sense movement, they trigger a matching magnetic pulse. The pulse then stiffens the MR fluid accordingly and steels the building against shaking.

General Motors is installing the magnetic damping system in the seats of their 2003 Corvette and Oldsmobile models to offer a super smooth ride. Prosthetic joint manufacturers have also begun installing MR fluids in artificial leg joints to soften a wearer's steps. And Russian company recently announced plans to use MR fluids in super cushioned running shoes.

This November, engineers at NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hope to better understand how the tiny suspended particles interact and improve the fluid's performance by studying their interaction in the low gravity environment of the space station.

"The force between any two particles is minuscule," explains Alice Gast, a professor of chemical engineering at MIT who is leading the research. "We think by understanding the details of these forces, we'll be able to understand how to keep the filings from clumping and make them more effective."

The research could eventually be applied to help NASA smooth space station docking, minimize wear and tear from repositioning satellites and better suppress vibrations during rocket launches. But Gast believes one of the best applications for the fluid will be in animating the hands and limbs of robots so they move as naturally as any human's.

"Think about using a robot to pick up an egg," she says. "If the magnetic fluid were running in the veins of the hand you could tune it so it would apply just the right force and no eggs would be broken."

Scientists grow fertile animal testes in mice!
(From: the Sydney Morning Herald, 15/8/02; submitted by lyzard)

For the first time, one species has produced the sperm of another species, with mice making goat and pig sperm in miniature testes grown on their backs.

The method might be used in future to restore the fertility of men and boys who have undergone cancer therapy, by grafting some of their testicular tissue onto mice, researchers believe.

It could also help conserve endangered species.

Australian researcher David de Kretser said testes needed to be grown in a cool spot, and the advantage of the mice used in the latest overseas experiment was that they were hairless and had exposed skin on their backs.

A team, led by Ina Dobrinski of the University of Pennsylvania, took a pinhead-sized amount of testicular tissue from newborn pigs and goats and transplanted it just under the skin of the mice. Some grafts grew more than 100-fold in size, with up to eight miniature testes developing.

The sperm appeared to be normal and could fertilise an egg, Professor Dobrinski said. "And the grafts produced as much sperm, gram for gram, as testes in the donor species."

The success using immature tissue from a newborn animal suggested tissue could be taken from boys who had not reached sexual maturity, and then frozen for later sperm production in mice.

But Dr de Kretser, of Monash University, said that before this could ever be carried out, the risks of transmission of mice viruses to any resulting offspring had to be overcome.

The Federal Government is still formulating policy on whether trials of animal and human tissue transplants, known as xenotransplantation, can proceed.

Dr de Kretser's team has succeeded in grafting mice testicular tissue onto other mice and growing sperm-producing testes.

"But we didn't do it on the back [of the mice]. We did it behind their ears."

He said there were many scientific applications for this kind of work.

His team is studying the effect of a gene on sperm production. If the gene is missing in mice, they die soon after birth, but their testicular tissue can be collected and grown in another mouse.

The technique could also be used to produce an unlimited supply of sperm from an endangered species or prize livestock, including immature animals - much more than by simply freezing ejaculates.

Mice that produced human sperm could also be used to test the effects of drugs, including male contraceptives, on sperm production.

Killer ice blocks from the sky!
(From: Yahoo! News, 27/9/02; submitted by Ken Begg)

A Spanish scientist says global warming may be to blame for giant blocks of ice which fall from clear skies and rip gaping holes in cars and houses.

Jesus Martinez-Frias has spent the last two-and-a-half years investigating so-called megacryometeors -- ice meteors -- which tend to weigh more than 22 lb and have been known to leave five feet holes in houses.

He fears the formation of these hailstone-like blocks on clear days could be a worrying symptom of climate change.

"I'm not worried that a block of ice might fall on your head ... but that great blocks of ice are forming where they shouldn't exist," said Martinez-Frias, director of planetary geography at Spain's Astrobiology Center in Madrid.

"Components of the atmosphere, like ozone and water, are changing in different levels of the atmosphere...We think these signs could be evidence of climate change," he said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

While Martinez-Frias said he was far from certain as to why the ice meteors formed, he said they were neither hoaxes nor blocks of ice falling from the bars or bathrooms of passing aircraft, as skeptics have suggested.

"We're not talking about hoaxes," Martinez-Frias said. "It's very easy to tell real and false ice blocks apart."

"It's not water from airplane toilets...Its isotopic composition bears the signature...of Iberian rain."

Ice clouds made from crystallized vapor trails of aircraft are well known to pilots, but Martinez-Frias suggests that because global warming involves one level of the atmosphere getting colder while another gets hotter, some ice clouds now remain longer.

Their centers then fall through the atmosphere, bouncing and gathering mass, to end up smashing through a car windshield or, more usually, landing softly in a field, he suggested.

The first megacryometeor found this year in Spain -- by a startled farmer riding his tractor in Soria -- weighed 35.27 lb.

Three others were found later, bringing the world total over the last decade to more than 50. But Martinez-Frias said only around a fifth of the ice meteors are ever found.

An ice meteor weighing around 440 lb has been found in Brazil, Martinez-Frias said. Other blocks have been found in Mexico and Australia.

The blocks form between two-and-a-half and six miles above ground, he said.

Some scientists doubt whether hail can form on a clear day.

"Solid ice cannot form in the absence of thick, highly visible clouds," Charles Knight, a hail expert at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado was quoted as saying in a supplement of Science journal.

But geologist Roger Buick of the University of Washington in Seattle told the same publication that a model created by Martinez-Frias and his team showing ice can form on a clear day was an "important advance in that it thoroughly documents and provides an explanation for a spectacular phenomenon."

Scientists grow pig teeth in rats!
(From: Yahoo! News, 26/9/02; submitted by Ken Begg)

The tooth fairy may soon have a new line of business.

U.S. doctors said on Thursday they have managed to grow living pig teeth in rats, a feat of biotechnology that experts said could spark a dental revolution.

Researchers at Boston's Forsyth Institute said their successful experiment suggests the existence of dental stem cells, which could one day allow a person to replace a lost tooth with an identical one grown from his or her own cells.

"The ability to identify, isolate and propagate dental stem cells to use in biological replacement tooth therapy has the potential to revolutionize dentistry," said Dominick DePaola, president and CEO of the institute that focuses on oral and facial science.

The experiment involved taking cells from immature teeth of 6-month-old pigs, treating them with enzymes and then placing the cell clusters on biodegradable "scaffolds" -- tiny bits of polymer designed to act like a mold for the forming tissue.

The researchers implanted the scaffolds into the abdomens of rats and within 30 weeks small recognizable tooth crowns -- containing enamel and dentin, a bone-like material found under the enamel -- had formed.

The researchers said they hope that within five years they will have developed techniques to grow teeth of a specific size and shape, and that within 10 years it will be possible to regenerate human teeth.

Louis Terracio, associate dean for research at New York University's College of Dentistry, said the research signals that the days of synthetic dental implants -- dentures, bridges and crowns -- are numbered.

"Right now they do wonderful things with implants," Terracio said after reading the Forsyth research. "Implants work pretty well but it's not a natural tooth."

Terracio predicted there was no danger of dentists being put out of business if people are able to grow their own substitute teeth, noting that American dentistry has typically been at the forefront of technology.

"The profession will adapt and help people grow teeth," he said. "This will probably be a boon to oral surgeons who will be doing this sort of surgery."

Scientists create their own anti-matter!
(From: Yahoo! News, 20/9/02; submitted by Dr Freex)

European scientists say they have created enough antihydrogen — a type of the mirror-image, antimatter stuff that fictionally powers spaceships on Star Trek — to test a widely held basic model of the universe.

While antihydrogen has been made before, the more than 50,000 atoms created at the CERN particle accelerator in Geneva are "by far, the most produced," said Jeffrey Hangst, a leader of the ATHENA collaboration, one of two groups of physicists working on antihydrogen at CERN.

The quest to understand and manipulate antimatter is one of the most competitive and esoteric pursuits in science. Not all particle physicists — even within CERN — agree with the new finding.

A spokesman for the competing ATRAP Collaboration at CERN said he doubts that antihydrogen had been produced in the latest experiment. The ATHENA group relied on indications of the simultaneous destruction of antihydrogen's two atomic particles — the positron and the antiproton — to show it had been produced, said Harvard physicist Gerald Gabrielse, spokesman for the ATRAP group.

"Our long experience with these very difficult experiments warns that observing simultaneous positron and antiproton annihilation does not ensure that antihydrogen has really been produced," Gabrielse said.

ATHENA researchers, whose work appears in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, plan to make more antihydrogen to test the Standard Model, equations that explain the nature of matter and energy.

If the antihydrogen doesn't behave the same as normal hydrogen "the textbooks would have to be rewritten," said Hangst, who is a physicist at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, along with his CERN work.

"It would imply that we have overlooked something fundamental about how nature works," Hangst said. "Such a discovery certainly wouldn't help you to build a better computer or TV, but it might shed some light on why we have a universe that looks the way it does."

Killer hornets invade Florida!
(From: Local6 news, Sorrento, 16/9/02; submitted by Sildenafil)

Giant Hornet's Nest Terrorizes Neighborhood; Sheriff’s Department Pays To Remove Nest

SORRENTO, Fla. -- A giant hornet's nest on a deceased neighbor's porch has terrorized a Sorrento neighborhood for months, according to Local 6 News.

The 4-foot-high, 3-foot-wide nest formed on the abandoned property of a neighbor who died three years ago. Recently, the nest has become a nuisance for neighbors, Local 6 News reported.

"It's been really bad," neighbor Mike Roden said. "You come out here in the early morning and you find out they are swarming everywhere."

Roden and other neighbors reportedly asked city, county and state agencies for help to remove the nest earlier this year but did not get a reply.

"It looks like a big blob," neighbor Cindy Rice said.

After Local 6 News inquired about the nest, the Lake County Sheriff's office called wildlife specialist Jack Allen to remove it.

Allen said that the nest was the largest exposed nest he had ever seen.

"A nest that size, if somebody got too close to it they could have easily been stung to death," Wildlife specialist Jack Allen said.

The Lake County Sheriff's Department paid $500 to remove the nest late Sunday.

Two-headed turtle found in Florida!
(From: CNN, 11/9/02; submitted by Chris Holland)

What started as a routine day for sea turtle monitor Mary Toro turned out to be one of her most memorable after she found a baby turtle with two heads.

"I was shocked. I couldn't believe it," Toro said after finding the creature Thursday morning near Naples Cay.

Toro's boss, 20-year sea turtle monitoring veteran Maura Kraus, said she comes across two-headed turtle embryos every couple of years but had never seen one survive.

"This is the first time I've ever seen one alive, fully developed and hatched," Kraus said.

Toro found the turtle as she dug up a nest that had hatched three days earlier. Monitors routinely dig up old nests of the protected turtles to count the number of hatched and unhatched eggs and rescue any stragglers.

Anne Meylan, a researcher with the Florida Marine Research Institute in St. Petersburg, said the two-headed creature likely is a natural occurrence, not caused by chemicals or any other outside influence.

After consulting with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Kraus released the two-headed loggerhead into the Gulf of Mexico.

"We didn't want it to become a freak in a freak show," she said.

Killer bees invade California!
(From: ABC News, Los Angeles, 4/9/02; submitted by Arthroslug)

There's disturbing news for residents of Santa Barbara County. Killer bees have arrived.

Recent samples taken from two swarms of bees in Goleta have now been identified as the aggressive Africanized honeybees. This marks their first confirmed sighting in the county.

They've already been found in San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Kern Counties. The so-called "killer bees" have been blamed for the deaths of 12 people in recent years, mostly in Texas and Arizona.

But agriculture experts say people should not be scared. Residents can prevent attacks by removing containers that bees can nest in and close any openings in their homes to keep bees from entering.

The Tingler lives!
(From: Yahoo! News, 23/8/02; submitted by Dr Freex)

Swedish scientists have found a tiny, mysterious particle in the spinal marrow fluid which may be a new form of life and which could help explain the cause of schizophrenia.

"They may be involved in the development of the disease or may result from the disease process in brains of schizophrenic patients," the researchers said in an abstract of the study published on Friday.

Schizophrenia is a widespread and debilitating form of mental disease with symptoms ranging from delusions and an altered sense of self to apathy and social withdrawal. It affects around one percent of people.

Lennart Wetterberg, professor of psychiatry at Stockholm's St. Goran Hospital and one of the co-authors of the study, said the full significance of the findings was not yet clear and more research was needed.

"We have viruses, bacteria and prions -- this could be an entirely new form of life," he told Reuters.

But he said this was just one theory, and it was still uncertain what form of life the particles, which are bigger than ordinary viruses but smaller than bacteria, represented.

The study, published in Neuroscience Letters, was made on the basis of spinal fluid obtained by lumbar puncture from 22 schizophrenic patients and 38 control patients.

The study found spherical particles -- only 100,000th of a millimeter in size -- in the spinal fluid of 20 of the 22 patients with schizophrenia against only two of the 38 controls, it said.

The particles did not include bacterial DNA material and had so far not replicated in culture.

"They are not any of the usual viruses or bacteria that have been found," Wetterberg said.

"They are more like something like the prion which is causing mad cow disease -- but it took 15 years until it was found out what that really was."

He said it was too early to speculate whether the particles were a cause of schizophrenia or whether the disease caused them, and a bigger number of people would have to be studied.

"We have found the first link in a chain, and whether my excitement increases or decreases depends on the answer to the next step," he said.

Killer fish invade Maryland!
(From: The Washington Post, 27/6/02; submitted by MikeC)

Freakish fish causes fear in MD; Carnivore can move on land, survive 4 days without water.

At first, reports of the strange-looking creature with the head of a snake and a gaping saw-toothed maw were dismissed as just another fish tale. A bowfin, most likely. Or some other kind of exotic fish that outgrew its tank and was tossed into the pond by its owner. But two weeks after an unidentified angler caught the thing in a drainage pond behind a Crofton shopping center, state officials solved the mystery. An exotic fish expert in Florida identified the creature from a photo as a northern snakehead, prized as a delicacy in China and Korea where it originates, but a nasty Frankenfish, as far as U.S. officials are concerned.

It grows to nearly three feet, eats whatever it wants -- mostly other fish -- can live through icy winters and survives even in oxygen-deprived waters.

But there's more: It can crawl out of the water and wiggle across land, surviving up to four days.

Dreaded by fish biologists, it is capable of clearing out a pond of all living creatures and then wriggling on to new hunting grounds on its belly and fins.

Even worse, the fisherman -- perhaps thinking it was a rare native species -- released it.

Biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service mobilized, setting out to sandbag the pond, which sits in the floodplain of the Little Patuxent River.

"The fear is: This thing could hop from the pond, across the floodplain and into the river, and then all bets are off," said Bob Lunsford, a biologist with the department. "It's the baddest bunny in the bush. It has no known predators in this environment, can grow to 15 pounds, and it can get up and walk. What more do you need?"

Living robot escapes from lab!
(From: The Age, Melbourne, 20/6/02; submitted by Dr Freex)

Scientists running a pioneering experiment with "living robots" which think for themselves said they were amazed to find one escaping from the centre where it "lives".

The small unit, called Gaak, was one of 12 taking part in a "survival of the fittest" test at the Magna science centre in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, which has been running since March.

Gaak made its bid for freedom yesterday after it had been taken out of the arena where hundreds of visitors watch the machines learning as they do daily battle for minor repairs.

Professor Noel Sharkey said he turned his back on the drone and returned 15 minutes later to find it had forced its way out of the small make-shift paddock it was being kept in.

He later found it had travelled down an access slope, through the front door of the centre and was eventually discovered at the main entrance to the car park when a visitor nearly flattened it with his car.

Sharkey said: "Since the experiment went live in March they have all learned a significant amount and are becoming more intelligent by the day but the fact that it had ability to navigate itself out of the building and along the concrete floor to the gates has surprised us all."

And he added: "But there's no need to worry, as although they can escape they are perfectly harmless and won't be taking over just yet."

Motorist Dan Lowthorpe, 27, from Sheffield, who nearly prematurely terminated Gaak said: "I have visited Magna a couple of times in the past but came on this occasion especially to see the new robots.

"You can imagine how surprised I was when I nearly ran over one on my way in. I knew the robots interacted with each but didn't expect to be personally greeted by one."

Reptilicus lives!
(From: Reuters, 20/3/02; submitted by Chris Holland)

Scientists Soak Meat in Liquid to Make It Grow

Scientists have managed to make chunks of fish grow bigger by soaking them in a broth of nutrients, suggesting meat could be manufactured, a science magazine said on Wednesday.

Chunks of goldfish muscle grew 14 percent after a week immersed in a nutrient-enriched liquid extracted from the blood of unborn calves, the New York-based scientists found.

"This could save you having to slaughter animals for food," project leader Morris Benjaminson was quoted as saying by the New Scientist magazine.

Benjaminson, who is working on a more varied diet for astronauts, said the enlarged fish chunks had been fried with olive oil, lemon, garlic and pepper.

"We wanted to make sure it'd pass for something you could buy in the supermarket."

But the United States Food and Drug Administration would have to give approval before the enlarged chunks could be eaten.

Benjaminson had also tried but failed to grow meat chunks in liquid mushroom extract, conceding people might be afraid of the transmission of mad cow disease through calf serum.

Robot solves Rubik’s cube!
(From: the website of J. P. Brown, 2001 – 2002; submitted by Fr Freex)

A scientist has built a robot out of Lego capable of solving a Rubik’s cube: http://jpbrown.i8.com/cubesolver.html

Scientists create flesh-eating robot!
(From: CNN, 21/7/00; submitted by Dr Freex)

Man really is in danger of being swallowed up by technology after U.S. scientists announced on Wednesday they had designed a robot that runs on meat.

Dubbed Chew Chew the "gastrobot," a 12-wheeled train-like robot runs on a microbial fuel cell, which breaks down food with bacteria and converts it into electrical energy, according to a report in New Scientist magazine.

The cell works by producing enzymes that break down carbohydrates, releasing energy, inventor Stuart Wilkinson of the University of South Florida in Tampa told the magazine.

"The ideal fuel in terms of energy gain, is meat. Vegetation is not nearly as nutritious," Wilkinson said. "Changing food into electricity isn't unique. What I've done is to make it small enough to fit in a robot.

Chew Chew eats sugar cubes but early applications for gastrobots may include lawnmowers which eat grass clippings, New Scientist said.

But Chew Chew's diet is refined compared to that of a gastrobot being developed at the University of the West of England -- it eats slugs.

Wilkinson is jokingly aware of the dangers of giving gastrobots a taste for meat: "Otherwise they'll notice there's an awful lot of humans running about and try to eat them."

The Home Of The Original Green Mouse!
(From: the website of Osaka University; first published in FEBS Lett., 1997; submitted by Sildenafil)

Scientists create fluorescent green mice: http://kumikae01.gen-info.osaka-u.ac.jp/tg/tg-ad.cfm

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