|SCIENCE News Summaries, Volume 331, Issue 6022|
dated March 11 2011, is now available at:
A copy of the "SCIENCE News This Week" section has been appended below.
SCIENCE News This Week
March 11 2011, 331 (6022)
NEWS OF THE WEEK
This Week's SectionFollow the links below for a roundup of the week's top stories in science,
a PDF of the entire section.
Around the WorldIn science news around the world this week, a new long-term study of a
generation was announced in London, China is beefing up its space program,
a rocket failure sent a NASA satellite plunging into the South Pacific,
U.K. funding bodies decided the weight of research "impact," a Brazilian
panel reassessed the country's R&D spending, a U.S. bioethics panel
examined global clinical trials, and Costa Rica expanded a marine
Random SampleThe computer language COBOL is the subject of an exhibition opening 17
March at the Smithsonian. Materials scientists in Japan say they can make
the compound iron tellurium sulfide (FeTeS) conduct electricity without
resistance if they first soak the stuff in booze. And this week's numbers
quantify Jeopardy! scores, electric-car sales, and the cost of
identifying Earth's estimated 5.4 million undiscovered animal species.
NewsmakersThis week's Newsmakers are Zahi Hawass, who announced last week that he
intended to resign his post as minister of Egypt's antiquities in the wake
of the country's revolution, and three Hungarian-born scientists who have
been honored with a new 1
million award from a Danish nonprofit organization for their contributions
to European neuroscience.
Elephants Can Lend a Helping Trunk
Bad for the Bone
More Evidence That Chimps Die From AIDS
Shedding Light on Anxiety
NEWS & ANALYSIS
China Bets Big on Small Grants, Large Facilities
Some nations talk about doubling the budgets of their basic research
funding agencies. China's doing it. The National Natural Sciences
Foundation of China, the country's main agency for funding competitive,
peer-reviewed research grants, will get 12 billion yuan ($1.83 billion) in
2011—a 17% increase over 2010 and twice its budget just 2 years ago.
Still, some science policy experts and researchers in China decry the lack
of a coherent strategy behind the ramp-up of science spending. China's
R&D programs, says one senior scientist who requested anonymity, are
stacked "like a layer cake" with little holding them together.
* With reporting by Hao Xin.
With reporting by Hao Xin.
Ten Months After Deepwater Horizon, Picking Up the Remnants of
On 28 February, after 10 months of hearing anecdotal stories of flulike
symptoms, rashes, heat stroke, and stress from cleanup workers in the Gulf
of Mexico, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the
long-awaited Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study through the National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences. The largest, most comprehensive study of
long-term health effects from an oil spill, it will attempt to collect
health data on cleanup workers by contacting 100,000 of them directly and
tracking 55,000 for at least 5 years, looking at long-term problems such as
cancer, birth defects, and psychosocial issues. But at this juncture,
experts worry that they won't know what to look for. Any short-term
physiological effects such as elevated levels of biomarkers or telltale
rashes that could be definitively linked to the spill are long gone, as are
toxicants in workers' blood that could have provided information on
exposure levels. What remains is an economically depressed community in
which many suffer from stress-related illnesses that will be difficult to
pin on any particular cause.
More Negative Data for Link Between Mouse Virus and Human Disease
A new finding presented at a conference last week throws cold water on the
impassioned debate about the link between a novel mouse retrovirus and
prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome in humans. Yet few believe it
will end the controversy, which began in 2006. In an extensive sleuthing
expedition that looked back nearly 20 years, two collaborating research
teams contend that they have evidence that xenotropic murine leukemia
virus–related virus (XMRV) resulted from the chance recombination of
pieces of two mouse viruses in lab experiments and that the connections to
human disease are spurious. But even if XMRV is not a threat to human
health, the fact that a retrovirus that can readily infect human cells was
apparently generated by chance in the lab raises some interesting and
potentially troubling issues.
Price Tags for Planet Missions Force NASA to Lower Its Sights
Richard A. Kerr
Scientists choosing the missions they want to send across the solar system
in the next decade knew their recommended program wouldn't come cheap. But
for the first time in a planetary science decadal survey, outside
consultants estimated mission costs, and the process has produced huge
numbers for the largest proposed missions. Those numbers have forced some
painful and unprecedented recommendations in the committee's report, which
was released Monday evening at the annual Lunar and Planetary Science
Counting the Dead in Afghanistan
In January, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) provided
with the military's internal record of the death and injury
of Afghan civilians, broken down by month, region, weaponry, and
perpetrator. By its reckoning, 2537 civilians were killed and 5594 were
wounded over the past 2 years, with 12% of those casualties attributed to
ISAF forces and the rest to insurgents. In February, after learning that
the military was releasing these data, both the United Nations and an
Afghan human rights organization agreed to release versions of their own
civilian casualty data to Science
assembled a team
of experts to analyze the released data sets. They conclude that while the
war has grown deadlier for Afghan civilians over the past 2 years, ISAF has
become a safer fighting force. The majority of deaths, and nearly all of
the recent increase, are attributed to indiscriminate attacks by insurgents
rather than ISAF soldiers. All of these data, as well as other information
never before released, are now freely available online
. Taken together, they provide
the clearest picture yet of the human cost of the war.
War as a Laboratory For Trauma Research
In many ways, war is the perfect laboratory for trauma medicine research.
On any given day, dozens or even hundreds of casualties arrive by
helicopter to military hospitals across Iraq and Afghanistan. IEDs are the
number one risk, often combining burns, deep lacerations from shrapnel, and
brain trauma from blast waves. Injuries like these are too rare to study in
peacetime. And because all the patients are military personnel, they come
with exhaustive data relating to preinjury health and postinjury outcome.
Many of the insights gained from battlefield studies have found their way
into civilian emergency medicine. But war is also the most chaotic and
stressful environment imaginable for doing science. Adding to the
difficulty, controversy has dogged medical research conducted in Iraq and
Afghanistan, including charges by journalists that researchers rushed
experimental treatments onto the battlefield without proper ethical review
or sufficient safety testing, needlessly risking the lives of soldiers.
Science investigated these issues with the help of two bioethicists
and several sources from both civilian and military trauma medicine.
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