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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, Bentliberal, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir and ScottyUrb, guest editors maggiejean and annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment.

Between now and the end of the primary/caucus season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections and caucuses during the week (or in the upcoming weeks if there is no primary or caucus that week).  Tonight's edition features the science, space, environment, and energy stories from universities in the states of Colorado, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah (list from

This week's featured stories come from SUNY Buffalo (two articles) and SUNY Upstate Medical Center.

UB Law School Health Care Expert Available to Discuss Supreme Court Ruling on Obama Health Care Plan
Release Date: June 28, 2012

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The long-awaited Supreme Court ruling on President Obama's signature health care law upholds much of the act's intentions to expand coverage, with one major exception, says a University at Buffalo Law School professor who is an expert on health care.

"That exception has to do with the expansion of the Medicaid program," says Anthony H. Szczygiel, founder and director of the William and Mary Foster Elder Law Clinic at UB's Law School. "The president's health care act encouraged states to expand Medicaid, but the president's plan also went further and gave the secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to withhold all Medicaid funding -- not just that related to the expansion -- if states fail to expand the Medicaid programs."

Szczygiel says the bottom line is that the Supreme Court ruling will accomplish much of what the act intended, in terms of expanding health insurance.

UB Family Medicine Expert Available to Discuss Supreme Court Decision
Release Date: June 28, 2012

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Supreme Court's decision to uphold much of the Affordable Care Act will not only provide as many as 30 million or more uninsured Americans with healthcare coverage, it may also help foster some important and long overdue changes in the healthcare system, says Tom Rosenthal, MD, chair of the Department of Family Medicine in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

"From a primary care perspective, the most common thing we see in an office setting is that we are now seeing more young people in their 20s than we did because they are covered by their parents' insurance to age 26," he says. That change is adding to health care costs because this is a new population that is now seeking medical care.

However, in the long run, this coverage will prove to be more economical, he says.

Health care leaders applaud Supreme Court decision on Affordable Care Act
By Amber Smith
June 29, 2012

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act Thursday was mostly good news for Syracuse’s academic medical center.

David Smith MD, president of Upstate Medical University, told The Post-Standard he was pleased with most aspects of the federal law, including provisions designed to help prevent obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Smith said he is concerned about a provision that would reduce the federal payments hospitals like Upstate receive in acknowledgment of caring for a disproportionate share of low-income patients. Projected loss of funding will not be offset by the increased number of patients with insurance, Smith told the newspaper, explaining that Upstate relies on the federal money to maintain costly services like trauma care and its burn unit.

In addition, Upstate University Hospital CEO John McCabe MD expressed concern about New York State’s commitment to expand Medicaid coverage and said on his blog that “we remain concerned about the loss of dollars to help support our Graduate Medical Education programs.  This is the training pipeline for the future healthcare workforce.”

More stories after the jump.

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NASA Television on YouTube: Wallops Hosts Antares Tour on This Week @NASA

Senator Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, was joined by officials from NASA, Orbital Sciences Corporation and others at the Wallops Flight Facility for an update of Orbital's Antares rocket and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's new pad, from which the vehicle will launch. Also, EFT-1; vacuum test; Farmer Don's space sprouts; Bolden lectures; smart about station; and more!

NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Hidden Magnetic Portals Around Earth

A NASA-sponsored researcher at the University of Iowa has developed a way for spacecraft to hunt down hidden magnetic portals in the vicinity of Earth. These portals link the magnetic field of our planet to that of the sun.

NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Voyager 1 at the Final Frontier

At the edge of the solar system, Voyager 1 is reporting a sharp increase in cosmic rays that could herald the spacecraft's long-awaited entry into interstellar space.

ITN (UK): Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-9 complete difficult manual docking.

China has made history by manually docking a spacecraft in orbit, joining the US and Russia in accomplishing the feat. Report by Sam Datta-Paulin. on YouTube: Private Foundation Gets Into Hunting Asteroids Business

The B612 Foundation - a mash mix of astronomers, astronauts and tech pioneers - aims to launch their Sentinel Program to discover and map most of the larger and some of the smaller asteroids in the Earth 'threatening' neighborhood. on YouTube: Asteroid Threat Becomes A Promise: New Space Venture Launches

X Prize's Peter Diamandis, Space Adventures' Eric Anderson, NASA astronaut Tom Jones, and Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki, backed by visionary investors James Cameron, Larry Page, Ross Perot want to develop our Solar System's natural resourc[es.] on YouTube: Stellar Flare Vaporizes Part Of Alien Planet's Atmosphere

The Hubble Space Telescope has seen a burst of evaporation in the upper atmosphere of exoplanet HD 189733b following a intense flare from its parent star - leading scientists to believe that the extreme x-ray radiation from the flare is the culprit. on YouTube: Milky Way Black Hole Eats Gas Cloud - Coming 2013

A giant gas cloud is on a collision course with our galaxy's supermassive black hole. This will give scientists the ability to watch the spaghetti-fying destruction of the cloud in real time. on YouTube: DARPA To Salvage Satellites For Scrap?

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Pheonix program hopes to develop small satellites to scour the junkyard of dead space birds to re-use components such as usuable antennas - thus bringing down the price of launch for all new satellites. on YouTube: Western U.S. Wildfires Seen From Space

A camera aboard the International Space Station captured footage of the fires raging in Colorado and other states in June 2012.
There is no sound with this video.


Nature (UK): Ancient text gives clue to mysterious radiation spike
Eighth-century jump in carbon-14 levels in trees could be explained by "red crucifix" supernova.
Richard A. Lovett

An eerie "red crucifix" seen in Britain's evening sky in ad 774 may be a previously unrecognized supernova explosion — and could explain a mysterious spike in carbon-14 levels in that year's growth rings in Japanese cedar trees. The link is suggested today in a Nature Correspondence by a US undergraduate student with a broad interdisciplinary background and a curious mind1.

A few weeks ago, Jonathon Allen, a biochemistry major at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was listening to the Nature podcast when he heard about a team of researchers in Japan who had found an odd spike in carbon-14 levels in tree rings. The spike probably came from a burst of high-energy radiation striking the upper atmosphere, increasing the rate at which carbon-14 is formed (see 'Mysterious radiation burst recorded in tree rings').

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story. via MSNBC: Space mining could reap riches and spur exploration
Private firms try to meld know-how of mining and space industries to make it happen
By Leonard David
June 26, 2012

GOLDEN, Colo. — Mining the plentiful resources of the moon and near-Earth asteroids could alter the course of human history, adding trillions of dollars to the world economy and spurring our species' spread out into the solar system, a new breed of space entrepreneur says.

A number of private companies — such as the billionaire-backed asteroid-mining firm Planetary Resources — aim to start making all of this happen. But it won't be easy, as hitting extraterrestrial paydirt requires melding the know-how of the space and mining communities.

A Space Resources Roundtable meeting was held here June 4-7 to talk about the future of extraterrestrial resource extraction — its promise as well as the challenges involved.

The conference was convened by the Planetary and Terrestrial Mining Sciences Symposium, in collaboration with Colorado School of Mines and the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Magnifico, when you posted that one of the popular bumper stickers around CSM in Golden was "Earth First!  We'll strip mine the other planets later." I told you that they were only half kidding.  Case in point.

Cornell University: 'Gastronauts' practice Martian cooking techniques for deep-space delicacies
By Joyanna Gilmour
June 25, 2012

How hard would it be to cook on Mars? Nine "gastronauts" tried to answer that question during a four-day Cornell workshop June 12-15. Using only shelf-stable, dehydrated foods, they learned how to make such deep-space delicacies as seaweed salad, curry chicken crepes, Puerto Rican-style white bean stew, and chocolate pudding with raspberries.

Members of the NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analogue and Simulation (HI-SEAS) research team, selected from 600 applicants, are developing menus and techniques for cooking healthy, tasty foods in a deep-space environment. The HI-SEAS project is led by Jean Hunter, associate professor of biological and environmental engineering; Bruce Halpern, professor of psychology and neurobiology and behavior; and Kim Binsted, associate professor in the University of Hawaii's Information and Computer Sciences Department.

Rupert Spies, senior lecturer at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration, took charge of the hands-on portion of the workshop in a Martha Van Rensselaer Hall kitchen, teaching how to be creative using dehydrated fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses. Participants came up with menus, including a paella made of dried shrimp, shelf-stable chorizo and dehydrated vegetables; coffee granita; and a fruit smoothie using yogurt prepared from dried milk.


SUNY Stony Brook: SBU Co-Led Study Finds Parasitic Plants Steal Nutrients, Genes From Their Hosts
Reveals first evidence of substantial horizontal gene transfer from a host to a parasitic plant
Jun 29, 2012 - 9:00:00 AM

STONY BROOK, NY, June 29, 2012 – Joshua Rest, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University, has co-authored an article appearing in BMC Genomics, “Horizontal transfer of expressed genes in a parasitic flowering plant,” detailing the first evidence of substantial horizontal gene transfer from a host to the parasitic flowering plant Rafflesia cantleyi. Professor Rest was co-leader of the project along with Professor Charles Davis from Harvard University.

The plant, Rafflesia cantleyi, is an obligate holoparasite dependent on its host, Tetrastigma rafflesiae, a member of the grape family, for sustenance. Rafflesias have the largest known flowers at approximately three feet across.

A team of researchers led by Professor Rest and Professor Davis collaborated to systematically investigate the extent of horizontal gene transfer between these two plants. By looking at the transcriptome, the transcribed products of switched on genes, they found 49 genes transcribed by the parasite, accounting for 2% of their total transcriptome, which originally belonged to the host. Three quarters of these transcripts appear to have replaced the parasites’ own version.

Utah State University: Cast Adrift in Hawaii: USU Ecologists Study Invasive Frog Populations
June 21, 2012

Beloved as a folk symbol in Puerto Rico, the diminutive coqui frog, introduced to Hawaii in the late 1980s, is not nearly so welcome in its newfound home. Named for its loud “ko kee” mating call, the tiny amphibian, probably a stowaway of the horticulture trade, spread rapidly through the Hawaiian Islands, where many consider it an invasive pest.

Opinions aside, the coqui offers ecologists an opportunity to study what happens to adaptive traits when a species expands its range into novel environments. Utah State University alum Eric O’Neill and USU faculty member Karen Beard, along with former Utah State faculty member Mike Pfrender, now at the University of Notre Dame, explored this question and published their findings in the June 20, 2012, online edition of Biology Letters. Their research was funded by the USU-based Berryman Institute for Wildlife Damage Management, USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services and the National Science Foundation.  

“We studied frog populations in Puerto Rico and in Hawaii,” says O’Neill, who completed a doctorate in biology from Utah State in 2009. “Specifically, we examined the influences of genetic drift and natural selection on a color pattern polymorphism in native and introduced populations.”

Genetic drift is a change in the frequency of a gene variant in a population due to random sampling.

University of Colorado: Ancient human ancestor had unique diet, according to study involving CU
June 27, 2012

When it came to eating, an upright, 2 million-year-old African hominid had a diet unlike virtually all other known human ancestors, says a study led by the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and involving the University of Colorado Boulder.

The study indicated that Australopithecus sediba -- a short, gangly hominid that lived in South Africa -- ate harder foods than other early hominids, targeting trees, bushes and fruits.  In contrast, virtually all other ancient human ancestors tested from Africa -- including Paranthropus boisei, dubbed “Nutcracker Man” because of its massive jaws and teeth -- focused more on grasses and sedges, said CU-Boulder doctoral student Paul Sandberg, a co-author on the new study.

The A. sediba diet was analyzed using a technique that involved zapping fossilized teeth with a laser, said Sandberg.  The laser frees telltale carbon from the enamel of teeth, allowing scientists to pinpoint the types of plants that were consumed and the environments in which the hominids lived. The carbon signals from the teeth are split into two groups: C3 plants like trees, shrubs and bushes preferred by A. sediba, and C4 plants like grasses and sedges consumed by many other early hominids.


Cornell University: Study: Hawkmoths use humidity to sense nectar
By Krishna Ramanujan
June 28, 2012

People assume that a flower's scent, color and shape attract insects to settle on a flower to sip nectar and, thereby, pollinate the plant. But new research shows that a more relevant sensory apparatus may help some insects hunt for a flower's sweet juice: hygroreceptors that sense humidity.

A study of hawkmoths that hover and sip nectar from tufted evening primroses has shown for the first time that some pollinators can detect a mere 4 percent rise in humidity, which stems from evaporation of nectar directly above a flower.

"We were intrigued by the question; since flower scent, shape and color don't directly provide information about nectar amount, could there be a more accurate signal?" said Martin von Arx, a postdoctoral entomology fellow at the University of Arizona and the lead author of the paper posted online May 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Von Arx was a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of co-author Robert Raguso, Cornell professor of neurobiology and behavior, where the experiments were conducted.

I went to grad school with Rob.  I'm glad to see what he's up to.

University of Colorado: Condor lead poisoning persists, impeding recovery, says CU-UCSC study
June 25, 2012

The California condor is chronically endangered by lead exposure from ammunition and requires ongoing human intervention for population stability and growth, according to a new study led by the University of California, Santa Cruz, and involving the University of Colorado Boulder.

Since 1982, the condor population has increased from 22 to approximately 400, but only through intensive management including captive breeding, monitoring and veterinary care. The bird’s recovery has been deceptively successful as its primary threat -- poisoning from lead-based bullets ingested as fragments from carrion -- has gone largely unmitigated, according to the study.

“We will never have a self-sustaining wild condor population if we don’t solve this problem,” said lead author Myra Finkelstein, a research toxicologist at UC Santa Cruz. “Currently, California condors are tagged and monitored, trapped twice a year for blood tests and when necessary treated for lead poisoning in veterinary hospitals, and they still die from lead poisoning on a regular basis.”


Colorado State University: CSU, UNC researchers developing drug to combat West Nile virus, other related viruses
June 25, 2012

Professors at CSU and the University of Northern Colorado are developing a drug that can stop replication of West Nile, dengue and yellow fever viruses that continue to plague two-thirds of the world's population with no clinically useful antiviral drugs available.

The research of Brian Geiss, Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology and Susan Keenan, Associate Professor and Director of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado, appears this month online in the peer-reviewed Journal of Virology.

The research is timely: West Nile has been found in a mosquito pool tested in 2012 in Larimer County.

Cornell University: Very hungry people skip veggies for starches and protein
By Stacey Shackford
June 28, 2012

After going without food for 18 hours, most of us would rather reach for French fries or chicken fingers than green beans or carrots, according to a new study from Cornell's Food and Brand Lab.

The study, published June 25 in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, found that 75 percent of participants placed on an 18-hour fast started their next meal with a starch or a protein rather than a vegetable, compared with 44 percent of non-fasting participants.

And most of the calories consumed during that meal came from whichever food they ate first -- participants consumed about 47 percent more calories from the first food they ate compared with other foods.

Cornell University: Link discovered between tomato ripening, color and taste
By Lauren Cahoon
June 28, 2012

According to an old country song, the only two things money can't buy are true love and homegrown tomatoes. How true -- those perfect, red tomatoes from the store just can't match ones plucked from the garden. Now, researchers have identified the gene that controls their ripening, according to a study published in the June 29 of Science.

Co-author Cuong Nguyen, a Cornell graduate student in the field of plant breeding, with colleagues at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI -- where Nguyen works) on the Cornell campus and at the University of California-Davis, among others, translated the gene that controls the level of sugars, carbohydrates and carotenoids in tomatoes. This gene also influences how tomato fruit ripen, the reason commercial tomatoes develop into perfectly red, store-ready fruit.

"Practically, it is a very important trait," says James Giovannoni, a plant molecular biologist with BTI and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service and one of the senior authors of the paper. "It's a mutation that most tomatoes have."

However, this same trait reduces sugars and nutrients in the fruit.

Cornell University: The Force is with us: GEDI chip sorts prostate cancer cells
By Caroline Shin and Bill Steele
June 28, 2012

The future of prostate cancer therapy may lie in a tiny, "sticky" silicon chip dubbed GEDI (Geometrically Enhanced Differential Immunocapture, pronounced like the "Star Wars" forces of good) that can identify and collect cancer cells from a patient's bloodstream.

A team of researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and Cornell's College of Engineering in Ithaca has built the chip into a device that captures an unprecedentedly high concentration of rare cancer cells from metastatic prostate cancer patients for a quick, noninvasive analysis to determine the efficacy of the patients' current chemotherapy. The ability to collect a relatively pure sample of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) may also enable research to better understand the biology of metastasis and develop new treatments, the researchers said.

Their work is described in a paper in the April 2012 issue of the journal PLoS ONE, and was announced in a press conference at Weill by Brian Kirby, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; David Nanus, M.D., the Mark W. Pasmantier Professor of Hematology and Oncology in Medicine; and Evi Giannakakou, associate professor of pharmacology. The team includes 12 other researchers from both campuses.

Cornell University: New Vaccine for Nicotine Addiction
Weill Cornell Researchers Develop Novel Anti-Body Vaccine that Blocks Addictive Nicotine Chemicals from Reaching the Brain

NEW YORK (June 27, 2012) — Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have developed and successfully tested in mice an innovative vaccine to treat nicotine addiction.

In the journal Science Translational Medicine, the scientists describe how a single dose of their novel vaccine protects mice, over their lifetime, against nicotine addiction. The vaccine is designed to use the animal's liver as a factory to continuously produce antibodies that gobble up nicotine the moment it enters the bloodstream, preventing the chemical from reaching the brain and even the heart.

"As far as we can see, the best way to treat chronic nicotine addiction from smoking is to have these Pacman-like antibodies on patrol, clearing the blood as needed before nicotine can have any biological effect," says the study's lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal , chairman and professor of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center: Asthma Linked to Congested Highways
Those Living Near Heavily Traveled Interstate Have Higher Rates of Disease
June 26, 2012

Researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, found that living near a heavily congested highway correlates with a higher presence of asthma.

In a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the researchers found higher rates of asthma among those living closer to Interstate 278, near a portion known locally as the Gowanus Expressway, and lower rates of disease in those living in the same community but farther from the Interstate.

SUNY Downstate’s Maria-Anna Vastardi, MD, said, “Our participants were randomly recruited and we observed that the patients who reported asthma live significantly closer to the Gowanus Expressway, compared to the healthy controls who live in the same area, but at a longer distance from the Gowanus.”


University of Colorado: Boulder cancels fireworks show due to high fire risk
June 27, 2012

Boulder city officials today announced that the annual Ralphie’s Independence Day Blast is canceled due to extremely dry conditions in and around Boulder. The fireworks show had been scheduled for Folsom Field on Wednesday, July 4.

“Public safety was our primary concern in deciding to cancel the fireworks show. Given the current fire in south Boulder, along with fires in neighboring cities and extremely dry conditions, the public safety risk to the Boulder community is significant,” said Boulder City Manager Jane S. Brautigam. “The fire marshal has been monitoring conditions around Folsom Field since early June, and our wildland fire crews have been on daily patrols to prevent wildfires. Given the dangers and Colorado’s statewide fire restrictions, it would be irresponsible to launch 4,000 fireworks over the city this year.”

Boulder Fire Marshal Dave Lowrey said firefighting crews need to remain focused on the current fire. Even if that situation improves, the lack of rain over the past month and the forecasts for continued hot, dry weather would make it very challenging for crews to quickly douse an escaped firework that landed in a dry field.

Colorado State University: Pingree Park serving as spike camp
June 22, 2012

As the High Park Fire spread up the Poudre Canyon on June 12, the last of the Pingree Park staff on campus locked the gate as evacuation orders were issued for the area.

Groups like a natural resources summer class and Preview Mountain Experience, scheduled at Pingree that week, had already been relocated to the main campus over the weekend as a proactive safety precaution, and the seasonal staff had left the day before.

True to character Pat Rastall, the director, had stayed as long as possible and said upon departure, “The Pingree Campus was fine and looked great when we locked the gate and said goodbye. We hope to be open again soon!”

“Soon” turned out to be just a few days later when, on June 15, with the High Park Fire still growing, the Incident Command Center asked the CSU Public Safety Team if they would consider reopening the Pingree Park campus as a spike camp, a secondary fire camp to provide firefighters more direct access to the portion of the Western perimeter they were fighting. Fire crews were currently spending two to three hours driving to the fire line and back each day from base camp on the edge of Fort Collins. A spike camp at Pingree would cut that travel time down dramatically.

Colorado School of Mines: Mines study finds wildfires significantly impact drinking water quality
June 27, 2012

GOLDEN, Colo. – As numerous wildfires burn across Colorado, a new study conducted by Mines Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate students last semester details how these fires can be detrimental to drinking water quality and suggests what municipalities could do to respond to this threat.

“While impacts of wildfires have been studied by scientists from forestry, biology and hydrology, this study is the first that combines these experiences with water treatment engineering and focuses on adverse effects on drinking water quality and appropriate response strategies,”said Professor Jörg Drewes.

Rain events following a wildfire can result in detrimental impacts on surface water quality in impacted areas. Run-off mixes with left over debris and sediment in a “chocolate milk shake-like mix” that can end up in drinking water sources. Increased turbidity (cloudiness), alkalinity and organic matter load can thwart purifying mechanisms inside a downstream water treatment plant. If a water plant is challenged by these conditions, the drinking water quality might be compromised including tap water that might have a smoky taste and perhaps doesn’t meet EPA drinking water standards.

Full report in PDF form here.

Colorado School of Mines: Water: mastering the monumental challenge
June 25, 2012

Take raw sewage flowing from a major apartment complex. Send it through a 2 millimeter screen. Let a flora of microorganisms feast on it for a while. Filter it – this time through pores just 50 billionths of a meter across. Don’t touch it with a single water-treatment chemical.

That’s what the above-ground sequence batch membrane bioreactor does, and the six gallons per minute flowing out are cleaner than the effluent from most wastewater treatment plants. And unlike the massive, in-ground infrastructure just downriver of our metropolitan areas, the bioreactor is portable. The fruits of Colorado School of Mines’ Advanced Water Technology Center’s (AQWATEC) signature project could form the nodes of a next-generation network of water-treatment facilities, able to reuse water locally for things like irrigation and toilet flushing, saving pumping energy and infrastructure costs, while reducing water demand.

In the control room, Tzahi Cath, a Mines professor and director of AQWATEC overseeing this facility, lifted the lid of a vat and dipped in a Pyrex measuring cup. It looked like… water. “That was sludge a few minutes ago,” he said. “There are technologies that can make good water from almost any source.”


Utah State University: Whitewater Guide-Turned-USU Researcher Studies Evolving River Channels
June 21, 2012

For the summer, Utah State University undergraduate Scott Shahverdian planned to return to his river guide job on the Green River, running rapids through southeastern Utah’s breathtaking canyon country. Instead, he jumped at the chance to spend hours collecting sandy sediment in unsettled weather and conducting painstaking research in darkened laboratories.

“My river buddies think I’m crazy,” says Shahverdian, who entered USU last fall. “But I’m thrilled with the opportunity to pursue research that’s fascinating to me.”


Brigham Young University: Babies: One of these monkeys is not like the others
New study turns infant brain development process on its head
June 28, 2012

Figuring out what’s going on in the mind of a baby is tricky, but Brigham Young University psychologist Ross Flom has a proven track record, having already discovered that babies understand the moods of dog barks and Beethoven symphonies.

For an encore, he sat 6- and 12-month old babies down in front of pictures of monkeys – Barbary macaques, to be precise. Flom and his students tested whether the babies could spot subtle differences in the macaques’ facial features.

Both the 6-month-olds and the 12-month-olds succeeded. And the fact that the older children could do it is actually more surprising, for it calls into question a tenet of infant development called “perceptual narrowing.” The concept is that babies’ minds begin to narrow around six months of age and specialize and focus on the nuances of familiar things that they see and hear every day.

Cornell University: Painful memory? Think about a loved one, study says
By Susan Kelley
June 25, 2012

Here's another reason to keep a photo of a loved one on your desk. After recalling an upsetting event, thinking about your mother or romantic partner can make you feel better and reduce your negative thinking, according to a new Cornell study. Perhaps most important, it also may result in fewer psychological and physical health problems at least a month afterward.

"Our own memories can often be a significant source of stress. For example, thinking about a recent breakup or underperforming on an exam usually decreases positive mood and increases negative thinking," said co-author Vivian Zayas, assistant professor of psychology. "However, simply thinking about an attachment figure, whether it is one's mother or partner, by either recalling a supportive interaction with them or just viewing their photograph, helps people restore their mood and decreases the tendency to engage in negative thinking."

The research is the first to explore the benefits of thinking about a loved one when a person experiences stress they generate themselves. Previous research has focused on the benefits when a person experiences externally generated stress, such as physical pain.


Day of Archeology 2012: A day in the life of archeologists.

BBC: Pottery invented in China to cook food and brew alcohol
By Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News

The oldest known samples of pottery have been unearthed in southern China.

The US archaeologists involved have determined that fragments from a large bowl found in Xianrendong Cave, Jiangxi Province, are 20,000 years old.

The discovery, published in the journal Science, is the latest in recent years that have pushed back the invention of pottery by 10,000 years.

It is thought that the bowl was a cauldron to cook food, or possibly to brew alcohol.

Until recently, the majority view was that pottery bowls and drink receptacles were invented after the emergence of agriculture, when people began to stay in one place for long periods.

BBC: Gower cave reindeer carving is Britain's oldest rock art

A reindeer engraved on the wall of a cave in south Wales has been confirmed as the oldest known rock art in Britain.

The image in Cathole Cave on Gower, south Wales was created at least 14,000 years ago, said Bristol University.

Archaeologist Dr George Nash found the engraving while exploring a rear section of the cave in September 2010.

He said uranium dating showed it was the oldest rock art in the British Isles, if not north-western Europe.

Discovery News: Mysterious Structures Found in Syrian Desert
Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi

An ancient landscape of stone circles, alignments and possible tombs lies out in the Syrian Desert, according to a Royal Ontario Museum archaeologist who has dubbed the mysterious structures "Syria's Stonehenge."

"These enigmatic arrangements are not especially imposing, they are not megaliths or anything like that, but they are very intriguing and clearly deliberately aligned," Robert Mason of Canada's Royal Ontario Museum told Discovery News.

Uncovered in 2009 near the monastery of Deir Mar Musa (Saint Moses the Abyssinian) some 50 miles north of Damascus, the strange features are likely to remain a desert mystery since the conflict tearing apart the Middle Eastern nation is preventing archaeologists from investigating the site.

Analysis of fragments of stone tools scattered in the area may date the formations to the Neolithic Period or early Bronze Age-- 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Discovery News: Rome Icon Actually Younger Than the City
Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi

The icon of Rome's foundation, a life-size bronze statue of a she-wolf with two human infants suckling her, is about 1,700 years younger than its city, Rome's officials admitted on Saturday.

The official announcement, made at the Capitoline Museums, where the 30 inch-high bronze is the centerpiece of a dedicated room, quashes the belief that the sculpture was adopted by the earliest Romans as a symbol for their city.

"The new dating ranges between 1021 e il 1153," said Lucio Calcagnile, who carried radiocarbon tests at the University of Salento's Center for Dating e Diagnostics.

Recalling the story of a she-wolf which fed Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, and his twin brother, Remus, after they had been thrown in a basket into the Tiber River, the so called "Lupa Capitolina" (Capitoline she-wolf) was donated to the museum in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV.

EurekAlert: Maya archaeologists unearth new 2012 monument

Archaeologists working at the site of La Corona in Guatemala have discovered a 1,300-year-old-year Maya text that provides only the second known reference to the so-called "end date" of the Maya calendar, December 21, 2012. The discovery, one of the most significant hieroglyphic finds in decades, was announced today at the National Palace in Guatemala.

"This text talks about ancient political history rather than prophecy," says Marcello A. Canuto, director of Tulane's Middle American Research Institute and co-director of the excavations at La Corona.

Since 2008, Canuto and Tomás Barrientos of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala have directed excavations at La Corona, a site previously ravaged by looters.

The Daily Telegraph (UK): Archaeologists uncover mass burial site in Peru
Archaeologists from a Belgian university have uncovered a mass burial tomb containing the remains of 80 individuals at the Pachacamac ruins in Peru.
By Josie Gurney-Read
11:54AM BST 26 Jun 2012

The site, situated 20 miles south of Lima, is currently under review for UNESCO World Heritage status, and is one of the largest and most important pre-Hispanic sites in South America.

It was first settled around AD 200 and ruled over by the Ychsma (pronounced eesh-ma) lords from AD 900 until it was taken over by the Inca around 1470.

Sofia News Service (Bulgaria): Bulgarian Archaeologists Rebury Medieval 'Vampire'

Bulgarian archaeologists have conducted a ritual reburial of a man discovered in a medieval grave who was treated against vampirism, the latest among a couple of other similar discoveries in Bulgaria that made global headlines.

The grave in question was one of the 10 medieval graves found during excavations by the team of Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov and Prof. Hitko Vachev in the necropolis of the St. Peter and St. Paul Monastery complex in Veliko Tarnovo, one of Bulgaria's medieval capitals, dating back to the 13th century, the apex of the Second Bulgarian Empire, BGNES reported.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman, who sent in the above articles.


Colorado State University: Physicist receives DOE Early Career Award for basic research in magnetism
June 25, 2012

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a Colorado State University physicist a five-year, $762,000 Early Career Award to improve scientific understanding of spin dynamics in magnetic materials.

Kristen Buchanan, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, is one of only three Colorado scientists among the 68 awardees for 2012 and the only recipient at CSU.

Buchanan will use light to study dynamic processes in nanoscale magnets. Spin waves can be imagined as ripples in the magnetic state of a material and light will scatter from these ripples. The scattering process is inelastic, which means that the light loses or gains a small amount of energy in the process. In other words, there is a small shift in the energy, and consequently the color of the light after it scatters provides information about the nature of the spin excitations present in the sample.


University of South Carolina: Clothing the body electric
By Steven Powell
June 29, 2012

Over the years, the telephone has gone mobile, from the house to the car to the pocket. The University of South Carolina's Xiaodong Li envisions even further integration of the cell phone – and just about every electronic gadget, for that matter – into our lives.

He sees a future where electronics are part of our wardrobe.

"We wear fabric every day," said Li, a professor of mechanical engineering at USC. "One day our cotton T-shirts could have more functions; for example, a flexible energy storage device that could charge your cell phone or your iPad."

Li is helping make the vision a reality. He and post-doctoral associate Lihong Bao have just reported in the journal Advanced Materials how to turn the material in a cotton T-shirt into a source of electrical power.

SUNY Stony Brook: SBU Geosciences Professor Establishes Structure Of A New Superhard Form Of Carbon
Artem R. Oganov, PhD, built on earlier work on theoretical structure of “M-carbon”
Jun 26, 2012 - 12:00:00 PM

STONY BROOK, NY, June 26, 2012 – An international team led by Artem R. Oganov, PhD, a professor of theoretical crystallography in the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University, has established the structure of a new form of carbon. The results of their work, “Understanding the Nature of Superhard Graphite,” were published June 26 in Scientific Reports, a new journal of the Nature Publishing Group.

Dr. Oganov and his team used a novel computational method to demonstrate that the properties of what had previously been thought to be only a hypothetical structure of a superhard form of carbon called “M-carbon” – constructed by Oganov in 2006 – matched perfectly the experimental data on “superhard graphite.”

“Most of the known forms of carbon have a colorful story of their discovery and a multitude of real or potential revolutionary applications,” said Oganov. “Think of diamond, a record-breaking material in more than one way. Think of graphene, destined to become the material of electronics of the future. Or of fullerenes, the discovery of which has started the field of nanoscience.”


Colorado School of Mines: From lab to solar leader: The story of Mines, NREL and PrimeStar
June 29, 2012

October 2011 was an exciting month, not only for Mines, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and the state of Colorado, but for solar energy in general. Coming off the purchase of Colorado-based PrimeStar Solar, Inc., General Electric (GE) announced it would build a $300 million photovoltaic (PV) production plant in Aurora, Colo. — the largest of its kind in the U.S.

It was a mix of institutions, knowledge and bright people that brought GE into the solar industry with such an investment. The backstory begins in 1996 with a Mines graduate student named Joe Beach, who is now a Mines research professor.

“The reason I came to Mines was because I was looking for ways to get into renewable energy,” said Beach. “At that time Mines was one of the few places that actually talked about it.”

Cornell University: Researchers convert 'beer' into a better-than-ethanol biofuel
By Anne Ju
June 26, 2012

At Cornell, researchers are turning beer into biofuel.

It's not the beer that's good to drink -- but fermentation broth, which is chemically identical to the imbibing beer, from which the fuel ethanol is produced.

Using a mixed bag of microbes for specific chemical reactions, biological engineers have designed a process for upgrading ethanol into something even better -- caproic acid, a carboxylic acid that's a versatile fuel precursor. If scaled up, their process could integrate seamlessly into already-established ethanol production lines.

Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy

The Daily Star (Lebanon): Layyoun defends construction on site of alleged Phoenician port
June 28, 2012 01:49 PM

BEIRUT: Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun defended Thursday his decision to allow a construction firm to proceed in building skyscrapers on the alleged site of a former Phoenician port, denying that the ruins are of historical significance.

Tens of protesters marched toward the Culture Ministry’s headquarters calling on Layyoun to resign in a demonstration organized by the Association for the Protection of the Lebanese Heritage. The protesters are also expected to hold a sit-in.

“There is a conviction that there is no Phoenician port in Minet al-Hosn,” Layyoun told OTV in an interview Thursday, adding that what was found on the site is devoid of historical value.

Agence France Presse via Yahoo! News Australia:
Iraq cuts US archaeology cooperation over archives
AFP June 26, 2012, 3:34 am

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq has cut cooperation with the United States on archaeological exploration because Washington has not returned Iraq's Jewish archives, Tourism and Archaeology Minister Liwaa Smaisim has told AFP.

The fate of the archives, which were removed from Iraq following the 2003 US-led invasion, is a long-running point of contention between Washington and Baghdad, which has for years sought their return.

Smaisim, a member of powerful anti-US Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's movement, said in an interview with AFP that Iraq will use "all the means" to pursue the return of the archives.

"One of the means of pressure that I used against the American side is I stopped dealing with the American (archaeological) exploration missions because of the case of the Jewish archives and the antiquities that are in the United States," Smaisim said.

CBC via Yahoo! News Canada: Calls made to repatriate Beothuk remains
CBC – Sat, 23 Jun, 2012

Aboriginal groups want bones of the extinct Beothuk people to be removed from museum vaults and brought back to Newfoundland.

A woman named Shanawdithit was the last known member of her people, with her 1829 death in St. John's marking the end of the Beothuk. Disease, persecution and the Beothuk's decision to withdraw from coastal communities have been cited as causes of wiping out the Beothuk.

The location of Shanawdithit's grave is not known, but the skulls of her aunt and uncle — a chief — languish in a museum in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The remains of at least 22 Beothuk are held in Canadian museum vaults.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Oklahoma State University: Oklahoma State University celebrates 150th Anniversary of Morrill Act
June 29, 2012

On July 2, 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law, marking the path for the development of institutions of higher education like Oklahoma State University.  The purpose or mission of all land-grant institutions like OSU is instruction, research, and extension.

Today OSU achieves that mission by continuing to make the university accessible to a historic number of students.  By conducting world-renowned research in numerous areas like agriculture, engineering, energy, nutrition, veterinary and health sciences and then extending that knowledge in benefit of others both practically and financially through economic development.

Other Land Grant Colleges and Universities are celebrating the anniversary, including Colorado State University and South Dakota State University.

SUNY Buffalo: University at Buffalo Statement Regarding Shale Resources and Society Institute
Release Date: June 28, 2012

The University at Buffalo recognizes that shale gas and hydraulic fracturing is an important, timely and controversial topic.

The university upholds academic freedom as a core principle. In accordance with this principle, faculty members are free to conduct research on any topic, including controversial ones, and to disseminate their findings without prior review or approval by the university. The university's role is to create a forum for objective research and informed debate -- not to dictate the positions taken by its faculty members. Thus the university views the work of the Shale Resources and Society Institute as fully consistent with UB's mission as a public research university. UB has no plans to alter or suspend the operations of the institute.

SUNY Stony Brook: Senator Schumer Supports SBU-BNL Energy Hub
Posted by editor
on Tuesday, June 26th, 2012 @ 10:10 am

On Monday, June 25, 2012, Senator Charles Schumer made a trip to the Stony Brook University Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center at the University’s Research and Development Park to show his support for the merits of a joint application submitted dubbed the Center for Extended Lifetime Energy Storage Technologies (CELESTE) by Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and Stony Brook University in response to a call for entries to a competition for Department of Energy funding for a new Energy Innovation Hub.

He met with Stony Brook President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, BNL Director Samuel Aronson and scientists from SBU and BNL who collaborated on the proposal, then addressed the press and a group of interested parties from around the Stony Brook campus.

Press Release Issued by Senator Schumer’s Office

Schumer Calls for $120M Package for Funding LI Electric Battery Hub; Project Would Revolutionize Battert Market and Make LI the Research Center for Electric Car Battery Development

Last week, the news was Cornell synchrotron gets support from N.Y.'s senior senator.  I guess Schumer wants to make sure he has the vote of New York scientists all locked up. :-)

Science Education

Brigham Young University: NSA names BYU a cybersecurity National Center of Excellence
June 27, 2012

BYU has been recognized as one of the nation’s premier academic institutions in the area of cybersecurity education.

The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security has designated BYU as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAE/IAE), a designation that honors schools excelling in the development of professionals who help protect national security information systems.

Only seven schools nationwide were newly minted with this specific designation, and BYU is the first school in the state of Utah to receive the award, which goes from 2012 to 2017.

South Dakota State University: High school teachers learn ‘Engineering for the Future’ at SDSU workshop
June 25, 2012

Eighteen physical science high school teachers from around South Dakota took part in an “Engineering for the Future” workshop June 11-15, at South Dakota State University.

“During the workshop we put together lesson plans and units for our students,” said Darwin Daugaard, Dell Rapids high school chemistry and physics teacher. “The workshop revitalizes us and is an essential part of being a teacher. I want to provide my students with new curriculum, and the workshop helps me become a more enthusiastic teacher.”

Throughout the week, teachers toured engineering facilities on campus, participated in a variety of engineering activities, developed lesson plans for their classrooms and toured Daktronics, Inc., a worldwide company of computer programmable displays started 44 years ago by two SDSU engineering professors.

Alfred University: 'Renewable Energy' camp attracts high school students to AU
June 28, 2012

Joe Terranova, an Alfred University electrical engineering master’s student, says he believes in educating students about what he calls "the wave of the future": renewable energy.

"It’s becoming an even larger aspect of life," explains Terranova. "Energy demand is only going to increase. Different energy sources are going to be needed."

Alfred University’s Inamori School of Engineering has put more focus on renewable energy by offering a minor in the field (with an application pending to make it a major by fall 2013) and introducing a brand-new renewable energy summer camp this year, July 22-26.

SUNY Buffalo: Buffalo Teachers Look to Reshape Science Education Through Hands-On Learning
Fifty-eight teachers at 12 schools have been selected to take part in an NSF-funded professional development program that boosts hands-on learning
Charlotte Hsu
Release Date: June 29, 2012

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Fifty-eight teachers in Buffalo Public Schools have been selected to take part in the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP), a professional development program that encourages hands-on laboratory and field work in science classes.

The goal is to improve science learning by cultivating science classrooms where students are not passive observers, but curious, young investigators working on eye-opening projects.

Through ISEP, the teachers will immerse themselves in hands-on science this summer by conducting interdisciplinary research with local scientists, or taking a teacher preparation course emphasizing hands-on instruction and student scientific discourse.

Science Writing and Reporting

Cornell University: Nee decodes Chinese capitalism in new book
June 28, 2012

Capitalism -- driven by small businesses that overcame heavy government control of the economy -- has emerged as the fastest growing sector of China's manufacturing economy. Victor Nee, the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Professor and director of the Center for the Study of Economy and Society, tells how entrepreneurs in industrial clusters "decoupled" from the restrictions of the state economy to build the private enterprise economy in his book, "Capitalism From Below: Markets and Institutional Change in China" (Harvard University Press).

Nee and co-author Sonja Opper of Sweden's Lund University clarify how manufacturers succeeded by working in entrepreneurial networks and by building good reputations and following ethical business practices. Based on a random sample of 700 manufacturing firms, they detail the bottom-up evolution of economic institutions enabling competition and cooperation. They show how in close-knit networks private-sector industrialists rely on norms to guide business conduct and enforce trust.

Science is Cool

Cornell University: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Stars in ABC News Documentary Series "NY MED"
Eight-Part Series Chronicles Life Inside One of the Nation's Busiest Hospitals
Premieres Tuesday, July 10 at 10:00 PM/ET on ABC

New York (June 21, 2012) — "NY Med," the eight-part television series from ABC News, chronicles the 24/7 drama of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. The documentary from the award winning producers of "Hopkins" and "Boston Med," scheduled to premiere on Tuesday, July 10 at 10:00 PM/ET on ABC, takes a raw and intimate look at life inside the most famous hospital in America's largest city.

"NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital relies on extraordinary and dedicated physicians, nurses, and staff to deliver the best in care and caring. Our patients and their families come from near and far to find the help they need to face the most challenging and complex medical problems, and we are focused on providing them with the highest quality and most compassionate care," says Dr. Steven J. Corwin, CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. "NewYork-Presbyterian is proud of our amazing Hospital team and all who were involved in the making of this informative and poignant program."

For a full year, ABC cameras had unprecedented access to the day-to-day drama at Columbia and Weill Cornell Medical Centers, the crown jewels of the prestigious NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, documenting the medical miracles that occur in these world-class facilities.

Utah State University: USU Alum Shines in U.S. Forest Service Collectible Card Series
June 21, 2012

“Take me out to the … forest?!”

It might not be a song lyric that comes to mind when thinking about collectible trading cards, but it could describe a novel campaign the U.S. Forest Service has developed to teach youngsters about real-life scientists. Created by the staff of the USFS Natural Inquirer middle school education journal, the new Scientists’ Card Series includes Utah State University alum Tamara Heartsill-Scalley.

“I’m excited to be a part of this effort,” says Heartsill-Scalley, who earned a doctorate in ecology from USU in 2005. “This is a great way to foster interest in science and show kids what being a scientist is all about.”

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 09:07 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech.

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