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Current Topic: Science

Change of mindset necessary for biofuels to reach potential
Topic: Science 5:51 pm EST, Feb  5, 2006

There was a time when the main topic of conversation at the farmers' favorite breakfast or lunch place was the weather, and, if everyone was agreeable with the topic, the current state of government affairs. Now, it's all about fuel costs And it's certainly not as if there is little else of importance occurring in agriculture. In the past few months alone, the United States' chief negotiator in World Trade Organization talks has suggested eliminating all U.S. farm subsidies.
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And, closer to home, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns has been crisscrossing the country, conducting a number of farm bill “listening” sessions. How much listening is actually going on at these sessions is debatable, as the Secretary always reveals in his closing statement that the die pretty much is already cast as far as how world trade will dictate the direction of the next farm bill.

But these are things that will affect farmers in the future, although the not-too-distant future. Fuel bills are in the here and now — they're in the hands of growers, they have to be paid, and they're shockingly high. What's more, we're being told that fuel costs will only get higher, and that there's no relief in sight.

So it's time we began taking a serious look at long-term solutions to the current fuel crisis, and that was part of the purpose of the recent Alabama Agriculture Energy Conference, held at Auburn University.

The message brought by Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks was that the solutions to our fuel problems are readily available — it's just a matter of taking advantage of them. Alabama, he said, is a potential treasure trove of biofuels, and it's past time for the state's economy — particularly the farm sector — started profiting from them.

“The technology is there,” says Sparks. “But there has got to be a commitment by farmers, the government and consumers for all of this to work.”

Education, he adds, is key to the success of biofuels. Farmers need to know what's available, where the opportunities lie, and what's still needed.

One thing that is not lacking, however, are the raw materials, with many of the products commonly used to produce biofuels already being grown in abundance throughout Alabama.

For example, in the course of producing 1 billion chickens each year, the state's poultry farmers also generate an enormous supply of poultry waste, which many biofuel experts believe could ultimately serve as a cheap, widely available biofuel source.

Alabama also is well known for its prolific produc... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]

Change of mindset necessary for biofuels to reach potential

David Bransby believes that by the year 2025 agriculture could be supply as much as 35 percent of the U.S. energy supply
Topic: Science 5:43 pm EST, Feb  5, 2006

It’s not unrealistic to assume that by 2025, agriculture will be supplying as much as 35 percent of the U.S. energy supply, says David Bransby, an Auburn University professor of agronomy and soils and a nationally recognized authority on biofuel alternatives.

Bransby spoke at the recent Alabama Agriculture Energy Conference held in Auburn.

“The United States accounts for 25 percent of the global consumption of oil, but we own only 3 percent, making us critically vulnerable,” says Bransby. “We import more than 60 percent of what we use, and 15 percent of that comes from the unstable Middle East. It’s not possible to replace that 60 percent, but it is possible to replace that 15 percent.”

Biofuels won’t solve these problems completely, but they certainly can help, he says. “If the recent hurricanes aren’t a ‘wake-up call,’ then I don’t know what it’ll take. It’ll fall back on us down here, and if we have to do it without Washington, then we’ll do it. We have to do something. Rural America will respond a heck of a lot faster than Washington,” says Bransby.


David Bransby believes that by the year 2025 agriculture could be supply as much as 35 percent of the U.S. energy supply

Odors Trigger Memory In Squirrels
Topic: Science 2:48 pm EST, Feb  5, 2006

Humans who smell a pillow, shirt, shoe or other object that was in close contact with another person may be reminded of a certain someone. New research suggests squirrels have a similar ability to not only associate smells with particular squirrels, but to also create mental images of them.

The study, published in this month's Animal Behavior, represents the first time the ability has been demonstrated in rodents. A second, not-yet-published study by other researchers indicates hamsters also have the skill.

Like humans, squirrels must first be familiar with an individual before an odor can become associated with that other animal. A husband, for example, could smell his wife's perfume in an elevator and be reminded of her, but a perfume he has never smelled before could trigger no such memories.

"Squirrels need to be familiar with others to be able to put all of an individual's odors into a representation of that individual, as if repeated interactions make that individual meaningful, and thus worthy of remembering at this level," explained Jill Mateo, who conducted the research.

Odors Trigger Memory In Squirrels

Human Feces Sickens Plants
Topic: Science 2:47 pm EST, Feb  5, 2006

Feces from healthy humans contains live viruses, most of which are plant viruses that have the ability to sicken and deform plants, according to a study published in the current Public Library of Science Biology journal.

The finding could lead to warnings about the use of human waste as fertilizer. Collected water, otherwise known as "reclaimed" or "gray" water, may also contain deadly plant viruses, but future studies are needed to determine if such water, which is sometimes used for irrigation, can infect plants.

Human Feces Sickens Plants

Infection Killed King Tut
Topic: Science 2:46 pm EST, Feb  5, 2006

King Tutankhamun died of an infection set in by a wound in the left knee, according reports in the Italian press which disclose the conclusions of new research on the 3,300-year-old boy pharaoh.

Eduard Egarter Vigl and Paul Gostner, head of radiology at Bolzano General Hospital were both members of the Egyptian-led research team that last year begun examining King Tut's CT scan images.

They found compelling new evidence for a deadly infection after examining three-dimensional images of the left knee and foot, the local daily Alto Adige reported.

The CT scan revealed that King Tut's kneecap was broken, as well as his left foot. Moreover, the embalming liquid had entered the spaces within the knee fracture, a clear sign that the pharaoh was mummified when the wounds were still open.

Infection Killed King Tut

365 Nights of Skywatching...
Topic: Science 7:09 pm EST, Jan  7, 2006

"Universe Today has released a free, downloadable PDF book for its What's Up this Week astronomy column. This 400 page ebook has an entry for what you can see in the night sky every day in 2006, as well as additional information on choosing equipment, viewing conditions, and additional resources."

365 Nights of Skywatching...

Coffee Consumption Reduces Breast Cancer Risk For Women With Genetic Mutation, Study Says
Topic: Science 8:07 pm EST, Jan  4, 2006

Consumption of caffeinated coffee significantly reduces the risk of developing breast cancer among women who have a specific genetic mutation that greatly increases the chance of being diagnosed with the disease, according to a study published in the Jan. 1 edition of the International Journal of Cancer, Reuters Health reports. Steven Narod, director of the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit at the Centre for Research in Women's Health in Toronto, and colleagues examined at 40 clinics in four countries the records of 1,690 women who have the genetic mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2 and gave the women a self-administered questionnaire about coffee consumption. Women who drank six or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day were 69% less likely to develop breast cancer than women who drank no coffee, according to the study. One to three cups of coffee per day reduced the risk by 10% and four to five cups reduced it by 25% compared with women who drank no coffee. The researchers found that coffee consumption related to a significant reduction in breast cancer risk for women with the BRCA1 mutation but not for women with BRCA2 (Reuters Health, 1/3). In addition, the study finds that decaffeinated coffee did not reduce breast cancer risk. "We think the effect is through the caffeine on the female hormones," Narod said (Shin, New York Daily News, 1/4).

Coffee Consumption Reduces Breast Cancer Risk For Women With Genetic Mutation, Study Says

Cracking the science of undies ...
Topic: Science 3:44 am EST, Dec 27, 2005

The hunt has been going on for thousands of years, but it's only in the past two centuries that underwear has really come of age.
Around 1900, the bra was invented, followed by boxers and Y-front jockeys in the 1930s and bikini panties in the 1940s (named by a French inventor after the equally tiny Bikini Atoll). Then things got a lot more stretchy and comfortable when Dupont invented Lycra in the late 1950s.
But these innovations are nothing compared to the technology revolution now sweeping through the world of underwear.
Bulky, expensive seams and darts are out, thanks to the development of high-tech, seamless fabrics that stretch in all directions to mould around the body. The latest thing is underpants made up of different types of fabrics that do different jobs: an anti-bacterial fabric to keep the gusset smelling sweet; perforated, wicking panels around the groin to suck up moisture; and hidden silicon strips in the legs to stop your undies riding up

Read more on 'Cracking the science of undies ...'

Cracking the science of undies ...

Pot heads can't stop puking ...
Topic: Science 3:39 am EST, Dec 27, 2005

Chronic cannabis use can lead to regular bouts of non-stop vomiting and an obsession with hot showers, Australian researchers have found.

General practitioner, Dr Hugh Allen of Mount Barker Hospital in South Australia, and team report this rare new syndrome in the November issue of the journal Gut.

Allen said he encountered the first case, dubbed patient Y in the paper, in the late 1990s. The patient came to him after a severe bout of vomiting.

"He would vomit continuously for two or three days," Allen told ABC Science Online. "It was so bad he had to go to hospital and be put on a drip."

Two or three months later it happened again, and then the vomiting episodes became more frequent, occurring every month.

The patient was a heavy user of marijuana at the time, said Allen, having started smoking at the age of 19 with the vomit attacks starting when he was 22.

"In all honesty, he was smoking 20 to 40 cones a day," Allen said.

When the patient was in hospital he started to act strangely, said Allen. The patient would sit in a hot shower, which he said relieved his nausea and vomiting.

"It became an obsession with him. He would have 10 to 15 showers a day."

After 15 months of cyclical vomiting, Allen said the patient concluded that his cannabis use was to blame. So he stopped using it and didn't vomit severely for nine months.

But Allen said the patient started using the drug again, and two months later was vomiting.

Pot heads can't stop puking ...

Brain centre for the 'munchies' found ...
Topic: Science 3:36 am EST, Dec 27, 2005

Scientists have found the part of the brain that makes cannabis users crave pizza, chocolate and chips.

The discovery of the part of the brain that creates the 'munchies' could help to develop pharmaceuticals for anorexia or obesity, with minimal side-effects.

Australian researcher Dr Paul Mallet of the University of New England in Armidale and team will report their rat study in the journal Neuropharmacology.

"Because smoking cannabis increases appetite, it was believed that this was somehow related to the effects of cannabis on some brain centre but that was until now not identified," says Mallet, a biological psychologist.

"We've actually identified which part of the brain is responsible for THC's [the active substance in cannabis] effect on the stimulation of appetite."

They injected THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, into a specific region of the brain's hypothalamus, known to control feeding behaviour, called the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVN).

And they found it stimulated the laboratory animals' appetite.

"What we find is that these rats get the munchies," says Mallet.

Brain centre for the 'munchies' found ...

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