Archive for March, 2003

Deciphering the “Bugs” in Human Intestines

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 28, 2003   View Article

The human intestine is a swirling and churning environment that is host to microbial communities as diverse as those found in the Amazon rain forest. And like the regions beneath the soils that carpet the rain forest floor, much of what lies within the gut remains unexplored.

A series of papers in the March 28 issue of Science delves into this scientific frontier and begins to unravel the secrets of the complex and highly evolved microbial communities that teem throughout the length of our intestines.

Search for ETs Focuses on 166 “Promising” Signals

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 27, 2003   View Article

Astronomers searching for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life wrapped up their mission in Puerto Rico Wednesday to home in on some of the more exciting radio transmission to reach Earth. They collected data on 166 sources, exceeding their original goal of 150.

The astronomers’ quick, real-time analysis of the data revealed no evidence of an extraterrestrial civilization, but they will take a more thorough look at it over the next several weeks.

China Ash Yields Salamander Evolution Secrets

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 27, 2003   View Article

A cataclysmic volcanic eruption 160 million years ago was a dark day for thousands of salamanders scurrying about a series of lakes in northern China. The hot ash smothered and buried the amphibians in their tracks.

For scientists who study salamanders, however, that inundation of hot ash was manna from heaven: It allowed for the exquisite preservation of the salamanders, giving scientists a trove of fossils that are revealing the secrets of evolution.

Cosmic Particles Could Detect Nuke Materials, Scientists Say

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 19, 2003   View Article

It takes just a few pounds of plutonium or highly enriched uranium to create a nuclear bomb. That fact frightens security experts around the world. A small chunk of nuclear material that slipped into the wrong hands would be disastrous.

“This threat is a real and difficult problem,” said Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a leading expert on U.S. national security and defense policy with a special interest in terrorism. “We need to harness all the technology available.”

U.S. Military Looks to Beetles for New Sensors

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 14, 2003   View Article

Some like it hot. Some beetles like it smoking hot.

When a forest goes up in flames normally elusive Melanophila acuminata beetles from miles around head for the inferno in droves, joining a mating frenzy so that the females can lay their eggs in the freshly burned trees.

The beetles are attracted to the smoldering wood because the burned trees no longer have active defense mechanisms such as flowing sap.

Bizarre Dinosaurs Shed Light on Adaptation

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 14, 2003   View Article

Dinosaurs were weird. Some had horns growing from their foreheads like mythological unicorns. Others had claws as long and dangerous as rusty pitchforks. Several had spikes around their necks that made them look like temporally displaced punk rockers.

Paleontologists believe that these horns, claws, and spikes in addition to towering necks, feathered limbs, pointy fingers, and shrunken arms had purpose. Discovering what those purposes were provides paleontologists insight to the range of adaptive strategies throughout evolution.

Rights Group Urge Peru to Protect Isolated Peoples

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 14, 2003   View Article

Tensions are high deep in the Peruvian Amazon where thousands of desperate farmers from high in the Andes mountains have descended to scratch out a living by logging Earth’s last remaining stands of pristine mahogany.

The area is believed to be home for several hundred indigenous people who have chosen to live exactly as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. Now the presence of the loggers may force them into unwanted contact and potentially lead to their demise.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach