Earth

University of Utah scientists devised a new way to find miners trapped by cave-ins. The method involves installing iron plates and sledgehammers at regular intervals inside mines, and sensitive listening devices on the ground overhead.

"We developed an approach to find the location of trapped miners inside a collapsed mine, regardless of noise from the environment around the mine," says Sherif Hanafy, an adjunct associate professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah and first author of a study demonstrating the technique.

Chemists reported development of what they termed the first economical, eco-friendly process to convert algae oil into biodiesel fuel — a discovery they predict could one day lead to U.S. independence from petroleum as a fuel.

One of the problems with current methods for producing biodiesel from algae oil is the processing cost, and the New York researchers say their innovative process is at least 40 percent cheaper than that of others now being used. Supply will not be a problem: There is a limitless amount of algae growing in oceans, lakes, and rivers, throughout the world.

Re-engineering a protein that helps prevent tumours spreading and growing has created a potentially powerful therapy for people with many different types of cancer. In a study published in the first issue of EMBO Molecular Medicine, Canadian researchers modified the tumour inhibiting protein, von Hippel-Lindau (VHL), and demonstrated that it could suppress tumour growth in mice.

For patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), receiving care from a nephrologist in the months before starting dialysis reduces the risk of death during the first year on dialysis, reports a study in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). The study also shows geographic "clusters" where pre-dialysis care for patients with advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) is not optimal.

New data from Ugandan scientists and investigators at Johns Hopkins University find that adult male circumcision decreased rates of the two most common sexually transmitted infections – herpes and the human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes cervical cancer and genital warts – according to a report issued in the New England Journal of Medicine March 26, 2009.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Reports by scientists of meteorites striking Earth in the past have resembled police reports of so many muggings — the offenders came out of nowhere and then disappeared into the crowd, making it difficult to get more than very basic facts.

Now an international research team has been able to identify an asteroid in space before it entered Earth's atmosphere, enabling computers to determine its area of origin in the solar system as well as predict the arrival time and location on Earth of its shattered surviving parts.

Royal Oak, Mich. – March 25, 2009 – A new study appearing in Clinical Cardiology examines the average fitness level of the morbidly obese (body mass indexes between 40.0 and 49.9). The findings show that the tested population was sedentary for more than 99 percent of the day and, on average, walked less than 2,500 steps per day – far below healthy living guidelines of 10,000 steps per day. The results provide important links between obesity, poor fitness and cardiovascular disease.

SALT LAKE CITY, March 25, 2009 — In a development that could help improve the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, rickets, and other bone diseases, government chemists are reporting an advance in developing an accurate, reliable set of standards for measuring vitamin D levels in blood. Their findings could affect the health of millions of people worldwide, particularly children, women, and the elderly, who suffer from or are at risk of these debilitating diseases. The study will be presented here today at the American Chemical Society's 237th National Meeting.

Learning through trial and error often requires subjects to establish new physiological links by using information about trial outcome to strengthen correct responses or modify incorrect responses. New findings, which appear in the latest issue of the journal Neuron, establish a physiological measure linking trial outcome and learning.

"Our results open a new door to understanding the important role of trial outcome in the learning process," said Wendy Suzuki, a professor at New York University's Center for Neural Science and a co-author of the study.

To be useful in real-world applications, a self-assembled monolayer (SAM) of molecules on a surface must have a stable and controllable geometry. Researchers at Penn State and the Sigma-Aldrich company have found a way to control geometry and stability by making SAMs out of different carboranethiol isomers, which are cage-like molecules. The research results will be published in the March 2009 issue of the journal ACS Nano.