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Past Highlights

January 2003

2004

2003

2002

 

A Ferrous Wheel in the Forest; Scientists develop new hypothesis on the fate of acid rain

 

 
Birch Trees in the White Mountains National ForestA new hypothesis is being presented by scientists from The Woods Hole Research Center, the University of Arizona, and the University of Maine that may help explain how acid rain reacts chemically in forest soils. "Acids of nitrogen and sulfur in rainwater, often called 'acid rain,' can have both positive and negative effects on the health of forests, streams, and lakes," explained Eric Davidson of The Woods Hole Research Center, lead scientist of the study. "Acid rain is caused by air pollution, such as emissions from cars and industrial smoke stacks. It is known to cause nutrient imbalances in soil and in water that are harmful to trees, fish, and other plants and animals." The nitrogen in acid rain could also, potentially, act as a fertilizer, thus enhancing the growth of forest trees. However, most of the nitrogen that falls on forests as acid rain tends to remain in the soil rather than being taken up by the trees.
Photo courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Read the full story. ... posted 1/31/03

 

Survey Shows Security and Privacy Remain Major Concerns for Online Shoppers; Third annual Internet Report also reveals that the Internet has become Internet users' most important source of information

 

 
World Wide Web graphicWhile electronic commerce continues to expand, concern about credit card security and privacy may be preventing many more potential shoppers from making purchases online, according to Year Three of the UCLA Internet Report, released on Jan. 31. However, the survey of 2,000 households also shows that more than 70 percent of Americans who use the Internet now consider online sources to be their most important source of information. The UCLA Internet Project is funded by the National Science Foundation. The project's objective is to survey Internet users and non-users in the United States and abroad for an entire generation and paint a comprehensive picture of how the Internet affects society.
Read the full story. ... posted 1/31/03

 

NSF Director Rita Colwell Delivers Chafee Memorial Lecture; Archive of Lecture Webcast Will Be Available Soon

 

 
Photo of Rita Colwell.National Science Foundation Director Rita Colwell's presentation of the third John H. Chafee Memorial Lecture on Science and the Environment was webcast from the 3rd National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment on Thursday, January 30th, at 5:30 p.m. In her talk, entitled "Obstinate Issues, Sophisticated Solutions: Environmental Science and Education for a New Age," she spoke of a new age of scientific exploration, one that will give us a deeper understanding of our planet and allow us to improve the quality of people's lives worldwide. The archive of the lecture webcast will be available soon.
Read the full story/webcast link. ... posted 1/30/03

 

Earth Scientists Forge New Understanding of Mountain-Building Dynamics

 

 
Typical texture of what was once magma.From volcanic eruptions to earthquakes to catastrophic mudslides, the geologic processes active in mountain belts affect human societies every day. Yet, even though mountains are on all continents and in all ocean basins, scientists still understand relatively little about the forces that interact to form and destroy mountains, how mountains change over time, and the relationship between mountains and Earth's climate. To better understand these dynamics, earth scientists are now integrating studies across traditional disciplinary boundaries. In research funded by NSF and published in the January 2003 GSA Today, scientists have demonstrated a new way to integrate results from observations collected in the field with laboratory and experimental techniques. The team studied a mountain belt located in Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand.
Photo: Keith Klepeis, University of Vermont; NSF
Read the full story. ... posted 1/24/03

 

Multiple Factors Affect Flight Power Curves Among Species

 

 
Magpie in flight.Researchers using three-dimensional computer modeling and wind tunnels have made the first accurate comparative measurements of muscle power output of birds in-flight to establish that physical structure, body mass, force and flight style all have major effects upon the magnitude and shape of a species' power curve. The research by Harvard integrative physiologist Andrew A. Biewener and fellow researchers was publicly funded through the National Science Foundation and published in the Jan. 23 edition of Nature.
Photo courtesy: ornithopter.org
Read the full story. ... posted 1/22/03

 

Scientists Find Geochemical Fingerprint of World Trade Center Collapse Recorded in New York Harbor Sediments

 

 
Aerial view of World Trade Center recovery operation in Sept. 2001.Dust and debris deposits associated with the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center have left a distinct fingerprint on the sedimentary record in New York Harbor, scientists have found. Their results appear in the January 21, 2003, issue of the journal EOS, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. This geochemical fingerprint, the researchers believe, may facilitate a better understanding of the short-to-medium term processes that affect the input, dispersal, and fate of particles and contaminants in the lower Hudson River.
Image: Andrea Booher/FEMA News Photo
Read the full story. ... posted 1/22/03

 

Commerce Secretary, President's Science Advisor to Keynote Conference on Economic and Social Implications of Information Technology

 

 
Graphic of a head against a background of numbersDespite the bursting of the dot-com bubble, information technology continues to enable deep and important changes in business, commerce, technology, science and knowledge production, community and society. Most of these changes are not visible on the surface, or they have been obscured by myth and hype. The Transforming Enterprise conference will look "beyond the bubble" and examine what's still happening, what's new, and what's coming. The conference is supported by NSF's Digital Society and Technologies program and hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Read the full story . ... posted 1/22/03

 

Helicopter Crashes in Antarctica; Injured Pilot, Passenger Flown to New Zealand for Medical Treatment

 

 
Antarctica map.A helicopter flying in support of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Antarctic research program has crashed near McMurdo Station, NSF's science and logistics hub on the continent. The helicopter's pilot and a passenger, the only people aboard the aircraft, were injured in the incident, which happened at approximately 10:00 p.m. EST on Jan. 16. They were evacuated to New Zealand aboard a New York Air National Guard LC-130 cargo aircraft for medical treatment. Medical personnel accompanied the injured on that flight. The aircraft arrived in New Zealand at approximately noon EST Jan. 17, and the patients were transferred to a local hospital in Christchurch, NZ.
Image: NSF
Read the full story . ... posted 1/17/03

 

New Study Suggests Missing Link that Explains How Dinosaurs Learned to Fly

 

 
Ken Dial with an adult chukar partridge.Two-legged dinosaurs may have used their forelimbs as wing-like structures to propel themselves rapidly up steep inclines long before they took to the skies, reports a University of Montana researcher in the January 17 issue of the journal Science. The new theory adds a middle step that may link two current and opposing explanations for how reptiles evolved into flying birds. According to Kenneth Dial, author of the report, the transition from ground travel to flight may have required a "ramp-up" phase in which rapid movement of the animal's front appendages actually forced its body downward to gain more foot traction as it made its way up increasingly vertical slopes.
Image credit: K.P. Dial, University of Montana
Read the full story . ... posted 1/16/03

 

NSF Workshop Highlights Future of Organic Electronics and Photonics

 

 
Composite material consisting of seminconducting polymers in a mesoporous silica host.Organic electronics and photonics -- the field of research that yielded LEDs -- now shows promise for wearable computers and artificial nerves. No longer the target of solely experimental research, electronic and photonic components crafted from organic chemicals now drive major markets. Organic electronics and photonics applications in development may have a broader impact, serving as flexible electronics, biologically compatible devices, solid-state lighting, chemical sensors and devices yet to be conceived. At a workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation, experts from both industry and universities will discuss the future of this field.
Image credit: Dan Schwartz, D.I.S.C.; Benjamin J. Schwartz and Sarah Tolbert, UCLA; NSF
Read the full story . ... posted 1/15/03

 

Researchers Tie Worldwide Biodiversity Threats to Growth in Households; Pandas in China face encroachment, as do other species in global "hotspots"

 

 
Panda.Scientists from Michigan State (MSU) and Stanford universities, in a fresh look at world population dynamics, have revealed evidence that increased numbers of households, even where populations are declining, are having a vast impact on the world's biodiversity and environment. Reduction in household size has led to a rapid rise in household numbers around the world and has posed serious challenges to biodiversity conservation, write Jianguo (Jack) Liu of MSU and Stanford colleagues Gretchen C. Daily, Paul R. Ehrlich and Gary W. Luck in the Jan. 12 advance online publication of the journal Nature. "Personal freedom and social choice may come at a huge environmental cost," says Liu, lead author for the Nature article. Liu studied the loss of panda habitat in China under a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation.
Photo credit: Sue Nichols, Michigan State University
Read the full story. ... posted 1/13/03

 

Scientists Find First Active 'Jumping Genes' in Rice

 

 
Aerial view of a rice field.University of Georgia researchers studying rice genomes under a National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program award have identified the species' first active DNA transposons, or "jumping genes." The research is published in the Jan. 9 edition of the journal Nature. In collaboration with researchers from Cornell, Washington University and Japan, geneticist Susan Wessler also discovered the first active "miniature inverted-repeat transposable element," or "MITE," of any organism. The discovery of active transposons in rice provides startling new insights into how genomes change and what role transposons may play in the process. Active DNA transposons can move new copies of DNA to different places in the genome.
Image credit: USDA
Read the full story . ... posted 1/8/03

 

Wireless Network Boosts Supernova Search to Stellar First Year

 

 
Oschin Telescope dome.In results presented this week at the 2003 meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, astrophysicist Greg Aldering and colleagues report that their supernova factory project has discovered an unprecedented 34 new supernovae in its first year. The accomplishment would not have been possible without the NSF-supported high-performance wireless network link to Palomar Observatory. "This has been the best rookie year for any supernova search project," Aldering said.
Image credit: High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN)
Read the full story . ... posted 1/7/03

 

Genomes, Cosmos, and Nano Among NSF Science Highlights from 2002

 

 
Cosmic Background ImagerLooking back on 2002, research supported by the National Science Foundation continued to make headlines and expand the horizons of science and education in the United States and around the world. NSF's science success was also recognized in the year's Nobel Prizes -- five of the eight Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry and economics received NSF funding during their careers. Other notable results of NSF support ran the gamut from the completion of the rice genome to the discovery of 3,000-year-old microbes living deep below the ice of Antarctica's Lake Vida.
Image credit: CBI/Caltech/NSF
Read the full story . ... posted 1/6/03

 

Breakthrough Brings Laser Light to New Regions of the Spectrum

 

 
Waveguide as it appears within femtosecond laser amplifier systemCombining concepts from electromagnetic radiation research and fiber optics, researchers have created an extreme-ultraviolet, laser-like beam capable of producing tightly-focused light in a region of the electromagnetic spectrum not previously accessible to scientists. Between 10-100 times shorter than visible light waves, the extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) wavelengths will allow researchers to "see" tiny features and carve miniature patterns, with applications in such fields as microscopy, lithography and nanotechnology. The achievement is based on a new structure called a "waveguide," a hollow glass tube with internal humps that coax light waves into traveling along at the same speed and help the waves reinforce each other. A report on the work, which is part of a continuing project supported by the National Science Foundation, appears in the January 2 issue of the journal Nature.
Image credit: University of Colorado and NSF
Read the full story. ... posted 1/2/03

 

Spider vs. Fly: Specialized Deception, Attack and Defense Rule the Conflict

 

 
Close up of orb-weaving spiderIt seems quite simple: Spider spins web. Fly gets caught in web. Spider spins silk lunch box around fly, feasting on the treat at a later time. End of story. Not so, according to scientists studying the relationship between some spiders and flies under an NSF research award. It's more of a full-blown engagement involving specialized attacks, defenses, and purposeful deception. Biologist George Uetz and fellow researchers examined the postures of the social orb-weaving spider, Metepeira incrassata, in relation to the sarcophagid fly, Arachnidomyia lindae (a specialized predator of Metepeira spider eggs) and the non-predatory domestic housefly, Musca domestica. The study, published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, suggests that a highly specialized predator's attacks may cause the evolution of predator-specific defensive responses in the prey.
Photo credit: Greg Auner, Wayne State University
Read the full story . ... posted 1/2/03

 

Extreme Micro-Networks Developed for Wireless Biosensors

 

 
Retina chipWhile setting up a wireless network in your house may be mostly a plug-and-play operation, a wireless network inside the human body changes the rules a bit. Putting one inside the human eye is a whole new ball game. Networking researchers led by Loren Schwiebert at Wayne State University and Sandeep Gupta at Arizona State University, together with teams of sensor and chip designers, ophthalmologists and neurosurgeons are developing the first wireless networks for biomedical sensors. With support from an NSF Information Technology Research award, the team is designing full-fledged networks that operate under extreme conditions, for decades at a stretch without repair, using almost no power, and in a biomedically safe manner -- all while avoiding interference and outside tampering.
Photo credit: Greg Auner, Wayne State University
Read the full story . ... posted 1/2/03

 

A Short Brush with Greatness

 

 
Close-up of single brush moleculesA brush-shaped molecule found in cartilage has inspired researchers to develop a new group of synthetic "molecular brushes." As nanotechnology progresses, the brushes may find a range of applications, from inclusion within tiny nanomechanical devices to uses in osteoarthritis therapies. New kinds of molecular brushes are coming out of the laboratories of Sergei Sheiko and Michael Rubinstein of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and Krzysztof Matyjaszewski of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, recipients of one of NSF's Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team grants. Sheiko presented initial results of their research at the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Conference held at NSF in December 2002.
Image credit: Marcelo da Silva, UNC Chapel Hill
Read the full story . ... posted 1/2/03

 

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