06 January 2006

Today in the Science News

New rotavirus vaccine:
First of all, what's with the British spelling it "diarrhoea"? They put extraneous silent O's everywhere. O-estrogen, o-esophagus...Of course, around here, we put a silent O on possum, so I guess we shouldn't talk.

Anyway, this is very good news. The vaccines appear to be successful and safe. I expect long-term studies are the next step.

Speaking of viruses:
Bird flu has now spread to Turkey. A family got H5N1 by eating some infected chickens. Let me stress that H5N1 has NOT mutated to a person-to-person transmissible form. Personally, the hysteria about it reminds me of global warming hysteria, so I have difficulty taking the threat seriously.

NASA buys two Soyuz seats:
They also established a price for future seat buys. That's probably wise, given that I highly doubt STS-121 is flying in May, as this story asserts.

Here's an interesting sentence: "The agreement also reserves a seat for [American astronaut Jeff] Williams should he and his cosmonaut crewmate be forced to evacuate the station aboard a Soyuz craft in an emergency." Why does that even need to be said?

And for the record, you would have to pay me to ride in a Soyuz. I've seen those things. (Actually, I'm too small for a Soyuz, customized seat or no. I would suffer a lot of fractures on landing.)

Space laser communication:
NASA bounced some laser waves off MESSENGER, which is on its way to Mercury (and while we're discussing usage, what's with the British convention of capitalizing only the first letter, as Nasa?). Then MESSENGER replied with a laser beam of its own. This is the longest distance over which laser transmissions in space have occurred. The scientists hope to eventually be able to use the process to transmit data, as it would be much faster than the current methods.

Ants fight fungal pests with antibiotics:
The part of this story that really intrigues me is when the article says, "This service doesn't come free," and then doesn't elaborate. Of course, we all know that probably means the exterminating ants get fed by the harvesting ants, but with that sentence being placed in a paragraph by itself and no explanation anywhere, I can't help but picture an ant in a '20s gangster outfit leaning toward the queen and muttering it under his breath, then leaning back with a meaningful look.

Or maybe I was up too late last night.

Virus harpoons cells with special protein:
The article explains that this research is valuable because it facilitates the development of drugs that could block the virus's ability to get into the cell and dump its genetic material. However, it doesn't mention that stripped-down viruses are also a promising prospect for drug delivery. I suppose that's a given, but that's the really interesting part of the research as far as I'm concerned. I love the idea of harnessing nature's powers of molecular engineering to work for us.

Well, have a good day.


Blogger Brian B said...

I can't help but picture an ant in a '20s gangster outfit leaning toward the queen and muttering it under his breath, then leaning back with a meaningful look.

I mean, fings break, don' 'ey, Colonel?

3:31 PM  

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