Tue, Sep 27, 2005 - Page 16 News List

Features Briefs


Science vs. creationists

A new battle over teaching about man's origins in US schools goes to court for the first time next week, pitting Christian conservatives against educators and scientists in a trial viewed as the biggest test of the issue since the late 1980s. Eleven parents of students at a Pennsylvania high school are suing over the school district's decision to include "intelligent design" -- an alternative to evolution that involves a God-like creator -- in the curriculum of ninth-grade biology classes


The placebo effect explained

The activation in the brain of chemical receptors, called mu-opioid receptors,

appears to be involved in producing what is known as the "placebo effect," according to a report in The Journal of Neuroscience. The placebo effect occurs when people are given an inactive drug or therapy, but experience an improvement in their symptoms anyway. Researchers often compare new drugs to placebo to gauge the true benefit of a therapy.

Slimmers eye Tequila's agave

Scientists from Mexico's tequila producing region say juice extracted from the blue agave plant, best known when distilled into the fiery spirit, may help dieters shed pounds and cut cholesterol. Sadly for the world's growing band of tequila lovers, agave's possible health benefits are lost when the plant is distilled into alcohol.

Record numbers of storms

Hurricane Rita, bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico coast, will wreak extensive damage and could herald a record number of ferocious storms over the Atlantic this year, the UN's top expert warned last week. Nanette Lomarda, acting chief of the tropical cyclone program division at the World Meteorological Organization, also noted that the number of category 4 and 5 storms over that ocean had nearly doubled over the past 35 years.

Of mice and men

Scientists have transplanted a nearly entire human chromosome in mice in a medical breakthrough that could reveal new insights into Down's syndrome and other

disorders. The genetically engineered mice carry a copy of the human chromosome 21. It is the smallest of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes with about 225 genes.

Oranges turn green

Greening disease has showed up in 80 municipalities in southeast Brazil, the world's No.1 orange producer, up from 64 cases in August, crop researchers Fundecitrus said last week. Greening has no cure and can cause severe losses in yields in most citrus varieties if left unchecked. It is spread by bacteria carried by a small flying insect and has destroyed millions of hectares in Thailand, China and South Africa.

Buffalo clones on the way

Researchers in the Philippines say they are close to creating the world's first clone of a water buffalo that could eventually help raise productivity levels for millions of impoverished farmers. The aim is to replicate a "super buffalo" that would boost the genetic make-up and milk production of the native water buffalo, the carabao, said Dr. Libertado Cruz, executive director of the government-run Philippine Carabao Center.

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