Flash

Friday, December 03, 2004

* SpaceShipOne, the first private manned spaceship, captures the $10 million Ansari X Prize for carrying passengers 70 miles high twice in one week. A follow-up X Prize Cup now aims to promote annual manned spaceflight competitions.

* Traces of radioactive gas, emitted from magma reservoirs, may indicate when volcanoes like Mount Saint Helens are about to blow, British researchers say.

* The deepest optical view of the universe, created by the Hubble Space Telescope, has uncovered strange formations that researchers suspect may be the earliest-known star-forming galaxies, shining when the universe was just one-twentieth of its current age.

* Russia endorses the Kyoto Protocol to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Participating countries must reduce CO2 output to 5 percent of 1990 levels by 2012. The U.S. and Australia have opted out; developing countries are exempt.

* Illegal ivory trade receives a blow from a new genetic map of elephants across Africa. The tool identifies the home range of elephants based on DNA from their tusks, making it easier to identify the source of poached ivory.

* Earth emits puzzling, low-frequency vibrations even when there are no earthquakes. Seismologists at UC Berkeley discover that the hum comes from massive, storm-driven waves bumping against the ocean bottom.

* EPA scientists find engineered genes in wild grasses 13 miles away from a test plot of genetically modified creeping bent grass. The study shows that pollen can carry such genes much farther than previously recognized.

* Our itchy history: Genetic analysis by University of Utah researchers suggests that separate types of lice lived on both Homo erectus and Homo sapiens, mixing when the two hominids shared clothes, fought, or had sex.

* Environmental activist Wangari Maathai, known in Kenya as the “tree woman,” becomes the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She was honored for battling deforestation and promoting women’s rights.

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