Thursday, November 25, 2004

* The payload of the Genesis spacecraft, which spent 28 months in space collecting atoms from the sun, crash-lands in the Utah desert. Researchers are sifting the wreckage to salvage some of the unique samples of solar material.

* British officials grant a license allowing the cloning of human embryos to produce stem cells, which could yield new treatments for diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.

* Planets galore! Astronomers using a four-inch telescope detect the shadow of a Jupiter-mass planet circling a star 500 light-years away. Meanwhile, two teams discover Neptune-mass planets, the smallest yet found, around a pair of other, closer stars.

* NASA engineers fix the space shuttle’s fuel tank. Investigators say liquid hydrogen or oxygen leaked into gaps in the Columbia’s foam insulation, causing pieces to break free and fatally damage the shuttle’s left wing.

* Math requires language: Members of an Amazon tribe that has no words for numbers larger than two can count only as well as chimpanzees or human infants.

Ohio State researchers find a link between asymmetrical body parts and aggression. Subjects with larger side-to-side differences in the size of their ears, big toes, or hands were more easily provoked into aggressive responses.

* More than one-third of U.S. lakes and nearly one-quarter of its rivers are covered by advisories for mercury, dioxins, PCBs, and other pollutants. EPA officials say people should severely limit consumption of fish caught recreationally.

* Pictures of familiar faces soothe isolated, stressed sheep, British scientists report. Such research may help explain how the brain links faces and emotion.

* Blueberries contain an antifungal compound that activates a cholesterol-lowering protein in rat liver cells, says a USDA study.

* Did falling rocks help spark life? University of Arizona researchers find that schreibersite, a phosphorus mineral in meteorites, yields a component of nucleic acids when mixed with water.

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